One of the lessons Mary Scott Ross learned in 2016 is as timeless as it is simple.
“No matter how old a person is, if someone seems pleased and happy to see you, that makes you feel good,” Ross said.
The retired English teacher was reminded of that truth when she signed on to be a mentor with Take Stock in Children of Manatee County this year, and she is one of several reasons why the nonprofit, which provides mentors and college scholarships for some of Manatee County’s poorest students, had such a banner year in 2016.
Through additional donations, the program brought 35 new students into the program this year, an increase from the 25 new students in the program last year and the highest new student participation level in the organization’s 20-year history.
“I attribute that to our community’s awareness of the program, our continued success — we have a 96 percent success rate — and the acknowledgment that it’s a great investment to provide a college scholarship,” Executive Director Diana Dill said.
No matter how old a person is, if someone seems pleased and happy to see you, that makes you feel good.
- Mary Scott Ross, mentor with Take Stock in Children
Dill said they hope to bring 50 new students into the program in 2017.
Ross began eating lunch once a week with a sixth-grade girl at Imagine Charter School in Lakewood Ranch. The two would talk through goals, slowly getting to know one another. When Ross attended the girl’s basketball game, she was delighted at how happy it made the child.
“It made me feel good to know she wanted me to be there,” Ross said.
Today, 165 Take Stock in Children students are being groomed for college by mentors who meet with them weekly for 30-minute lunches, and 120 Manatee school graduates utilizing the scholarship in college.
165 students in Manatee schools are being mentored and will receive a full college scholarship upon graduation. Another 120 are in college right now, using the scholarship.
The cost to put a student through four years of college and provide a mentor is $10,000. The vast majority of that goes toward a scholarship, and donations are matched dollar for dollar by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
Ross did double duty for the organization this year by mentoring and funding an entire scholarship. She said her reasons for donating $10,000 to the organization were both financial and sentimental.
“I was looking for an appropriate end-of-year donation to help with the bottom line on my income tax, but I was also thinking about my mother,” Ross said. “My mother graduated from high school during the depths of the depression. She desperately wanted to go to college, but she didn’t have the finances or the family backing to do that.”
Donating $10,000 to help a poor student get to college, while at the same time honoring her mother and lowering her tax bill, was a no-brainer, she said.
“It was a win-win-win opportunity,” Ross said. “Maybe even a win-win-win-win.”
Mentor applications are available on the Take Stock website, www.takestockmanatee.org/Mentors. Dill and her team are available to answer any questions about the mentor application process and can be reached at 941-751-6550.