Neal Communities Finance Director Pamela Curran started volunteering as a mentor with Take Stock in Children of Manatee County two years ago and had no idea how powerful the experience would be for her.
Curran’s friend, who works at Take Stock in Children, first convinced Curran to volunteer. She was introduced to a student that was in her junior year at Southeast High School. With a child the same age, Curran easily developed a bond with the girl. It wasn’t long after that her friend asked Curran if she was able to mentee a second student, another junior at Southeast High School. Both girls are now seniors graduating this month.
“They both have become an extension of my family,” Curran said. And while she didn’t mean for it to happen, both mentees also have become friends with each other and with Curran’s 17-year-old daughter.
Neal Communities is an avid supporter of the Take Stock in Children program in both Manatee and Sarasota Counties. As the largest privately owned home builder in Southwest Florida, Neal Communities has eight employees who, like Curran, volunteer as mentors through the program.
“The Take Stock in Children program offers our employees a way to directly enrich in a child’s life and prepare children for the future,” said Pat Neal, founder and president of Neal Communities. “We are happy to support a program that focuses on helping our youth succeed.”
The home builder recently was a $2,500 sponsor of the Take Stock in Children Sarasota County’s annual Celebration of Hope event, which is the program’s graduation ceremony for students completing the program and receiving the college scholarship with their college plans announced.
Neal Communities also donated $10,600 to Take Stock in Children of Manatee County to provide a single tuition-based college/technical college scholarship to a student in the Manatee County program.
“Companies like Neal Communities that encourage employees to mentor lead by example. They value the investment of time to change a child’s life and the community. Their employees share their professional work experience with students and broaden the possibilities available to young people,” said Diana Dill, development director and community partnership portfolio manager for Take Stock in Children of Sarasota County.
The Take Stock in Children’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty for low-income, academically qualified students by providing opportunities for a postsecondary education. The students, from middle to high school age, are matched with a volunteer mentor, provided college readiness services and a dedicated college success coach. Each student is awarded a college scholarship and provided with postsecondary support through degree or certification attainment.
While the program requires Curran to spend a minimum of 30 minutes a week with her students, Curran said she often spends much more time. She said they talk about more than just school and future education plans. “It’s just really to help them follow their path,” she said, using expressions like “a cheerleader”, “a motivator”, and “a shoulder to lean on” when describing the role that she plays as a mentor. “They teach me new things on a daily basis,” she said. “They motivate me to be the best mentor that I can be.”
Curran’s volunteer efforts were recognized. She was named Take Stock Manatee Mentor of the Year this past January.
Curran said the other employees at Neal Communities who mentor support each other’s efforts. She told a story about how a co-worker was planning to share a book about business leadership with his mentee. Curran said she ended up sharing the same book with her students. “We support each other in this role and give each other guidance,” she said. “It’s great camaraderie among those of us at Neal Communities who mentor.”
Neal Communities has been a community partner and supporter of Take Stock in Children of Manatee County since 2017. In total, Neal Communities has donated $29,200 to the organization. With a core belief that “Where You Live Matters,” Neal Communities has given more than $7.5 million to local charities throughout Southwest Florida and is committed to the communities where they live, work and build.
“Take Stock in Children is incredibly grateful for community leaders like Neal Communities for dedicating resources to ensure local students reach their greatest potential,” Dill said.
For more information about Take Stock in Children of Sarasota County, visit TakeStockSarasota.org. For more information about Take Stock in Children in Manatee County, visit TakeStockManatee.org. For more information about Neal Communities visit www.NealCommunities.com.