The St. Johns County Education Foundation Inc., which operates as Investing in Kids (INK!), recently announced it has received a donation of $7,500 from St. Augustine Lions Club.
According to INK! Executive Director Cathy Newman, the contribution supports the purchase of scholarships for the 2023-24 school year, supporting new students being accepted into Take Stock in Children-St. Johns County (TSIC).
The TSIC program provides low-income students with a unique opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty through mentorship, education, college success coaching and the opportunity to earn college scholarships. Since 1998, INK! has been the exclusive umbrella agency for the St. Johns County Take Stock in Children organization.
St. Augustine Lions Club has supported the Take Stock in Children program since 2014 with more than $65,000 in donations, supporting scholarships for 19 St. Johns County students to date. Each student can earn two-year tuition scholarships to a Florida state or community college by meeting TSIC academic, citizenship and school attendance requirements.
According to James Wheeler, INK!’s operations and student programs director, every dollar donated by the Lions Club and other organizations gets matched one-to-one by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation via funding from the Florida Legislature.
Students are selected for TSIC when they are in the eighth grade in St. Johns County public schools. Upon acceptance into the program, students sign a contract to maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average, continue good behavior and attendance and remain drug and crime free.
The program provides training and support for mentors to facilitate a variety of youth development and enrichment experiences, encourage good character, provide navigational support around school-to-work transitions and safeguard against adversity both in and out of school.
For example, Larry Dillahay is a member of the local Lions Club, and has more than eight years of experience as a mentor with TSIC. He retired in St. Augustine from a longtime career as a mechanical engineer while traveling around the world. Dillahay began mentoring while in college and during his work life and continues to work with young men from Pedro Menendez High School who have gained from his maturity, focused direction and positive guidance.
His mentoring of numerous boys at the high school has included a diverse group from many different cultures and home environments. All of the students he has mentored have continued on to higher education at various colleges and universities throughout Florida.
“The Lions Club is pleased to continue its support of INK! and Take Stock in Children,” he said. “We can make a change in the lives of at-risk boys and girls with our donation and as mentors by simply being there and listening while sharing positive conversations and direction, plus knowledge gained from careers, life experiences and more.”
Dillahay added that TSIC has a prepared program that trains and helps mentors learn how to properly communicate with mentees. Dillahay recently celebrated his 80th birthday and plans to continue to mentor and volunteer well into his octogenarian years for TSIC and additional local nonprofits while helping men, women and children in need.