Life Experiences for TIF Students

Marcos Gonzalez hosted by the Accounting Department at University of South Florida - France and Spain

Marcos Gonzalez hosted by the Accounting Department at University of South Florida – France and Spain

by Steven Kissinger

This past summer, students of The Immokalee Foundation were given a chance to learn, grow and succeed in ways they never thought possible. Rather than spend their summer hanging out with friends, they looked toward their future and filled their days with educational and life experiences designed to help them on their journey to a better life.

The experiences were many and they were memorable: visiting college campuses, attending summer camps in New England, and taking part in beneficial summer internships, to name a few.

Educational opportunities were abundant – and particularly impactful. Florida SouthWestern State College Summer Program hosted 18 high school seniors – each with a TIF scholarship – who were headed to college in the fall. The two-day program featured workshops designed to provide the students with information to prepare them for their transition into college. At the end of June, an eightweek program was held for 16 more students.

Thanks to a sponsorship by TIF, high school junior Nenaly Patino witnessed an open-heart surgery and a brain surgery when she attended a 10-day medical conference at Harvard Medical School. Patino said she also received hands-on experience suturing and making clinical diagnoses.

Linda Jean Pierre – Florida State – Sport Management and International Sports, London

Linda Jean Pierre – Florida State – Sport Management and International Sports, London

“Attending the program also gave me the chance to get a feel for what college life will bring and gave me the opportunity to connect with students my age from all over the world,” Patino said.

An intensive ACT summer prep program, funded by Naples Children and Education Foundation’s Guided Programs for Success initiative, was among the summer’s most important offerings.

Intended to help prepare students taking the college readiness assessment in September, the program was managed by Marcie Bonilla, TIF’s Take Stock in Children program services coordinator.

The ACT prep program was developed to aid students in reaching their ACT score goals. “It is important for students to understand that if they are dedicated and work hard for what they desire, then it is attainable,” said Bonilla. “We know this because of our ACT score results this summer. While other students in the country may be at home sleeping in or watching TV during the summer, our students are in a classroom getting college-ready.”

At the beginning of the summer, students scored as low as 11 on the composite score, with 17 as the average. By the end of the summer, on average, students made a  three-point gain on the composite score, with one student making a remarkable seven-point gain.

Other memorable experiences TIF’s high school and college students took part in included:

  • Alan Cuevas spent six weeks at Cornell University Summer College learning about the biological research and health profession.
  • Marcos Gonzalez spent six weeks in France and Spain, hosted by the accounting department at the University of South Florida.
  • Linda Jean Pierre was in London for six weeks thanks to Florida State University’s sport management and international sports programs.
  • Regine Francois took part in the Georgetown University Summer High School Program’s Leadership Institute.

Providing students with opportunities to achieve their dreams of success are at the core of The Immokalee Foundation. Perhaps Bonilla explains it best when she tells of the morning the ACT scores were released and students were texting and emailing their gratitude. “I cannot express how overjoyed I was because I dealt with these students’ complaints and struggles throughout the summer,” Bonilla said. “To see them realize the importance of the summer ACT prep and their hard work pay off is priceless. Those moments are why we do what we do.”

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

Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at

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