Guidance Keeps Students Focused; Take Stock Scholarship Gives a College Education to Kids Who Keep Up Their Grades and Stay out of Trouble

Article excerpt


FERNANDINA BEACH -- For seven years, Dalila Johnson, 17, and Donna Givens, 58, have talked every week.

The Fernandina Beach High School senior and the retired middle school teacher from Georgia were paired in 1999 by the Nassau County Take Stock in Children. For six of those years, Givens also was a mentor to Johnson's older sister, Della, 18, who graduated in 2005 and is a student at Florida Community College at Jacksonville.

Now it's time for Dalila, one of eight Nassau County senior recipients, to be awarded her Take Stock scholarships next week.

Take Stock in Children is a statewide, public-private program that promises to provide four-year college tuition or two-year vocational scholarship to participating students through the Florida Prepaid Tuition Program. Take Stock also provides volunteer mentors to help students, student advocates, and tutoring and intervention programs.

In return, middle-school students entering the program sign a contract agreeing to stay drug- and crime-free, maintain satisfactory grades and behave well at school. Students receive their scholarship if they fulfill the terms of the contract and graduate from high school.

Take Stock officials say the student-mentor relationship is crucial to the program's success. Student advocates monitor the students' progress, and mentors help the kids stay on track and get them through the program, said Jody Mackle, Take Stock in Children Program Director.

For Johnson, talking things over with Givens has kept her motivated and focused on her plans for the future.

Her relationship with Givens, who frequently e-mails and talks on the phone with both Johnson sisters, is different from those she has with her teachers.

"She's more like a friend," Johnson said. …


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