a group of people standing on top of a stage

Take Stock in Children graduates, mentors, friends and family from Key Largo to Key West converged on Marathon High School on the morning of May 18 to commemorate the 64 new graduates of the renowned mentorship program.

Adding to a group that now totals 1,082 graduates from Take Stock Monroe, this year’s class earned a collective 3.53 average GPA en route to amassing $1.6 million in Florida Prepaid college tuition scholarships. The graduates are fully committed to postsecondary education in the fall of 2024, with 59% enrolling in state colleges, 36% in state universities and 5% in career and technical institutions.

“Our team of success coaches and our family of mentors couldn’t be prouder of this amazing group of 64 graduates,” said Monroe County Education Foundation (MCEF) executive director Chuck Licis-Masson. “This class represents years of perseverance, grit, and determination as well as hundreds and hundreds of combined mentor session hours; we are thrilled to celebrate their accomplishments as they begin the next chapter of their educational career with their Take Stock in Children scholarship.”

Saturday’s remarks included addresses by MCEF vice president Ron Saunders, superintendent Theresa Axford and graduates Lagina Caldwell, Jason Flynn and Zeko Sharpe Jr. before a commencement address from 2001 Take Stock graduate and current school district payroll manager Kaleena Rodrigues. Guests included Take Stock in Children president and CEO Jillian Hasner.

Take Stock in Children Monroe is an educational nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing scholarships, mentors and hope to dedicated underprivileged youth through a multiyear mentorship program. More information is available from Licis-Masson at chuck.licis@monroecountyedfound.com or 305-293-1546.

Photos by ROSS SMITH/IslandExposureCo.

Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.