NAPLES — The Immokalee Foundation held its First Annual CEO Leadership Summit which featured a networking hour and a speaker’s panel of business leaders representing industries including healthcare, architecture, law, construction, hospitality and more.
The event was created as a way to celebrate The Foundation’s graduating class with a special event that inspires and motivates the emerging young professionals as they prepare to enter the workforce, pursue a college degree or attend a technical program.
“The CEO Leadership Summit gave our students the undivided attention of some of the most successful leaders of Southwest Florida,” said Marie Rubenstein, Vice President of Philanthropy for The Immokalee Foundation. “I am so thankful to all the speakers for sharing their stories and inspiring journeys with our students. Their words of wisdom will follow our students as they move onto this next chapter of their lives.”
The CEO Leadership Summit’s speaker panel was emceed by WINK News’ Corey Lazar and featured Ryan D. Carter, President of Scotlynn USA Division; David Corban, President of David Corban Architects, PLLC; Scott Lowe, Market CEO of Physicians Regional Healthcare System; Gail Markham, Founder of Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co., P.A.; Brian Rist, Chairman of Rist Family Foundation and former CEO of the Smart Companies; Michael Wynn, President of Sunshine Ace Hardware and Chairman of Wynn Family Companies; and Sandra Stilwell Youngquist, CEO of Stilwell Enterprises and Restaurant Group.
“These students have taught me so much about The Immokalee Foundation and the impact it has on them and the community,” said Michael Wynn, President of Sunshine Ace Hardware and Chairman of Wynn Family Companies. “These students are on an incredible career path that can be transformational to them and their families. I hope that one of the key messages from this event is that hard work does pay off. If you are relentless in your pursuit of excellence, you can accomplish incredible things in life.”
The advice for aspiring leaders given by the seven business panelists all shared similar themes: stay focused, be relentless, communicate effectively, hold yourself accountable, be willing to change, get an education and find your passion and follow it.
“This event expanded my horizons. In the long-term, it’s going to be very beneficial for Foundation students,” said Eloy Anzualda III, an Immokalee Foundation senior who plans on attending the University of Florida in the fall to pursue a degree in marine biology. “I was impressed by the diversity of the panel. They came from different backgrounds and had such different passions. They inspired us by sharing their success stories—the hardships that they faced and what they accomplished. It’s so encouraging to somebody like me who’s just getting started.”
Because of The Immokalee Foundation’s innovative Career Pathways Program, many of the high school juniors and seniors in attendance already have a plan for a professional career after graduation. The Career Pathways Program offers after-school and summer programs to prepare Foundation students for a variety of in-demand careers throughout Southwest Florida. The pathways include Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Healthcare.
“The students’ energy was so high, and their professionalism grew so much. Their mannerisms and the way they dressed was so professional, said Brian Rist, Chairman of Rist Family Foundation and former President & CEO of The Smart Companies. “When you see these kids start to break the cycle of where they came from—and all the tough things they’ve been through—I don’t know why everybody isn’t part of The Immokalee Foundation.”
For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has maintained a 100% focus on education, career readiness and professional development for students in Immokalee—from kindergarten to postsecondary education. Through support, mentoring, tutoring, and life skills development, The Immokalee Foundation provides pathways to success for those who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to succeed. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation and their transformational work, please visit ImmokaleeFoundation.org or call call 239-430-9122.