by Steve and Cathy O’Brien
Embodying the determination that founded America, two local students are living proof that choice, commitment and connection are essential to fulfilling their dreams.
These principles resonate through The Immokalee Foundation, fostering opportunities for students determined to live their best lives through its programs and support.
Parents who sought a better life in the United States and encouraged their children to partner with The Immokalee Foundation and commit to achieving their highest levels of success. This connection underwrites and helps rewrite their children’s career pathways.
We are pleased to share the stories of two of The Immokalee Foundation’s students who are making their dreams a reality.
Maria Espinoza: Exemplifying Extraordinary Growth
Imagine growing up as the youngest of seven children. Now, imagine your parents are migrant farmworkers who brought their family to America from Mexico seeking a better life through education and opportunity. That was Maria Espinoza’s beginning.
Born in South Carolina, Espinoza witnessed the toil and struggles her parents endured as they guided their children toward better beginnings than they had. When the children’s school year ended, the family began its annual migration, seeking work in South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida.
In 2003, Immokalee became the family’s home base. And in seventh grade, Espinoza was introduced to The Immokalee Foundation by a teacher who recognized her potential.
Espinoza applied to The Immokalee Foundation because she recognized it as “a support system for students who wanted to attend college but came from difficult backgrounds and needed guidance,” adding, “I have learned the importance of perseverance and always pushing myself to reach for grander goals.”
Now 21, Espinoza is a senior at the University of Florida and has her professional sights set on the legal profession. Following graduation, she hopes to work in Washington, D.C., ultimately helping organizations with labor and immigration public policies.
Alex Sanon: MVP in More Ways than One
Imagine this: His day starts at 4 a.m., when his parents go to their construction and hospitality jobs. By 5 a.m., Alex Sanon is up and getting his younger siblings ready for school. The day is his after that, filled with school, track practice, and volunteering in the community.
As a participant in The Immokalee Foundation’s scholarship program, Sanon dives into Achieve 3000 (an online reading platform that helps improve FSA reading test scores) as he also works to improve his ACT and SAT scores.
The Achieve 3000 online reading platform is individually tailored and tracks each student’s Lexile score – which measures reading comprehension skills – to monitor improvement over time.
Imagine now that Sanon, an Immokalee High School senior who runs track and plays golf and lacrosse, came to the United States from Haiti just over 10 years ago, speaking only Creole and a bit of French. In four months, he mastered beginning English and then volunteered at Immokalee Middle School, counseling students in homework and team sports for many years.
Because of his involvement with The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program, Sanon now aspires to a livelihood as a physical therapist – encouraged by his dream of running track in the Olympics.
With the direct support of The Immokalee Foundation, Espinoza and Sanon are exploring their possibilities and are on the right path to realizing their dreams.
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. Steve and Cathy O’Brien, supporters of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at email@example.com.