Safety in Numbers is a Powerful Thing

Feeling Safe Is A Basic Human Need.

NOEMI Y. PEREZ, President & CEO, The Immokalee Foundation

by Noemi Y. Perez, President and CEO

Though I have heard the saying “safety in numbers” many times, I have recently begun to appreciate its meaning on a deeper level. After all, feeling safe is a basic human need.

For most in Southwest Florida, safety is a given: food, housing, and financial security, for example. For Immokalee, a primarily migrant farming community just 35 miles east of downtown Naples, the outlook is quite different.

Our children and their families are struggling with poverty, food insecurity, lack of education, and little hope for a better life.

The poverty rate in Immokalee is 32%—one out of every three residents lives in poverty. Tragically, the poverty rate for children is even higher, with 97% qualifying for Free and Reduced Price Lunch according to the USDA eligibility guidelines.

Jenesis Saunders
James Saunders
Jaelyn Saunders

At The Immokalee Foundation, numbers are powerful. To begin, we have supported over 13,000 students in our 31 year history. Our mission is to prepare the next generation of leaders through a 100% focus on education, career readiness, and professional development for Immokalee’s best and brightest.

Sixty of our high school students currently work as tutors for 790 of our elementary school students. Additionally, 162 middle school students and 174 high school students participate in our award-winning Career Pathways Program focused on careers in Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Healthcare. Finally, we have 232 students in our postsecondary program who are steps away from making their mark on Southwest Florida’s economy.

At The Immokalee Foundation, we talk a lot about the importance of family. Our culture dictates a wide-ranging respect for our immediate families and those whose company we value. The Immokalee Foundation supports 148 sibling groups—brothers and sisters from kindergarten through postsecondary education—enthusiastically preparing to live the dream of career and financial independence.

Now, meet the Sanders siblings, Jaelyn, Jenesis and James. All three are Immokalee Foundation students following diverse pathways to future success in education, healthcare, and human services.

Our students may come from one of the most economically vulnerable communities in Southwest Florida; however, for The Immokalee Foundation, “safety” is found in the number of residents who consistently support these remarkable young people through their volunteerism and donations.

More and more, that feeling of safety extends outside of Immokalee and into the rest of Southwest Florida, where you can feel secure in knowing that Southwest Florida’s future leaders are on their way!

Imagine a future with Jaelyn teaching your grandchildren, Jenesis healing your aches and pains through skilled physical therapy, or James offering you or a loved one much-needed legal support. Now, imagine life without them — a world devoid of their education, experience, and the compassion they learned from you.

Marisol, their mother, says it best: “The Immokalee Foundation has brought hope to children, families, and the Immokalee community. It provides an outlet where parents can ask questions, become educated in the child’s future, and share in their children’s successes.”

And the number of students, siblings, families, and future leaders we can help without the good people of Southwest Florida? Zero.

Please let me end by saying thank you to every person who will support our mission in 2023. At The Immokalee Foundation, “safety in numbers” starts with all of you. And we know we can count on you, too!

About The Immokalee Foundation

The Foundation provides new pathways to success and financial independence through robust programming that prepares students for well-paying, in-demand professional careers. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, become a mentor, signature events, volunteer as a career panel speaker or host, donate, or include the Foundation in your estate plans, please call 239.430.9122

For additional information visit

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