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NAPLES, Fla. (July 29, 2021) – Overcoming the intense challenges of the 2020-21 school year with hard work and perseverance, The Immokalee Foundation and its 57 high school seniors celebrated graduation. At Immokalee High School, foundation students represented 12% of the 2021 graduating class, including 18 who graduated in the top 10% and seven who graduated in the top 10. The foundation’s graduates will pursue postsecondary education at a diverse range of prestigious universities and colleges, including Harvard University, Duke University and the University of Notre Dame, as well as Florida universities.

“I can’t express enough how proud we are of these students and what they have achieved, especially after how hard the past two school years have been,” said Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “Their success shows the transformative impact our education programming can have on students who get involved with the foundation.”

Israel Briones

Israel Briones Jr.

Class Salutatorian

Class Salutatorian Emily Hernandez worked afterschool as a tutor in the foundation’s Immokalee Readers program.

Emily Hernandez, who graduated as salutatorian of the Class of 2021, is thankful for The Immokalee Foundation helping her grow personally and academically. She will attend the University of Florida this fall, where she plans to study biomedical engineering.

“I appreciated the guidance, career exploration and professional development opportunities offered from The Immokalee Foundation,” said Hernandez. “The Immokalee Foundation helped me get out of my comfort zone by encouraging me to ask questions and connect with others whenever I needed help, especially during the college application and research process.”

Israel Briones Jr., who graduated third in his class, will attend Duke University to study computer science. Briones said the guidance he received from the foundation on how to research colleges was invaluable, and now he feels prepared to start the next chapter of his life.

Jean Colas

Jean Colas

“They helped expand my perspective on what colleges I wanted to apply for and how I can thrive in my new environment,” said Briones. “The Immokalee Foundation has prepared me for my next step, and I am so excited about all of the new experiences I will have over the next four years.”

Jean Colas, who placed fifth in his graduating class and will attend the University of Notre Dame to study biochemistry and French, said his strongest takeaway from The Immokalee Foundation is its mentoring program.

“I had access to people who always encouraged, informed and inspired me to reach my full potential. I cannot thank those who helped me get to where I am today enough,” said Colas.

These motivated students have big goals for the future and The Immokalee Foundation will continue to be a pillar of support for them, well beyond high school graduation. The foundation is focused on helping them develop important life skills like financial responsibility, time management and study habits that will benefit them now and later in life.

“We are excited to follow these students along their college careers and can’t wait to see the impact they’ll have on the world,” said Perez. “There’s no limit to what these young people are capable of achieving. And our highly supportive foundation team and community volunteers will be there right alongside them as they go after their dreams.”

For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has provided 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 estate plans, or additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

Following are the 18 Immokalee Foundation students who graduated in the top 10% of Immokalee High School’s Class of 2021 and their plans for the fall semester:

Alexander Garcia (valedictorian), Harvard

Emily Hernandez (salutatorian), University of Florida

Israel Briones Jr., Duke University

Dieulerne Deceus, University of Florida

Jean Colas – University of Notre Dame

Daniel Trejo-Garcia – Florida Gulf Coast University

Lorena Cruz-Venegas – Florida SouthWestern State College

Daisy Montanez – University of Central Florida

Kenet Flores – HVAC Industry Career

Galilea Soto – Florida SouthWestern State College

Josue Lopez-Delacruz – Florida SouthWestern State College

Nayeli Ruiz Hernandez – University of South Florida

Leslie Escalante – Florida SouthWestern State College

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