JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new partnership between The University of North Florida and Take Stock in Children of Duval County means more local students will get a big boost to help pay for college.

Isabelina Barrientos is wearing her new UNF hat with pride.

“I'm so excited. I really love Jacksonville. I love the campus. It's the right size for me,” said Barrientos.

Two years ago First Coast News Anchor Heather Crawford volunteered to become a mentor with Take Stock in Children. She was paired up with Barrientos, an aspiring journalist, and the two quickly formed a close bond.

This June Barrientos will graduate from Mandarin High School. She spends an hour each week with her mentor who meets her at school. They talk about everything from careers to college. Barrientos has
had her eyes set on UNF, and a few weeks ago she got a letter in the mail.

“It said I got a $24,000 scholarship from UNF,” said Barrientos. “That means I get my tuition. It covers books, housing. It helps out a lot.”

Barrientos says it means she will graduate from college debt free. She is among the first Take Stock students to be awarded this scholarship to UNF.

“We have a real commitment to the local community and Take Stock is a natural fit,” said Karen Lucas, UNF Director of Admissions.

Take Stock has a 20 year history of proven results helping change the conversation from ‘If I go to college’, to ‘When I go to college’. The program helps students acquire the skills they need to succeed. Low income students as early as 7th grade are paired with a mentor, a College Success Coach and upon graduation receive a college scholarship.

“We have a two year scholarship and with the partnership with UNF that now turns into a four year scholarship to UNF and the scholarship will now go back and make sure another student has a vision of college early

Karen Lucas, UNF's Director of Admissions, says this new partnership will not only benefit students but also the community.

“I want to say thank you so much, not just for maintaining such a beautiful campus and having such great students but for trying to provide for people who work hard to get accepted into UNF but who can't necessarily pay for it,” said Barrientos. “I'm really excited for the future. It's looking really bright.”

Take Stock in Children is in need of more mentors, especially male mentors. Click here for information on how to sign up to mentor and how to nominate a student to be part of the program.