The Immokalee Foundation receives $10,000 from Suncoast Credit Union Foundation grant

The Immokalee Foundation has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation to provide Career Development program scholarships.

Career Development introduces a broad range of career choices to high school and middle school students through workshops, career panels, internships, and job shadowing opportunities that allow the students to gain exposure to industries and careers outside of agriculture.

The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Development program also provides job and college readiness initiatives to ensure that by graduation, students have the academic knowledge and professional skills needed to succeed in post-secondary education or training for their chosen careers, whether through attendance at a community college, university, technical or vocational program, or an apprenticeship or internship. Critical components of the Career Development workshops include ACT preparation, resume writing, networking skills and financial literacy.

The success of The Immokalee Foundation’s programs speak for themselves: more than 5,000 students have received critical support at no cost to them, and 100 percent of the students enrolled in its programs graduate from high school. Similarly, 100 percent of those high school graduates continue on to a college or vocational post-secondary path, and nearly 90 percent of those post-secondary students have graduated or are on the path to graduation from their institutions of choice.

“Through the Career Development program, the foundation is working to help students discover careers in fields they may not even know are available to them,” said Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation.

The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation has raised and donated over $22 million to help provide a better future for children. For more information, visit www.suncoastcreditunion.com.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a mentor, making a donation, including The Immokalee Foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

The Immokalee Foundation students receive professional support at networking event

Lieutenant Gregory S. Bueno (Florida Highway Patrol) with Jacqueline Perez and Leann Campbell

Lieutenant Gregory S. Bueno (Florida Highway Patrol) with Jacqueline Perez and Leann Campbell

A recent networking reception introduced students in The Immokalee Foundation’s programs to more than 20 Southwest Florida professionals from a variety of career fields. The event, held in the offices of the Community Foundation of Collier County, also gave students practical experience in meeting, greeting and conversing in a business environment.

Thirty Immokalee High School students participated, along with professionals from Collier ACI Worldwide, Arthrex, Barron Collier Cos., BMO Private Wealth Bank, Collier County Medical Society, FineMark Bank, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Highway Patrol, Patrick Neale & Associates, Paychex, PK Studios, Poz-Art, Pulte Homes, Score Naples and Smart Marketing.

Luis Vasquez, an Immokalee High School sophomore and a Take Stock in Children student, attended the reception. “The foundation gathered respected people in their professions, and we were able to talk with them one-on-one for several minutes,” he said. Vasquez also attended a career panel the foundation previously organized, which piqued his interest in biomedical engineering; at the networking event, he connected with representatives from Arthrex, who talked with him about educational requirements and showed him various prostheses manufactured by the company.

“They demonstrated how the prostheses work, described them and how they were useful to people of various ages,” Vasquez said. “It interested me knowing that’s one way to help a person.”

Meeting successful local adults helps The Immokalee Foundation students learn how to interact among professionals, such as Dr. Massoud Eghrari, a local surgeon who supports the foundation. Eghrari believes that, quite often, students’ exposure to professionals is mainly limited to their teachers.

Audra DiNanno, The Immokalee Foundation’s development coordinator, said, “These business receptions not only help our students learn etiquette, networking and socializing skills, but it’s also a way to meet working professionals in their potential fields of interest.”

Brett VanderHeyden of the Pulte Group was one of the professionals who participated, along with his wife, Carla, a financial analyst for Collier ACI Worldwide.

“We thought it was fantastic,” Brett Van der Heyden said. “It was awesome to see that an opportunity exists for these kids to succeed. My wife and I both were blown away at how advanced and extremely engaging the students were. Many had already figured out their career paths. Many already had been accepted to a university or knew where they wanted to go. A lot of them were in dual enrollment, going to college at the same time as high school.”

