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Two Immokalee High School students enrolled in The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program are preparing for their future careers, while they give back through community service.

Sophomore Vanessa H., who wants to be a federal agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and senior Sydnie B., an aspiring teacher, are receiving the support, tools and skills they’ll need for well-paying, in-demand careers in some of Southwest Florida’s highest-growth employment sectors. Both students participate in The Immokalee Foundation’s Education & Human Services Career Pathway.

Working with industry experts and educators, The Immokalee Foundation developed after-school and summer programs for middle and high school students interested in learning more about teaching, public administration, social service, and law enforcement careers that pay family-supporting wages.

Through The Immokalee Foundation’s Education & Human Services Career Pathways program, students are introduced to new experiences and possibilities and then they develop new skills through career exploration and panels, professional guest speakers, and internships.

One benefit of participating in The Immokalee Foundation’s programs is volunteering with Immokalee Readers, designed to build literacy skills for elementary-age children by matching them with high school students who are selected, trained and supervised by professional teachers.

Vanessa’s willingness to help students in her hometown began with her own positive experience in middle school, when she received after-school support from The Immokalee Foundation.

“The Immokalee Foundation helped me overcome some delays I had experienced in my learning,” Vanessa said. “By becoming a tutor in high school with Immokalee Readers, I knew I could assist other students in improving their reading and educational skills at a young age.”

Sydnie, who tutors 22 kindergarteners three days a week, is also driven by a desire to help make a difference by reading with the students, ensuring they stay on task, and reviewing their comprehension through the drawings and paintings they create. She enjoys the kindergarteners’ eagerness, and she recognizes it’s a critical time to encourage their academic success.

Sydnie especially likes seeing the results of her hard work. For example, one boy she tutored last year needed extra help and attention; by the end of the school year, with her guidance, he demonstrated greater independence and improved reading skills.

“If I hadn’t worked as an Immokalee Foundation tutor with the Immokalee Readers, I wouldn’t have known how much these children need our support,” said Sydnie. “Showing up teaches them that you’re there for them.”

Sydnie has been accepted to the University of Central Florida and is set to begin classes virtually this summer to get a head start on the fall semester, when she plans to live on campus. Her Immokalee Foundation advocate guided her along the way and helped her apply for the necessary financial support, including scholarships offered by The Immokalee Foundation.

The Immokalee Foundation’s Education & Human Services Pathway Coordinator Marily Vega sees her herself in students like Vanessa and Sydnie. With the help of The Immokalee Foundation, Vega was the first in her family to graduate high school and college.

“I see the full potential they have in succeeding academically and professionally,” said Vega, an Immokalee High School and Florida Gulf Coast University graduate who earned a master’s degree in social work from Florida State University. “My goal is to let each student know they can become whomever they strive to be in life.”

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, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

Marily Vega

Sydnie B.

Vanessa H.

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