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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Keys Children’s Foundation Luncheon


Keys Children's Foundation Luncheon

Kenya Thoman, Abran Mendoza, Chuck Licis, Marissa Darrow, Andy Roddick, Victoria Lindsay, Wendy Tribble,Rachel Medina, and Alexandra DeTorro
Kenya Thoman, Abran Mendoza, Chuck Licis, Marissa Darrow, Andy Roddick, Victoria Lindsay, Wendy Tribble,Rachel Medina, and Alexandra DeTorro



Marathon Celebrates National Mentoring Month

City Council of the City of Marathon, Florida

National Mentoring Month Proclamation

WHEREAS, every day, mentors in communities across our Nation provide crucial support and guidance to young people. Whether a day is spent helping with homework, playing catch, or just listening, these moment can have an enormous, lasting effect on a child’s life; and

WHEREAS, mentors are building a brighter future for our Nation by helping our children grow into productive, engaged, and responsible adults; and

WHEREAS, many of us are fortunate to recall a role model from our own adolescent years who pushed us to succeed or pulled us back from making a poor decision. We carry their wisdom with us throughout our lives, knowing the unique and timeless gift of mentorship; and

WHEREAS, during National Mentoring Month, we recognize those who give generously of themselves by mentoring. As mentors commit their time and energy to children and teens who may otherwise lack a positive, mature influence in their lives. Their impact fulfills critical local needs that often elude public services.

NOW THEREFORE, the City of Marathon City Council hereby proclaims the Month of January, 2015 National Mentoring Month and calls upon public officials, business and community leaders, educators and citizens to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

Mayor Chris Bull

January 27, 2015

Photo by David Alfred


Chuck’s Speech at The Donor Forum

Good evening, and welcome to the Monroe County Education Foundation Donors Forum.  My name is Chuck Licis. I am the Take Stock in Children program coordinator for Monroe County and it is my pleasure to host this evening’s event.

As we begin, however, I would like to recognize and thank those who made this evening possible.  Chef Lisa Rivard and her Key West High School culinary students who prepared and served the excellent hors d’oeuvres this evening.  Todd German for providing the refreshments.  The Florida Keys Community College and the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center for providing our venue.  Our guest speakers, who join us this evening from near and far to share their thoughts with us this evening

And YOU, our donors, our mentors, and our supporters of the Monroe County Education Foundation and the Take Stock in Children program.  We are glad to be here with you!

Take Stock in Children is entering its 20th year of helping at-risk, low-income students in Florida realize their dream of going to college and earning a degree. Since 1995, Take Stock in Children has served over 24,000 students in 67 counties across Florida.  Locally, in Monroe County, we have graduated 471 Take Stock scholars from high school, and nearly 150 Take Stock graduates are currently pursuing a college degree or certificate.  This past October, we added 65 eligible students to our program – a record number in one year! – which brought our total enrollment to 264 middle and high school students.

Who are these 264 students?

Take Stock students demonstrate success in their classes, by earning As, Bs, and Cs,

They pass their standardized achievement tests.

They demonstrate good behavior both in and out of school.

And,they maintain good attendance.

Additionally, when they applied to the program, their family demonstrated economic need based on income guidelines received from Take Stock in Children.

From the moment our scholars sign their contract, we hold them accountable. We motivate them and we support them. We begin the conversation with them about careers and postsecondary goals.

You see, it is not an assumption, but a clear understanding that our Take Stock students will attend a university, a state college or a technical college after high school.

The focus from day one is on college readiness:

We monitor our scholars’ academic progress and meet with their teachers and guidance counselor. We discuss course selection based on their interests and goals.

We encourage our scholars to strive towards challenging courses such as Advance Placement and Dual Enrollment, which could earn them college credit while in high school!

We provide test prep tools and resources to our students. It is important to note that the ACT and the SAT averages of Take Stock students consistently exceed those of their peers in the district, the state, and the nation.

We provide college readiness workshops to our students and begin the conversation on career choice.

And, we guide our scholars through the college application and selection process as well as encourage them to seek additional merit and need based scholarships from the federal government, the university, and from local organizations.

We expect our scholars to pursue their education and career goal, and to graduate from college debt free.

One of our goals is to prepare our students for college and provide them the tools necessary to be successful in college. Our yearly high school graduation rate is nearly 100%, far above the district, state and national averages.

And nearly 90% of our graduates directly enroll in college, again, far above the district, state, and national averages.

Last year, we graduated 36 Take Stock scholars. Nearly half enrolled directly in university. Most are enrolled in one of our excellent state universities while three are attending an out of state schools, Emory, Duke, and MIT. The remaining students enrolled in a state college.

This year, we will graduate 49 Take Stock scholars. Three quarters of the cohort is college ready. We expect all of our graduates to be college ready by the end of the school year. And 10 students are eligible for a Florida Bright Futures scholarship which will help cover additional college expenses beyond tuition.  Orchestrating the focus on college readiness are four outstanding college success coaches who motivate our scholars and support our mentors.

In the Upper Keys, success coach Wendy Tribble is doing an outstanding job working with our 75 Take Stock students in four schools. She is also active in the Upper Keys community and provides phenomenal support to her 75 mentors.

In the Middle Keys, Katrina Wiatt continues to build her Take Stock enrollment, reaching a record 62 students this year at Marathon Middle and High Schools. Katrina oversees a successful program in the Middle Keys which has served as a model for success coaches across the state.

And, in the Lower Keys, we have two new success coaches working with our 127 Take Stock students in five schools.

