Local artists share talent through Immokalee Foundation

by Steven Kissinger ED Immokalee Foundation

Immokalee Middle School students have learned about, and participated in, opera, puppeteering, acting and stage and prop design this year in a new after-school program from Arts for Learning, a nonprofit program in Southwest Florida that brings instruction in fine, performing and media arts to schools.

Emili Carmona

Emili Carmona is only in sixth grade and she isn’t sure whether she wants to be a teacher, doctor or both. But she already realizes that the experience she’s had with theater in the program will help her, whether in presenting lessons to a class or instructions to a patient. “What we’re learning in theater is how to write a script and how to act,” said her twin sister, Abigail Carmona. “And we’re learning new words we didn’t know.”

The intention of everyone involved, from Arts for Learning to The Immokalee Foundation, which has brought the program to Emili and Abigail and their classmates, is to provide practical, useful performance experience to help students achieve their goals. “One of our big goals has been to increase the confidence of our students,” said Amber Barr, after-school program coordinator for The Immokalee Foundation. “Especially for our middle
school students, this experience is helpful when they are speaking in front of a class or in public. We thought that this would be a great benefit for them.”

In its pilot year, the after-school program includes 26 students in grades six through eight who voluntarily participate, and each is a member of The Immokalee Foundation’s Junior Academy program. To be eligible for the Junior Academy, students must apply and be interviewed; once accepted, they receive homework help, extension lessons on world affairs and STEM subjects and supplementary lessons in technology and leadership.

Recently, puppeteers with the Naples Players visited Immokalee Middle School to present a session that involved children making puppets according to characters in a script they read. “We learned how to make puppets and how to show emotions with the puppets,” said Emili. “We presented puppets to the class. I made a cyclops.” Abigail made a unicorn. Arts for Learning is the Southwest Florida affiliate of Young Audiences, a national program founded in 1950 to introduce young people to professional artists and the work that they 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 The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit

Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at steven.kissinger@immokaleefoundation.org.

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