54 Take Stock kids get diplomas

Add 54 Florida Keys students as graduates of the Take Stock in Children mentoring and scholarship program.

The 54, mostly from low-income homes, signed contracts to maintain good grades, not to do drugs or drink alcohol, and participate in community service. With adult mentors along the way, they completed their contracts and are getting scholarships to colleges or universities through the Florida Prepaid Scholarship program.

Take Stock, a statewide program, started in the Keys in 1999 and had its first graduates in 2001. With these 54, 617 will have graduated the Keys Take Stock program. Among the colleges where the current crop is headed are Wesleyan University in Connecticut, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Florida, Florida State, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University and the University Hawaii (that student is originally from American Samoa).

Take Stock partners with the Monroe County Education Foundation, which will recognize the latest graduates in a ceremony set for Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the Marathon High School auditorium. The keynote speaker is Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie of the Crown Council of Ethiopia.

John Padget of Key West, a major supporter of the foundation, says the prince lives in Washington, D.C. He “is the leader of the large Ethiopian diaspora there,” Padget said.

According to, ”The Crown Council has, in exile, pursued a mission devoted to cultural and humanitarian roles, and has no political mission at this time.... In 1993, Prince Ermias was invested, in exile, as the president of the Ethiopian Crown Council, the body which acts during an interregnum as the custodian of the crown, and which, during the reign of an emperor, acts as the principal advisory council to the crown.... Prince Ermias ... lectures and travels frequently on Ethiopian issues to help the process of the restoration of democracy under a constitutional monarchy in his country.”

Also speaking Saturday is Christina Belloti, who will be honored for receiving a doctorate. She is a Marathon High School and Take Stock graduate who now works at Marathon High.

Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218