Mindy Conn, who was herself a mentor before joining our staff, works with our Lower Keys middle school students as well as our students at Key West Collegiate Academy. As a matter of fact, Mindy is spending this week at the Sheriff’s Youth Camp near Ocala with our 36 new Take Stock middle school students.

And Denise Gil-Perez is our new college success coach at Key West High School where she has 98 Take Stock scholars.

An interesting bit of trivia, Key West High School has the largest number of Take Stock in Children students of any high school in the state of Florida. Denise, you are doing an excellent job!  The success of our program is due in large part to our amazing team of volunteer mentors. I believe that the magic happens during the weekly 45-minute mentor sessions.  Studies show that an at-risk child who is mentored is less likely to skip school, more likely to make better choices, and has more confidence and self-esteem. Mentors make a positive difference in our students’ lives.

It’s a joy to witness the moment when our students understand and realize that the promise of a college education is more than just a dream, it’s a reality.

It is a reality that would not be possible for our Take Stock scholars without the financial support of our generous donors.

Your contributions, which are matched by the state, are directly applied to the purchase of Florida Prepaid scholarships for our next cohort of Take Stock scholars in Monroe County.

Thank you for making college a reality for our Take Stock scholars!

Chuck Licis speaks at the 2015 Donor Forum
Photo by David Alfred


Message from our President

President Steve Pribramsky speaks at the 2015 Donor Forum
Photo by David Alfred
When I took over about a year ago, I believed my main job (aside from keeping the Foundation running smoothly) was to focus on sustainability.
  • Sustainability of our scholarship endowment fund;
  • Sustainability of our staff and our mentors;
  • And sustainability of our board.
Our scholarship endowment fund needs to be a “forever fund” as there will always be children who need our help, whose goals and dreams are to have a college education, to break the cycle of poverty. I want to thank all of our donors for all of their generous contributions over the years but also to remind them that our goal is to create a forever fund. We want to ensure that we can help every child in Monroe County who qualifies for Take Stock receives our help.
We are extremely proud of our financials. They are pristine. The MCEF board takes the oversight and administration of the scholarship fund very seriously.
The second part of my sustainability plan concerns our staff and our mentors. I am fond of saying that our members are the Crown Jewels of our program and, without those mentors Take Stock in Children does not work. During my first year as president, we had an 80% turnover of our staff. At first, that high turnover rate concerned me.
Michael Gerber once wrote a book called The E-Myth, and the premise was to answer the question: why do 3 out of 5 entrepreneurs with all their energy and talent fail within the first three years? His answer: they did not have repeatable and sustainable systems. He points to McDonald’s restaurants, which has a 300% turnover every year. The restaurants are often staffed by high school kids – and yet, the pickle is in the same place on every hamburger. They have repeatable and sustainable systems.
The Monroe County Education Foundation has repeatable and sustainable systems in place to keep our program running smoothly and achieve at the highest levels. One way we have accomplished this is by promoting within. Our program coordinator, Chuck Licis, was the success coach at Key West High School before he was promoted. Our HOB success coach, Mindy Conn, was a mentor before assuming her new position. We were excited to be able to rehire Wendy Tribble as our success coach at Coral Shores after she had spent time working with us on a grant. We are equally excited to have Denise Gil-Perez, who brings a wealth of experience to her position as success coach at KWHS. And we would all probably be lost without the wisdom and expertise of Katrina Wiatt, who continues to expand the program at Marathon High School. We believe our bench is deep and we are in a position to recruit or promote some of the best talent in the Florida Keys.
Finally, I am concerned with the sustainability of the board. We continually look to add qualified board members who bring a particular level expertise with them, whether it be academic, financial, marketing, or fundraising.  And although we have turnover, we also have a number of board members who have donated their time and energy for many years.
One of the greatest experiences I have ever had was last fall, when I was able to sign up 60 students and families to a Take Stock scholarship. And one of the hardest things I have to do in this position is to revoke a scholarship for a student who is not holding up his/her end of the bargain. But we do that because we owe to our donors. We owe it to Take Stock Florida. We owe it to the other students who are achieving in our program. We do it so that we can maintain the quality and integrity of this wonderful program.
Thanks again to our donors for their incredible generosity. Let’s make this year our best ever!
Steve Pribramsky
MCEF President

Take Stock students hear from Andy Roddick!

Andy Roddick poses for a photo with Chuck Licis, Program Coordinator, Wendy Tribble, Success Coach, and TSIC students
Andy Roddick poses for a photo with Chuck Licis, Program Coordinator, Wendy Tribble, Success Coach, and TSIC students



On Friday, January 16th, Phyllis Foster and the Keys Children’s Foundation (with assistance from MCEF President Emeritus John Padget) hosted a luncheon that gave six lucky TSIC students an opportunity to hear Andy Roddick speak about pathways to success.  In attention to students from the Upper Keys, attendees included Chuck Licis, Take Stock in Children Monroe County Program Coordinator; Wendy Tribble, TSIC Success Coach; Steve Pribramsky, MCEF President; Mark Porter, Superintendent of Monroe County schools; and a few equally lucky mentors from Monroe County.



Exploring Careers

Several board members recently attended a session on career choices.  ASVAB, which is funded by the United States Department of Defense, helps students determine where jobs are and matches those jobs with the students’ areas of interest and abilities.  Click here to learn more about ASVAB.

Please give to MCEF

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Our 2015 Capital Campaign

Our 2015 capital campaign is now underway.  You can make a contribution to MCEF by clicking here.

All money you donate goes directly to helping our kids.  In fact, our board members donate their time and money to pay for operating expenses.

Thank you for being a supporter of the Monroe County Education Foundation!