The Immokalee Foundation recently welcomed 61 middle school students into Career Pathways, a career-oriented education curriculum that provides a valuable jump start to these hardworking students on preparing for their future professions.
Career Pathways offers a broad curriculum for Immokalee middle and high school students to place them on pathways to well-paying, in-demand careers in Southwest Florida in four employment sectors: Engineering & Construction Management, Education & Human Services, Health Care, and Business Management & Entrepreneurship.
Students first learn about career possibilities in grades six through nine during six-week rotations focused on the four sectors. Once students choose a desired career path, the foundation’s program team helps plan their high school years to ensure they obtain the needed education, training, and internships to prepare for postsecondary programs and future jobs.
That early introduction to potential careers in middle school provides students an important head start. “Often when students reach high school, they don’t know what they want to do professionally because they haven’t had enough exposure to opportunities,” said Yaresly Gorosquieta, after school program manager for The Immokalee Foundation. “Career Pathways students learn about both career and postsecondary options in middle school, so they’re ready to focus on achieving their goals the moment they start high school.”
Inspired by her mother, who is a cancer survivor, eighth grade student Jennifer Arriaga already knows she would like a career in health care. “My goal is to work in oncology, to help others like my mom,” said the 13-year-old. “Participating in The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program is a terrific opportunity to learn about the health care field and how to pursue my goals. I am excited about the experience, knowledge and future opportunities.”
Kelly Garcia, another Immokalee eighth grader, also dreams of a medical career, either working with people or animals. Being part of the Career Pathways program provides the 13-year-old with both information and support as she works toward her career choice.
“My role models are the people who achieve their dreams no matter the obstacles they face,” said Garcia. “I joined the Career Pathways program because I heard The Immokalee Foundation offers a lot of support for its students to overcome obstacles. I look forward to learning about the many opportunities and am excited about the guidance they will provide with my future pursuits.”
The foundation opens applications for its Career Pathways program each year, with recruitment starting in April. Recruitment for 2020 took place online instead of in-person due to COVID-19, but even with those new challenges, the foundation received 106 applications from Immokalee-based students.
To enroll in Career Pathways, students must have good attendance, constructive behavior in and out of school, a positive attitude, and a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must also be enrolled in Collier County Public Schools, commit to being drug-free, and complete all program requirements.
Following the virtual interviews, the foundation’s student selection committee – made up of members of the community – selected those who would fill the open slots in each grade.
In addition to helping each student create a high school plan tailored to their specific career goals, the Career Pathways program also introduces students to the different options for postsecondary education, including technical institutes, colleges, and universities. This guidance helps to ensure the students make choices ideally suited for their desired career.
“The Career Pathways program is designed to be as engaging as it is instructive so our students are excited to learn and grow as they explore the many excellent opportunities that lie ahead,” said Gorosquieta. “We work diligently to ensure that we are building a literal pathway to success and preparing students for the career they want to pursue.”
Community members who would like to help students like Arriaga and Garcia reach their career goals can consider purchasing needed supplies from The Immokalee Foundation’s Amazon Wish List at middleschool.immokaleefoundation.org, including blood pressure and pulse monitors, arts and crafts kits, flash drives and school supplies.
The entire community benefits when The Immokalee Foundation’s students succeed.
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 https://immokaleefoundation.org.