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The Immokalee Foundation will play a pivotal role in the Southwest Florida Promise Zone effort announced by federal officials last week.

The Promise Zone designation confers 10 years of significant federal support for local leaders in Immokalee, Glades and Hendry counties to improve educational outcomes, create jobs, increase economic activity and access to affordable housing, and reduce serious and violent crime, among other local priorities.

The Immokalee Foundation partnered with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council and others to develop the Promise Zone application, which outlined the region’s strategic plan focused on specific efforts to improve quality of life: training workers to fuel job growth, improving educational opportunities, providing resources to grow small businesses, developing markets for locally grown fresh food, and promoting eco-tourism.

As a Promise Zone partner, The Immokalee Foundation will explore the expansion of several existing programs:
– Immokalee Readers, an after-school early intervention literacy tutoring program designed to target the lowest-performing student readers in kindergarten through second grade and complement the reading instruction they receive during the school day. The Promise Zone proposal contemplates enlarging the program within Immokalee during the first two years, with possible expansion into Glades and Hendry counties starting in year three.
– Career Development, which provides career information, workshops, panels and preparation resources to empower students to make informed choices about careers prior to selecting post-secondary options. As proposed, the Career Development program would be enlarged within Immokalee during the first year and expand to Glades and Hendry counties beginning in year two.
– Post-Secondary and Career Success, which offers readiness initiatives to ensure that high school graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to qualify for, and succeed in, their quest for post-secondary education and training leading to a career. These programs are considered for expansion within Immokalee during the first year and into Glades and Hendry counties starting in years two to three.

“The entire Immokalee Foundation family is excited and honored to be part of the Southwest Florida Promise Zone and the incredible opportunity it presents for Immokalee and our neighbors in Hendry and Glades counties,” said Joyce Hagen, chair of the board of directors. “The team that collaborated on the application is strategically aligned to accomplish the results put forth in the proposal, and we look forward to working together.”

Steven Kissinger, executive director, added, “We’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible results of The Immokalee Foundation’s efforts over the past 25 years. Having the opportunity to work with even more students would create an amazing ripple effect that will empower future generations through education and career training.”

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council and its Promise Zone partners will be assigned VISTA volunteers and a federal liaison to navigate federal funding and programs; planning and implementation will begin in upcoming weeks.

The federal government has awarded more than $550 million in funding to Promise Zone designees since the program’s inception in 2014. Only four rural areas in the U.S. have received the competitive designation, including the Southwest Florida Promise Zone.

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 TIF, volunteering as a mentor, making a donation, including TIF in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

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