When I Grow Up…

Kelly Garcia

by Noemi Y. Perez

Kelly Garcia has big dreams for her future: The Immokalee eighth grader is interested in a medical career, either working with people or animals. But as a young student in the small town of Immokalee where resources are scarce, Garcia knows it will take determination, commitment and assistance from others to achieve her goals.

“My role models are the people who achieve their dreams no matter the obstacles they face,” said Garcia. “You can’t give up. You have to keep on trying.”

Garcia’s determination, combined with her participation in The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program, will help her reach her professional goals.

“I joined The Immokalee Foundation because I heard from other students that the foundation offers a lot of support for its students,” said the 13-year-old. “I hope to learn many different things and receive help for my future career in health care.”

The innovative Career Pathways program offers a broad curriculum for Immokalee middle and high school students to place them on pathways to well-paying, in-demand careers in Southwest Florida in four employment sectors: Engineering and Construction Management, Education and Human Services, Health Care, and Business Management and Entrepreneurship.

The Immokalee Foundation welcomed 61 new students in grades six through nine into the Career Pathways program in 2020. Each year, the foundation opens enrollment in the program to motivated Immokalee students, with recruitment starting in April.

Due to COVID-19, recruitment for 2020 took place online instead of in-person, with The Immokalee Foundation receiving 106 applications from Immokalee-based students interested in joining the program.

The Immokalee Foundation – Building Pathways to Success for the Children of Immokalee

To join Career Pathways, students must have good attendance, exemplary behavior in and out of school, a positive attitude, and at least a 2.5 GPA. They must also be enrolled in Collier County Public Schools, commit to being drug-free, and complete all program requirements.

Following the virtual interviews, the foundation’s student selection committee– made up of members of the community – selected students to fill the open slots in each grade.

Career Pathways students learn about career options through six-week rotations focused on the four industry sectors. Once students select their career path, the foundation’s program team helps them plan their high school years to ensure they obtain the needed education, training, certifications, and internships to prepare for their desired future jobs.

“The Career Pathways program has so many components and offers students a variety of excellent opportunities,” said Yaresly Gorosquieta, after school program manager for The Immokalee Foundation. “We ensure that we’re building a literal pathway to success and preparing students for the career they want to pursue.”

To help students like Garcia succeed, please consider purchasing needed supplies from The Immokalee Foundation’s Amazon Wish List at middleschool.immokaleefoundation.org, including blood pressure and pulse monitors, arts and crafts kits, flash drives and school supplies. It’s a small way to make a big impact.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, 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 www.immokaleefoundation.org. Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at noemi.perez@immokaleefoundation.org.

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