Have you ever thought about mentoring a student? Consider being part of the Take Stock in Children program. With 25 years of success under its belt, this scholarship program helps connect deserving high-school students and adult mentors in a meaningful way.
The Take Stock in Children (TSIC) program in Seminole County has something to boast about. One hundred percent of the students who completed the program have successfully graduated from high school. That is no small feat, says Beth Arigo, TSIC’s student services coordinator. Beth works alongside Beverly Bonilla-Flores, the program’s college success coach, to equip students with everything they need to be successful, including life-skills and career-preparation workshops, continued support through all four years of high school, and many more additional opportunities.
“The best part of our jobs is seeing the students in TSIC excel,” says Beverly. “Beth and I are in the trenches with them, and it’s amazing to see them grow and change from year to year. As part of the TSIC program, we’re here to help these students through high school and set them on a good path for the future.”
TSIC, facilitated by the Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, aims to give high-potential, low-income students the guidance and resources to strive for a better future. Each student is nominated for the program in eighth grade by a middle-school teacher or guidance counselor. When students and their parents commit to TSIC, they sign a contract outlining expectations throughout the student’s high-school career, and they are held accountable for their actions. Participating students also benefit from weekly visits with a volunteer mentor to help stay on track in and out of the classroom. The mentoring component is a crucial piece to the program’s success, and the reward at the end is a well-deserved two-year scholarship to jump start college funding.
For the past quarter century, TSIC has fought to combat high dropout rates in the public-school system and has served more than 34,000 youth across all 67 counties in Florida. These are the stories of a handful of our community’s Take Stock in Children Seminole County scholars and mentors (myself included) who share the same sentiment that TSIC has been a life-changing catalyst in their lives.
Daisha and Me
My mentee, Daisha Ortiz-Velez, is a senior in Seminole High School’s Health Academy who will soon complete her Certified Nursing Assistants certification. She’s also active in chorus and gospel choir and plans to pursue a degree in nursing at Seminole State College.
Daisha is a beautiful young woman who wants to succeed in life. I can’t believe that our four years together are coming to an end, but it has been a joy to watch her grow. We’ve celebrated birthdays, talked about our highs and lows, and seen each other reach different milestones, like Daisha getting her license and me getting married. As a mentor, it’s definitely a two-way street, and my approach has always been to show Daisha that I’m just as human as she is. We’ve learned a lot from each other. The TSIC program is doing great work for our community’s youth, and I’m thankful to be a part of giving such a deserving student a chance to continue her education.
Daisha says the TSIC program and my support as her mentor have been instrumental in keeping her focused and motivated to succeed.
“I have to say thank-you to the TSIC staff and my mentor Georgia for not giving up on me and for always being there,” says Daisha, who also gives a huge shoutout to her parents for their unwavering support. “The program really got me to think about what I want in life, and I know I want to be successful. Georgia helped me in so many ways, like studying for the SAT and learning how to use my planner. We really got to know each other, and she was always there to help me with any problems or issues I was going through. We’ve had a lot of good jokes, too. Overall, it’s been a great experience.”
I’m so proud of you, Daisha! Keep up the good work.
Amon and Jeff
Amon McKinney is a Seminole High graduate and freshman at Florida A&M University (FAMU) studying political science. He serves as a student senator in the Student Government Association and is also an active cadet of the FAMU Army ROTC program. Amon says he has been blessed by the opportunity to be a TSIC scholarship recipient and credits the program for helping him develop leadership and management skills. He is also grateful to the staff for encouraging him to take full advantage of the program’s extensive resources.
“Amon has an outsized personality,” says Jeff Siebenaller, his former TSIC mentor. “He has a huge smile and is very engaging. I know without a doubt that he is destined for greatness. He has so much energy and intellect and has persevered through some tough times. I was blessed to be paired with Amon, and I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes in the future. I’m pretty sure we have a future senator in our midst!”
Jeff, who works in sales and marketing, helped motivate Amon by turning key lessons and values into memorable tidbits.
“I told Amon that, to be successful in life and work, you’ve gotta eat the apple PIE,” Jeff explains. “P is for Performance, I is for Image, and E is for Exposure. And, don’t ever stop developing your capabilities.”
