BRADENTON -- Five years from now, Take Stock in Children hopes to serve 100 students a year in Manatee County, more than doubling the 25 to 50 students they typically serve each year.
To do that, they'll have to raise $1 million a year for scholarships.
"We've got a moral obligation," Michael Corley, Take Stock board chairman, told a group of supporters Thursday morning at the Manatee Performing Arts Center kickoff breakfast.
Take Stock in Children is a nonprofit that pairs students with mentors throughout high school, and provides college scholarships at the end of the program. The program has a 95 percent graduation rate from high school, 94 percent of the students in the program matriculate to college and 95 percent of mentors return.
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"You in this room are a game changer in the lives of our students," said Cynthia Saunders, the Manatee County School District deputy superintendent of instruction.
Katty Pierre-Charles, a 20-year-old junior at University of South Florida-Tampa, made the trek to attend the breakfast. When she was in eighth grade at Braden River
Middle School, she became a Take Stock student. It was a "pivotal point," she said.
"I would not be here today without Take Stock," she said.
Pierre-Charles said she would not have been able to navigate and afford college without the organization's guidance and advice. Pierre-Charles is studying chemical engineering at USF and recently completed an internship with the Chevron oil company. She credited her mentor for helping make the difference.
"There are hundreds of other children like Katty that need to be supported," Take Stock Executive Director Diana Dill said.
Superintendent Diana Greene said the mentors never know which day will be the game changer, but they should take it as though every day could be that day.
"If you are there for those students, they will achieve their dreams," Greene said.
In order to reach 100 students a year, Take Stock organizers will have to ramp up fundraising efforts. The organization is participating in the 2015 Giving Challenge, a 24-hour online event. The organizers are also ramping up their three main fundraising events throughout the year.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.