NAPLES — The Immokalee Foundation’s Class of 2023 is comprised of 40 members of Immokalee High School’s (IHS) 400-member graduating class who followed the Foundation’s education-enhancing Career Pathways Program.
The award-winning curriculum offers new pathways to success and financial independence through afterschool programming that prepares students for well-paying, in-demand professional careers in Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management and Healthcare.
The Immokalee Foundation’s impact on the IHS Class of 2023 is significant. Ten percent of this year’s IHS graduating class participated in Foundation activities; however, five of the 10 highest-ranking IHS graduates were Foundation students, with a total of nine landing in the Top 20.
“Year after year, I continue to be in awe of the talent, initiative and drive of The Immokalee Foundation’s students—and this year’s class is no different,” said Noemi Y. Perez, President and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “As we look toward the future, we hope to have the resources to expand our programs to include even more of Immokalee’s extraordinary young people.”
Foundation student and IHS Valedictorian Yuridia Calihua-Panzo plans to attend the University of Florida this Fall. Her professional goal combines her love of science and respect for service. As a pediatric neurologist, she hopes to one day research and discover new treatments for neurological disorders like Cerebral Palsy.
“The Immokalee Foundation has changed my life by giving me life-changing opportunities,” said Calihua-Panzo. “They arranged for me to intern at Physicians Regional Healthcare System, allowing me to shadow various medical professionals. I was even able to see a neurosurgeon perform a spinal fusion. I am so grateful for The Immokalee Foundation’s guidance and support throughout. I am equally happy they will continue supporting us through college.“
Most of the Foundation’s high school graduates will attend a college or university in Florida with their eyes on careers that include civil engineering, criminal justice, nursing, marketing and education. Some will pursue a military career, while others will follow a professional path at Immokalee Technical College (iTECH).
The Class of 2023 represents a continuation of The Immokalee Foundation’s long history of academic success. One hundred percent of the Foundation’s students have graduated from high school, 100 percent have a postsecondary plan to pursue a professional career, and 93 percent graduate with a postsecondary certificate or degree, with the majority of them getting a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Education & Human Services Pathway student Ivan Gonzalez, who plans to join the U.S. Air Force, joined The Immokalee Foundation in 8th grade. “The Immokalee Foundation has been there for me all along,” said Gonzalez. “My internship last year at Naples Aviation Center exposed me even more to aviation life and strengthened my desire to join the Air Force.”
Ted G. Blanchard, an Engineering & Construction Management Pathway student, will attend Loras College. “The most beneficial aspect of The Immokalee Foundation is how they help you be more independent and more accountable to yourself.”
Healthcare Pathway student Ariana Lugo-Trejo, a Foundation student since 7th grade, plans to attend Florida State University. “The Immokalee Foundation provided the support and structure I needed to be successful in high school,” she said. “They taught me how powerful education can be.”
When asked what she would tell others on the fence about applying to the Foundation, Ariana replied, “Take the opportunity that you’re scared to take; it may be the one that will change your life. The Immokalee Foundation opened so many doors for me. Now it’s my job to go through them.”
For over 31 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. For additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.