The Immokalee Foundation has been committed to empowering Immokalee’s children through dynamic programs focused on education, vocation and life skills for more than 20 years. The foundation works with kids to develop a plan that nurtures his or her development as a student, citizen and future professional. From early reading, scholarship and mentoring programs, including leadership development courses, life skills training, college readiness, career exploration and development, internships, field trips and more, TIF is helping students pave their path to personal and professional success.
Helping students prepare for life after high school is an important part of TIF’s mission. In Immokalee, many high school graduates do not enroll in post-secondary training or college, often because they don’t realize the opportunities available to them with just a little more training. The goal is to change that. TIF’s career development program aims to increase awareness of the endless career choices. By providing students with the proper tools and knowledge, they can realistically plan their future and dream bigger than they’d ever imagined.
Education does not always mean a four-year college degree. Students may plan to attend a technical school, state college, join the military or go directly into work. Whatever their choice, the foundation’s goal is to prepare them to succeed. That means providing them with vocational and on-the-job training, career panels, resume writing, interview training, networking and summer internships with area businesses – experiences that emphasize leadership, skills development and community service.
Career panels make a particular impact on students because it provides a peek at what life is like in the real world. The panels feature local speakers in a wide variety of careers including technology, law, media, human services, health care, hospitality and manufacturing. The professionals are asked to volunteer approximately two hours of their time to talk and interact with 30 to 50 high school students. By enhancing student interaction, the panel format creates an informal, respectful discussion venue where students are encouraged to ask questions and take advice from experts in many career fields.
This interaction benefits the teens by helping them understand what it takes to prepare for a specific career and the various opportunities available within a specific industry. The panelists frequently share personal stories about their educational background and challenges they may have encountered in achieving their goals, often giving hope to students learning to overcome adversity of their own. Plus, the professionals serve as an important reminder that adults in the community care and want them to flourish.
It is with the unwavering support of individuals, area companies, organizations and professionals throughout the community that TIF is able to offer students a glimpse of life outside of Immokalee. For example, in December, The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, hosted a career panel for TIF students. Students were given a tour of the facilities – from reception to catering to housekeeping and everything in between – then had the opportunity to listen to and engage with panelists, all of whom are employed in various positions at The Ritz. Like all of the foundation’s career panels, it was a terrific opportunity to see firsthand the scope of career opportunities.
An upcoming panel will be hosted at Waterside Shops in Naples, plus, on March 31, Shula’s at the Hilton, Naples, will host an etiquette luncheon and networking reception to help students develop their skills.
Volunteer and job shadow positions are often garnered through the panels, providing real world experience to students. They not only learn about a particular career field, but they learn more about themselves; what they like and what they don’t. The TIF students gain confidence in discovering their own passions and talents. Perhaps most importantly, they feel empowered and inspired – a crucial step in preparing for life after graduation.
The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary training, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences, life skills development and economic independence. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.