BBQ & Bingo to raise money for Okaloosa students and mini teacher grants

The Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation’s 2nd Annual BBQ and Bingo fundraising event is set for Tuesday, October 25th at the Clubhouse Grille at the FWB Golf Course, 1955 Lewis Turner Blvd, in Fort Walton Beach.

  • Social hour begins at 5:00.
  • Bingo is from 5:30 – 8 pm.
  • There will also be a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle.

The Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation is a non-profit wholly dedicated to supporting students and teachers in Okaloosa County. It has been in existence since 1996.

“One of its major programs is the Take Stock in Children (TSIC) scholarship program,” explains Steve Horton, Deputy Superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District. 

  • TSIC currently provides two-year tuition scholarships to deserving studentswho may not be able to attend college because of a family situation or other risk factors. 
  • They are selected through an application process during their 8th grade year. 

Horton explains that selected students are matched with a mentor who meets with them regularly during their four years in high school to assist with goal-setting, positive reinforcement, and college applications, among many other things.

  • “The mentorship is a big thing and one of the reasons that TSIC students have higher high school and college graduation rates than other similar students,” he says. 

Students can use the scholarships for not only traditional college courses, but also career/technical classes that lead to certifications and higher wages.

Sixty high school students are currently TSIC scholarship recipients. The Foundation’s goal is to grow the program to be able to support 100 students at a time in grades 9-12, or twenty-five students per year. 

With the cost of a two-year tuition scholarship currently at $3,900, that amounts to a fundraising need of $97,500 per year. The cost would be greater, but all scholarship funds raised by the Public Schools Foundation are matched through Florida Prepaid Program, which means that donations go twice as far.

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“Caneisaya Matthews is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when a quality student is given the support and tools needed to be successful,” says Horton. “She did all the work, but TSIC helped her lay a strong foundation.”

  • Matthews went to Choctawhatchee High School and, because of the TSIC program, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science and a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science from Florida State University as a first-generation student.

Much of my scholarly success was a result of the support and mentorship of TSIC,” explains Matthews. “The high school weekly meetings with my mentor helped me set realistic educational goals and strategize ways to achieve those goals.” 

Without the financial assistance of the TSIC scholarship, Matthews may not have been able to afford to attend a four-year university. “To the TSIC community, donors, and supporters, I am forever grateful and honored to have been chosen to be a part of such a terrific program,” she says.

Additionally, this event helps the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation provide mini-grants to local teachers for extra projects they may want to do inside their classroom.

“These teachers might want to put together some kind of special experiment, but they need a few hundred dollars to make it happen,” said Linda Evanchyk, Okaloosa School Board Member & Foundation board member. “It’s not some huge grant amount that you would send off for, but it’s a lot of money for a teacher to have to come out of their pocket.”

Evanchyk added that money the Foundation raises from BBQ & Bingo goes directly to helping teachers and their classroom needs. It also helps keep costs down for students too, as these mini grants don’t require students to pay additional for classroom projects. 

  • “It’s a fun evening where we bring a lot of people together to play a little bingo, win prizes and have fun, and all of the money is going to support activities in the classroom,” she added.

General Admission tickets to BBQ and Bingo are $25 each and can be purchased by clicking here.

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