After a year of perfect attendance, good grades and hard work, one of thirty-eight Title I students who just finished third grade in Manatee County will be awarded a college scholarship at the start of fourth grade.
It’s part of a new partnership. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which aims to have students reading on grade level by the end of third grade to help ensure future academic success, and Take Stock in Children, which provide low-income students with college scholarships and mentors, have teamed up to create the new special scholarship.
“It’s a tried-and-true program. We’re excited about offering this opportunity to a student who is making all the right choices and performing well,” said Diana Dill, Take Stock in Children’s executive director.
Take Stock in Children, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, with chapters in each county in Florida. The mission is to break the cycle of poverty for low-income, academically qualified students by providing opportunities for a post-secondary education.
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Most children awarded Take Stock scholarships in Manatee County are sixth- to eighth-graders, but Dill said the program originally had its roots in awarding scholarships to children in fourth grade. The students sign a contract with Take Stock, saying they will maintain good grades and stay out of trouble. In return, the students are provided with a local mentor and after completing high school, a college scholarship.
“To be able to change kids’ lives and families’ lives ... I am just such an advocate of this program,” said Elaine Graham, a retired educator and member of the Take Stock board.
Graham and her husband, Stephen, another retired educator, donated the money for the special scholarship, which plays into an initiative the district rolled out this year as part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Locally, the campaign is led by the school district, United Way of Manatee County, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and the Manatee Community Foundation.
I’ve seen them receive that high school diploma. I’ve seen them receive that college diploma. It just is magic.
Elaine Graham, Take Stock board member
The district chose to start the campaign by focusing first on reducing chronic absenteeism in Title I schools, as the district saw the rates of absenteeism were higher at schools with poorer populations. Using federal Title I money, the district created and hired “graduation enhancement technicians” for each Title 1 school. The GETs, as they’re called, work as a bridge between families and staff to identify and reduce barriers that kept students from attending school every day.
“We wanted to think of an incentive or to reward or honor the families,” said Sheila Halin, who heads the Grade-Level Reading campaign in the school district.
Halpin didn’t have firm numbers for the fourth quarter of the school year, but said the GETs had a very successful first year and would be returning to the district next year. The district will also launch initiatives at younger levels, including pre-kindergarten, to help make sure students are ready when they show up to school, another important component of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
During the 2015-16 year, 38 students in 13 Title I schools achieved perfect attendance, in addition to staying out of trouble and scoring a Level 3 or higher on the state English Language Arts exam. Officials are still waiting on the 38 students’ math scores to come back from the state, another requirement of receiving a Take Stock scholarship.
The Campaign for Grade-Level reasing is a collaborative effort across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. The campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade.
Dill said they’d work with Superintendent Diana Greene on choosing the student to receive the scholarship before school picks back up on Aug. 10.
Although it’s going to be a great honor for the student and the family ultimately chosen, Greene said there will still be a lot of work ahead.
“The third-grader still may not understand the gravity of the opportunity given to them once they’ve been chosen,” Greene said. “That’s why it’s very important to involve their parents and help them continue to inspire their child to stay on this track of graduating high school and keeping their grades up.”
Greene praised the teamwork behind this opportunity.
“This is truly a community effort,” she said.
For more information on the program, or to get involved, contact Diana Dill at 941-745-6550 ext 2172 or firstname.lastname@example.org