mentor: (n.) a trusted counselor or guide; tutor, coach

January is National Mentoring Month

by Noemi Y. Perez

The Immokalee Foundation student Jimmie Lugo-Ramirez with his mentor Joseph Sciortino during last year’s bowling event.

When Joseph Sciortino served as director of facilities and construction for Pizza Hut, he saw how training and teaching his team of employees helped them grow in their careers. Later, when he read about the mentoring program at The Immokalee Foundation in 2013, the retired executive didn’t hesitate to apply.

“I like to give back, and I felt that being a mentor could be a good way to teach someone the things that I learned throughout my career,” said Sciortino. “When do you get a chance to change a kid’s life? Not very often, but this is that kind of opportunity to make a difference.”

The Immokalee Foundation needs more local adults like Sciortino who are interested in encouraging and guiding the foundation’s hard working students, and there’s no better time to sign up than during National Mentoring Month in January.

After completing the application and approval process, mentors receive training from the foundation before getting matched with a student from sixth to 12th grade.

Mentors commit to mentoring for one year, and the structure of the mentoring program works well for both full-time and seasonal residents.

“It’s not a big time commitment, but it’s a way you can have a monumental impact on someone else’s life by just being encouraging, loving and kind,” said Chris Farley, who became a mentor with The Immokalee Foundation in 2019. “So why not do that? We all need to participate for the future of our young people.”

Sciortino is now working with his third mentee, Jimmie Lugo-Ramirez. A senior at Immokalee High School, Lugo-Ramirez has gotten through a number of high school challenges with help from Sciortino, including encouragement to stay with the program.

“Joseph has helped me see that staying with the program was the right choice for me,” said Lugo-Ramirez. “He reminded me of everything I’ve worked for. Joseph has been extremely helpful, and I really see him as a big role model in my life.”

Anyone has the potential to be a great mentor, no matter their career background.

Maria Leon delightfully embraces her mentor Ellen O’Neill at The Immokalee Foundation’s Charity Classic Celebration.

“Mentoring is all about the heart,” said Sciortino. “If you’re able to encourage and guide someone, that’s all you need to be a mentor. I tell people it’s addictive. Once you start, you’re not going to be able to stop doing it.”

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

Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at

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