With sustainability central to its mission, the Fort Myers-based urban planning and design firm EnSite is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of professionals in the community. Through programs with the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, EnSite’s professionals have improved the higher education and career prospects for five young people and counting, and urge fellow business and community leaders to get involved.
EnSite’s Jonathan Romine has an ongoing relationship with his first mentee, Francis “Frankie” Nater, who enrolled in the Take Stock in Children program as a freshman at Mariner High School in 2010 on the advice of his guidance counselor. The program offers at-risk or low-income students an escape from the cycle of poverty.
Today Romine is a board member for the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. When he became Frankie’s mentor, Romine was 29 years old, with fresh memories of graduating from college only five years earlier. “Frankie impressed me with his big sense of curiosity and an openness to approaching problems from a critical perspective,” said Romine. “He had energy and ambition in spades, and came to understand that the way to his dreams was to become systematic about achieving them. We all need mentors in our life in order to be successful.”
In the Take Stock program, students receive guidance and resources leading up to high school graduation and a four-year college tuition scholarship when they honor a pledge to remain drug- and crime-free, maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above and abide by other guidelines.
Frankie is now a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University majoring in business management. Landing a position as general manager of a baseball team is an ambition he believes he can achieve, in part because of the benefit of Romine’s guidance.
He said, “When you first meet someone, you don’t always know how much they will mean to you. We won’t ever stop being in touch. Sometimes you need extra advice, or to hear it from someone other than your parents. Jon gave me his cell phone number and told me never to be afraid to call. He’s a little younger, so we learned from each other.”
Frankie considers Take Stock in Children to be a more-powerful model of assistance than a traditional scholarship program. Rather than a simple one-time infusion of cash, Take Stock participants enjoy a support system that follows them even through their higher education journey.
He is also inspired by Romine’s example to help others. “When Jon helps me out, all he wants is for me to pay it forward,” he explained. “Now I try to find people who are in need of a little help,” Frankie explained.
In addition to Frankie, Romine and colleague Brent Gibson have mentored a 2016 Cape Coral High School graduate who is now a FGCU freshman and two 2016 Mariner High School graduates. One of those graduates has just started at the University of Central Florida. A Cape Coral High School sophomore is a current mentee.
Aside from the intrinsic rewards of working with young people to improve their lives, Gibson and Romine consider mentoring a direct way to enhance the robustness and diversity of Southwest Florida’s future workforce.
In addition to Take Stock, the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools also offers the Student Advocacy and Mentoring Partnership program. STAMP is a multi-year commitment to at-risk high school students to invest in their future and increase the high school graduation rate and post-secondary educational opportunities, whether technical training or a college degree. Learn more about mentorship at www.leeschoolfoundation.
EnSite is an award-winning urban planning and design firm providing innovative design solutions that provide a balance of environmental sensitivity, social equity and economic viability. EnSite also offers landscape architecture and civil engineering expertise, and a commitment to the long-term success of the communities in which its team and their families live, work, learn and play.
EnSite’s unique business model enables its clients to enjoy the assets of a large firm, but with competitive fees and top-notch personalized service. Its principals personally plan, design, permit, inspect and certify every single project from start to finish. Visit www.en-site.com or call (239) 226-0024 to learn more.