by Steven Kissinger
Alex Martinez is 13 years old. Although he wants to have his own business someday, he has plenty of time to decide firmly on a career. And he’s already getting a great head start on that decision as a student in The Immokalee Foundation’s Junior Career Development program.
Along with other middle school students in the program, Martinez stays after school a couple of times a week for additional education in reading, writing, math and leadership.
These students also attend career panels with local professionals, who explain what their jobs and similar fields are like. Alex and his classmates have learned what veterinarians and their associates do, heard what careers in social work are all about, and know what it’s like to be a member of the United States military. Career panels also have featured speakers in technology, law and media.
Students in the Junior Career Development program get exposure to life outside of Immokalee even earlier than high school students in the original Career Development program. Some career sessions involve outings to meet the professionals where they work. Past programs have taken the students to Artis—Naples and Gulfshore Playhouse to get a behind-the-scenes view of each theater’s productions and learn about the types of jobs available in performing arts.
Younger students traveled to the Naples Zoo to experience what life is like for the staff (and the animals, too). Speakers have come to the foundation offices to talk about careers that can be pursued at Immokalee Technical College. A local doctor has spoken to students about medical and health care professions.
In order to participate in the foundation’s Career Development program, students must have and maintain a2.5 GPA. They learn foundational skills – to communicate effectively, commit to the job, learn new tasks, develop leadership skills and maintain a positive work ethic. Students in all of The Immokalee Foundation’s programs are required to perform community service.
As part of the leadership aspect of the Junior Career Development program, Alex and his friends led a recycling program at Immokalee Middle School. Along with the teacher in charge of the leadership program, they reached out for the equipment they needed and led a campaign to motivate students and teachers to separate their throw aways and practice recycling.
Alex still has fun being a regular kid. “I like to read books and play football with my friends,” he said. But he also has thoughts about the future and the greater possibilities he now can imagine.
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, including volunteering, becoming a mentor, making a donation or any other information, call239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.
Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at email@example.com.