Business leaders share expertise with TIF students

Belynda Belvilus, Junette Derosier, Ilbia Perez, Lynecee Romelus and John Costigan

Belynda Belvilus, Junette Derosier, Ilbia Perez, Lynecee Romelus and John Costigan

Students of The Immokalee Foundation learned some valuable lessons from area business leaders during the organization’s third annual networking reception at the Hilton Naples. Dressed to impress, 30 high school juniors and seniors participating in TIF’s Career Development Program interacted with some of the area’s top business leaders, sharing their goals, ambitions and how they plan to achieve their life vision.

The business executives provided valuable insight about their own experiences and provided real-life lessons important in helping students prepare for their own transition to college and beyond.

Prior to the afternoon’s reception, students were treated to an etiquette luncheon and training by Dawn Magaril and Dirga Buwana, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

After, students were ready to practice their skills and were prepared to ask questions about their prospective career paths. They worked the room, introducing themselves to more than 30 professionals in a variety of leadership positions from companies including Edison State College, Arthrex, Coldwell Banker, Hilton Naples, The Print Shop, McKenney Home Care, Collier County Sheriff ’s Office, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Central Bank, Bay Colony Golf Club, NCH Healthcare Systems and Gravina,
Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and Public Relations.

In addition, several TIF board members, ambassadors and mentors gave their encouragement and advice to the students they support all year long.

Monique Williams, Maria Leon, Anita Munoz-Trejo, Maria Jimenez Sebastian and Ellen O’Neil

Monique Williams, Maria Leon, Anita Munoz-Trejo, Maria Jimenez Sebastian and Ellen O’Neil

Each student gained priceless networking knowledge of how to share necessary and interesting details in a concise and compelling manner. They created and exchanged
business cards, which included their college major, in hopes of making connections that could further their potential job opportunities.

The face-to-face interaction is crucial in helping these future business leaders build confidence. Plus, socializing with such a diverse group of businesspeople allows them to understand the wide variety of options available to them in the workforce.

Maria Sebastion-Jimenez, an Immokalee High School junior, wants to major in nursing at Edison State College. She was happy to be a part of the day’s activities, “Today’s event has allowed me to meet new people and feel more comfortable.

The business leaders have inspired me to reach for my goal and not give up.”

Jovenel Benjamin, a member of TIF’s Take Stock in Children program, has dreams of attending Edison, then transferring to receive a degree in mechanical engineering.  He was particularly interested in learning more about internships at Arthrex, “It’s great to meet people with connections and beneficial to have confidence when meeting new people.”

Arthrex’s Connie Byrne was equally impressed with the students, “There’s a lot of smart kids; I like to see new talent. Once they finish their secondary education, I would love for them to return to the area. It’s important for them to know about job opportunities in Southwest Florida, such as Arthrex.”

The business leaders provided insights into making connections and building enduring and mutually beneficial relationships that are crucial to securing a job and advancing in a career.

“These kids are like sponges,” said Jerry Thirion, of Bay Colony Golf Club. “They want to improve and go further. TIF is a tremendous help.”

The students realized that good social skills make a big difference in the business community.

Anita Munoz-Trejo, a senior at IHS, aims to attend Florida Gulf Coast University, majoring in health science. She said she learned the importance of good manners, which will help her be more confident when dining at a business event.

Junior Edwin Herard learned something equally significant, “It’s important to major in something you love, follow your heart, set goals and prioritize yourself.”

Louise Penta, a TIF board member and mentor to four students, is in Immokalee three to four times a week, “These kids are so polite and want to learn; they’ve come such a long way.”

The day was made possible by the generosity of Hilton Naples and Shula’s Steak House, who were underwriters of the Career Development Etiquette Luncheon and Networking Reception. In addition, TIF corporate sponsors include Arthrex, Hope Society; GE Foundation, Corporate Matching Sponsor; Fifth Third, Founding Sponsor; Porsche of Naples and Naples Jaguar, Education Circle; Naples Illustrated, Media Sponsor; and Kevin Johnson of Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, Success Circle Sponsor.

Jeff Jerome, Shula’s Steak House, said, “Shula’s like to give back to kids and we support TIF’s mission as it’s a great organization for young people – they are offering a better future for our future business leaders.”

The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary training, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences, life skills development and economic independence. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit
Liz Allbritten is executive director of The Immokalee Foundation and can be reached at

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