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Take Stock in Children: A Locally Created Initiative Having Statewide Impact

Take Stock in Children: A Locally Created Initiative Having Statewide Impact

(Feb. 3, 2021)

It has been changing young lives for more than a quarter of a century now, a transformative program that has opened doors to college and career success that might otherwise have been unattainable.

This is the power of Take Stock in Children, an initiative created by the Pinellas Education Foundation 28 years ago – originally under the name “Doorways.” Take Stock identifies hard-working, financially deserving children and provides them with a college scholarship, a mentor and a college success coach to help them reach their full potential.

The transformative initiative leverages resources and relationships to contribute to student success. Donor contributions are matched dollar-for-dollar by the Florida Prepaid Foundation, meaning that every contribution, no matter the size, will be doubled in value. Thanks to the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children efforts, more than 5,000 at-risk students have benefitted in Pinellas County, with college scholarships valued at more than  $40 million.  The program has produced more than 1,830 college graduates, and almost 900 high school graduates are currently enrolled at many Florida universities and colleges.

Here’s how it works: Low-income and minority students apply to participate in the program between 6th and 9th grade. With their promise to remain drug and crime free, keep their grades up, and meet regularly with a mentor provided through Take Stock in Children, they receive a Florida Prepaid Scholarship. More than 96% of those children graduate from high school and receive the opportunity for a college or technical school education, making Take Stock in Children one of the most successful programs of its kind in the United States.

“One of the important things the program does for students is to provide opportunities they don’t have – and options they don’t have,” says the Foundation’s new Take Stock in Children Committee Chairman Johnny Boykins (Click here to read about his journey as the first Take Stock alumnus to chair the committee).

This past year alone, the success story of Take Stock-Pinellas was underlined by numbers such as these:

  • 230 seniors graduated with Take Stock scholarships worth $3 million
  • 270 new scholars were accepted
  • 747 Mentors held more than 20,000 sessions
  • 97 percent of Take Stock students graduate high school, well over the national average for low-income students.

Since its origins with the Pinellas Education Foundation, the program has been flourishing statewide as well, helping students in sixth-through-12th grades achieve their dreams. In fact, Take Stock in Children of Florida marked its 25th anniversary in 2020, overseeing the program in 681 public schools and 67 counties.

Take Stock in Children of Florida CEO and President Jillian Hasner views all of the Take Stock in Children branches in counties throughout the state as “a constellation of stars,” though she readily acknowledges the unique nature of the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Take Stock program.

“Pinellas is our largest Take Stock affiliate, and I also consider the Foundation our founding affiliate,” she says. “And that will always make Pinellas special.”

In the 25 years since the statewide program started in 1995, a total of 36,239 students have participated in Take Stock in Children of Florida, supported by $250 million in Florida Prepaid Scholarships. Today, there are some 8,500 middle and high school Take Stock in Children students, with 6,000-plus attending 40 public colleges and universities in the state – guided by 10,114 mentors throughout Florida.

“These kids are amazing, and I really feel blessed to be part of this organization,” Hasner adds. “They’re the real heroes – along with our mentors. They are amazing people who give their time, talent, energy and love to these students. And they’re often with them throughout their lives.”

The inspirational stories that abound in Take Stock in Children do pose a small dilemma for Hasner, who readily admits, “I cry at least once a day.”

Three Ways You Can Help Support Take Stock in Children

If you would like to make a donation, please contact Julie Perrelli, Vice President of Advancement, at Julie.Perrelli@pinellaseducation.org  (727) 588-4816, ext. 2113; if you would like to serve as a mentor or offer to speak, please contact Kimberly Landry at Kimberly.Landry@pinellaseducation.org  or (727) 588-4816, ext. 2123.