Take Stock In Children (TSIC) is Florida's innovative program that provides college scholarships, mentors and hope to deserving at-risk youth. The Marion County Public Schools Foundation has been the lead agency for the TSIC since December 1996.
The need for the TSIC program developed because Florida has the second highest youth crime rate and the fifth highest school dropout rate in the country. Forty percent of Florida's children live in or near poverty. Marion County has the second highest truancy rate in the state and recent surveys showed an average of 2,100 students were truant every month for more than 15 days.
TSIC, a school-based mentoring program, has 125 mentors that are matched with students and stay with them throughout the program to help the students meet their performance criteria. The criteria include a pledge to stay away from drugs, maintain a 2.5 grade point average, stay in school and maintain good attendance. In return for the student fulfilling their performance pledge, they receive four years of college tuition or vocational tuition, which is purchased through the Florida Prepaid College Program.
The TSIC mentors meet with their students once a week at the student's school. Adult volunteers and participating youth make a significant commitment of time and energy to develop relationships devoted to personal, academic, or career development and social growth. TSIC volunteers are trusted friends, guides, listeners and positive role models. The mentors provide that important link of connection between the young person and a caring adult that might otherwise be absent. They also provide the extra encouragement for the student to stay on track not only to succeed in the TSIC program but in life.
The commitment made by the mentors is initially for one year. Most have pledged to see their students through to graduation. They are described as "dedicated, ambitious and caring individuals who make the time to meet with meet with a young person weekly." TSIC has a 97% success rate of keeping students in the program.