Two students from The Immokalee Foundation, both seniors at Immokalee High School, experienced college life when they took part in programs offered by prestigious universities. After completing an intensive application process that included providing a personal essay, Alejandro (Alex) Galvan was accepted into the seven-week secondary school program at Harvard University. Elijah Arreaga was accepted into Georgetown University’s weeklong Sports Industry Management Institute. The young men agreed the experience was the chance of a lifetime.
Galvan began his journey – his first trip away from home for more than a couple of days – in Cambridge, Mass. on June 23 when he arrived at his Harvard dorm for a true college experience. For seven weeks, he lived on campus, participated in activities and had the opportunity to make friends from all around the world including New York, Washington, California and Australia.
“Establishing friendships was tough at first and it was a bit awkward living with strangers, but by the end I felt as if I had made lifelong friends,” said Galvan.
After a tour of the campus, students were responsible for attending classes and completing their assignments on their own time. “It was a real college experience in that we were left to figure it out,” Galvan said.
Galvan chose two courses, Bible study and macroeconomics, from among 300 courses in more than 60 liberal arts fields. He attended the classes taught by Harvard faculty every Tuesday and Thursday. The rest of the time, he said, was usually spent studying in his dorm room. However, it wasn’t all work and no play. Galvan said he had the chance to attend a professional women’s soccer game, see the Blue Man Group perform and attend one of the longest-running nonmusical plays in the world, Sheer Madness.
“It was a great experience and one I wish everyone could try before going to college,” said Galvan. “You have an expectation, but you really don’t know what it will be like until you get there. It was a great way to learn how to balance school and social life. I missed my family, especially the first couple of weeks, but I learned that I’m ready to be on my own.”
Galvan said he is grateful to TIF for helping him prepare the application and providing him with the financial aid required to attend. “TIF has been there for me from the beginning; pushing me to keep up my grades and be the best that I can be.”
Arreaga was told about the sports industry management program at Georgetown by Noemi Perez, a Take Stock in Children student college readiness coordinator with TIF. “She knew I was interested in pursuing my degree in sports management so told me about the opportunity and helped me get everything I needed to apply.”
He began his adventure on July 1 at the Georgetown campus in Washington D.C. and was immediately thrilled with his good fortune. “I had one roommate and in a corner dorm that was very big and had a great view of the football, lacrosse and soccer fields,” Arreaga said. “In the evening, I would sit in my room and watch lacrosse games out the window.”
The Sports Industry Management Institute introduces students to career options in the sports industry and helps them build teamwork, communication and leadership skills with courses and activities that focus on understanding the industry. Students were assigned a project at the beginning of the week that they presented to Georgetown staff by the end of their week. Arreaga also participated in two to three speaker panels per day and a plethora of activities, including a trip to the Washington Nationals stadium to meet executives behind the scenes and watch a baseball game.
“We spoke to everyone from the head of baseball operations to the media communications department to a ticket sales agent,” Arreaga explained.
The group also toured the Redskins’ Stadium, where they were greeted with a welcome sign on the big screen. A tour of the locker room and press box followed. On July 4, Arreaga watched the spectacular fireworks display over the Washington Monument.
“It was such a great learning experience,” said Arreaga. “They treated us like we were in college. We were responsible for our own time management.”
Arreaga learned internships were a crucial part of college and landing a job. Plus, he realized sports industry management might not be the only option to consider. “They talked to us about not limiting ourselves; to think about maybe majoring in business management and concentrating on getting internships in the sports industry. It gave me a lot to consider.”
Arreaga also credits TIF for giving him opportunities he may not have had otherwise. “Miss Noemi and my mentor, Mr. (John) Henry, have always been there for me. They keep me on track and are always guiding and preparing me to make sure I’m ready for the future.”
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 TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.