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Twenty-eight students recently spent six weeks learning new skills and solving community problems in the Engage Summer Academy, a new social entrepreneurship offered in The Immokalee Foundation’s College Success initiative. The academy was free to attend, and students earned college scholarship money for their efforts.

Students first conducted a needs assessment for the Immokalee community. Then instructor Steven Becker taught them the basics of coding, including app design. They practiced by building games and tools; the teams then created apps to fill community needs identified as part of the assessment.

Rising high school senior Alejandro Hernandez and junior Angelina Grimaldo won first place for Energos, an app to inform students about activities they can use to fill their time productively, such as sports, clubs and volunteer opportunities. Names, phone numbers and other information were provided through the app to get young people involved more easily. Hernandez and Grimaldo each were awarded $500 in scholarship money for their win, which was determined by a panel of community leaders.

Second-place winners were Hailey Vinton and Noah Garcia, both entering 11th grade, for Order It, an app to help Immokalee residents who don’t have transportation arrange for food to be delivered. Each won a $250 scholarship.

Students could learn about cultures other than their own through the app designed by third-place finishers Mariceliah Cruz, Giselle Ramirez and Cindy Jaimes, all 10th graders. Their app, Culture Connect, earned each of them $100.

Each program participant earned a surprise $100 for their work, in addition to any scholarship money won.

Additional students who successfully completed the academy included Ashley Puente, Ruthamar Bellevue, Ariana Ruiz, Stephanie Saintyl, Griselda Martinez, Diana Lito, Ruth Bellevue, Araceli Garcia, William Plata, Jennifer Herrera, Galilea Pedraza, Juan Santos, Yuridia Zaragoza, Yazmin Ruiz, Alberto Bastida, Jason Ixcoy, Julian Plata and Mireya Leon.

Their apps provided community news and connections, help for buying and selling products at home, finding transportation, scholarships and more.

Serving as judges were David Gordley, market area president, IberiaBank; Jamie Scott, director, Great Programs Synergizing, an NCEF Children’s Out of School Time initiative; Matt Krueger, program designer, Arthrex; Amy Hale, vice president, managing director and private wealth advisor for BMO Private Bank; Timothy Cartwright, chairman of the Tamiami Angel Fund; and Mary Vance Duggan, a former CBS computer programmer.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success 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

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