The Immokalee Foundation’s Summer Programs Help Prepare For Professional Careers – Florida Weekly

BY NOEMI Y. PEREZ

Special to Florida Weekly

Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway students participated in the 2019 summer program at FGCU that culminated in a Shark Tank-style presentation of their new business ideas.

In Southwest Florida today, jobs in a variety of business sectors are in high demand. As part of The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program, middle and high school students are introduced to a broad range of careers within four pathways — including Business Management & Entrepreneurship — that pay family-supporting wages and are projected to have high growth rates in Southwest Florida.

After completing an extensive career exploration program in middle school, high school students participate in afterschool career panels, field trips, networking events, and other activities in their chosen pathway. Students in the Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway work on building a resume of marketable skills and experience guaranteed to impress college admissions directors and future employers alike.

This summer, 17 Business Pathway students in ninth through 11th grades will attend a four-week entrepreneurship summer program at Florida Gulf Coast University. Working in teams, students identify a problem or opportunity, create an innovative solution, and develop a sustainable business model for their concept. On the final day, the student teams present their ideas and prototypes in an exciting Shark Tank-style format to a panel of local business leaders serving as judges.

Right: Autumn Consulting President Nathan Misirian served as Elvis’ mentor throughout the internship.

Business Pathway student Elvis V. was an enthusiastic program participant in both 2019 and 2020.

“We learned the value of working in teams and how to solve difficult problems,” he said. “Not only did we develop a business plan for a new product, but our communication skills were put to the test during the final presentations.”

Work-based learning takes center stage during junior year. Students earn various business-related computer application certifications and attend a Hodges University after-school “Professionalism in the Workplace” certification program to prepare them for a paid internship with a Southwest Florida business during their senior year.

This spring, Elvis was offered an opportunity to intern with Autumn Consulting, a full-service Google search marketing agency in Bonita Springs. During the full-semester digital internship, Elvis learned more about marketing — and about himself, as well.

“The experience helped me refine my business and marketing skills, and I learned new skills while working on different projects,” said Elvis, who edited videos and photos for Autumn Consulting’s social media accounts. “I expanded my knowledge on how marketing works. I also sharpened my communication abilities through email and Zoom meetings.”

Elvis said interning introduced him to a variety of career options in the field of marketing, and he credited Autumn Consulting President Nathan Misirian for playing a big role in his internship success.

“Nathan was a huge support, with guidance, advice and feedback that has helped me to grow and expand my knowledge,” said Elvis. “He highlighted the positives and negatives of the work I do so I can learn from my mistakes, which will help me become a better intern and a better person.”

The admiration was mutual; Mr. Misirian was particularly impressed with Elvis’ work ethic.

“I was amazed at the initiative Elvis demonstrated,” said Mr. Misirian. “He showcased critical thinking skills to solve complex problems. I saw him build on his natural curiosity to learn new skills, including custom video soundtrack creation for clients and developing an online learning module. As a local business owner, I’m proud to partner with The Immokalee Foundation in hosting the first digital internship and to build the next generation of digital employees in Collier County.”

Through the support of Autumn Consulting and the other area businesses, The Immokalee Foundation is able to provide students with real-world experience in their chosen careers and help them develop professional skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

After graduating Immokalee High School this month, Elvis is looking forward to attending Florida Gulf Coast University and studying business administration and marketing. Thanks to the experience and confidence he gained through The Immokalee Foundation’s Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway, his future is brighter than ever.

To help our students succeed, consider purchasing school supplies from The Immokalee Foundation’s Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway Wish List at business.immokaleefoundation.org. These small purchases have a meaningful impact.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring, tutoring, and life skills. 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 ImmokaleeFoundation.org.

Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at noemi.perez@immokaleefoundation.org. ¦