The Immokalee Foundation’s middle school students meet artists and learn new skills as part of national program

The Immokalee Foundation has collaborated with Young Audiences of Southwest Florida Arts for Learning to bring a variety of arts programs into Immokalee Middle School this year.

Along with the local nonprofit arts program, the foundation is encouraging kids to think creatively and express themselves with confidence – and likely is widening the range of careers that students can imagine themselves pursuing one day.

This school year, Immokalee Middle School students experienced opera singing, puppeteering, acting, and stage and prop design in this after-school program that brings instruction in fine, performing and media arts to schools.

Young Audiences is a 60-year-old national nonprofit that introduces children to artists and their work, either as part of the school curriculum or as a supplement.

“The inclusion of an arts component into the curriculum makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids,” said Cynthia Arnold, executive director of the local affiliate. “Children need to be engaged in learning and to learn in ways that can hold their attention, the way social media and internet sites like YouTube do. The easiest way to do this is to make it fun and interesting. The inclusion of arts does this, for a wider range of children.”

“One of our big goals has been to increase our students’ confidence,” said Amber Barr, after-school program coordinator for The Immokalee Foundation. “Especially for our middle school students, this type of program is a great benefit when they are speaking in front of a class or in public.”

In its pilot year in Immokalee, Arts for Learning reached 26 students in grades six through eight who voluntarily participated; each student is a member of The Immokalee Foundation’s Junior Academy program. Students must apply and be interviewed for the Junior Academy, where they obtain homework help, extension lessons on world affairs and STEM subjects, and supplementary lessons in technology and leadership.

Recently, puppeteers with The Naples Players visited Immokalee Middle School to present a session that involved children making puppets according to characters in a script they read.

“We learned how to make puppets and show emotions with the puppets,” said Emili Carmona, who is 11. “We presented puppets to the class. I made a cyclops.” Emili’s twin sister, Abigail, made a unicorn. The girls and their classmates also learned to make props.

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.

Emili Carmona participates in the after-school theater program from Arts for Learning through The Immokalee Foundation

Emili Carmona participates in the after-school theater program from Arts for Learning through The Immokalee Foundation

Hailey Turner works with an instructor during the after-school theater program

Hailey Turner works with an instructor during the after-school theater program

Eduardo Interiano practices his presentation skills

Eduardo Interiano practices his presentation skills

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