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January is National Mentoring Month – the perfect time to become a mentor for a student of The Immokalee Foundation. The foundation is seeking adults who would like to provide guidance and support to Immokalee students while developing mutually rewarding relationships.

The process is simple: Once the adult’s application is reviewed and accepted, and complete Collier County School District’s fingerprints and background screening, the mentor receives training and is matched with a student from sixth to 12th grade. The mentor commits to mentoring for one year, getting together once a week for 45-minute sessions throughout the school year. The structure of the mentoring program works extremely well for seasonal residents, who make up the majority of the foundation’s mentors.

Cindy Schmidt has been a mentor for four years and has seen her mentee, Samantha Huapilla, grow in many ways over that timeframe. “I have watched her blossom into a self-confident, mature, intelligent, responsible, lovely young woman, and that has been my delight,” Schmidt said.

Now a senior in high school, Huapilla, 18, says the relationship has been a tremendous benefit. “It has been great to have somebody to talk to every week,” she said. “Cindy guides me and asks me questions. She’s been there to help me throughout my whole high school years. I’m really thankful for her, and I’ve been able to do things I didn’t even think I was capable of doing. Without her, I don’t think I would be this far. I wouldn’t have someone pushing me and motivating me.”

Huapilla plans to attend college and earn a business administration degree, with dreams of starting her own business one day. And when Huapilla finishes high school, Schmidt will transition to mentoring Huapilla’s younger sister.

“It’s a really easy thing to do,” said Schmidt, who has recommended the mentoring program to several friends. “I am simply a caring friend, another adult in Samantha’s life who sees who she is and what she has to offer society. I sort of feel like a cheerleader.”

Caring adults who can encourage and guide these young people in middle and high school are an important component of The Immokalee Foundation students’ success. During the mentoring meetings, the student might have questions about homework, college, a career, friends, or another topic. The mentor shares their knowledge and life experience – and perhaps their proficiency in math or another school subject.

Becoming a mentor can change a local child’s life. The numbers speak for themselves: 100% of the students in the foundation’s programs graduate from high school and enter a post-secondary career program, with 91% completing their programs.

Adults interested in becoming a mentor can call The Immokalee Foundation at 239-430-9122 or visit to learn more about the mentor application and training process.

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, 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

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