Joseph Zednik, board member and mentor at The Immokalee Foundation, was awarded the 2024 Take Stock in Children Mentor of the Year. The Mentor of the Year Award honors an individual who demonstrates exceptional commitment to Take Stock in Children and the organization’s mission of providing scholarships and mentors to empower at-risk, academically qualified students from low-income backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty through education.
Zednik’s commitment to Take Stock spans over 13 years, having served as a member of the state board of directors and a mentor. During Zednik’s years of dedicated service, he has mentored four student participants in the Take Stock in Children program at The Immokalee Foundation.
The backbone of The Immokalee Foundation’s educational programming, its Mentor Program is staffed by over 100 community volunteers who conduct bi-weekly meetings with Immokalee Foundation students—online or in person.
As Zednik understands the ongoing challenge of recruiting mentors, he has made it his mission to add to the Foundation’s roster of mentors, thereby enabling others to experience the reward of guiding students toward their postsecondary and career goals.
“Joe hasn’t missed a beat in his commitment to The Immokalee Foundation and the Take Stock in Children program,” said Immokalee Foundation President and CEO Noemi Y. Perez. “Being a mentor is just part of how he demonstrates his devotion to education. As a passionate member of The Immokalee Foundation’s Board of Directors, he steers us towards better resources and services for our students. He is so deserving of this exceptional honor.”
This year, Joe’s long-term mentee, Fabian Estrada, was named a Leaders 4 Life Fellow—an honor that was as much of a reflection on Joe’s influence and encouragement as it was on Fabian’s perseverance and commitment.
Zednik met Jesus Abarca, Jr., Zednik’s first mentee and Immokalee Foundation alumnus, when the student was in middle school. Their ten-year relationship continued through Abarca’s high school years and into college.
Abarca is now a graduate of Florida State University and, inspired by Zednik, returned to Take Stock in 2023 to mentor the next generation of students. “I believe a mentor is someone who completely gives without reserve, hoping to pour into someone else and to make them better. Joe has done that for me. Because of Joe’s kindness, time, and generosity, I have made something of myself. Because of Joe, I am now a mentor to a young gentleman and hope to imprint my mentee’s life in the way that Joe has mine,” said Abarca,
“The life-changing work of Take Stock in Children is based on the power of mentorship and the commitment of caring individuals such as Joe Zednik,” said Jillian Hasner, President and CEO of Take Stock in Children of Florida. “The Take Stock program deeply appreciates Joe’s countless contributions and is excited to honor Joe as the 2024 Take Stock Mentor of the Year.”