“Mr. Siebenaller has been not only an exceptional mentor, but also a great role model,” says Amon. “He was a father-figure in my life and through his mentorship, and I was introduced to numerous opportunities. Mr. Siebenaller imparted me with wisdom, patience, and proactiveness that served to help successfully get me through high school and set me up with the tools necessary to live a successful life. I look forward to Mr. Siebenaller being able to impact another young life as he has done mine.”
Jonathan and Boe
Jonathan Alcantara-Ordonez is a senior at Lake Mary High who is passionate about the arts and enjoys learning about international affairs, languages, and cultures. Over the course of his high-school career in the TSIC program, Jonathan has learned how to better manage his time, money, and educational goals in preparation for his future. He says that after four years in the program, he feels like he’s part of a special kind of family and is especially thankful to his mentor, Boe Marshall, for his guidance.
“Boe has been there guiding me and being the best mentor someone could ask for,” says Jonathan. “We meet up every week and discuss a variety of topics. He makes sure that I’m on the right path in my personal life and school life. He has helped me get back on track when my grades were slipping and provides guidance on how to recover. I couldn’t have a better mentor throughout my high-school journey.”
Boe, who has been an active mentor for almost a decade, also serves on the TSIC leadership committee.
“Jonathan is a bright, clever, and contemporary guy, and I have enjoyed watching him grow into a good man,” says Boe, who hopes to encourage others to consider the power of mentoring. “This guy has a big heart and is going to be something special. It has become easy to be proud of him. We need a few more mentors who understand our inextricable connection between children and the overall health and vitality of our community. A small investment in our time pays an exponential rate of return as we show them the way to a brighter future, and they then show it to their children and mentees. It’s only a few minutes – so please come join me. You’ll be glad you did.”
While it’s been more than a decade since she graduated from the TSIC program, Seminole High grad Rosa Malagon will never forget the program’s positive and long-lasting effects on her life.
“As a first-generation student, I had to navigate a lot on my own,” she says. “Thankfully, I had two TSIC mentors that were able to share their wisdom and advice. At that time in my life, I knew I wanted to continue my education and be the first person in my family to go to college, and I wanted to help people and make an impact in my community.”
This school year, Rosa decided to make her own mark on the TSIC program by serving as a mentor.
“TSIC is a program that provides an opportunity to underprivileged kids, many of whom are minorities,” says Rosa. “My hope is that I am just one out of many examples that they can look to and know that they can do it too, even when obstacles are present. I am thrilled that I get to provide the same support I received when going through the program myself. TSIC provided that extra layer of safety and motivation I needed to continue through my high-school years with college as my target goal. I’m learning to listen to my mentee’s needs and just be present for her in whatever way she needs me to be.”
After graduating from high school in 2006, Rosa enrolled at Seminole State College. While there, she enlisted in the Army Reserve on an eight-year contract and was deployed once to Afghanistan in 2009. Today, Rosa holds a master’s degree in social work from UCF, works as a mental-health counselor at Catholic Charities of Central Florida, and is pursuing licensure to become a licensed clinical social worker. She is also a mother to two beautiful girls, Sanaiha and Charlotte, and is a proud homeowner in downtown Sanford.
Gustavo and David
Gustavo Nazari is a senior at Oviedo High School who is actively involved in the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, and Spanish Club as well as athletics. He is also very interested in computer science and sabermetrics (the analysis of baseball statistics). Gustavo says that being a part of the TSIC program has truly helped him become a better person and student.
“Gustavo and I are alike in a lot of ways,” says his mentor, David Dangel. “We are both fairly quiet, and I see a lot of me in him when I was his age. He is also very smart and does very well in school and has a great family support system, too. I have enjoyed talking about baseball with him, and the process of him applying to colleges has been a lot of fun for me. Gustavo is definitely headed for great things, and his family should be very proud of him.”
“Because we share many common interests, David and I have had many conversations about what it is that I enjoy and what career possibilities are in the future,” says Gustavo. “Not only does he help me with problems that I present to him, but he also brings new ideas and opportunities to me that I may have never found had he not been there for me. I feel like I can see it all now coming together because I am finishing up my last year of high school. The workshops that I have attended and the one-on-one help that the program has given me is something that I believe every student deserves.”
“TSIC is a great way to give back to the community,” says David. “It’s a reasonable time commitment, and it’s a great feeling knowing that you are helping a student make college education a reality.”
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