“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
This favorite quote of Israel Briones Jr.—an 18-year-old senior at Immokalee High School—demonstrates what so many already know: He doesn’t back away from pursuing ambitious goals.
Plus, he knows that even if he fails to achieve one goal, he may still accomplish great things while trying.
Born in Naples and raised in Immokalee by Israel Briones Hernandez and Cecilia Munoz-Chavez, Isreal is the first of three children. Though his parents’ strong work ethic inspires his goalsetting, his affiliation with The Immokalee Foundation provides many of the tools necessary to achieve those goals.
Accepted into The Foundation as an eighth-grader, Israel excels in academics, loves technology, and now seeks enrollment at top-tier universities.
As a dual enrollment/early admissions student at Florida SouthWestern State College, Israel maintains straight A’s and earns college credits while in high school. Fortunately, his favorite subjects—computer science, engineering and math—are all essential to his desired career in software engineering.
Already “paying it forward,” Israel is particularly proud of creating an app that targets volunteers during his sophomore year. That’s when Collier County Public Schools sponsored its first-ever “app challenge,” with submissions focused on originality and problem-solving.
Since Israel volunteers for the Beta Club, a service-based youth organization, he identified the need for volunteers to track their hours easily. This realization led him to create “CORDIT,” inspired by “record it.” Even though he did not win the overall competition, his app did win “Most Innovative Idea.”
CORDIT recently won the GripTape Learning Challenge competition, with Israel receiving a $500 grant to help develop the product. Next, he hopes to sell his app in the Apple Store.
At the Foundation’s Career Expo last year, Israel discovered QuestBridge, which connects the brightest students from low-income backgrounds to prominent postsecondary institutions. QuestBridge then matches these students with full-need scholarships.
Israel immediately applied and was accepted. Though his early decision application to his dream school, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was deferred, he has also applied to 12 other schools, including Princeton, the University of Southern California and Yale.
As a child, he recalls watching “Naruto,” a Japanese manga series about a mischievous young Ninja. Not only did this discovery lead him to read about Japan’s history and rouse a dream to travel, but it also inspired his ongoing appreciation for fantasy genre books.
Enter Ron Butkiewcz—Israel’s mentor throughout high school. Ron broadened Israel’s perspective about the world beyond Immokalee. Through news clippings about different countries, Israel learned geography and current events. He hopes to combine his academic pursuits and desire to travel with an overseas study program in college one day.
Thanks to the Foundation, Israel attended the Kingsley Pines summer camp in Maine for two summers. Kingsley Pines was a “technology-free” camp, which made his first few days challenging. However, setting aside early homesickness, he soon embraced new activities such as water skiing and rowing while meeting fellow campers from around the world.
Through social media, he remains friends with several French campers. And not surprisingly, he also chose French as a language elective.
When confronting obstacles, Israel tries to focus on the “good” and learn something new about himself with each hurdle. He also recognizes how his perseverance has improved his ability to overcome new challenges.
As a role model, Israel looks to Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose “rags to riches” story inspires him. And Spiderman, with his Peter Parker persona—an everyday guy striving to improve the world—reminds him that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Israel dreams of working at a big tech company like Google. Or he may build a start-up, beginning with his software creation, CORDIT.
Southwest Florida, please stay tuned. Highlighted by an unwavering focus on hard work and helping others, Israel is aiming for the moon and stars.
“Eye on Immokalee” is a student profile series from The Immokalee Foundation. The Foundation provides a wide range of educational programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence.
Participating students achieve a 100% high school graduation rate, 100% continue to postsecondary programs and 92% complete their professional certification programs or college educations.
To learn more about becoming a mentor, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, donating, or including the Foundation in your estate plans, call 239-430-9122 or visit ImmokaleeFoundation.org.