TIF Direct Scholarship Recipient
by Steven Kissinger
Growing up in Immokalee, Brittany Gonzalez didn’t have an easy life. The oldest of five children, Gonzalez was often tasked with taking care of her siblings while her mother was working long hours in the fields. Gonzalez admits it was sometimes difficult, but she recognized the significant role she was playing in her family. Most importantly, she never stopped dreaming of bigger and better things.
Her mother, Christina Martinez, encouraged her to reach for the stars. “I always told her that this was not the life I wanted for her,” said Martinez.
With enormous drive and determination, along with some help from The Immokalee Foundation, Gonzalez is on the path to achieving her dreams. She said the struggles she witnessed, and the challenges she faced, have helped her along the way.
“My mother worked hard for us to have food, shelter and clothing, and for the most part I was a happy kid,” explained Gonzalez. “However, once I started to really grasp my mother’s struggle, I knew that I had to educate myself and work hard to create a better life for myself. Fortunately, I had many kind-hearted role models who believed in me.”
For Gonzalez, going to college was never a question. “I knew if I wanted a real chance at life, I had to go,” she said. What she didn’t know, however, was what she wanted to do. That changed in high school when her passion for listening to morning radio motivated her to pursue a career in broadcast. “Every morning I would look forward to the talk segments on 105.5 The Beat and it all came together,” she said.
“Morning radio made me laugh, kept me informed and was involved in charity work in the communities. That is what I think life is supposed to be about.”
Gonzalez became involved with The Immokalee Foundation when she was a senior at Immokalee High School. She applied for, and received, a TIF Direct Scholarship, allowing her the opportunity to fulfill her goal of going to college to pursue her new-found passion. In 2007, she graduated from Immokalee High School and attended Florida Gulf Coast University. In 2012, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication/public relations.
She credits TIF with helping her not only financially but also by instilling a sense of confidence. “When I got the scholarship, it meant so much to me not just because it was money toward my education, but the feeling that someone believed that I could do it,” she said. “Someone
believed that I deserved a better life so much so that they were willing to put money on it!”
This vote of confidence from TIF inspired Gonzalez to stay involved with the foundation. “They were always there for me when I needed help and advice,” she said. “They always checked up on me and made sure I was okay. They stand for a better future to students who wouldn’t have been given a chance otherwise. I love them for that.”
As for that career in radio, she is well on her way to achieving her dream. While in college, she served as an intern at 105.5 The Beat with DJ Quest. Knowing Gonzalez wanted to continue pursuing her passion, Quest introduced her to a fellow disc jockey friend at HOT 101.5, in the Tampa Bay area. She contacted the program director, sent her resume and demo, and emailed relentlessly asking for a shot. It worked; today
she is employed by Cox Media Group in St. Petersburg as a board operator and on-air talent for HOT 101.5 and 102.5 The Bone.
Her mother is not surprised at her daughter’s success. “Brittany is inspiring to me and has encouraged me to do different things and get out of the field,” Martinez said. “It’s been a wonderful journey to see where she started and where she is now. Whatever she wants to do, I know
she can do it.”
Gonzalez added that she will always be grateful to those in the Immokalee community and to TIF. “They are extremely important to me because I am a product of Immokalee and TIF,” she said. “They gave me hope, encouragement and a chance. I want the same for everyone else.”
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 TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.
Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.