20th Anniversary Spotlight Series
As New Horizons of SWFL enters into its 20th year of serving the community we will be highlighting the impact that the organization has had in the lives of the students, volunteers, donors, and staff. What started as a grassroots outreach has evolved into a thriving organization, yet the essence of the original vision remains the same.
Mary Anne Cecil, one of the earliest staff members of New Horizons of SWFL and a Super Kids Club assistant director in Bonita Springs, is our first spotlight. Mary Anne has served the students of New Horizons for 15 years. It all started when she and her husband first moved down to Southwest Florida from Ohio and a neighbor invited Mary Anne to volunteer with her. She began tutoring at New Horizons’ first site at Manna Christian, which was being led by Tom Hazell. One day over lunch at Dolly’s Produce and Eatery with Ellen Nichols, the co-founder of New Horizons, Mary Anne would accept a position that would lead her into a new career of touching lives and forging connections.
Marry Anne and Tom with students in Manna Christian, 2010
The Students We Care For
The mission of New Horizons of SWFL is to empower tomorrow’s generation today. Many of the students see Mary Anne and Tom as mentors as they navigate their academic, social, and spiritual development. “On my first day, I felt very lost and Mrs. Mary Anne helped me.” said 5th grader Maria. The passion and commitment towards each student’s success is evident through the devoted number of years Mary Anne and Tom have served.
Watching students enter the program as kindergarteners with limited to no English speaking abilities and seeing transformation into high school graduates with full ride scholarships. “Getting to share hope, encouragement, and joy with the students everyday and then seeing them in the community once they complete the program is such a joy” said Mary Anne. Over the course of the years she has been able to witness the development of the hundreds of students who have participated in the program. “I give her credit because she helped shape me to be the woman I am today,” said Alexia, who spent many years under Mary Anne’s wing and is now a Super Kids Club Director.
“Getting to share hope, encouragement, and joy with the students everyday and then seeing them in the community once they complete the program is such a joy.”
The Volunteers We Do Life With
Volunteers assist students with their homework and academic needs Monday through Thursday, sometimes multiple times a week and over the course of the school year, genuine connections are formed.“ We have a rich history of dedicated volunteers that have journeyed with us for many, many years'' said Mary Anne. Several volunteers have been tutoring since before Mary Anne and Tom, like Elaine Hubell who has been volunteering for 16 years. “They are the rocks,” said Elaine when asked about the influence Mary Anne and Tom have had, “they know the kids so well and in turn the kids are so attentive.” There is a real sense of community at the neighborhood clubs. “Tom and I would call and sometimes have lunch with our residential volunteers. We pray for them daily and share daily life with them; praises and sorrows.” According to Mary Anne, “we have exchanged pictures of grandchildren, celebrated monumental birthdays and attended memorial services. We embrace them as part of our family! Our volunteers go above and beyond. We have had times of great sorrow bestow a family, and again, our volunteers have reached out with gifts in kind. They truly embrace and love the students and their families. Our volunteers have so much in comparison and freely give back.”
A verse that comes to Mary Anne’s mind is 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (NIV)
Marry Anne and Tom, 2022
Reflecting upon her time with New Horizons, Mary Anne says “It has been the best job I’ve ever had.” Many students have come and gone and she and Tom have had the pleasure of seeing what a couple hours a day at New Horizons can make in their lives. Tom mentioned, “Her dedication to the kids and the Lord is incredible. She is concerned about their improvement both academically and spiritually.” The students, board and staff are grateful for the many years Mary Anne has served to support New Horizons’ mission.
About New Horizons
New Horizons of Southwest Florida effectively changes the lives of under-resourced students by providing tutoring, mentoring and character-building experiences at its neighborhood clubs. Together with a dedicated group of community volunteers, New Horizons equips K-12 students with the tools to reach their full potential and graduate from high school with a plan for the future. To learn more about how you can get involved visit newhorizonsofswfl.org.