JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hundreds of students, their families and their mentors turned out at the Morocco Shrine Center for the Take Stock in Children Family Dinner.
18 years ago Belkis Plata got accepted into Take Stock in Children mentoring and scholarship program. She was paired with a Mindy Hanna, and nearly two decades later her mentor is still by her side. They sat together Tuesday night at the Take Stock dinner.
"She followed me throughout school. I was at Mandarin Middle, then Twin Lakes, then Paxon and then Mandarin High. She stayed with me through all that time. I went on to UF, went there for undergrad and law school and then came back to Jacksonville," explained Plata. "She has been very influential in my life."
Students in the Take Stock program are not only matched with mentors they also receive college scholarships. Had it not been for the program Belkis says she would not have been able to afford college.
Now 29-years-old, she says thanks to Take Stock and her mentor she's accomplishing her dreams, and a few months ago she opened her own law firm.
"I am the youngest Hispanic female to have her own law practice here in Jacksonville," said Plata.
"I met Belkis when she was in middle school, and I look at her today and I am just amazed. She has always been focused. She always knew what she wanted, and she always had a goal, and she met all of them. She's truly an amazing woman," said Hanna.
Belkis has come full circle. This year she signed up to mentor her two nieces who just joined the Take Stock program.
"I'm very happy to finally be able to give back because I know other people reached out for me and allowed me to be where I am today, so I'm very thankful and just want to help other children see their dreams fulfilled as well," said Plata.
More mentors are needed, and they are only asked to meet once a week for one hour during the school year with a student. First Coast News is partnering with Take Stock. To learn more about the program Click Here.