A family reputation for braininess and responsibility is riding on the young shoulders of Horace O'Bryant School seventh-grader Melody Morales.
That's because Morales is following both her older siblings into the Take Stock in Children program, which will pay her college tuition when the time arrives. Accompanied by her parents Fausto and Yanira Morales, and her brother Jonathan, Melody signed on the dotted line Thursday morning at the HOB ceremony, agreeing to fulfill her end of the Take Stock bargain, by maintaining solid grades and test scores, and to maintain a positive attitude, for the next five years.
While Jonathan, a Key West High School freshman, was available to offer moral support, eldest brother Fausto David, 24, couldn't make it: He's busy working as a project manager for the Environmental Services department of ExxonMobil, in Houston, Texas.
"It feels like there are a lot high expectations for me," Melody said. "I had been doubting myself, but not anymore."
The Morales family moved to Key Largo from Cuba in 1993. Fausto David was born in Havana, but his younger brother and sister are both natives of Monroe County, and confess to speaking a blend of "Spanglish" at home. The family moved to Key West in 2004, though son number 1 graduated from Coral Shores High School, in Tavernier, in 2008. He went on to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating last year, a job with the oil giant already lined up.
"It's very exciting to see both my brother and sister in the program," Fausto David said over the phone from Texas. "It's one thing for people to tell you that you have a future. It's totally another to be told that if you work at it, people have committed to paying for your college. It helped get me through school, and that's what I try to tell Melody and Jonathan, to make good choices. It was really hard for me to watch some of my classmates lose their scholarships because of bad choices that they made."
Not that either of the younger Morales children appear to need much encouragement: Both had straight A's before they even entered Take Stock.
They'll need those good grades.
Currently, Melody plans on becoming a child psychologist, though she's "not sure yet whether she wants to be social or cognitive."
"She wants to go to Stanford," father Fausto said with pride.
Jonathan has his heart set on becoming a computer programmer, possibly following in his brother's footsteps, by going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"I'm already following in his footsteps just by getting in the program," Jonathan said.