INK! recognizes Take Stock in Children graduating seniors


The St. Johns County Education Foundation, which operates as Investing in Kids (INK!), recently hosted its annual Bright Beginnings Celebration to honor the Class of 2024 Take Stock in Children graduating seniors in St. Johns County.

Fourteen students were recognized in a unique program highlighting their academic achievements hosted May 13 at St. Augustine High School. The students are graduating from St. Johns County public high schools, and each will attend college supported by a Take Stock in Children scholarship funded by individual donors, corporate sponsors and community partners.

The evening program featured Tim Forson, superintendent of schools for the St. Johns County School District. In his remarks, Forson acknowledged graduating students, volunteer mentors, teachers, principals, school board members and INK! staff for their support of the Take Stock St. Johns program.

Forson commended the students and their focus on establishing pathways to success with goal setting, hard work, perseverance and collaboration with their mentors, families, guardians and teachers.

Since 1998, INK! has been the exclusive umbrella agency in St. Johns County for Take Stock in Children, a statewide nonprofit organization that offers deserving students coming from a lower income background the opportunity to earn college scholarships through educational support, mentorship and college success coaching.

Students apply to participate in Take Stock when they are in the eighth grade in St. Johns County public schools. Upon acceptance into the program, they sign a contract to maintain a 2.5 grade point average, uphold good behavior and attendance and stay drug and crime free. Take Stock in Children is a public-private partnership in the State of Florida.

All monetary donations received by INK! for the Take Stock in Children program are directed to the purchase of the scholarships and are fully matched by Florida Prepaid Foundation with funding by the state Legislature. Community partners and business owners also provide significant support to help with academic and educational assistance.

According to INK! Executive Director Cathy Newman, this year’s graduating seniors persevered through particularly challenging moments throughout their high school careers.

“As COVID disrupted the start of their high school career, this year’s graduates demonstrated resiliency and flexibility while learning in the classroom and online,” she said. “They have succeeded despite the disruptions COVID caused, and we have no doubt that they will continue to do well in the future.”

According to James Wheeler, INK!’s operations and student programs director and program director of Take Stock in Children in St. Johns County, each graduating senior earned a scholarship with a value of approximately $6,500, equal to 60 credit hours of tuition at a state college in Florida and received new laptop computers. Students were honored for their academic accomplishments, and donors were recognized through named scholarships for the students. 

The 2024 Take Stock in Children St. Johns graduates and donor scholarships are as follows:

  • Cooper Austreng, Ponte Vedra High School — Ponte Vedra Women’s Civic Alliance Scholarship
  • Mara Gonzalez, Pedro Menendez High School — MasterCraft Builders/Davidson Cares Scholarship
  • Timothy Gooch, St. Johns Technical High School — Goode Family Scholarship
  • Jordan Graham, Tocoi Creek High School — Margie Davidson Memorial Scholarship; Jim Davidson Memorial Super Senior Scholarship
  • Jacques Johnson, St. Johns Technical High School — Cavacini Family Scholarship
  • Skylar Moseley, Florida Virtual School — Investing in Kids (INK!) Scholarship
  • Alice Olivera, Bartram Trail High School — iVenture Solutions/Davidson Cares Scholarship
  • Jun Pan, Bartram Trail High School — Snyder Family Scholarship; Take Stock in Children Florida/Asofsky Foundation Leaders 4 Life Fellow
  • Kelly Priest, St. Augustine High School — All American Air Charitable Foundation Scholarship
  • Makai Smith, Pedro Menendez High School — The Hutson Companies/Davidson Cares Scholarship
  • Maryn Walker, St. Augustine High School — Snyder Family Scholarship
  • Cassie Wolfe, Bartram Trail High School — Brooke Ladue Memorial Scholarship
  • Dylan Young, Pedro Menendez High School — St. Augustine Lions Club Scholarship
  • Kaleb Zolla, St. Augustine High School — St. Augustine Lions Club Scholarship

According to Wheeler, the Super Senior Scholarship, which was launched for Take Stock graduating students in 2021, is now renamed in honor of longtime Take Stock supporter Jim Davidson, who passed away in 2023.

In Davidson’s memory, his wife Sherry and their family continue their ardent and longtime support of young people and nonprofits in St. Johns County with the Davidson Cares scholarship program. The new Jim Davidson Memorial Super Senior Scholarship provides additional funding equal to one year of Florida college tuition to the graduating senior. This year, Jordan Graham, a graduating senior at Tocoi Creek High School received the award for his 4.5 GPA and outstanding citizenship since eighth grade.  Jordan’s academic accomplishments include completing his Associate of Arts degree through St. Johns River State College simultaneous to his high school graduation. He will attend the University of Florida.

Additionally, Jun Pan, a graduating senior at Bartram Trail High School, earned a full four-year scholarship from Take Stock’s Leaders 4 Life Fellowship (L4L) program in partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation. Pan is the second awardee of the L4L fellowship from St. Johns County and the only male fellowship recipient in the state this year. During his high school career, Pan achieved a 4.6+ GPA. He will attend the University of Florida.

The event also honored Take Stock mentors who are longtime, dedicated volunteers for students. Volunteer mentors for the class of 2024 included Jeff Adams, Butch Burkett, Larry Dillahay, Kelly Harris, Sheila Lentz, Bob McKeefrey and Beverly Slough. They collectively volunteered more than 800 hours to mentor the Take Stock class of 2024.

“A mentor is someone whose hindsight can become a student’s foresight,” said Wheeler. “Our mentors have learned through many of life’s hurdles and opportunities. They share their experiences and opportunities during various challenging times in the student’s teenage years. These adults give of their time, energy and communications skills. We encourage our Take Stock student scholars to stay in contact with us for guidance, direction and support beyond high school, into their college years and beyond.”

During the evening presentation, Wheeler presented a special tribute to Burkett as the 2023-24 Take Stock in Children St. Johns County Volunteer of the Year.

“Butch has been a constant supporter of the Take Stock program since 2018,” said Wheeler, who awarded Burkett with a certificate of appreciation. “I personally appreciate all that he has done for our students and their successes.”

The donors that supported Take Stock scholarships for this year’s graduating class include All American Air Charitable Foundation, Dr. Timothy and Lisa Cavacini, Davidson Cares Foundation, Margie Davidson Family, Ted and Carolyn LaDue, Ponte Vedra Women’s Alliance, Bill and Cathy Snyder, St. Augustine Lions Club and multiple volunteer mentors.

For more information about Take Stock in Children St. Johns, contact Cathy Newman at 904-547-7120 or email