Pictured are Angel Maldonado, a mentee of the Step Up for Success program, and his mentor, Dean Vittetoe.

Nestled in Wimauma, the Beth-El Farmworker Ministry has been assisting Hispanic farmworkers and their families since 1976. Every week, BethEl serves nearly 600 families through its food pantry.

The nonprofit not only seeks to provide hunger relief but also feed the mind and spirit. It offers services and resources for education, healthcare and spiritual growth. With the average farmworker having a fifth grade education, many have difficulty helping their adult children navigate a career outside of farmwork.

Through its Step Up for Success program, Beth-El provides support and mentoring for these young adults who desire further education and career training. Candidates for the program are typically 17-25 years old and work with a volunteer mentor.

While the program helps with financial aid and offers small scholarships, the heart of the program is the mentor and mentee relationship. The mentors guide and encourage these young adults to fulfill their God-given purpose. MaryEllen Welton Barragán is the community outreach manager at Beth-El and heads the program.

“The mentor is a key part of this program,” said Welton Barragán. “It’s about relationship and accountability. The mentor’s responsibilities include meeting with the student, reporting back to me and keeping up a positive relationship with their student.”

The Step Up for Success program has students attending the University of Southern Florida, Hillsborough Community College (HCC), Manatee Technical College and the Aveda Institute for Cosmetology. Currently, it has 20 students in the program. As a former educator, Welton Barragán explained that the success of the program is not about the numbers.

She said, “We (Beth-El) serve the working poor who work long, brutal hours. It’s especially important to encourage these kids and help them realize their worth. Changing even just one kid’s life can have a positive effect on the entire community.”

Dean Vittetoe mentors Angel Maldonado. They meet weekly to outline goals and explore interests and strengths. Through Vittetoe’s encouragement, Maldonado began taking classes at HCC and has even earned a scholarship and work-study.

If you would like more information on how to become a mentor or tutor for the Step Up for Success program and donate to the Beth-El scholarship fund, please contact MaryEllen Welton Barragán at outreach@beth-el.org.

Beth-El Farmworker Ministry is a nonprofit organization located at 18240 U.S. Hwy. 301 in Wimauma, visit http://beth-el.org.