Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Take Stock Scholarship Helps Bring Degree

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Take Stock Scholarship Helps Bring Degree

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Jim Thomas "J.T." Staples, 22, is the first Nassau County student to graduate from college using a Take Stock in Children scholarship.

Staples, who graduated from Fernandina Beach High School in 2000, received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Florida Institute of Technology in May.

Take Stock in Children, administered through Communities in Schools, is a statewide non-profit program that gives four-year college tuition scholarships and two-year vocational scholarships to low-income students who qualify.

Participants are selected by a committee, and must sign a contract agreeing to stay drug- and crime-free, maintain satisfactory grades and behave well in school.

Students receive their scholarship if they fulfill the terms of the contract and graduate from high school.

The Take Stock in Children program in Nassau County was established in 1997, and Staples was selected to join that first class of participants.

Staples said he did it for the money.

"It was a lot of money really," he said.

Florida Tech is a private school in Melbourne, and it cost about $110,000 to attend full time for four years, Staples said.

With the help of Take Stock mentors, Staples learned where to look and how to apply for financial aid. Including scholarships from Florida Tech and state grants, Staples earned about $80,000 that he doesn't need to pay back. About $8,000 of that was from Take Stock in Children. He financed the remainder with student loans.

Staples said he probably would have had to attend a public school if not for the financial aid he received.

"It helped put some motivation in me to not let these people down," Staples said.

Now the college graduate is trying to find a job.

"It was harder than I thought it was going to be," he said.

Though Staples said earning his college degree has been the smartest thing he's done so far, he said college isn't for everyone. …

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