by Noemi Y. Perez

“My mentor has encouraged me to further my education and to keep striving to accomplish my goals,” said Immokalee Foundation student Leessett Perez. “Most importantly, my mentor is one of my greatest friends.”

There is so much more to mentorship than meets the eye; according to the generous volunteer mentors for The Immokalee Foundation, the relationship between mentor and mentee is a very positive one for both sides of the equation.

January is National Mentoring Month, and The Immokalee Foundation is seeking mentors to help shape the futures of young people in our community. We need adults who are willing to share their time, talent and experience to help students in our programs excel not only in their studies – but also in their lives.

Mentor Emily Costigan explains the benefits of mentoring this way: “I have enjoyed being a mentor because I like having a relationship with young people who have their whole lives ahead of them with so many options from which to choose. I feel that my life experiences have given me some insight into decision-making that I can share with them.

It is a delight to see them expand their horizons and help them see possibilities that they may not have considered. “It is a cliché, but I do learn as much from them as I give, and spending time with teens helps me stay engaged,” Costigan said.

Indeed, mentors like Costigan who spend an hour each week with their mentee and participate in activities enable students to have a much larger view of the world and the possibilities in it.

“Russell is an energetic, enthusiastic and empowering mentor,” said Angel Mateo, a foundation student, when speaking of his mentor, Russell Cooper. “Over the span of three years, my mentor has enriched my mind on various intricacies of our modern world that have accelerated my ascent to an active global citizen. Few in my life have helped me mature and prosper like Russell has – all in the hopes that I can materialize my dreams.”

Some mentors come from local companies; many mentors are retired. All that is required is a desire to help a young student on his journey and the time and ability to make a commitment to meet with that student at least once a week. As The Immokalee Foundation mentors and students say, the rewards are great.

Noemi Y. Perez, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at

To learn more about mentoring or to become a mentor, contact Michelle Kennedy at 239-657-2461 or

Additional information is available at 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, 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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