Thirty middle and high school students were recently inducted by The Immokalee Foundation into Take Stock in Children, a scholarship and mentoring program that provides students with the promise of a four-year scholarship to a Florida state college, university or vocational school upon graduation.
The Immokalee Foundation, dedicated to providing sustained educational opportunities to Immokalee’s youth, supports and operates the TSIC program in the north Collier County community. During the ceremony at Ave Maria University, the Immokalee middle and high school students, ranging from 7th to 10th grade, pledged to maintain good grades, stay drug and crime free, attend required workshops and events, meet weekly with their TIF mentor and volunteer in the community. Nicole Bruland, TIF’s director of advancement and communications, said the pledge makes students accountable and teaches them to be responsible, “They have to do the work and in the end, they reap the benefits of their commitment – an opportunity to achieve their dreams by furthering their education.”
The Immokalee Foundation currently has 125 TSIC students in middle and high school. Chairman of The Immokalee Foundation board, Joe Zednik, welcomed the newest inductees during his opening remarks and praised the students and their families, “Your hard work and dedication has paid off and brought you here to this moment in your life. We look forward to watching you all grow and succeed as you start your journey to becoming economically independent.”
Scholarships for the incoming TSIC students were made possible by generous donors who purchased scholarships at the 2013 Charity Classic Celebration Fund A Dream auction, a live bidding experience providing benefactors the unique chance to support the young people of Immokalee by giving directly to the children. One hundred percent of the funds raised during the Fund A Dream auction at the Charity Classic Celebration benefits TIF programs, and all contributions are 100 percent tax deductible.
Laury Garcia, a TSIC alumna and junior at Florida Gulf Coast University was the evening’s keynote speaker. During an emotional speech, Garcia said TIF’s Take Stock in Children program had changed her life, and she encouraged inductees to build strong relationships with their mentor and to be a good role model for their siblings.
“TIF relieved a lot of financial stress, helped me to be a better person and provided me with an opportunity to succeed,” noted Garcia. “My goal is to open a nonprofit to help high school students go to school.”
Seventh-grader Oton Estrada was excited to be welcomed into the TSIC program, “It will help me further my education for a better future and break the barriers that will stop me from accomplishing my goals.” His father, Oton Estrada Sr., was equally happy, “This opportunity will help my son with school to become someone. I am very proud.”
All of the students understood the impact the program can have on their future goals and aspirations.
For sophomore Carolina Perez, it means “the chance to make something better in my life.” Seleste Aburto, a seventh-grade student, said, “I will be able to have a good future and to be successful.” Sinancia Mervilus, also a tenth-grader, added, “It will give me the opportunities to fulfill my dreams of becoming a marine biologist.”
The TSIC selection committee is made up of a small group of individuals that are passionate about the foundation and believe in the success of the students. The 2014 committee members included Linda Ayer, Joe Lee Gallegos, Dee Zednik and Louise Penta.
“This is such a good class with a lot of superstars,” said Penta, who is also a TIF board member and mentor to four TSIC students. “I’m sure they will shine during the next few years.”
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.