Some population figures:
Key Largo—about 10,000
Key West—about 25,000
Modesto A. Maidique Campus of Florida International University (FIU)—about 32,000
Upon entering Florida’s innovative Take Stock in Children program, seventh-graders sign a contract. They commit to getting good grades, maintaining attendance, behaving well in class, staying crime- and drug-free and meeting with a mentor weekly. The payoff for fulfilling the contract: as members of low-income families who might lack the resources to go to college, they earn a scholarship.
To help them visualize what their life as college students will be like, they visit two Florida campuses in seventh grade and do more intensive tours in high school. For island-based students, FIU is a “city” with a population larger than the county seat in Key West.
“We’ve always taken students to FIU,” said Jim Hall (MS ’91), program coordinator for Monroe County, and one of two FIU alumni among the five adults accompanying 33 students on the most recent FIU tour. “It has the quality and credentials, and it’s closer to home, which might ease the transition to college.”
The Keys, FIU Business and a national presence merge.
The group of Keys sophomores and juniors stopped by the College of Business Administration, where Barry Shiflett, director, Career Management Services, and Clifford Perry, associate dean for undergraduate programs and academic affairs, offered advice and encouragement.
“I liked the diversity at FIU and the fact that everyone was different and unique,” said Yanaiz Morales, a Key West sophomore with her eye on a law career, while Thomas Bowersox, a junior from Marathon who plans to major in music, appreciated “the architecture, the sculpture and the evidence of interesting student activities such as a photo shoot.”
After the tour, 76 percent of the students expressed absolute certainty that they would attend college.
This year, Take Stock-Monroe received a grant in partnership with Broward and Highlands County, awarded through the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“There were 1,700 applications for innovative programs making a difference in the schools,” Hall said. “Forty-nine awards were made nationwide, two in Florida. We are a Florida-only program, but this year, we stepped onto the national stage.”