Unlock A Student’s Potential With The Immokalee Foundation’s Mentorship Program

by Noemi Y. Perez, President and CEO

Linda Ayer

Great mentors leave a permanent impact on their mentees—guiding them through difficult times, serving as a friend and providing trusted advice. For those who volunteer to mentor students at The Immokalee Foundation, mentoring the younger generation is about giving back to the community, filling their time in a meaningful way, and helping provide direction to young students looking to build a better life.

Our Foundation matches volunteer mentors with middle and high school students in the Immokalee community. Many of these students are looking to become the first in their family to pursue a postsecondary education, and the individual relationship that each student fosters with their mentor plays a huge role in making those dreams a reality. Mentors meet with their students weekly, contributing their time, attention and experience while offering hope and optimism for success.

Jerry Belle, The Immokalee Foundation Board Chair and his mentee Joel G.

Our mentors build strong relationships with their mentees, helping them tackle the difficulties that accompany growing up and providing constant encouragement and support to graduate and pursue a postsecondary education. 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 mentorship program at The Immokalee Foundation has come to be equally impactful for both mentor and mentee and has built relationships that will last a lifetime.

Linda Ayer is an exemplary example of an Immokalee Foundation mentor who goes above and beyond to create a lasting impact on her mentees. No stranger to the community of Immokalee, Linda spent 29 years working at Immokalee High School as an English and Drama teacher and Activities Director before retiring in 2011. She loved working with children and after her retirement, continued to look for ways to be involved 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.

After finding The Immokalee Foundation’s mentorship program, Linda dove in headfirst. Over the past eight years, Linda has mentored twelve students, and each mentee can testify to the extraordinary impact she has had on their lives.

Former mentee and current student at Florida South WesternState College, Maricela, reflected on how Linda Ayer made a difference in her life, starting from their first meeting in the Take Stock selection interview.

“I’ve known Mrs. Ayer since the day I was interviewed by her and others for the Take Stock in Children program at The Immokalee Foundation in my freshman year of high school. During the interview, they asked me challenging questions about my personal life, plans, and hardships, which became emotional for me to share,” said Maricela. “Mrs. Ayer saw potential in me during my interview and wanted to become my mentor. As years passed, I faced mental hardships such as depression and confusion throughout high school. As complicated as things were at the time, Mrs. Ayer stood by me and never gave up on me. She was supportive and a great listener. Her guidance led me in the right direction, which was beneficial in the long run since I am a first-generation college student and had no clue what would help me advance my education. She is passionate and devoted to what she does best, supportive, and an empathetic symbol of what a mentor truly is.”

Linda Ayer’s dedication and devotion to the mentoring program at The Immokalee Foundation has resulted not only in recognition from her mentees and Immokalee Foundation staff, but also the statewide Take Stock in Children organization where she has been named a 2022 Take Stock Mentor of the Year.

Mentoring helps unlock the potential of each student. At The Immokalee Foundation, we have seen first-hand the impact that individual attention can have on helping a child blossom and flourish. Our students benefit greatly from our mentorship program. The relationships that they build with their mentors help them grow, and as they struggle or face hardships, our students know that they always have someone in their corner rooting for them. I hope you will consider getting involved as a mentor for The Immokalee Foundation.

For more information, please visit: https://immokaleefoundation.org/volunteer-or-mentor/ For additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.

Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO ofThe Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at noemi.perez@immokaleefoundation.org

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