Take Stock in Children Manatee invests its resources into Myakka City student.
Ailani Maximo, a rising eighth grader at R. Dan Nolan Middle School in Lakewood Ranch, knew that if she was going to go to college, it would mean going thousands of dollars in debt.
She said her family, which lives at Faulkner Farms in Myakka City, isn’t financially stable, and her mother, Briseyda Beltran-Carrillo, told her she would need to get loans if she wanted to pursue a college degree.
Maximo’s heart for helping others and desire to become a nurse inspired her to apply for the Take Stock in Children Manatee program, which provides mentors and scholarships for at-risk students to help them be successful.
So when Maximo was told she had been accepted into the Take Stock program and would be receiving a scholarship for college, she was speechless. Her mother cried.
“It means a lot to me because so many people applied, and me being one of the only people that actually got in it surprises me,” Maximo said. “It shows me things are possible. It shows me that I’m worth it. It’s nice to know I don’t have to put that (financial) stress on my family.”
Maximo is one of 60 students throughout Manatee County who were accepted into the Take Stock in Children Manatee program in the 2020-2021 school year.
“What stands out when I interview these students is their hope and desire to have something different than what they have,” said Anne LeBaron-Heller, the executive director of Take Stock in Children Manatee. “They value their family, and their family unit is strong, but they want to do more. There’s a spark in them that you can just tell they value education, making good grades and having a different path than what they’ve grown up in.”
Once accepted, scholars must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, meet with their assigned mentors, model excellent behavior and attendance, and remain drug- and crime-free.
Scholars are assigned a mentor to help them get past any barriers keeping them from being able to focus on their academics. Scholars meet with their mentors for at least 30 minutes per week.
“Mentoring is the secret sauce of our program because people are showing up in these students’ lives,” LeBaron-Heller said. “What I found is that showing up in someone’s life for 30 minutes a week is a game changer.”
In high school, scholars are given a college success coach to assist with preparing to apply for college, study for the ACT and SAT, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and more.
“It feels relieving that I don’t have to go through all that alone,” Maximo said. “There’s also going to be other students there, so there’s going to be someone else who understands what I’m going through, and they’re going to be there to help me.”
Ann Colonna, the community liaison for Take Stock in Children Manatee, said she could tell Maximo was a caring person just from her application. After learning more about her through the interview process, Colonna said Maximo was the perfect candidate to be a scholar.
Maximo describes herself as a quiet but attentive student with good grades. She’s involved in Health Occupations Students of America and will be involved in Student Government Association next year.
She joined HOSA to expand her knowledge on nursing, the career she hopes to pursue.
“I want to know every day that I have helped someone,” Maximo said. “I’m thinking of specializing as a midwife, so it’s nice to know if I were to do that, I would be able to bring joy to someone.”