Though the 2019-20 school year finished in a unique way, The Immokalee Foundation and its high school seniors still have a lot to celebrate. At Immokalee High School, 31 Immokalee Foundation students graduated in the top 10% of the Class of 2020, and nine of the top 10 graduates were foundation students. Their educational studies will continue at a diverse range of universities and colleges, including Vanderbilt, Emory, Northeastern and St. John’s, as well as Florida’s state universities.
“We are so proud of everything these students have achieved, especially in light of all of the extra challenges that came their way this year,” said Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “This shows the transformative impact our educational programming can have on students who get involved with the foundation.”
Cindy Velazquez, who graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 2020, first got involved with The Immokalee Foundation as a high-school tutor for the foundation’s Immokalee Readers program, where she worked with struggling readers in elementary school to help improve their comprehension and English skills. The Foundation helped Velazquez learn about career possibilities and financial assistance that will help her achieve a professional career. She will be attending Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall, where she plans to study nursing.
“The foundation’s programs helped me in many ways, including qualifying for college scholarships,” Velazquez said. “Also, I gained incredible insight about future opportunities available through career panels and guest lecturers.”
Natalia Garcia Lopez, the Class of 2020 salutatorian, joined the foundation’s scholarship and mentoring program as an eighth grader. She is also heading to Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall, where she plans to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.
“After graduating from high school, I can say that much of my success is thanks to The Immokalee Foundation,” Garcia Lopez said. “Through its Career Pathways Health Care program, I learned the fundamentals required to pursue a nursing degree. I grew up in a community that lacks affordable and accessible health care services. I see myself returning to my community and serving at a local hospital or medical center.”
Giovanni Matias, who placed fifth in his graduating class and will be attending Northeastern University to study computer science and computer engineering, realized the benefits of the foundation’s mentoring program. “My mentor was the most helpful person – especially during the college application process – and an excellent person to seek real-world advice from,” he said. “Every program at the foundation has had a lasting impact on me and my future goals.”
“We look forward to following these students throughout their college careers and seeing the impact they’re going to have on the world,” said Perez. “There’s no limit to what these young people are capable of achieving with the help of our highly successful volunteers from the Southwest Florida community.”
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.