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More than 40 middle school students from The Immokalee Foundation made a virtual visit to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum led by a special guide with expert insight. Dr. F. Robert “Bob” van der Linden, the museum’s curator of air transportation and special purpose aircraft and a supervisory curator in the aeronautics department, conducted a Zoom presentation for students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

Dr. van der Linden – an expert on aviation milestones and author of eight books – talked with students about his own career path and other possible career options in the museum industry. He also highlighted some of his favorite aircraft in the museum’s collection, including Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Bell X-1, the world’s first supersonic aircraft.

The discussion about the 1903 Wright Flyer stood out to many students, who recognized the determination required for Wilbur and Orville Wright to reach their goal. “I liked learning about how the first airplane was built,” said Brandon Beltran, an eighth-grade student at Immokalee Middle School. “It was interesting to learn how the Wright brothers overcame adversities when building it.”

Dr. van der Linden explained the efforts it took for the Wright brothers to teach themselves to fly and construct the world’s first airplane. Students learned how the brothers relied on help from others to achieve their historic feat.

“When the Wright brothers were investigating flight, they needed some assistance,” said Valeria Ramirez, a seventh-grade student at Immokalee Middle School. “They eventually figured out the problems, and the footprints of new planes followed from their original.”

The right guidance can sometimes mean the difference between failure and success, a fact The Immokalee Foundation and its students know well. The foundation provides the tools and insights needed to set students on educational pathways to future career success and financial independence.

When people like Dr. van der Linden share their own career success with students, it leaves a lasting impact. Additionally, utilizing the power of technology to virtually bring the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to Immokalee gave students an experience to remember.

“Zoom has literally given us the world,” said Yaresly Gorosquieta, The Immokalee Foundation’s after-school program manager. “We can now invite presenters located anywhere around the country – or even the world – to speak with our students, and help impact and inspire their futures. It was an honor to attend Dr. van der Linden’s presentation and learn of his experiences as a curator and love for planes. I know our students enjoyed his presentation, as well.”

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

Siblings Janie and Salvador Vaca

Spirit of St. Louis

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