Monday, November 18, 2013

TSIC Alumni Jake Rosenzweig's Success Story

Before, I was just a boy with a dream. Now, I am a man with a plan. My dream in life was to build a snowboarding shop in Alaska to let all of my friends snowboard for free. Now I am a well-educated University of Florida graduate pursuing a career in biomedical engineering. It was my mentor, Sheldon Friedman, who helped make my way of thinking – my way of living – more realistic. Over our eleven year adventure through life together, it has been such a unique journey for the both of us. I have matured well beyond my years because of his guidance and wisdom, and still for some reason he claims to have gained just as much from me as I have from him. As Shelson always says, “It’s not WHAT you know – it’s WHO you know.”
My parents divorced when I was six and I stayed with my mother – a wonderful and loving woman. She always made sure that the bills were paid and that my two younger brothers and I were well fed.  At the age of eleven, I was enrolled in Take Stock in Children and assigned a mentor Sheldon. When Sheldon’s wife read the letter that Sheldon would be mentoring Jake Rosenzweig, her heart dropped a few feet – her maiden name was also Rosenzweig (spelled exactly the same way too!). We were off to a good start! I would meet Sheldon once a week at school, where he brought me lunch. Oh, how I savored those Subway subs and chocolate milk! It was during these meetings that he would ask about my life.   It is with my infinite gratitude that he has shared his experiences with me as well. What I liked most about our meetings is that he never tried to make me into something I didn’t want to be. He knew I wanted to be a scientist. As he always says, “Youth mustn’t be molded, but unfolded.”
Sheldon has given me a significant portion of the momentum needed to achieve my academic goals. I dual enrolled at Florida State College at Jacksonville while attending my senior year of high school and earned my Associate’s soon thereafter. I transferred to the University of Florida and graduated cum laude with my B.S. in chemistry, with minors in education and classical studies
A few months after I graduated my mother became very sick with brain cancer. She passed away earlier this year and in the slowest and most deteriorating way imaginable. Sheldon and his wife visited me and my mother in hospice during the roughest of times, but they made all the difference. My mentor gave me the confidence I needed to tie up all unfinished legal business: guardianship of my brother who has cerebral palsy, refinancing the mortgage, managing hospital bills, child support, SSI, utility bills, etc. Despite the recent changes in life, Sheldon helped me cope with my situation. He made me realize that not just anyone has the strength or optimism to carry on, but I made him realize that he has instilled those qualities in me. As he always says, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”
Jake Rosenzweig agreed to meet the requirements for a Take Stock in Children Scholarship in 6th grade, graduated from Duncan U. Fletcher High School and graduated from Florida State College at Jacksonville with an Associate’s Degree and from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry. He works as a full-time tutor in math and chemistry and is planning to return to earn an advanced degree in research and neurobiology

TSIC Alumni Lucero Carillo-Moctezuma's Success Story

When I was in the 8th grade at Forest Grove Middle School, I kept telling myself:  “If you really want to have a professional career you must first set goals.”  I knew I needed to finish high school and graduate from college to follow my dreams. I was well aware that life is not easy, and that I must do everything I could to continue my studies.

