Six high school students from The Immokalee Foundation received hands-on training this summer, courtesy of the Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild in Naples. The students spent five days over two weeks creating 12 sets of children’s Adirondack chairs with matching ottomans to be sold at TIF’s 2012 Charity Classic Celebration.
“I think our craftsmen get as much out of it as the students do,” said Doug Poe, TRAG’s general manger. “They enjoy being a mentor and passing along information they’ve taken years to gather.”
Prior to the students’ arrival, the pros at TRAG did all of the pre-planning and cutting that students were unable to complete due to safety requirements. The craftsmen assembled one of the chairs as a sample for the students to follow. The students were then given a plan including a deadline and under the guidance of the TRAG staff, sanded, prepped and assembled all the chairs and ottomans.
“The kids did a great job,” Poe said. “They were enthusiastic, respectful, followed instructions and worked well together. They were there because they wanted to learn.”
Each summer, TIF partners with area businesses and organizations to help provide students with real world experience in a particular career field and help them develop professional skills and knowledge. This is the third year that TRAG has welcomed students to its 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for a student project, giving them a firsthand look at the workplace in action. “Anytime we can work with students and let them see a side of business they’ve never really been attuned to is special,” said Poe. “It is nice to show them they do have options.”
The students were grateful for the opportunity to learn new skills and work together as a team. Brisa Martinez and Chedeline Frederick were the first females to participate in the TRAG project. Both girls were thrilled with the experience and thankful to TIF.
“TIF gives us the opportunity to experience different careers to see what we can do,” said Martinez. “This project made me feel like I can do any job a guy can do.”
Frederick, a four-year TIF student, said, “I loved meeting new people and working with my hands. I’m grateful that through TIF’s programs, we can learn different things.”
Senior Martin Garza said, “It was a fun, great experience to try something new.” He said that he not only values the career insight that TIF has provided him over the years, but also the foundation’s firm focus on education. “TIF helps me stay focused and do good in school. They help me do well.”
Once the chairs were completed, the students felt a great sense of accomplishment. The chairs will benefit the organization that gives them so much. “They want to help the foundation and this is their way of giving back,” said Poe.
Heather Meech, TIF’s event coordinator, said the support that TIF has received from Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild has been overwhelming. “They enjoy having and teaching the kids. They believe in these students and to us that is priceless. We are so thankful for their support.”
The next step for the students will be attending the Charity Classic Celebration on Nov. 16 at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, to show off their craftsmanship and speak to patrons about their experience. All of the chair and ottoman sets will be available for sale at that time. The furniture is made of a high density, durable material typically used on decks and trim work, thus they are able to withstand the outdoors.
The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and career development, direct scholarships, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development. To learn more about volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.