(Feb. 3, 2021) Consider the remarkable, full-circle journey of Johnny Boykins.
His path has taken him from an at-risk child accepted into Take Stock in Children, to college graduate on a scholarship provided by the program, to dedicated mentor for nearly a decade, and now to becoming the new Chairman of the Take Stock in Children Committee – the first committee chair who is also a graduate of the program.
He entered Take Stock in Children 24 years ago when it was still known as “Doorways.” Boykins, who attended Gulfport Elementary School, and his brother were being raised by a single mother.
“I didn’t have anybody in my immediate family who went to college or who had interesting jobs,” he recalls. “So what the program does is expose kids who have limited networks to a much larger network and a much larger community. That’s extremely important.”
Right off the bat, Boykins was paired with a mentor named Mike Bonfield, a city planner (and later City Manager of St. Pete Beach), who invited the youngster to help design a nearby park with his fellow students. It was an experience that made a lasting impact.
“He was the first person I met who had an important office job,” Boykins says. “That’s one of the things mentoring does. It gives students who don’t have the means access to people who expose them to bigger ideas. A lot of kids don’t know anything other than their neighborhood, the street they live on, maybe the church they go to.”
Boykins excelled in school and earned his Take Stock in Children college scholarship sponsored by Jean G. Wittner and her late husband, Ted Wittner. He later graduated from Eckerd College, spent seven years in the Coast Guard, earned his master’s degree in diplomacy and security studies at Norwich University in Vermont, and today works as Director of Operations for Florida of PalAmerican Security.
He has also served as a Take Stock mentor for the past eight years. “I try to get the students I mentor to think bigger,” he says. “I want to open up their minds to things they might not have thought were possible.”
Today, as Take Stock in Children Committee chair, one of his goals is to make sure no students slip through the cracks due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.
“A lot of students who are high-achieving are going to be successful no matter what, “ he says, “but we need to motivate those other students and get them across the finish line.”
That is the power of Take Stock – helping students who might never have gotten into the race, and propelling them on a successful course in life.
If you would like to get involved as a Take Stock in Children mentor, please click here.