A wonderful opportunity came my way when I received the offer of a college scholarship through the Indian River State College Foundation and signed an agreement with Take Stock in Children.  Take Stock in Children is a state-wide non-profit organization that provides scholarship support, mentors and hope for low-income young people.  To receive a Take Stock in Children college scholarship, I had to promise to earn good grades, meet with my mentor, remain drug and crime free, and graduate from high school. I wholeheartedly agreed.
I graduated from Westwood High School in Fort Pierce with high honors and enrolled at Indian River State College.  What a journey IRSC has been for me! My parents are agricultural workers and I am a first generation in college student and the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. It has been a challenge, but with the support of my instructors, advisors, mentors and parents, I have been able to fulfill my dreams of attaining higher education.
I earned two business certificates, an Associate in Arts degree, an Associate in Science degree in Business Administration, and most recently was awarded a Bachelor in Applied Science degree in Organizational Management. The professors at IRSC emphasized the importance of effective management at all levels. We were encouraged to share experiences and practices to develop a more profound understanding of organizational management and the ability to apply what we have learned on the job.  
That philosophy worked. I was promoted to the Value Adjustment Board Finance Department with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in St. Lucie County. At 22, I am pursuing an MBA at Nova Southeastern University. I could not have done this without the skills I learned at IRSC, and I am very grateful for the support I received from the IRSC Foundation, Farm Workers Program and Take Stock in Children.
Take Stock in Children has opened doors to a brighter future for me and thousands of others.  With the support and coordination of the IRSC Foundation and area school districts, over 300 local Take Stock in Children recipients have continued to college and 256 are currently enrolled in the program while in high school.  Take Stock in Children recipients have attained a high school graduation rate of 92%, which is significantly higher than Florida’s average high school graduation rate.  
Community contributions help support Take Stock in Children and volunteer mentors help each awardee stay on track.  Each of us has a unique story, but there is a common thread -  how Take Stock in Children provided us with an incentive to study hard and stay out of trouble, how we are graduating from college, launching successful careers and supporting our families.
Lucero Carillo-Moctezuma agreed to meet the requirements for a Take Stock in Children Scholarship in 8th grade, graduated from Westwood H.S and graduated from IRSC in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management. She is employed with the Value Adjustment Board of the St. Lucie County Clerk’s Office and pursing an MBA. 

TSIC Alum Cody Wolfgang Fenech's Success Story

Dear Anne Everly, Steve Primus, TSIC Foundation, and affiliates
It’s almost funny how children think about the world. They look at the world as a place of possibility, wonder, and excitement. It is not to say that their lives are without strife, but to them, the future is in the palm of their hand. Ironically, a child that puts an adequate amount of thought into their future is seldom found. They do not worry about finances, about job applications, about grade point averages. This ideology seems to be carried on for much of their teenage years, until these dilemmas are knocking on their door.

This is how many of my peers and I felt about the future until we had reached our junior or senior years. For me, it had been apparent for much of my life, that my family was not a family of privilege, wealth, or social connections. I had been without a father for much of my childhood, and my mother worked low paying jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and the bills paid. I had never felt unlucky however. My mother had raised me the best she could, and had always shown me that she loved me more than any parent could.
Love, unfortunately, cannot pay college tuition.
That is where TSIC came in. In the 9th grade I wrote an essay, as did hundreds of other students, to apply for the TSIC scholarship. As a 14 year old, I didn’t observe much of what was going on, and didn’t give much heed to the ensuing events that came after I submitted my essay. Sometime after, my family was invited to a ceremony at the Viera Stadium. As my mother read the invitation, her face lit up with joy, and I could have sworn I saw the beginning of tears well in her eyes. She turned to me, a grin spreading across her face. She explained the best she could the amazing opportunity I just received, but of course, being a child I merely thought, “That’s cool”. Over the ensuing years however, it became abundantly clear what a blessing that the TSIC scholarship truly was.

I was introduced to mentors and coaches, and compassionate people that empathized with what I was going through, before I even knew myself.
This letter is to those people like Anne Everly, Steve Primus, and the kind of people that looked at poverty level kids that had no chance of a real future and said “No, everyone deserves a chance.”
You were there for me when I stumbled; you guided me when I didn’t know where to go. You gave me the sort of advantage that helped me overcome the adversity that I was gifted with since birth.
I will be frank with you, in high school I had become a mediocre student, but you wouldn’t have any of that! My grades, my study habits, and my over support improved. My GPA rose from 2.5 to 2.7 to 2.9 until I graduated in 2011 with a GPA of 3.1. It was at that moment I really began to gain some retrospect. As I clasped my hand around that diploma, giving Principal Cool a firm handshake with the other, I looked back at the road I was headed down, and the future that would have been in store for me if I had not received this scholarship.
I became truly determined to reach the peak of potential that I had after receiving this scholarship. As of today, 10/2/2012, I am majoring in Computer Science as a full-time student at Brevard Community College, maintaining a GPA of 3.5+, and have made the Dean’s List every semester. I work part-time at a call center, while simultaneously taking care of my aging grandmother and mother. To this day I continue to work harder to raise my GPA, to achieve within my job, and to reach the level of responsibility that signifies true adulthood.
While my achievements may not equate to moving mountains, I feel that the difference between what I have achieved, and what I would have achieved is enormous. I can do nothing but sincerely thank those that work at the TSIC foundation. You have given me the means to go to college, to get an education, and truly make something of myself.
So those who doubt the effectiveness of this program, or the impact on the community; I implore you to take a step back for a moment, and just observe the impact on an individual level.
This foundation is one of the few that I have seen whose objective is truly altruistic. To educate children so that they may improve not only their lives, but the lives of those around them. With more education, communities will improve, counties, states and so on. As I finish up my education, and receive employment in my field, be assured I will never forget how TSIC, its scholarships, and more importantly how its volunteers have changed my life. Furthermore, you can bet I will be back soon enough, to become one of those volunteers, or those donors; ready to help a child such as myself one day, because I truly know what a difference it has made.

