Ready to pay it forward? Become an Immokalee Foundation mentor during National Mentoring Month

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NAPLES — Joseph Zednik became a mentor at The Immokalee Foundation because he wanted to spend his retirement doing more than just playing golf.

“Mentoring was a perfect opportunity for me, because I really believe in education, and that’s what The Immokalee Foundation is all about,” said Zednik. “I feel as if I get more out of it than I give to the students. Mentoring is just very rewarding, and it certainly feels like you’re paying it forward to the next generation.”

The Immokalee Foundation needs more local adults like Zednik to help guide and inspire its hard-working students — and since January is National Mentoring Month, it’s the perfect time to become a part of the foundation’s life-changing efforts.

After completing the mentoring application and approval process, mentors receive training from the foundation before being matched with a student from sixth to 12th grade. Mentors commit to mentoring for 45 minutes once each week for a year, and the structure of the mentoring program works well for both year-round and seasonal residents.

“Mentoring is not a major time commitment, but it definitely has a monumental impact on someone else’s life by just being encouraging, loving and kind,” said Chris Farley, who became a mentor with The Immokalee Foundation in 2019. “So why not do that? We all need to support the future of our young people.”

Farley’s mentee, Woodelene Pierre, is interested in a career as a neonatal nurse or pediatrician. After just a year in the program, Pierre has already seen how her relationship with Farley will help her achieve her educational and professional goals.

“I love having a fan on the sidelines cheering for me,” said Pierre, currently a sophomore at Immokalee High School. “It’s very encouraging and keeps me focused and motivated.”

Zednik saw so much potential in his current mentee, Fabian Estrada, that he helped the Immokalee teen secure admission and a full scholarship to attend the Governor’s Academy in Massachusetts, the oldest boarding school in New England. Though Estrada started at the school virtually this fall as a sophomore, he is already recognizing the value in this life-changing opportunity.

“Joe has always recognized my potential,” said Estrada. “He has always encouraged me, and he never wants me to settle. I wouldn’t be where I am right now — attending one of the best schools in the country — without the help of my mentor. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have met him, and I want other adults to know that being a mentor makes a huge difference in a student’s life.”

Everyone has the potential to be a great mentor, no matter their career background or previous experience working with teenagers. “Mentoring is all about the heart,” said Joseph Sciortino, who has been involved with The Immokalee Foundation’s mentoring program since 2013. “If you’re able to encourage and guide someone, that’s the foundation of a mentor. I tell people it’s addictive — once you start, you’re not going to be able to stop.”

To apply to become a mentor at The Immokalee Foundation, visit https://immokaleefoundation.org/volunteer-or-mentor or call 239-430-9122. Helping the foundation’s deserving students realize their dreams is just as rewarding for the mentors who help to make it possible.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, becoming a mentor, its signature events, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit https://immokaleefoundation.org.

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