OMYF Community Spotlight: Take Stock in Children

By Josh Cohen
June 23, 2011

ORLANDO -- The importance of attending and ultimately graduating college is undeniable, but sometimes unfortunately economic disadvantages can disallow students from fulfilling such academic goals.

A certain organization, however, has made such dreams a stronger possibility around Central Florida.

Take Stock in Children of Orange County helps dozens of underprivileged youngsters who display outstanding ambition and promise in and out of the classroom continue their education past high school by rewarding them college scholarships.

With assistance from the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), who provided a $100,000 grant to the Valencia Community College Foundation earlier this year to coagulate the program, more and more students from three middle schools and 11 high schools are being given greater academic opportunities.

After selecting a number of seventh graders to participate in the program, members from the organization track their progress, including grades, discipline and attendance, until their completion of high school.

“We like to choose kids who have a story, deal with a struggle but still find a way to be successful,” Executive Director Elisha Gonzalez said.

If a student successfully fulfills the requirements, they will be rewarded with a 2+2 scholarship. This will permit the applicant to start out at community college before transferring to any four-year institution in Florida of their choice.

"We have many children in our county that are dreaming of going to college, and we are committed to making that dream a reality,” said Dr. Sanford Shugart, president of Valencia College.

“This program will provide our children with a chance to obtain a higher education and will help them get there with the guidance of a caring mentor through middle and high school."

The Valencia Community College Foundation was one of 19 Central Florida organizations presented grants by the OMYF-MFF as a part of the Magic’s community outreach initiative. Over the last 21 years, the OMYF has distributed more than $16 million to local non-profit community organizations. The OMYF raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the Black Tie and Tennies Gala and the OMYF Golf Tournament. Fundraising efforts then go to the Fund, and are matched at $0.50 on the dollar by the McCormick Foundation. In 2011, in addition to presenting checks totaling $1 million to 19 non-profit organizations, the OMYF-MFF also awarded scholarships totaling $30,000.

The money that was provided to the Take Stock in Children program was spread around to assure fairness and overall success.

While 10 percent goes to the organization’s mentoring program, which allows participants to receive frequent counseling and advice from career professionals, the other 90 percent goes to the cost of the scholarships.

“Mentors are like cheerleaders,” Gonzalez said. “Some of the parents didn’t go to college so it’s helpful for others to assist in every student’s goals.”

Though the program has been around since 1995 in Florida, the Orange County branch started in 2008. As a result, 2013 will be the first year that the participants will be evaluated to determine how many scholarships are awarded among the first set of candidates.

The 2011 grant recipients from OMYF: Adult Literacy League, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Boys’ Town of Central Florida, Coalition for the Homeless, Conductive Education Center of Orlando, Crealde School of Art, Education Foundation-Osceola County, Elevate Orlando, Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Hope Foundation for the Homeless, Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, Orlando Ballet, Florida Hospital for Children, Harbor House of Central Florida, Hope Community Center, Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families and the Valencia Community College Foundation.

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