April 2015 – The Winners Circle – Naples Style

Sandra Lee BuxtonIt is well known that Naples is a community that does things, we are aggressive in our work on behalf of others. We volunteer, we mentor, we attend fundraisers, we chair events, and we support endeavors. The list of people who do these things in nearly endless but every now and again someone stands out. Louise Penta is certainly that person, and she recently was named “Mentor of the Year” for the State of Florida by the Take Stock in Children program.

To be considered for this award the mentor is expected to have a long-term, meaningful commitment to the program and his or her mentee.

The mentor is expected to work on building confidence, provide encouragement, and help their students build on their strengths and overcome their challenges. Louise was nominated for this prestigious honor by the Take Stock staff and her own mentee, Alex Arreguin.

Louise PentaPassionate in her support of students and the educational opportunity that this program provided she has spent the last five years grooming her students (she has two) for success. Mentors make a commitment to drive to Immokalee weekly to meet with their mentee, which in itself is a labor of love.

Naples has mentors which not only go to Immokalee but look forward to the trip and meeting their students. Alex like many other students are wide eyed, full of anticipation and a week’s worth of stories that they are excited to share. Making a difference is what the mentors value, that and watching a child evolve into a young adult prepared psychologically and academically to reach excellence.

There is a powerful message that the students receive from their mentors, and that is “you matter.” They matter enough to invest their time, talent and sometimes resources. They matter enough to listen to issues close to the mentees heart and things that they cannot just trust to anyone. They have trust in the one “who cares,” the one who listens in a non judgmental way, one who supports them even when poor choices are made.

The student matters enough that the mentor stays the course.

Prior to students and mentors being matched a few years ago Louise just happen to sit at a table with Alex and his family.

During the introductions and getting to know one another Alex’s mother mentioned that her son was diabetic and that solidified the relationship. Louise raised a son who is also a diabetic and she knew that the two were meant to work together. She realized that she could be of assistance to Alex with his scholastic endeavors and also provide education about his disease. As an RN and the mother of a diabetic, this truly was a match made in heaven. She is given credit by Alex for serving as a mother figure, a mentor, a cheerleader and keeping him focused on his goals. Recognizing the importance of being educated in all spheres of his life Louise arranged for him to attend a diabetic camp in Massachusetts. This camp teaches young men to learn how to live with the special challenges of their disease. Alex has attended this camp four times and found the experience personally enriching and transformational. The first time he attended camp both Louise and Alex flew to Boston which was the first time that he had been on a plane or had ever left the state. To top that off he received a personal tour of the Boston area by Louise and learned firsthand about the historical sites that he had only read about. Talk about making history come alive, this was a great life lesson itself.

As graduation approaches Louise and her mentee have forged what they consider to be a friendship that will continue beyond the mentoring
process. Alex is grateful to have been mentored by Louise for the support and encouragement that she provided.

Louise in turn, feels that she is on the receiving end as well, stating that this type of work “gives purpose.” She shares that it is rewarding to watch her student grow, mature and reach for his dreams.

After graduation Alex plans to attend college and major in biology. One thing is certain “this is a lifelong relationship” built on mutual respect and trust. Louise Penta has lived her life with grace and so many have benefited. Welcome to the Winners Circle Naples Style.

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