“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey
At The Immokalee Foundation, mentorship is a keystone of our program, with individualized attention provided to each student participant. Foundation mentors impact how students see themselves–their influence leading to an enhanced self-image that follows each student into postsecondary education and beyond.
For many who volunteer to mentor students at The Immokalee Foundation, their decision is all about giving back to the community, filling their time in a meaningful way, and providing direction to young students looking to achieve their goals. Foundation mentors meet with their students weekly, contributing their time, attention and experience while offering advice to help their students be successful. Virtual and in-person mentoring options are available.
The Foundation matches volunteer mentors with high school students who live in the Immokalee community. Many of these students are looking to become the first in their family to pursue a postsecondary education, and the personal relationship that each student builds with their mentor plays a major role in helping make those dreams a reality.
Students in The Immokalee Foundation’s programs are highly motivated by the educational opportunities available to them. Each student must meet and maintain certain requirements, including maintaining a minimum GPA, remaining crime and drug-free, volunteering in the community and meeting with their mentors once a week.
The Foundation mentors have found that becoming a mentor has been one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences they’ve ever had. Oftentimes, the mentor becomes the mentee and begins to learn from the student, too.
Linda Ayer is a perfect example of an Immokalee Foundation mentor who cherishes her experiences and goes above and beyond to create a lasting impact on her mentees. No stranger to Immokalee, Linda spent 29 years working at Immokalee High School as an English and Drama teacher, going on to serve as the high school’s Activities Director before retiring in 2011. However, she loved working with children and continued to look for ways to be engaged with the community and Immokalee’s students.
“Linda strives to involve herself in many ways to help our local students and organizations, from volunteering at the Immokalee High School’s BETA Club (Better Education Through Achievement) to The Immokalee Foundation’s mentorship program through Take Stock in Children. We are very fortunate to have Linda’s support,” shared Yeimi Espinoza, Take Stock Program Manager at The Immokalee Foundation.
Take Stock in Children is a state-wide nonprofit mentoring, college success, and college scholarship organization dedicated to transforming Florida, one student at a time. As a Take Stock in Children affiliate, The Immokalee Foundation is able to offer students scholarships and access to highly skilled mentors, all of whom volunteer their time in service to the community.
Over the past eight years, Linda has worked with twelve students, and each one can testify to the extraordinary impact she has had on their lives.
“I firmly believe we are put on this Earth to serve others,” Linda said. “I have so enjoyed working with all my mentees over the years and no matter how old we get, there is always something that we can learn and something that we can give. The students keep me young and I hope that sharing some of my experiences can help them in return.”
Former mentee and current Florida Southwestern State College student, Maricela, reflected on how Linda made a difference in her life, starting from their first meeting at The Immokalee Foundation.
“I’ve known Mrs. Ayer since the day I was interviewed for the mentor program at The Immokalee Foundation my freshman year of high school. I was asked challenging questions about my personal life, plans, and hardships—which became emotional for me to share,” said Maricela. “Mrs. Ayer saw potential in me and asked to be my mentor. In high school, I faced many challenges, including depression. As complicated as things were at the time, Mrs. Ayer was always supportive and a great listener—she stood by me and never gave up on me. Her guidance led me in the right direction. As a first-generation college student, I had no clue what would help me advance my education. She is passionate and devoted—an empathetic symbol of what a role model should be.”
Linda Ayer’s dedication to The Immokalee Foundation has resulted not only in recognition from her mentees and Immokalee Foundation staff, but also the state-wide Take Stock in Children organization where she has been named 2022 Take Stock Mentor of the Year.
“I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to work with The Immokalee Foundation and with the students I have mentored,” said Linda Ayer. “Immokalee has some wonderful kids with lots of talent. I encourage others in the community who may think that life has passed them by to consider signing up to become a mentor. You’ll find that it’s one of the greatest opportunities and joys in your life—becoming a mentor was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
At The Immokalee Foundation, these extraordinary volunteers help to unlock the potential of each individual student. Their mentoring program is transformative for mentors and an invaluable gift to student mentees.
To get involved as a mentor for The Immokalee Foundation or to find out more, please visit: https://immokaleefoundation.org/volunteer-or-mentor/
For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has maintained a 100% focus on education and professional development for students in Immokalee—from kindergarten to postsecondary education. Through support, mentoring, tutoring, and life skills development, The Immokalee Foundation provides pathways to success for those who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to succeed. For additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.