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  • Writer's pictureThe Beacon Today

Bridging the gap for education

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

On a cold rainy day, over 700 runners of all ages came together to run not only for themselves but for the community.

The first Bridge the Gap 5K race took place on Saturday, Feb. 22, with contestants gathering to run across the Blue Heron Bridge. The 5K race was organized to raise $150,000 for scholarships to benefit the low-income families of Palm Beach County and provide kids with an education.

All funds are going directly to Take Stock in Children of Palm Beach County.

Take Stock in Children is a non-profit dedicated to helping youth become successful in their future careers. It’s the second-largest affiliate in the state, and this year marks Take Stock’s 25th anniversary.

Marilyn Schiavo has been the director of programs for Take Stock in Children for five years. She’s currently in charge of managing the 512 students Take Stock supports with scholarships.

“The mission of Take Stock is to serve the underserved, to break the cycle of poverty and make sure our kids not only graduate high school but go on to college and graduate college,” Schiavo said. “It’s all about making sure our students have the recipe for success that they need to become successful adults in society.”

Take Stock gets its money for scholarships through donors in partnership with Florida Prepaid. Donors such as Florida Crystal, Cigna and Garden of Life are a few out of many that help provide funds to support students throughout high school and college. Take Stock works with each student for between five and six years.

“I can’t give you an exact figure, but it takes roughly $7 million to run a program like this,” Schiavo said.

The non-profit has approximately 400 volunteer mentors who help keep students in school by visiting them at least three times a month, often during their lunch breaks. Take Stock mentors provide services such as monthly college readiness programs, workshops, SAT boot camps, FAFSA tutorials and help with college scholarships.

“The heart of our program is mentoring,” Schiavo said. “They become a part of the village of Take Stock that surrounds our students to help get them across that finish line.”

For Lake Worth Community High School senior Gabriel Serrano, having a Take Stock mentor to help him in his schooling has had a positive impact on his life. Take Stock has assisted Serrano through all four years of high school. Now, Serrano says he can personally relate to the term “bridge the gap.”

“Definitely with the mentor program, it has helped me a lot just going through everything in life,” Serrano said.“Usually, when you talk about a bridge, people are talking about something that is kind of hard to deal with, especially when it comes to education today.”

Wilnic Gideon, a current Take Stock mentor of six years, was a Take Stock student from sixth grade all the way to his senior year of high school. He feels he wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for the help he received.

“I think Take Stock changed the trajectory of my life mainly because of the fact that I had a mentor that was always alongside me during those six years while I was in school,” Gideon said. “I believe in the program and what it has done in my life, and I feel like I need to do the same by giving back to the organization.”

The first-ever Bridge the Gap 5K race raised a total of $149,000 that’ll go directly toward scholarships for families in need.

“By getting all these runners to come and participate, we’re raising scholarship money. And that is important because, for all the scholarship money we raise, it means we get to bring in new students and help them get a path to college,” Schiavo said.

Check out the video above to find out more about how Take Stock in children has impacted the lives of local families.

By Morgan Therrien

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