For the past 22 years, The Immokalee Foundation (TIF) has been committed to improving the future of the children of Immokalee. Founded in 1991, The Immokalee Foundation was originally formed to raise awareness about the challenges the agricultural town of Immokalee faces and the ability to gain financial support from neighboring communities. With the leadership of Parker Collier, founder, and the generous help of several concerned citizens TIF began to commit financial assistance to initiatives in education, career development and health care.
In the late 1990s, TIF began to narrow its scope by focusing on what the organization believed to be a critical part in the economic development of Immokalee: Education. To better understand the particular needs in the education field, TIF commissioned a study in 2006 called “A Study of Immokalee’s Children and Analysis of Needs.” TIF’s goal was to uncover weaknesses that prevented the children of Immokalee from achieving academic excellence. The results were alarming.
The study revealed approximately 65% of the students who entered kindergarten dropped out before high school graduation and 60% of all elementary school students (75% within the 6th, 8th, and 10th grades) scored at the lowest levels on the FCAT. Moreover, only 30% of high school graduates pursued post-secondary plans. It was also revealed that afterschool programs, early reading intervention, and career and college training programs were needed. As a result, TIF’s role began to change. What began as a grant-awarding organization has now expanded into an operational not-for-profit organization focused on educational programs.
TIF’s partnership with the statewide program, Take Stock in Children (TSIC), solidified that transition. This program provides mentorship and scholarship opportunities to motivated students. TIF learned through managing TSIC that other potential educational programs were needed for Immokalee.
By 2009, the foundation had expanded program offerings which emphasized education and life skills leading to economic independence. Today, TIF’s programs include TSIC, Immokalee Readers, Career Development and College Success. These programs increased direct services from 300 to over 700 students.
TSIC is a scholarship mentorship, that hopes to increase high school graduation rates by holding students to a pledge to stay out of trouble, keep their grades up and meeting with a mentor on a regular basis.
TIF’s Immokalee Readers provides an early reading intervention program. This program is targeted to improve the reading skills of the bottom 17% performers on the state achievement assessment test (FCAT) of children from kindergarten through third grade. This program, with a curriculum led by certified teachers is supplemented with hired high-school age tutors provides specific reading lessons and is implemented in three Immokalee elementary schools.
TIF’s Career Development program exposes students to a variety of career panels, seminars, and industry targeted tours. It assists students with developing individual career plans in order to make life choices with scholarship support. In 2010, through a unique partnership between TIF and the Fites Family Charitable Trust, Kelly Tractor, and Caterpillar Foundation, a new training program for Heavy Equipment Mechanics began at iTECH in Immokalee. This partnership funds this program and it leads to graduates gaining high-wage earning employment.
Additionally, all TIF’s students on a post-secondary path are tracked with mentoring support to ensure graduation through the College Success program.
• 100% of the students who participate in TIF graduate from high school.
• 97% of the students who graduate high school go on to a college or vocational post-secondary path.
• Approximately 75% of the students that go on to college or postsecondary education graduate.
• 100% of the students enrolled in Immokalee Readers program have measureable gains, with majority reaching grade level.
The above results have been achieved through hard work and dedication but also through crucial partnerships. Among those are the Collier County School District, principals, teachers, and parents.
Don Gunther, TIF’s chairmen, stated, “TIF has a focused, data driven outcome oriented approach in its programs. Each initiative continues to build on the success from previous years and continues to advance the strategic path for the children of Immokalee.”
TIF’s success could not have come without its crucial supporters. Approximately 97% of all donations are from individual donors and corporate sponsorships. Every person, family, and organization that supports TIF plays an essential role not only on the foundation’s prosperity, but in the academic success of the children of Immokalee. An emeritus board member, George Franks stated at TIF’s facility grand opening, “This touches you in a deeper place. I became aware that I am part of a bigger plan.”
For more information contact The Immokalee Foundation at 239.430.9122, or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.