NAPLES – The Immokalee Foundation recently recognized 88 graduates – 55 students enrolled in its programs from high school and 33 from colleges and universities – during an evening of celebration at Ave Maria University.
Many of the high school graduates will begin college this fall with a Take Stock in Children scholarship, which accepts students beginning in seventh grade. In exchange for maintaining good grades and behavior, meeting regularly with mentors, and performing community service, Take Stock students earn scholarships to a Florida public college or university.
Melanie Gomez-Trejo is one of those students. She plans to study dentistry and will begin by attending Santa Fe College in Gainesville. In addition to Take Stock, Gomez-Trejo participated in the foundation’s Career Development program.
Immokalee High School Valedictorian Christian Soriano-Reyes also participated in Career Development. He finished high school with a 5.2 GPA and will attend Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania.
Celina Baltazar plans to attend Florida SouthWestern State College for two years to earn an associate’s degree in nursing. She has been an Immokalee Readers tutor for two years, helping second-grade students enhance their reading skills.
Nine of the high school students graduated from iTECH’s Heavy Equipment Service Technician program, where graduates can move immediately into high-paying jobs.
At the graduation ceremony, the featured speaker was Jesus Abarca Jr., alumnus of The Immokalee Foundation.
While attending school in Immokalee, Abarca moved every summer with his family of migrant farmworkers, whose livelihoods depend on various crop seasons in different areas of the country. Abarca became involved with The Immokalee Foundation in middle school and, as a Take Stock scholar, was the first in his family to graduate not only from high school, but also from college.
Students’ families, mentors, and The Immokalee Foundation staff were also in attendance to celebrate their accomplishments.
“I encourage you to push forward and use the talents and knowledge you have gained, for it is what you do next with it that makes a difference,” Noemi Perez, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, told the graduates.
“Strive for excellence in every task, large or small – we know you are capable of great things,” said Steve Pryor, foundation board chairman.
The Immokalee Foundation has introduced a new, groundbreaking curriculum supporting “Professional Careers in the New Economy.” The programming begins in middle school and introduces students to career pathways that lead to employment in high-demand jobs in Southwest Florida. These jobs may require professional certifications and credentials, while others require two- and four-year college degrees. The four general pathways are Engineering and Construction Management, Healthcare, Business Management, and Education and Human Services.
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, becoming a mentor, its signature events, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit https://immokaleefoundation.org.