Have you ever thought, “I’m just one person, what difference can I make in the world?” According to the butterfly effect, our ability to create change is much bigger than we realize.
What is the butterfly effect? Coined by MIT professor Edward Lorenz, it’s a theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can hypothetically set off a tornado in Texas due to a set of interconnected and reactive events. In other words, one small action early on in a process can have a multiplying effect that leads to big changes later on.
Although the butterfly effect was first applied to physics, one can’t help but wonder how it applies to giving. Our charitable actions may sometimes seem small, but what we don’t see is the chain of reaction events affecting hundreds, thousands, or millions of people down the road. Our unrealized potential for impact is enormous!
Consider Oliver, one of more than 800 Immokalee Readers students receiving critical literacy and language development support after school. He can take advantage of this life-changing opportunity because generous people believe they can make a change by giving to The Immokalee Foundation— often not truly understanding their profound impact. Here’s how it happens.
Oliver dreams of one day becoming a police officer. Along with 97% of other Immokalee Readers students, he is making gains in his reading ability because of the extra support he receives through our Immokalee Readers program. His progress is laying the foundation for the rest of his educational journey, and his life.
Now, let’s think ahead to one of the countless realistic scenarios that play out for our students, especially those who have been with The Immokalee Foundation for ten or more years.
Because Oliver’s confidence and academic abilities have grown through the Immokalee Readers program, he avoided being held back, and has set the stage for a successful start to the Immokalee Foundation’s Middle School Program.
Throughout his middle school years—one of the most influential periods in his life—Oliver embarks on a career exploration phase with The Immokalee Foundation. He participates in a series of career panels, field trips, workshops, mentor sessions, career interest and aptitude assessments, a four-week summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Academy in partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University, and when he is in 8th grade, develops a career action plan for high school.
Thinking far ahead, The Immokalee Foundation has already assigned Oliver a Florida Prepaid scholarship for postsecondary support.
Some of the career panels, workshops, and field trips involve our partnership with Collier County Sherriff’s Office (CCSO). Field trips to the CCSO Special Ops Unit, Emergency Operations Center, and Dispatch fuel his childhood dream. Oliver will never forget the excitement he felt during a behind-the-scenes tour while listening to the SWAT Captain deliver heroic stories and insight into his day-to-day operations.
Oliver can’t wait to tell his parents about all the amazing things he learned and experienced on these field trips. At the same time, The Immokalee Foundation team guides him on the next steps he needs to fulfill his dream. After developing a career action plan in 8th grade, his trajectory is set for his career in Law Enforcement.
His career aspirations fall within our Education and Human Services Pathway —one of four Immokalee Foundation Career Pathways that lead to well-paying jobs that are in high demand in Southwest Florida. By following this specific Pathway curriculum, Oliver has set the stage for his educational journey throughout high school.
Oliver is so excited to immerse himself in educational experiences and activities that bring him closer to his dream. Career Pathways activities include financial literacy, postsecondary and college prep programs, mentorship, career expos and field trips, ACT prep courses, summer educational camps, networking events, paid internships, and highly specialized career programming.
In 9th and 10th grade, Oliver participates in law enforcement agency ride-alongs. He attends presentations from CCSO SWAT, Training Bureau, Road Patrol, Technical Bureau, Investigations, Traffic, Human Resources, Crime Scene, as well as Collier County Emergency Medical Services and local fire districts.
He also participates in the Education & Human Services Summer camp at FGCU where he learns about forensic analysis and crime scene investigation. With each interaction, his ambition grows, and his interest in Law Enforcement becomes more focused.
When Oliver is invited to participate in the CCSO’s Public Safety Career Academy in 11th and 12th grade, he can’t pass up the opportunity to dive deeper into the world of Law Enforcement and open his options further.
With all the preparation and experience, Oliver is ready for the next leg of his educational journey. He joins the 100% of Immokalee Foundation students who graduate high school and have a postsecondary plan to pursue an in-demand professional career.
Oliver is now set to attend college and narrows his interest down to become an FBI agent.
With the help of scholarships provided by The Immokalee Foundation, Oliver is pursuing a criminal justice degree at a Florida University. Plus, he continues to receive counseling and mentoring from The Immokalee Foundation throughout his postsecondary education.
Fast forward, and Oliver is now an FBI special agent responsible for everything from national security and counterterrorism, to criminal investigations and law enforcement.
He has rescued hundreds, if not thousands from falling victim to human trafficking. He was even given an honorary medal for his courageous work, saving countless lives in the line of duty.
Oliver’s deep connection to Southwest Florida— the community that nurtured and supported his entire educational and career journey—profoundly influenced his decision to return home. He now works side by side with the Collier County Sherriff’s Office in making our community one of the safest places in the nation to live, work and play.
His success happened because of one small act of giving —one tiny flap of a butterfly’s wing.
Now imagine different career scenarios playing out for the 1,300 students currently supported by The Immokalee Foundation. Let’s go even further and think about how this affects their families, friends, and all those around them along the way.
It makes you wonder just how far an act of kindness and generosity can go. You can get a whole lot of butterflies to flap their wings.