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A group of nearly 100 mentors and their mentees from The Immokalee Foundation marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January by attending the foundation’s traditional Mentor-Mentee Movie Day. A few weeks later, pairs had another opportunity to meet, this time enjoying lunch and bowling together.

The group met on MLK Day at California Pizza Kitchen, followed by an afternoon screening of “Hidden Figures,” the Oscar-nominated true story about a group of African-American women at NASA in the early years of the space program who – while facing racism and sexism – became instrumental in the operations that sent John Glenn into orbit.

“Hidden Figures couldn’t have been a better choice this year,” said mentor Janice Backlund. “The exposure to strong women of color and the struggles they endured and overcame meant so much to all of us. And on MLK Day – it couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Mentor Hans Heinsen agreed. “The movie provided a great opportunity for our mentees to see how perseverance can overcome obstacles in society,” he said.

The events also were opportunities for mentors and mentees to relax and have fun. “These are the times to be more yourself and personable,” said mentor Joseph Sciortino, who – like all mentors with The Immokalee Foundation – devotes an hour each week during the school year to meet with his mentee, Osbaldo Vasquez, in Immokalee.

More recently, mentors and mentees met at IL Primo Pizza & Wings for lunch and ventured to HeadPinz for two hours of bowling.

Among them were Debbie Devita and her mentee, Litzy Rojas. “I love being able to give back to a young person and also just to become a part of their life and help any way I can,” said Devita.

Clearly, these relationships are meaningful on both sides. “My mentor has encouraged me to further my education and to keep striving to accomplish my goals,” said Lessett Perez of mentor Teddy Sitter. “Most importantly, she is one of my greatest friends.”

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 The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit


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