Published: Jan 26, 2011 12:38 AM EST
Updated: Jan 25, 2011 9:38 PM EST

SOUTH FORT MYERS, Fla. - A high school senior is taking the long road to free higher education, accumulating a handful of scholarships including a $40K first-of-its-kind award.

Lee County student Michael Burris is one of five deserving scholars across Florida to be awarded Take Stock in Children’s first-ever Leaders 4 Life Fellowship, created in partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation and valued at approximately $40,000 per student award. Take Stock in Children is a statewide non-profit organization with a 16 year history of mentoring middle and high school students so they can achieve academic success by graduating high school and earning a college scholarship to help break the cycle of poverty.

Burris will now be able to achieve his dream of a post-secondary education from the state college or university of his choice free of all expenses. He is a current senior at South Fort Myers High School and has already been accepted to several universities in Florida. He is interested in studying engineering or filmography, as he has a passion for creative design and filmmaking.

The other four recipients include Angela Alford (Okaloosa County), Valiece Long (Pinellas County), Ha Tran (Santa Rosa County) and Maria Rincon (Broward County). These highly motivated scholars, who are amongst several thousand high school students statewide benefiting from Take Stock in Children, were selected based on their demonstration of strong leadership skills, moral character and academic success.

The students will be officially recognized as the inaugural honorees of the Leaders 4 Life Fellowship Program during Take Stock in Children’s annual state conference at Hotel Duval on February 16, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. Education game changers will gather for this conference with featured guest Greg Darnieder, Senior Advisory to the Secretary on the College Access Initiative at the United States Department of Education.

Take Stock in Children’s Leaders 4 Life Fellowship Program was created in partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation to provide financial resources, services and support needed to ensure student success throughout college. The fellowship will provide each student with a new Macintosh laptop computer, as well as funds for textbooks and supplies, housing, transportation, food and other college-related expenses. The mission of this program is to enable these students to excel in a university environment by giving them the resources that empower them to develop their full potential as “leaders for life.”

Take Stock in Children’s high school dropout prevention and college attainment efforts also contribute to the economic viability of Florida’s communities. High school graduates contribute 46 percent more in taxes, have longer lives with less public health dependency, are eight times less likely to be imprisoned, and are three times more likely to be employed and not dependent on government assistance. The total benefit to the State of Florida is estimated to be $300,000 over a lifetime. The total cost to support a graduate in the program is approximately $24,000; therefore providing nearly 1,300 percent return on investment.

Take Stock in Children currently serves nearly 8,000 low-income and minority students in grades 6-12 annually throughout 67 counties in Florida.

To learn more about benefiting from Take Stock in Children or becoming a valued mentor or supporter, please call 888-322-4673 or visit www.takestockinchildren.org.