NAPLES – It’s the time of year when local students would typically be marking major milestones – most notably, the cherished experience of high school graduation. Rather than celebrate together at a ceremony punctuated by tosses of their mortarboards, the class of 2020 has finished out their high school careers at home and will settle for virtual graduation ceremonies without their friends by their sides.
In a nod to the difficulty of this unexpected change in plans, high school seniors involved with The Immokalee Foundation are receiving special words of support from the Gartner team in Fort Myers. Employees at the research and advisory company volunteered to write letters of encouragement for foundation students who are graduating from high school this month – and setting course for the next phase of their educational and career journeys.
This is a time of great uncertainty for our students and their families,” said Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “An inspiring and uplifting letter or card from a valued and experienced member of the local workforce offers the students hope and a sense that their plans for the future will continue on course.”
Laura Medrado, chair of volunteer events for the Women at Gartner - Fort Myers, coordinated the letter-writing effort. Employees had been looking for ways they could volunteer and support their community, while still practicing social distancing.
“As part of the mission of Women at Gartner - Fort Myers, we strive to be strong advocates of our local Southwest Florida community,” said Medrado. “During the current challenging times in our society, we are proud to partner with The Immokalee Foundation by writing letters of encouragement to high school seniors to help them finish the year strong and have a positive outlook as they embark upon their futures. It was inspiring to see the great response from our associates in this initiative.”
Twenty Gartner associates penned letters to foundation seniors, which were delivered via email to The Immokalee Foundation and then received by students in their foundation email accounts. Foundation staff worked with the Gartner team to illustrate the inspiring impact these letters would have on local high school seniors.
Students have spent years in The Immokalee Foundation’s groundbreaking program, Career Pathways: Empowering Students to Succeed, learning about local career opportunities and the post-secondary certifications or degrees needed to obtain them. “They’ve chosen their desired career paths and worked extremely hard to make them a reality,” said Perez. “Receiving encouragement from employees at Gartner will help inspire them to continue on their journeys, especially amid all the challenges and anxiety everyone is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In her letter, Natasha Summers, a credit manager at Gartner, talked about how choosing to go to college was “the best thing” for her. She also encouraged her student to use these unique times for self-exploration.
“Take some time to yourself to enjoy life right now, make some mistakes, make new friends, travel on pennies, and figure out what you really want to do in your life,” Summers wrote.
Gartner’s employees are now looking forward to continuing this partnership with The Immokalee Foundation and working with students even after the pandemic has passed. The foundation knows how valuable this connection to the area’s real-life workforce will be for its students – both for those graduating from high school in 2020 and those who are at earlier points in their educational careers.
“The letter-writing campaign offered an engaging activity that allowed our students and their families to feel supported and acknowledged during this time of uncertainty – and reinforced Gartner’s commitment to our post-secondary educational goals,” said Barbara Hawkes, career advancement manager for The Immokalee Foundation. “Gartner’s dedication and attentiveness to this task and to the success of our students is appreciated by the foundation as well as the community of Immokalee. We look forward to Gartner staff partnering with us on future projects and programs as we move forward in the upcoming academic year.”
To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, call 239-430-9122 or visit https://immokaleefoundation.org.