PACE — Immanuel Baptist Church was the site of the Pace High School Senior Academics Awards on May 16.

Graduation can mean goodbyes for some and a new start for others. For this particular group of academic standouts, it is the continuation of the hard work they have been doing for years to receive scholarships.

For Bianca Morton it was the continuation of a mentorship with her daycare provider Marilyn Bowman.

Morton was one of four students to receive the Take Stock in Children Scholarship worth $15,000.

"I was excited to get the scholarship," Morton said, "but I knew it was coming."

What she did not expect was to receive the first Ms. Marilyn's Little Olives Daycare & Education Center Scholarship from her mentor.

"I was so surprised and excited. I had no idea she was giving me a scholarship," Morton said. "It was a graceful gesture."

"I knew there was something in her, that she could make it to college academically," Bowman said. "I watched her from birth until she was 4 years old."

Morton will be the first member of her family to attend college.

Over the years Bowman would check in with Morton periodically and provide guidance and help with academics and eventually life issues. She became a confidante for the young girl.

Bowman said she mentored Morton because she believed in her, just like Linda Byrd, the former director of Pace Christian Academy, had believed in Bowman years before.

Bowman had started working for Christian Academy taking care of children.

"One day, Mrs. Byrd pulls me aside and tells me that I have a real gift working with children," Bowman said.

Byrd started mentoring Bowman on what she needed to do to certify as a daycare provider.

"Mrs. Byrd offered to pay for my Child Development Associate credentials," Bowman said.

These credentials are one of the first things necessary to get started. Bowman received her credentials and started her path into early childhood education and her own business.

"I'm just giving back. I'm paying it forward," Bowman said. "The same things Mrs. Byrd did for me I'm trying to do for Bianca."

It worked. Morton did so well academically she graduated a year early.

Morton plans to attend Pensacola State College for two years and finish at the University of West Florida. She wants to be a dental hygienist.

Ms. Marilyn’s Little Olives Daycare & Education Center is moving to a new location next to Chumuckla Community Church and will open in July. It is taking applications for new "little olives." Call 850-530-1749 for more information.

To apply for the Little Olives Scholarship, students must have a 3.0 grade point average at graduation and have been Bowman's client.