Van der Heyden handles the construction schedule for Pulte, a national home builder. “It was good that they learned you don’t have to swing a hammer or pour concrete to be part of the construction business here in Southwest Florida,” he said.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a mentor, making a donation, including The Immokalee Foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

Alyssa Norris (Arthrex) with Luis Vasquez

Alyssa Norris (Arthrex) with Luis Vasquez

Carla VanderHeyden (ACI Worldwide) with Marilyn Gijon-Diaz

Carla VanderHeyden (ACI Worldwide) with Marilyn Gijon-Diaz

Brett VanderHeyden (Pulte Homes) with Sesar Lorenzo Valle

Brett VanderHeyden (Pulte Homes) with Sesar Lorenzo Valle

The League Club grants $10,000 to The Immokalee Foundation’s Immokalee Readers program

The Immokalee Foundation’s Steven Kissinger with Liz Winebrenner, president of The League Club

The Immokalee Foundation’s Steven Kissinger with Liz Winebrenner, president of The League Club

The Immokalee Foundation has received a $10,000 grant from Southwest Florida’s League Club to support its Immokalee Readers program.

Immokalee Readers is an after-school early intervention literacy tutoring program designed to help the lowest-performing young readers by supplementing their regular classroom instruction in reading. The tutors are high school students supervised by certified classroom teachers in all five elementary schools in Immokalee. Ninety-eight percent of the young students achieve measurable gains in reading scores; the tutors also have shown improvements in overall reading proficiency.

“This grant from the League Club, coupled with generous community support, enable The Immokalee Foundation to continue providing services for thousands of students in Immokalee,” said Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation. “Immokalee Readers helps to set our youngest students on their pathway to success.”

Each year, grant requests are reviewed by The League Club’s volunteer Community Involvement Committee. Grants are awarded for projects or critical services, equipment, and improvements to make a valuable impact in the lives of local residents. Since 1987, The League Club has granted over $4.2 million to 157 local nonprofit agencies. For more information, visit www.leagueclub.org.

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, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

The Immokalee Foundation appoints Noemi Perez as new executive director

Noemi Perez

Noemi Perez

The board of directors of The Immokalee Foundation has appointed long-time foundation employee Noemi Perez as the organization’s executive director effective July 1, 2018.

Steven Kissinger, who has served as the foundation’s executive director since 2014, will assume the position of vice president of Take Stock in Children of Florida on July 1.

Perez, who was raised in Immokalee, has worked for The Immokalee Foundation for nine years and currently serves as the foundation’s program services director.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Hodges University, Perez chose to use her knowledge and experience to serve her community through The Immokalee Foundation’s programs and services.

“As a lifelong Immokalee resident, Noemi brings a unique and important perspective to our work that will serve the foundation in meaningful ways,” said Joyce Hagen, chair of The Immokalee Foundation’s board of directors. “We appreciate the substantial advancements made under Steven’s leadership and look forward to our next chapter in creating pathways to success for the youth of Immokalee with Noemi at the helm.”

Perez will lead the foundation following several years of successful growth and solid financial health. The organization also has achieved the coveted 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator and the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Perez is member of the Hodges University Alumni Advisory Board, Immokalee Chamber of Commerce, Immokalee Technical College Advisory Board, and The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce Leadership Collier Foundation Alumni Association. She completed the Growing Associates in Naples (GAIN) program in 2016, the same year she was honored by Gulfshore Business magazine as a 40 Under 40 professional.

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, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

The Immokalee Foundation installs 2018-19 board of directors

board announcement 2018 photos

The Immokalee Foundation recently announced the installation of the organization’s 2018-19 board of directors.

Board members at large are Joyce Hagen, chair; Jim Markiewicz, treasurer; Alison Douglas, secretary; Chuck Campbell; Luis Cartagena; John Costigan; Curt Culver; Don Gunther; Donald Huffner; Kevin Johnson; David Legus; Barbara Morrison; Pete Negri; Steve Pryor; and Joseph Zednik.

Board emeritus members are George Franks, Blake Gable, John Henry, Skip Hildebrand, Wil Larson, Mac McDonald, Lisa Merritt, Don O’Neill, Louise Penta, Peggy Redlinger, Ann Stallkamp and Dick Stonesifer.

“Our board of directors demonstrate an unconditional devotion to The Immokalee Foundation and our mission,” said Steven Kissinger, executive director. “Our board members are an inspiration to our students and their families – as well as to our staff and supporters throughout Southwest Florida. We are grateful for the selfless dedication and encouragement of our foundation family in providing countless opportunities for our students’ futures.”

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.