During the 2021-2022 school year, students from The Immokalee Foundation were able to attend on-site career field trips at 17 businesses throughout Southwest Florida and were able to interact and engage with more than 27 businesses and business professionals through career and speaker panels hosted by the Foundation. As part of the Foundation’s educational and career readiness curriculum, beginning in 6th grade, students have the opportunity to learn about different career fields and potential jobs. They are given the chance to explore their interests—in part through field trips and opportunities to speak with professionals working in different fields. The early exposure to career and job opportunities is a part of The Immokalee Foundation’s innovative, award-winning Career Pathways Program.
The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program launched nearly three years ago and builds on the success of the Foundation’s after-school and summer college-preparatory and certification programs. Through extensive collaboration with local middle and high schools, industry professionals, and higher education institutions, The Immokalee Foundation developed the Career Pathways program—a professional development and career model that prepares students for professional careers in four high-demand sectors throughout Southwest Florida: Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Healthcare.
“The Career Pathways program transforms the lives of our students through career exploration and hands-on career learning, which ultimately leads to a well-paying professional career,” said Amber Barr, Program Services Director at The Immokalee Foundation. “Each student embarks on their own journey and The Immokalee Foundation is there to provide them with support and guidance to discover their passions and learn about all the possibilities for their futures.”
Foundation students attended on-site field trips at locations such as Habitat for Humanity, Suffolk Construction, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), NCH Multidisciplinary Simulation Center, David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, Naples Airport Authority, and the Lee County Courthouse to name a few. These valuable, in-person experiences help open student’s eyes to the types of career options available to them in industries across the board.
“During the field trip to David Lawrence Centers, I learned about all the different types of careers available within the company,” said Magdalena S., a rising 11th grader interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. “They even partner with other organizations for different types of therapy, including animal therapy.”
“Healthcare, as a career field, is beyond medical care. Viewing behavioral health—our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors—as a main component in overall wellness is essential,” said Jessica Liria, Children’s Outreach Specialist at David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health. “Providing students with an opportunity to learn about careers in the behavioral health setting will strengthen our ability to meet the needs of our community, while meeting the career goals of our future generations of professionals.”
During a field trip to the Lee County Courthouse, Thalia Vazquez, Education & Human Services Pathway Coordinator at The Immokalee Foundation, saw firsthand how exposure to different careers can change a student’s perspective. “We had 20 students who had never seen the inside of a courthouse, never met or interacted with a judge, and never had an opportunity to speak with attorneys or individuals who had a career in law,” said Thalia. “One student had the opportunity to sit on the bench, wear a judge’s robe and feel what it felt like to sit on the bench as a judge. Such an experience is life changing. For the students to see themselves in these positions, it is so important to reinforce that it does not matter where you come from, what your economic standing is, you can achieve anything and be anyone you want to be.”
In addition to these life-changing field trips, the Foundation also helps students learn more about specific careers by hosting career panels and guest speakers. These opportunities give students a chance to engage with professionals, ask questions about their careers, and learn about the specifics of certain positions.
During the past academic year, The Immokalee Foundation hosted panels and speakers from 28 organizations or businesses including Gartner, Lee Health, Grady Minor, Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, Royal Shell Real Estate, Viles & Beckman Law Firm, ExactCare and Neogenomics to name a few.
“The career panel with Gartner was an amazing experience that taught me different aspects of a fascinating corporation and their goals to make positive changes in their communities,” said Immokalee Foundation student Lionisa C., a rising 10th grader in the Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway. “I was very impressed with what each of the employees do and how they are the ones leading such impactful projects.”
“The Immokalee Foundation is always looking to connect with businesses and organizations throughout Southwest Florida to continue to provide our students with opportunities to expose them to different careers and help them find their passions,” said Noemi Y. Perez, President and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “Connecting with businesses and showcasing a wide range of careers available for these students beyond what they see every day helps motivate them to work hard and dream of something bigger.”
If you or a business you are involved with would like to get involved with The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways Program or if your business would like to sponsor or host a career panel or field trip, please contact Amber.Barr@immokaleefoundation.org or call 239-430-9122.
About The Immokalee Foundation
For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has been preparing the next generation of leaders through a 100% focus on education, career readiness, and professional development for students in Immokalee—from kindergarten to postsecondary education. The Immokalee Foundation offers new pathways to success and financial independence through robust programming that prepares students for well-paying, in-demand professional careers in Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management and Healthcare. For additional information call 239-430-9122 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.