Fifteen years ago, when I began as a student advocate at The Immokalee Foundation, I could not have imagined the expansion of student services that lie ahead—and would continue to be our hallmark for years to come.
This success is thanks to the collective of selfless supporters throughout the years who have helped change the narrative for thousands of young lives — from “I wish” to “I will.”
After thoroughly exploring career options in middle school, Foundation students immerse themselves in one of four Career Pathways in high school. These include Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management or HealthCare.
I recently had the honor of hearing four students speak at our annual Charity Classic Gala. With their passions and dreams on full display, I found myself thinking about the 31 years of dedicated Donors and supporters who had made it all possible.
This quartet of remarkable Career Pathways students was a shining example of a successful program that didn’t even exist four years ago—a reminder of how far innovation and creative thinking can and will take us in the years ahead.
For example, 15-year-old Lionisia Calmo follows our Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway. She dreams of attending Florida State University, majoring in business, and becoming an operations manager.
Lionisia spoke of participating in WHAT’S YOUR PITCH—The Immokalee Foundation’s annual Shark-Tank-themed event.
“My pathway teaches me what it takes to start a business—but I now understand what it means to create goals and the effort it takes to achieve them.”
Next, we heard from future attorney Kevin Luis Hernandez, a high school sophomore who joined The Immokalee Foundation in 2018. He follows the Education & Human Services Pathways curriculum. Kevin shared that he will have five certifications from the Florida Department of Children and Families by the time he graduates high school. These credentials will not only help Kevin secure a job and/or receive scholarships, but they assure that he will stand out in a crowded field of college hopefuls.
Liliana Salazar-Juarez, a proud member of the Class of 2023, joined The Immokalee Foundation in 2016 and is now an active part of our Healthcare Pathway.
Liliana spoke with gratitude about her life-changing internship at Physicians Regional Healthcare System. Hands-on experience at this level is often reserved for postsecondary students; however, Liliana and ten other Foundation interns were provided the opportunity as rising high school seniors.
And finally, there’s Daniel Trejo Garcia—who wisely joined The Immokalee Foundation in middle school. When the Foundation launched the Career Pathways program in 2019, Daniel jumped at the chance to be part of the Engineering and Construction Management Pathway. In fact, Daniel was a critical part of the team that built the first house at The Learning Lab, our 18-home subdivision in Immokalee that teams industry professionals with career-minded students.
A sophomore in the Construction Management program at Florida Gulf Coast University, Daniel works part-time as an estimator for BCB Homes who is partnering with us at The Learning Lab.
I congratulate these four extraordinary student role models who, through perseverance and commitment, are changing the world one Dream at a time.
As Daniel so appropriately stated, “Education and income are such a great combination!”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am still here, cheering for the very deserving students of my beloved hometown of Immokalee …and you.
About The Immokalee Foundation
For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has been preparing the next generation of leaders through a 100% focus on education, career readiness, and professional development for students in Immokalee—from kindergarten to postsecondary education. 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 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.