With tears in my eyes, I can only say again; thank you. Thank you with all of my heart, for not only giving me a future, but restoring part of the child-like outlook, because I have learned now what many adults have lost as they grow older; The future is a place of possibility, wonder, and excitement. You just have to go out there, and make it happen.

TSIC recipient,
Cody Wolfgang Fenech

TSIC Alum Ha Tran's Story of Success

As one of the inaugural Take Stock In Children Leaders 4 Life Fellows, Ha Tran is currently attending Duke University, where she is pursuing a Neuroscience major and a Global Health minor. With her passion for international health care, Ha hopes to serve the global community as a medical physician in the future. As a proud 2011 graduate of Pace High School, Ha reflects back on her Take Stock In Children experience and attributes much of her success to her mentors and her TSIC family. 

When Ha was 3 years old, her family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when her father was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Through the journey, Ha discovered that education has the power to change lives. She witnessed her parents work 18-hour days to be able to stay in this country, where they knew Ha and her older sister would be able to get a quality education. For Ha's family, education was the key to a better life and the opportunity to get an education was one to be treasured. 

At Duke, Ha is kept busy with classes and her independent research project on the effects of stress on hippocampal and hypothalamic neurogenesis. She also works as a Vietnamese translator, volunteers at the Duke Hospital, and serves as editor for an undergraduate research journal. In her spare time, Ha enjoys having late-night conversations with her friends as they try to navigate their early 20's together and find answers to life's greatest questions. Ha's experiences outside the classroom have shown her that education is not only limited to a textbook, but rather the opportunity to learn is in every country, every experience, and every new conversation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mentor Spotlight

Mentor Spotlight: Zabrina PentonZabrina Penton is a wife, mother, career woman, and mentor. She chose to become a Take Stock in Children mentor for the Volusia County program because she felt that it was a great way of helping students stay focused in school and succeed in a career. She also found it to be a great way of giving back to the community. Zabrina and her family say it is very important to be involved in the community by making a positive impact on childrens’ lives. One of the main things that attracted Zabrina to mentoring for Take Stock in Children was that she knew firsthand the importance of going to college and earning a degree. Click here to read the full story. As a mentor,  Zabrina says, not only is she able to develop a great relationship with her mentee, Tomaree, but she earns a valuable life experience through helping her mentee get one step closer to achieving her academic goals. As a TSIC scholar, Tomaree will have the opportunity to get a scholarship that will help pay for college as well as the fact that it will open doors for her future personally and professionally. As someone who was once a student herself, Zabrina can relate to her mentee. She knows how overwhelming the process of choosing the right college and career can be. Zabrina remembers when she was in high school and wanted to be a doctor or an architect. But in the end, she graduated with a degree in civil engineering. Zabrina had a high school teacher who was like a mentor, not only for her, but for numerous students. This teacher helped with the process of applying for college and learning about different career opportunities, also making them aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Zabrina will never forget how helpful it was to have somebody available and able to answer all the questions. 

Zabrina and her husband, Demian, have resided in Deland, FL for the last seven years. Zabrina and her husband have two children: Marco (5) and Victoria (10 months). Marco is in kindergarten and practices martial arts. Victoria is a very happy and active baby. Her husband works as an independent Financial Adviser, and Zabrina works for The State of Florida’s Department of Transportation as a Traffic Professional Engineer. They enjoy going camping, bike riding, running, walking, and traveling as a family.