Collier County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kamela Patton, right, with iTECH Principal Dorin Oxender. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)
Everyone aspires to providing a good education for their children and often for themselves. For years Immokalee Technical Center has offered life-changing educations for thousands of students of all ages. It has opened the door to good paying jobs and even careers that do not require four-years of study. On August 19 both Collier County’s technical centers, iTECH and Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology, officially changed their names, but not their mission. Henceforth, they will be known as technology colleges. The name change is intended to “increase awareness, interest, and enrollment by more clearly defining to the general public the postsecondary nature of adult technical education programs offered by school districts.” iTECH Principal Dorin Oxender kicked off the announcement saying that it was a long time coming. He said iTECH is not the old tech school of generations ago. The school district expects that school will benefit from the name change like those in Georgia did. When technical schools changed their names to colleges there, registration went up nine percent overnight. “In all essence,” Mr. Oxender said, “We are a college,” adding that the name is more representative of who they are and what they do today. Collier County Superintendent of Schools Kamela Patton took the time to thank the school district’s partners, district staff and county government. She noted that the project benefited from unsolicited letters of support from the school’s business partners, local Rotarians, faculty, students and parents. “It’s a new mind set for people,” she noted, that will boost enrollment, provide more skilled workers with careers and ultimately improve the economic development.
Practical Nursing students Celia Salazar, Alana Moreno, Elizabet Gonzalez and Kaelee Rimes are just taking the first steps to their dream career. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)
School board member Roy Terry, a number of local Rotarians, school partners and the public attended. As an Immokalee native who has struggled to become successful, Bernardo Barnhardt added a few comments. A bank vice president and chamber of commerce official, he explained succinctly what a resource like iTECH means to the community. “It means freedom . . . I know the struggle,” he added, “and this is a diamond for our town.” iTECH Technical College offers courses of interest to many people with different interests including Computer and Business, Personal and Human Services, Health and GED. Students from various disciplines manned tables representing their fields of study, answering questions for the public. Members of the medical coding have just three months left in their 18-month program. Currently, they are interning at Marion E. Fether Clinic and in September they will continue internships with Health Care Network in Naples before graduating in October. Nelson Torres said the course teaches you to follow regulations on privacy and confidentiality issues in addition to regulations for private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. With this course, you can work in medical coding anywhere in the country. Jobs are available in many medical areas such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, clinics and so on. iTECH also helps graduates find jobs in the field. This is Instructor Donna Jolly’s third year at iTECH, teaching the program she started. She said this class has learned both the old codes and the new, more specific codes, giving them a broader range of job placement. Her course also covers constantly changing coding phases including new electronics and Obamacare. Brand new LPN students at the event were only in their third day of their course. They learn the basics of nursing including anatomy, phlebotomy, giving IVs and pharmacology.
Medical coding: from left: Medical coding students Jacqueline Victoria, Vanessa Ortiz, Nelson Torres, Celia Resendiz and Adriana Torres are preparing to step out of school and into their careers. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)
Once graduated, they will also be able to find jobs in most any area of the medical field. Andrew Lebrun is a second year student in heavy equipment mechanics. He has a background of 8 years in automotive mechanics, sales and management and is looking to expand his horizons in the field he loves. The course prepares students to work in the trucking industry and in the mechanics side of construction, diesel and marine engines. Students intern with sponsor businesses during the summer months. Andrew is building on his automotive experience, getting an in-depth understanding of engines on a much bigger scale with more components and systems. Andrew is from the Republic of Panama but has worked in Virginia and on the East Coast of Florida. He said he found iTECH on CAT’s website and liked what he saw there. He interned at Ring Power in Jacksonville where he hopes to be hired after he graduates. He said he would definitely recommend iTECH to anyone with a strong interest in heavy equipment and the passion to broaden their horizons. Automotive student Ernest Salazar admits that he loves to get his hands dirty. He has a passion for working on motors, taking pride in finding and fixing problems. He has found that iTECH has a good program that covers everything an auto mechanic needs. When he graduates he said he will be able to find good jobs in dealerships and all types of mechanic shops, but he dreams of working for Chevy. His entire family is made up of Chevy fanatics, he points out. New automotive graduates receive a tool box and all graduates earn certificates that allow them to enter the field they love with knowledge and confidence.
Heavy equipment student Andrew Lebrun is building on his knowledge of automotive mechanics. (Patty Brant/Immokalee Bulletin)