Fort Myers Infiniti Program Awards $1K to Local High School Student of the Month, Every Month

#DealershipsGivingBack: Yolanda Valladares’ heart sank when her daughter’s caller ID splashed across her cell phone Thursday.

“In 16 years, this was the first time she has called me from the school, so I was really panicked about it. Did something happen to her?” Valladares said. “I was scared.”

Panic soon turned to absolute joy as 16-year-old Allison Lagunes explained she had just been named South Fort Myers High School’s Student of the Month, an all-new award program sponsored by Fort Myers Infiniti.

The recognition comes with $1,000 for the winning student — money Allison planned on giving back to her mother.

Valladares has been working double housekeeping shifts at Health Park during the pandemic to support her kids, Allison and 13-year-old twins, Juan and Ashley.

Allison doesn’t care how the money is used, be it on the bills or groceries, she just wants to make life less stressful for her mother.

“I’m really happy, I’m really proud, and I’m happy that I’m able to do this for my mom,” she said.

Allison was honored by Fort Myers Infiniti staff at the car dealership Friday, where a DJ blasted music near the front entrance.

She walked hand-in-hand with her mother toward a cheering crowd of onlookers, and the morning celebration featured speakers from the dealership and school.

Principal Ed Mathews said there is so much he could say about Allison, but he asked everyone in attendance to take a look at her mother.

“I want you to understand that the first thing that Allison thought of and the first action that she did in regards to that $1,000 … is that she wanted to give that $1,000 to her mother,” Mathews said.

A new spin on Student of the Month

The monthly contest is the brainchild of Fort Myers Infiniti’s new owner John Engizio, who has been building up connections in the South Fort Myers area since taking over.

“About three months ago I said we need to help a high school out and South Fort Myers High School was right down the street,” he said. “And we went to visit them and a few others, but when we walked in, we met the principal, Mr. Ed Matthews, and he was just unbelievable, and the things that he does for the kids is just so special.”

He was excited to see the wide range of career academies, from firefighting and agriculture to veterinary medicine and welding.

“They do a bunch of different classrooms that most high schools don’t do,” Engizio said.

After forming the partnership, the Student of the Month program was launched, and the  1,770 students at South were urged to submit original videos to the dealership that answered three questions:

  • why they thought they deserved $1,000
  • what club, team, or sport at the school deserved $1,000 and why
  • explain what makes Fort Myers Infiniti special

While Allison’s video showed great attention to detail, clarity, and the ability to follow the instructions, Engizio was touched by what she said about her mother.

“…She explained how her mother is from somewhere else and she works every night to help people with COVID, and she never gets to see her that much. And she’s out there helping people, which is a really big deal to me,” Engizio said.

Valladares had no idea her daughter submitted a video or that she planned to pass on her winnings.

“She keeps on asking me, ‘Why are you working too many hours,’ because she wants me to be home,” Valladares said. “But I tell her I have to take the chance now that they are giving us a little bit of overtime to help out with the illness and everything.

“She’s amazing,” Valladares added. “I didn’t know that she was doing all this to help out a little bit.”

Valladares, however, has no plans to use the money.

“I like the idea that she is thinking of us, but she worked for it. And she’s really good. I told her last night I appreciate it, but it’s her money and she deserves it more than anyone else in the family,” Valladares said.

In addition to the monthly winner receiving $1,000, students are asked to select a sport, club, or activity at South to receive another $1,000 from the dealership.

The school’s TV production department was tapped by Allison for the gift.

Instructor Andrew McDevitt said the gift is “huge” for his department, which broadcasts the school’s morning news.

“We only have six cameras that we share as a class and four tripods, so we’ll be able to have as many tripods as we have cameras, which would be nice. And then hopefully, maybe, get some wireless microphones,” he said.

Allison is in his morning class.

“She came in during her lunch period to film this video and edit this video. That’s just the type of girl she is. She’s a hard worker in everything that she does,” McDevitt said.

More than 50 students submitted a video for the Student of the Month award in February, and the dealership expects an uptick in submissions for March.

Winners will continue to be picked each month this year, including when school is out over the summer.

“I know that just because school’s out that doesn’t mean the student doesn’t need any help, so we’re very big on that,” Engizio said.

He wants students to use the money in a way that “could better their life” be it squirreling it away for their future or helping their family pay rent, groceries, or an upcoming car payment.

Students can also apply again for the award even if they have previously won.

Source: Fort Myers Infiniti program to award $1K to South High Student of the Month, $1K to school every month