The Immokalee Foundation, dedicated to providing sustained educational opportunities to Immokalee’s youth, recently hosted the Take Stock in Children Pledge Night at Immokalee Middle School. TSIC students from eighth to 11th grades, along with their parents and mentors, gathered to renew their pledge to maintain good grades, stay drug and crime free, attend required workshops and events, meet weekly with their TIF mentor and volunteer in the community.
Take Stock in Children is a scholarship and mentoring program that provides students with the promise of a four-year scholarship to a Florida state college, university or vocational school upon graduation if they fulfill their commitment. TIF supports and operates the TSIC program in the north Collier County community and currently has 125 TSIC students in middle and high school.
After welcoming students and their guests, the evening began with a brief explanation of TSIC and its requirements. Students were reminded of their promise to stay on the right path to reap the benefits of a college education and then renewed their TSIC pledge. Parents were recognized for their important role in supporting and encouraging their children throughout the program and mentors were praised for their dedication to helping the kids.
Ninth-grader Alejandro Arreago Jr. hopes to one day be a professional baseball player or an aerospace engineer. He gave much credit to his mentor, John Henry (who also mentored Alejandro’s brother, Elijah, who is now studying at the University of Florida), for helping him stay focused, “Mr. Henry is easy to talk to and he keeps me on track. He opened my eyes to see all the opportunities available to me.”
Alejandro’s mother, Isabel Arreago, was born in Naples and raised in Immokalee. She was unable to finish high school and has spent much of her life working in agriculture. She wanted better for her sons and is thankful they are both getting a chance for a better future. Through tears she said passionately, “I am very proud of both of my sons. The Immokalee Foundation and Take Stock in Children have provided them with so many opportunities. I’m also proud of Mr. Henry. He is an awesome mentor and has encouraged my kids and positively impacted their lives.”
Giovana Gonzalez, mother of ninth-grader Mercedes Salinas, echoes Arreago’s praise. “I am very appreciative of TIF and TSIC and I’m glad Mercedes has the chance to be a part of this program.” Salinas, who wants to be a pediatric nurse, physical therapist or athletic trainer, had nothing but good things to say about her mentor, Cynthia Janssen, “She is awesome, a great listener and the best mentor. She opens a lot of doors for me and provides me with the tools and guidance I need to be focused.”
Janssen, however, says, “Mercedes is mentoring me. She is so mature and has great verbal skills.” Joe Zednik, TIF board chair and Charity Classic Celebration chair, also received accolades for his role as a mentor. Salvador Preciado, a sophomore now in his third year as Zednik’s mentee, said, “Mr. Zednik is a great guy and helps me a lot; he helps with planning and keeps me on track.”
Salvador’s father, Manuel Preciado, added, “Joe is one of the best mentors. He goes above and beyond what I expected and has truly opened Salvador’s eyes. I do appreciate the many opportunities Joe has given Salvador and a chance to experience so much.”
Madeline Pumariega, TSIC president and CEO, was happy to take part in the celebration, “What a great day to witness these young adults starting a new chapter in their lives. Take Stock in Children is instilling hope in these families; tonight we have helped secure their kids’ future. We know how to break the cycle of poverty – caring adults and graduation from high school.”
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visitwww.immokaleefoundation.org.