The Immokalee Foundation is employing virtual technology to overcome the challenges of school cancellations, work-from-home operations, and social distancing guidelines to ensure hundreds of Immokalee students remain connected to career-oriented programs, curriculum, and mentoring during COVID-19.
The foundation secured 70 laptops in two days to distribute to those students who otherwise wouldn’t have online access, since the foundation’s Immokalee office and work stations – typically bustling with student activity – are currently idle.
As part of the foundation’s “Virtually Open” effort, hundreds of The Immokalee Foundation’s students are participating in virtual class meetings for specific high school grade levels to focus on professional development topics relevant to each student’s education and career goals. Additionally, foundation staff members are monitoring grades and online attendance in accordance with Collier County Public School’s distance learning initiative, to ensure students are participating in the instruction they need to remain academically successful.
Middle school students are participating in virtual Career Action Plan meetings, which include parents and students as well as the support team from The Immokalee Foundation with each student’s mentor, advocate and career counselor. Students in this program are exploring a variety of in-demand careers available in Southwest Florida as part of the foundation’s program, Career Pathways: Empowering Students to Succeed, which has identified the educational and training requirements for careers that may require professional certifications and credentials in addition to two-year or four-year college degrees.
The Career Pathways are Health Care, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Business Management & Entrepreneurship.
Achieve 3000, a program that helps Career Pathways students improve their reading skills, provides required reading assignments that students can complete at home. Additionally, the customized online course, “Professionalism in the Workplace” developed by Hodges University specifically for Immokalee Foundation students, continues to be available for student learning with the support of foundation staff and career advocates.
“I can’t see my friends, counselors and mentors in person, but technology has helped keep us connected,” said Jaelyn Sanders, a junior at Immokalee High School. “The foundation’s staff has stayed in touch through Zoom meetings and by sending emails and text messages, making sure all their students and their families have everything they need.”
Mentor Karen Hendricks, a foundation board member, has maintained weekly contact with her mentee via virtual meetings. “My mentee, Ruthamar, and I have had a video relationship for several years since I travel during the summers,” Hendricks said. “While this isn’t new to us, our ongoing connection is even more important now because Ruthamar is a high school senior and is making key decisions about her college choices. We are also discussing the COVID-19 situation and the precautions she is taking. I am pleased to be able to provide steady support to Ruthamar during this important time.”
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.