BRADENTON -- A new way of awarding scholarships from the annual Take Stock in Children run planned for Sunday morning will help more schools earn money for their students. The annual 10K, 5K and fun run in Lakewood Ranch helps create spots within the Take Stock program for disadvantaged students. A spot in the program earns a student a college scholarship, a mentor from the community, and assistance in applying to college. In return, the students are required to maintain good grades and stay out of trouble. Scholarships are awarded to children in Manatee County as early as the sixth grade, and the spring races are one of three major fundraisers for the organizer.
When signing up, participants designate which Manatee County school they'd like to support. In previous years, the schools with the highest number of supporters were awarded a scholarship for one of their students. This year, the organizers are
changing the game a little, and any school with 300 or more supporters will be eligible for a scholarship for one of its students, which could mean a lot more schools become eligible, race director Bethany Lynch said.
"We're taking a chance a little bit," Lynch said.
Lynch said the concrete goal is a more solid target for schools to try to reach, and she believes it's attainable. About twice a week, Lynch checks the online registration and communicates with race captains at the schools to let them know where they are. As of Monday morning, no school had hit 300 this year, but many were above 200, she said.
"I believe the first to make it will be Rowlett," Lynch said, speaking of the Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communications, a charter school in the district, that always has a high level of support.
Ballard Elementary School is another school making a good showing so far this year, Lynch said.
Last week, Ballard officials rolled out a three-minute video, in an effort to "find a hero" for one of their students. The video was the brain child of the Scott Flynn, the school's student support specialist, assistant principal Terra Brown said. Flynn came to the principal Wendy Mungillo and the assistant principal because he had helped Wakeland Elementary School make a similar type of video the previous year.
Wakeland and Ballard were able to earn scholarships at the event last year, Mungillo said, and the staff at Ballard would like it to become a tradition for the school.
"It's a little bit of everyone from our community," supporting the school, Mungillo said.
In the video, staff race around the inside and outside of the school, like a relay race, and are dressed up in superhero clothing. The song "I Need a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler plays in the background, as the staff races to get a scholarship to one of their students.
"It has been a positive thing for us so far," Brown said.
The students at Ballard are economically disadvantaged, Brown said, and the Take Stock program is immensely helpful for those who are accepted, she said.
"It important for us to give our students a chance," she said.
Other schools that often gain support in the race include Bayshore and Palmetto high schools, Nolan and Haile middle schools and Wakeland Elementary, along with Ballard and Rowlett, Lynch said.
Register for races online
Online registration for the races is open until 5 p.m. Thursday and can be completed at takestock10k.com. Registration for the different races is between $15 and $30. Registration is available on the day of the event, for an increased price. "Virtual" participation is also encouraged, for those who cannot attend but would like to donate to the cause.
Last year, the race raised $100,000 and had 2,200 participants, with 1,700 of those competing physically.
Take Stock in Children serves between 25 and 50 Manatee County students a year, depending on the number of scholarship dollars they have available. By 2020, the organization hopes to ramp up fundraising enough to serve 100 students a year. 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, according to organizers.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.