by Teresa A. Morgenstern
Their ambition after graduating from high school is to go to college and earn an Associate’s degree that will help them achieve their career goals. Many times, the roadblock is paying for college. Thanks to a partnership among Take Stock in Children, matching state funds and the Florida SouthWestern State College Foundation, 15 students from Golden Gate High School will be on their way to a establishing their careers.
“These students meet the same requirements academically and in their commitment to achieving their goals,” said Dr. Lou Traina, VP Institutional Advancement/Executive Director, FSW Foundation. “They work with mentors and have a support system to help them succeed. They have so much potential and we want to be there to help them realize their dreams.”
A selection committee reviews the applications and narrows it to a set number of students each year. That number was originally 12.
“My wife, Marti, has served on this committee several times, which includes reviewing the applications and interviewing the students and their parents or guardian,” said Gordon Watson, who along with his wife, Marti, have been involved in Take Stock for 15 years. “It’s a heart-wrenching decision because we had 15 finalists who are really terrific kids.”
For the Watsons, leaving those three students behind wasn’t an option, so they donated the seed money in order to get the FSW Foundation, Take Stock and state matches.
In the end, it means a student can attend FSW for two years and earn an Associate’s degree. For example, if the college foundation dedicates $2,000, then Take Stock will match at $2,000. The state then matches at $4,000. In total, that student would have $8,000 towards tuition.
Selected students have to meet several requirements in order to be eligible to receive a two-year tuition scholarship to attend FSW. They must maintain good grades, remain drug and crime-free, and meet with their mentor every week. Along the way, students realize that they have an entire community invested in their success.
For FSW student Nolmie Marc, Take Stock was her path to college.
“I was one of those students who knew I wanted to go to college one day, but didn’t know how to apply myself to actually reaching my goals. With Take Stock and Children, I knew that after my senior year of high school, I’d go to Florida Southwestern State College,” she said. “I am currently studying to become a nurse. I hope to get my associates here at FSW. As far as career goals go, I’d like to work in a hospital and help as many people as I can.”
Yrline Seraphin, freshman who is studying to become a physical therapist at FSW, the scholarship money has put her on a career path filled with possibilities.
“My parents really couldn’t help me pay for college, and my brother is going to college class by class, so it will take him longer. This scholarship means I can stay on track. FSW has a real college feel, and I’m so glad I’m going here instead of a large university.”
Ultimately, Seraphin wants to go on to earn her master’s degree and PhD in physical therapy.
“This program absolutely changes lives. It’s a two-way street which when students graduate, they can pay it forward by using their skills to make this a better place to live,” said Watson. “Everybody wins.”