On Tuesday, Jan. 4, President Barack Obama declared January 2016 National Mentoring Month.
“At the heart of America’s promise is the belief that we all do better when everyone has a fair shot at reaching for their dreams,” Obama said in his presidential proclamation. “Throughout our nation’s history, Americans of every background have worked to uphold this ideal, joining together in common purpose to serve as mentors and lift up our country’s youth.”
Signing up to be a mentor can be a rewarding way to begin the new year, as an adult mentor who spends an hour a week with a mentee can dramatically change the life of that young person.
“When our children have strong, positive role models to look up to, they grow up to be good neighbors and good fellow citizens,” Obama said.
The Immokalee Foundation is seeking mentors for middle school students who soon will be inducted into its Take Stock in Children scholarship program. The foundation is evidently based in Immokalee, a brief thirty-minute drive from FGCU. Entering the town, which is in the same county as wealthy Naples by comparison, it is plain to see the fact that 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, as many residents are immigrants or migrant workers from the Caribbean and Latin America.
By signing up to become a mentor, one is matched with a seventh-grade student who officially enters the TIF program during an induction ceremony at Immokalee High School in April. During the ceremony, the students pledge to maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA, exhibit good behavior, remain crime and drug free and meet with their mentors once a week until they graduate from high school. In exchange for participating in the mentorship program, the students each receive a scholarship to a Florida state college or university.
Currently, more than 80 mentors share their time, talent and experience to encourage these Immokalee students. Ninety-seven percent of TIF’s students in the Take Stock in Children program graduate from high school, compared with 57 percent of all Immokalee High School students.
Often, mentors find the opportunity every bit as rewarding as the mentees.
To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.