by Steven Kissinger
Julio Estrella was a junior at Immokalee High School when he became involved with The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Development program. Through vocational courses and internships arranged by the foundation, he had learned a valuable trade and found work as an electrician by the end of his senior year.
Estrella’s experience demonstrates only one of the ways generous supporters at The Immokalee Foundation’s recent Pro-Am golf tournament and Charity Classic Celebration gala brighten the futures of Immokalee students. The events raised more than $1.75 million for educational programs, including the foundation’s Career Development and Post-Secondary Success efforts, which helped Estrella.
As it turned out, 2009 was not a good year for electricians in Florida, including Estrella, who found himself without a job.
Estrella found a position in a convenience store and made the best of working outside his field; he was glad to have a job. In his spare time, Estrella continued to volunteer with TIF, helping students still in high school in any way he could. He knew as a student himself how valuable the foundation’s programs and scholarships were. However, it wasn’t until the bump in his career path that he learned the importance of networking and maintaining relationships – including those with the TIF staff, board members and volunteers.
“I stayed in touch with Miss Elda and Miss Noemi,” said Estrella, referring to Elda Hernandez, program services manager, and Noemi Perez, director of program services. “While I was volunteering, Miss Elda found out what had happened, and she just threw the idea out there that maybe I could go back to school at iTech in Immokalee,” Estrella said.
He applied and received a scholarship to iTech, where he learned to operate heavy equipment. Today, Estrella works full-time with Vulcan Materials Company.
Oscar Lugo also became involved in The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Development program while still in high school. When he graduated in 2009, Lugo received a direct scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Today, he designs sites and plans the placement of pipes and other utility equipment for RWA Engineering. “The Immokalee Foundation made all of it possible,” Lugo said. He is the first in his family to go to college; the second to attend is his younger brother, Gerardo, who is a freshman at FGCU.
Sponsors of the 2015 Charity Classic Celebration and Pro-Am were Florida Community Bank, presenting sponsor; Arthrex Inc., partner circle sponsor; Jaguar Naples, Porsche of Naples and Kelly Tractor, education circle sponsors; Naples Illustrated, media sponsor; Huntington Bank, success circle sponsor; and Central Bank, pathways circle sponsor.
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, its signature events, 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 email@example.com.