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NAPLES, Fla. (July 6, 2021) – The Immokalee Foundation has announced Joe Abruzzese as an official judge of its 3rd Annual Shark Tank-style competition among foundation students on July 21 at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Abruzzese, former president of advertising sales for Discovery Communications, is the first of three judges to officially sign on. With over 40 years on experience in the advertising field, Abruzzese most recently oversaw all advertising sales for Discovery’s suite, including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet. He previously has been involved with CBS, NBC and J.P. Company in New York. Abruzzese, who was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame in 2011, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance from Seton Hall University.

The Shark Tank-style competition is the culmination of a four-week Business Management Pathway camp where teams of foundation students will develop a business plan that solves a common problem, such as finding clothes on a budget, handling student-centric finances, getting better sleep, planning a quinceañera, or finding restaurants suitable for people with restricted diets. The teams of students will then pitch their creative business start-up ideas – much like the popular Shark Tank TV show – to a panel of esteemed business leaders.

“When our students get to interact with a business professional of Mr. Abruzzese’s stature – and have a positive experience – their view of what’s possible almost immediately changes,” said Melissa Phillips, vice president of philanthropy for the foundation. “Immokalee’s limited resources suddenly become much less limiting.”

The camp is a partnership between the foundation and FGCU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship. Students will work with FGCU’s faculty, as well as local mentors, to learn about the entrepreneurial mindset and how to critically examine problems to develop innovative solutions, providing the students with valuable, real-world business experience.

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

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