Take Stock in Children expanding

The Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program has expanded, helping another 30 students become eligible for two-year scholarships.

Alejandro Arreaga, Jr takes the pledge for the Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program. Alejandro said. “I’m building my way toward a good college.” (Submitted photo)

Alejandro Arreaga, Jr takes the pledge for the Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program. Alejandro said. “I’m building my way toward a good college.” (Submitted photo)

The students will join 120 Immokalee High School students already participating in the program, which requires them to maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA, remain crime- and drug-free, meet weekly with an adult mentor, and perform community service.

The new Take Stock scholarships were made available to students who met the criteria and had been involved in one of three other TIF efforts: Career Development, Junior Career Development or Immokalee Readers. A committee of community leaders, Immokalee High School staff members and TIF board members are examining and scoring applications, essays and interviews from 50 qualified applicants. Among them, approximately 40 of the top-ranked students were chosen for Take Stock in Children and welcomed at a contract signing in October; they’ll soon be assigned mentors. Currently, more than 80 mentors meet weekly with students in Immokalee.

If they maintain the contract terms, the students will graduate from high school with two years of college tuition paid. Those who meet more stringent criteria become eligible for additional scholarships, said Noemi Perez, TIF program services director. Scholarships pay tuition but not housing or other expenses.

Many students are the first from their families to go to college; Elijah Arreaga is one of them. Now a junior at the University of Florida studying sports management, Arreaga credits TIF’s Take Stock in Children with helping him identify a career path and stay focused on the journey. Through TIF, he attended a summer program about the business of sports at Georgetown University before his senior year at Immokalee High School, which fueled his enthusiasm for the field. Networking workshops have helped put him at ease when meeting new people. “And besides the financial support, TIF helped me grow as a young man,” Arreaga said.

His younger brother, Alejandro, took notice – and now is in TIF’s Take Stock program. A sophomore at Immokalee High School, Alejandro hopes to attend UF like his brother and study engineering. “The Immokalee Foundation has given me the opportunity to see what my future can be like, with career panels and other things,” Alejandro said. “I’m building my way toward a good college.”

Since TIF started the program in Immokalee in 2001, more than $1 million in scholarships have been awarded. At present, 66 scholarship students are enrolled in higher education, attending colleges and universities including Smith College, Michigan State University, The Citadel, University of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

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