31 Jul 2019 A Lifeline for At-Risk Students – With help from New Horizons of SWFL, at-risk students are receiving a Lifeline of Hope
By Jamail Aikens
Sometimes we need someone to throw us a lifeline! On September 2, 1944, a 311-foot submarine rose from the ocean depths to throw a lifeline to a young pilot shot down in enemy waters in the Pacific. “Welcome aboard, sir”, greeted the torpedoman second class. “Happy to be aboard,” replied the naval officer and future president of the U.S., George H.W. Bush.
Since 2002, New Horizons has been throwing a lifeline to at-risk students living in Lee and Collier Counties. It is a lifeline of education and hope for hundreds of at-risk students who live in poverty, do not speak English at home and are underperforming in the classroom. In the midst of our beautiful, resource-rich community, 50,000 (25%) of our 200,000 students are at risk. To help at-risk students overcome these challenges, New Horizons offers a range of programs at 11 locations from Naples to Fort Myers. With a crew of 850+ volunteers to tutor and mentor them, nearly 600 students attended the New Horizons programs this past year. The goal of the programs is for students to experience academic success, commit to staying in school and ultimately graduate from high school with a plan for their lives.
Students begin the programs as early as kindergarten, attending Super Kids Club for tutoring and mentoring, and continue through high school to attend the Super Teens Club that includes tutoring, mentoring, leadership training and college/vocational preparation. The results speak for themselves: a 100 percent high school graduation rate over the last three years. New Horizons graduates have shared many stories about the hope and opportunity they have experienced because of lifelines like these.
Viviana, a graduating senior and aspiring physician, shares her story.
Viviana first joined New Horizons in 2007, after her mother heard about the mission of the organization. She recalls, “My mom realized that New Horizons could help in ways she couldn’t.” Viviana remembers how excited she was at six years old when she first came to the tutoring programs and how the program director would engage the students with a puppet show and then a faith-building lesson, before proceeding with tutoring. “Many of these lessons I still take to heart, and having the opportunity to participate has helped make me the person I am today,” she said.
Viviana describes some of the circumstances she has had to overcome, such as negative peer pressure and the simultaneous life-threatening illnesses of her father and sister. “After seeing the mental desperation of people that are struggling, I decided I wanted to become a doctor,” she said. To begin taking those steps and make that dream a reality, Viviana enrolled in as many science classes as possible in high school and volunteered in the summers at NCH Hospital so that she could gain a wider understanding of the medical field.
In May of 2019, Viviana graduated from high school with a 4.8 GPA and has received a full scholarship to the University of Richmond to begin a pre-med program with a major in biology. She thanks and credits much of her success to the support of New Horizons and its mission to break the cycle of economic poverty, academic failure and hopelessness for hundreds of children in Florida. Who knows, with the lifeline that New Horizons threw to her, Viviana could very well be the future surgeon General of the United States of America.
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2019 competitive grant cycle. Funds made available for these grants are graciously given by donors through Field of Interest Funds. Many of these donors are deceased and have left instructions to the Foundation on the causes they care about and then rely on the Foundation team to address the communities’ greatest needs within the established criteria by the donor. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.