NAPLES — On Friday, Jan. 14, The Immokalee Foundation hosted a private event to recognize the outstanding impact their Career Pathways Program continues to have on the students of Immokalee. The Career Pathways Celebration was hosted at The Foundation’s Learning Lab, a hands-on professional training hub for two of the four Foundation Career Pathway Programs, and home to a future 18-home subdivision in the heart of Immokalee, built by Foundation students under supervision from professionals from BCB Homes and highly-skilled sub-contractors.
The Career Pathways Celebration honored the transformation seen in students participating in the Career Pathways Program as well as the community partners, sponsors and underwriters who have made The Career Pathways Learning Lab possible.
“The expansion of our programs is a natural evolution of what today’s job markets are seeking: motivated, well-educated, and well-trained young adults who understand the importance of an education regardless of the career path that they choose,” said Jerry Belle, Chairman of the Board for The Immokalee Foundation.
The Foundation’s innovative 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 Learning Lab construction project is a high-profile project primarily benefiting students participating in the Engineering & Construction Management Pathway.
“The Career Pathways program speaks to how career technical certifications can benefit both workforce and college-bound students,” said Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools, Dr. Kamela Patton. “But most importantly, the Foundation addresses the positive effect that hands-on experience and internships can have on a students’ future employability. I commend The Immokalee Foundation for their foresight into not only the educational needs of the students in Immokalee, but also the workforce development needs of Southwest Florida.”
The Celebration event featured tours of homes being constructed at The Learning Lab, opportunities to meet current Foundation students to learn about the experiences of students in each pathway, a cocktail hour to mingle with donors and community members, and a presentation from The Foundation recognizing all the contributions from sponsors and community partners.
“We decided to build a community with The Immokalee Foundation,” said Greg Brisson, President of BCB Homes. “One of our clients about four years ago had a vision for empowering young people in the community to get into the construction industry. He was on the board of The Immokalee Foundation and reached out and asked us if we could develop a program. And we jumped at the opportunity.”
”Home construction is a major growth industry in Southwest Florida and on-the-job training at a new home construction site is critical for our students to complete construction certifications,” said Noemi Y. Perez, President and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “However, it is commercially and logistically impractical to find internships at existing residential construction sites. The Career Pathways Learning Lab—our 18-home new-construction subdivision through a partnership with BCB Homes is how we solved that problem.”
Therese O’Shea, WINK’s news and traffic anchor, served as the evening’s spirited emcee. The presentation featured speakers including Noemi Y. Perez, President and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation; Dr. Kamela Patton, Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools; Greg Brisson, President of BCB Homes; Patrick Utter, Senior Vice President of Real Estate for Collier Enterprises; Jerry Belle, Chairman of the Board for The Immokalee Foundation; and Daniel Trejo-Garcia, an Immokalee Foundation student in the Engineering & Construction Management Pathway.
Also in attendance were David Corban from David Corban Architects; Collier County Commissioner, Bill McDaniel; Collier County Public Schools Board Member, Roy Terry; John Cooney of Stofft Cooney Architects; Vice President and Vice Provost of Strategy and Program Innovation at Florida Gulf Coast University, Dr. Aysegul Timur; members from the offices of Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart; and representatives from Gulfshore Business and the Collier County Government.
Students in the Business Management & Entrepreneurship and Engineering and Construction Management pathways are able to utilize The Learning Lab for hands-on learning throughout their program.
“I helped build the first house in the subdivision,” said Daniel Trejo-Garcia, an Immokalee Foundation student and one of the first participants in The Career Pathways Learning Lab. “I did everything from digging the foundation, to installing and leak testing the windows, to planting the landscaping. That experience guided me to apply to Florida Gulf Coast University, where I am now attending their Construction Management program—The Immokalee Foundation and the Learning Lab really helped me find my calling.”
The Career Pathways Learning Lab is made possible through collaboration and the generous contributions of community partners such as BCB Homes—who have donated over $350,000 in in-kind contributions to date, Collier Enterprises—who donated the land for the Learning Lab, Collier County Commissioners—who donated a $500,000 workforce development grant, Collier County Public Schools, Immokalee Technical College (iTECH), and many others who have donated time and resources to make the project a reality.
The construction of the homes is in the process of being underwritten, with six homes sponsored to date through the generosity of Patricia & Donald Altorfer, The Community Foundation of Collier County, Karen Hendricks, Barbara & Dale Morrison, Louise Penta, and The Wasie Foundation. For additional details on sponsorship and underwriting opportunities with The Immokalee Foundation, please contact Marie Rubenstein, Director of Philanthropy at (239) 430-9122 or Marie.Rubenstein@ImmokaleeFoundation.org