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NAPLES, Fla. (June 30, 2021) – Students from The Immokalee Foundation’s Business Management & Entrepreneurship Career Pathway recently engaged in a virtual career panel with professionals from Gartner, the global research and advisory firm based in Fort Myers. The career panel allowed students to discuss career-related topics and foster meaningful connections with Gartner professionals.

The Gartner-sponsored panel included five professionals from varying states, countries, cultural backgrounds, and areas of expertise. Some panelists found the experience to be more meaningful than expected.

Thalish Sajeed Gartner Panelist

Thalish Sajeed, Gartner Panelist

Upon sharing his personal narrative and advice with the students, presenter Thalish Sajeed, a senior data specialist, said, “When the students asked me questions about the turning moments in my life, what my fears were, and how I overcame them, I felt myself getting transported back to a time in my life when I was in school and taking stock of my own successes and failures. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to connect with all the wonderful and curious students, and in turn reflect upon my own past and journey.”

The Immokalee Foundation students participating in the panel discovered many commonalities with the presenters. “Our students related to the speakers’ backgrounds and stories because they, too, are first-generation students,” said Araceli Moreno, coordinator for the Business Management & Entrepreneurship Career Pathway. “Additionally, the students have learned to adapt themselves to new multicultural learning environments, like many of the panelists.”

Immokalee Foundation student Kener M. was enthusiastic about the panel. “The speakers did an amazing job presenting because they really connected what it means to achieve your goals and dreams while having to face problems along the way,” Kener said.

Debra Christmas Gartner Specialist

Debra Christmas, Gartner Specialist

Debra Christmas, Gartner’s senior executive partner for Canada, further elaborated on the importance of connecting and sharing life experiences with these future leaders. “We can often see our own path through the lens of others, and although there may be barriers and challenges on the path, we are reminded that everything and anything is possible,” Christmas said. “There is absolutely nothing these students cannot do.”

As part of the Career Pathways program, the career panels take place monthly. Field trips and internship opportunities also are made available throughout the year. These immersive experiences provide valuable insight and give the students an opportunity to explore different careers, ask specific questions about their areas of career interest, and develop new skills.

Other area businesses that have participated in career panels and career field trips for The Immokalee Foundation students include Arthrex, Autumn Consulting, Babcock Ranch, Bank of America, Entech, Florida Gulf Coast University, Healthcare Network of SWFL, Naples Daily News, NeoGenomics, Physicians Regional Healthcare System, PulteGroup, and UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.

With an educational curriculum designed to help The Immokalee Foundation’s middle and high school students achieve their career goals, Career Pathways provides the support, tools and skills needed for well-paying, in-demand careers in high-growth Southwest Florida employment sectors, including Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Healthcare.

Antonio Dominguez Gartner Specialist

Antonio Dominguez, Gartner Specialist

Garvin Charles, Gartner Specialist

Garvin Charles, Gartner Specialist

Raja Natarajan Gartner Specialist

Raja Natarajan Gartner, Specialist

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

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Joe Abruzzese