by Steven Kissinger
Jhulfrance Joseph, a 21-year-old freshman at Florida SouthWestern State College, says she was aware that her college experience would require a lot of dedication and determination: After all, there was a time when she couldn’t see herself making it here at all.
When she graduated from Immokalee High School in 2013, she was unable to pass the ACT and FCAT, so she didn’t receive a standard high school diploma. Joseph was devastated and lost any hope of going to college. With no money and no job, things for Joseph seemed bleak.
She first reached out to Barbara Van Essen with the Girl Scouts of Southwest Florida. Van Essen helped her deal with everything she was going through, even assisting her in enrolling at the Immokalee Technical Center, known as iTech, so she could begin taking classes to earn her GED.
While she enjoyed iTech, Joseph admits she was impatient. She was anxious to receive her GED so she could move forward with her life. As a junior in high school, she had become involved with The Immokalee Foundation, first as a tutor in the Immokalee Readers program and then by joining the Career Development program her senior year.
Through the CDP, students enhance the professional skills necessary to become confident, productive and successful citizens. CDP guides them through the process of career goal-setting and attainment, bringing together outstanding career development services, best practices, educational career panels, job shadowing and internships. The program also provides tuition and scholarships, arranges job shadowing/internship and apprenticeship positions, evaluates students’ career interest inventories, and provides opportunities to attend career fairs.
Joseph approached Elda Hernandez, TIF’s Career Development program manager. “I told her I wanted to get my GED faster,” said Joseph. “She searched and found a program at Michigan State University that helps students like me.”
TIF not only paid for Joseph to attend MSU, but Hernandez also helped prepare her for a new environment and different weather. “I was so thankful TIF gave me the opportunity to experience something out of my comfort zone. I was there less than a month, and once I received my GED, I started to see a new future for myself. It gave me hope.”
Now, in her first year of college, she remembers the excitement and eagerness of wanting to have a better education and success. But, she recognizes it is certainly different, and more difficult, than high school. For instance, college requires more preparation for the material that is given by the professors. “An academic challenge I faced is time management,” Joseph explained.
“It was difficult to accomplish two to four hours of reading and preparation for the entire course. When I did not have a job, the extra time was extremely beneficial because I would have all my assignments completed. However, now that I have a job, managing my time wisely is my first priority. I work to overcome my academic challenges by working on making them into strong attributes.”
As for her future, it is definitely bright. Joseph has known since high school – when TIF provided her with the opportunity to shadow nurses and doctors – that she wanted to be an obstetrician/gynecologist. She is grateful for TIF’s part in helping her on the path toward achieving her goals.
“Everyone at TIF is friendly and they care about you,” Joseph said. “They want you to succeed. They’ve taught me to be stronger for myself and my education.”
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development leading to economic independence.
To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.
Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org