In 2001, TIF brought to Immokalee and since then, the foundation has matched volunteer mentors with qualified students from Immokalee Middle School and Immokalee High School to inspire, guide and be involved in the students’ lives. Those students who successfully fulfill their required pledge to earn good grades, exhibit good behavior and meet weekly with their mentor are awarded a full college scholarship upon high school graduation.
A community mentor is required to meet with a student once a week for about 45 minutes, plus attend school activities and events when necessary – all in an effort to encourage and motivate a young person to reach his or her potential and claim the promise of a college education. To make it more convenient and cut down on travel time for mentors, they can now meet with the students at the TIF offices after school or the students can Skype with their mentor.
Though the foundation currently has approximately 80 mentors, the number of children in the program exceeds the number of mentors, so additional volunteers are needed to share their time, knowledge and experience with students.
Volunteers must complete a program application, clear a background screening, attend new mentor orientation and participate in quarterly training. Mentors must also believe in the importance of education, be enthusiastic and have a positive attitude and strong desire to make a difference in the life of a child.
Manny Touron, a formerImmokalee principal, is currently mentoring two seniors in high school, Jesus Velazco and Jose Guzman. He says he gets just as much out of the experience as the students, “These boys do more for me, for my soul, than I could ever do for them.”
Touron said one of the most important criteria for being a mentor is having the ability to listen and share, “Sometimes the students just need someone to sit down and listen; to know that for the next 30 minutes or so, they have your undivided attention.”
Teddy Sitter, a seasonal Naples resident, was inspired to become a mentor more than a year ago after reading that students inducted into TIF’s Take Stock in Children Immokalee program were in need of mentors. She said it’s hard for her to imagine doing something more important with her time.
“Mentoring is among the most gratifying experiences I’ve had because of the opportunity to really make a difference,” Sitter said.
For those hesitant to become a mentor, Sitter said that the program is well-organized and structured, making it simple for the mentors to navigate their way to making a connection with the students. “The foundation provides the materials necessary to be effective, such as workbooks, worksheets, goal assessments, expectations and more. These materials help communication and build the relationship.”
The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and career development, direct scholarships, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.