Monday, April 12, 2021

The Immokalee Foundation honors graduates

Excitement was in the air as friends, family members, school officials, board members and staff recently gathered at Ave Maria University for The Immokalee Foundation’s Graduation Ceremony and Celebration to recognize the accomplishments of 58 high school students and 20 post-secondary students as they graduated from the various programs of The Immokalee Foundation, including Take Stock in Children, Career Development, Immokalee Readers and College Success.

Career Development had 26 high school students graduating. Among them was Aaron Daniels, who will attend Edison State College to become a dental hygienist. Daniels said he is grateful for the opportunities TIF has provided to him. “The organization has done so much for me. It has opened my eyes to a new world.”

His fellow graduates agree. Daniel Guzman-Ramos credits TIF for teaching him to seek and create opportunities. “They helped me stay connected and through them, I was able to build a strong resume that allowed me to get accepted to five universities,” he said. Last summer, he attended George Washington University for a six-week program, and now he will pursue his environmental engineering degree at University of South Florida, with plans to eventually transfer to Yale University.

Guzman was also the proud recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. Each year, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, selects 1,000 talented students to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice.

High school graduate Marcos Gijon-Diaz grew up around agriculture, so it’s no surprise that he wants to make it a career. He plans to attend Edison State College and pursue a degree in business management and agribusiness. “I want to start a ranch with my family,” he said. “It’s always been my dad’s dream, so I want to stick around and help make it a reality.”

Gijon-Diaz said that through TIF, he not only learned about the importance of education, but also the importance of character through leadership trips and more. “Being a part of the foundation has helped me get out of the shy shell I was in.”

Maria Mendoza, Florida Gulf Coast University graduate, was the evening’s student speaker. Noting that she came from a small town in Mexico and a small family with limited funds, Mendoza said The Immokalee Foundation was there for her every step of the way. She graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “TIF has been an incredible resource throughout my college career. They have not only helped me financially, but made me comfortable being a leader.”

Cecilia Estrada, Florida Gulf Coast University graduate, said the foundation not only gave her the opportunity to seek higher education, but TIF’s programs manager, Nancy Omonte, was especially helpful. “She has been an amazing resource and served as a mentor to me and others,” she said. “I’ve gone to her with big things and she has a very calm sense about her that makes you feel better and want to persevere.”

Jose Mendieta, University of Central Florida graduate, began Take Stock in Children as a middle school student. Now, as a college graduate with a degree in business administration, he acknowledged the organization for providing him with opportunities he may not have had otherwise. “The program has put less stress on my parents and opened doors for me,” he said. “It helped me narrow my choice of schools by taking us on college tours and while in college, Ms. Omonte always checked up on me and made sure I was doing okay. I didn’t want to let her down.”

Chairman of TIF Don Gunther said, “The life skills these kids have learned from their experiences and opportunities that TIF has provided will help carry them on their ‘Pathway to Success.’” He was especially proud of the students’ accomplishments and in a heartfelt welcome to the crowd, he encouraged them to “listen to your heart and do things that make a difference in life.”

 

His advice to all of the students about to start their new journey was to, “Work harder and sleep less than anybody else.”

The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and career development, 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.

 

Sidebar:

High School TIF Graduates

Evangelina Alvarado, Take Stock in Children, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Criminal Justice

Kelley Anzualda, Take Stock in Children, Bethune-Cookman University, Nursing

Jovenise Benjamin, Immokalee Readers, Southeastern University, Pre-Med/Missionary

Nancy Bravo-Perez, Career Development, Army, Information Tech Specialist

Adriana Carranza, Career Development, Michigan State University, Pre-Med/Pediatric Intensive Care

Mercedes Castro, Career Development, Tampa Art Institute, Photo/Media

Violeta Cervantes, Take Stock in Children, University of South Florida, Medicine

Benissa Chery, Immokalee Readers, Edison State College, Biology-Pre-Med

Veronique Chevery, Immokalee Readers, Santa Fe Community College, Social Work

Alan Cruz, IR/Career Development, Florida Gulf Coast University, Business

Aaron Daniels, Career Development, Edison State College, Dental Hygienist

Amanda DelaRosa, Career Development, Edison State College

Gisset Diaz, Take Stock in Children, Robert Morris University, International Business

Marcos Gijon-Diaz, Career Development, Edison State College, Business Management/Agribusiness

Ruth Estrada, Take Stock in Children, University of South Florida, Nursing

Jose Frias, Take Stock in Children, Santa Fe Community College, Criminology

Dylan Gallegos, Career Development, Edison State College, Business

Edith Gomez, Take Stock in Children, Florida Gulf Coast University, Business

Marcos Gonzalez, Career Development, University of South Florida, Civil Engineer

Crystal Guadarrama, Take Stock in Children, Florida International University, Criminal Justice

Rolando Gutierrez, Career Development, Santa Fe Community, History

Daniel Guzman, Career Development, University South Florida, Environmental Engineer

Christina Harding, Take Stock in Children, Valencia Community College, Social Work

Augustin Hernandez, Career Development, Santa Fe Community, Law

Angelica Jean, Take Stock in Children, Florida International University, Nursing

Linda Jean-Pierre, Take Stock in Children, Florida State University, Biology/Business Marketing

Doug Kendall, Career Development, University of Florida, Pre-Med/Chemical Engineering

Tyler Lane, Career Development, Immokalee Technical Center, Multi-Media

Adriana Lara, Take Stock in Children, University of West Florida, Criminal Justice

Edgar Ledezma, Career Development, Employed

Youline Lima, Immokalee Readers, University of West Florida, Business

Maria Lopez, Career Development, Immokalee Technical Center, Registered Nurse

Julie Madrigal, Career Development, Edison State College, Nursing

George Maravilla, Jr., Take Stock in Children, University of South Florida

Oscar Martinez, Take Stock in Children, Santa Fe Community College, Criminal Justice

Erica Martinez, Career Development, University of North Florida, Nutrition

Richard Martinez, Career Development, Santa Fe Community, Engineer

Adalberto Mejia, Career Development, Immokalee Technical Center

Ruby Mendez, Take Stock in Children, University of Florida, Nursing

Marie Nelson, Career Development, Edison State College, Nursing

Luis Parra, Take Stock in Children, Florida State University, Medicine

Francisca Parra, Career Development, University of Florida, Pre-Med-Plastic Surgeon

Janita Perez, Take Stock in Children, Tallahassee Community College, Web Design

Erby Pierre, Take Stock in Children, Florida Gulf Coast University, Paramedics

Bianca Plata, Take Stock in Children, Valencia Community College, Business Management/Criminal Justice

Ramiro Reyes, Career Development, Michigan State University

Raquel Rios, Immokalee Readers, Edison State College, Nurse/RN

Gloria Rivera, Immokalee Readers, Edison State College, Education

Leticia Robles, Career Development, Air Force, Pre-Med-Physical Therapist

Alexia Sanchez, Career Development, Edison State College

Juan Raul Sandoval, Immokalee Readers, Florida Gulf Coast University, Criminal Justice

Diana Sanon, Immokalee Readers, University of West Florida, Social Work/Lawyer

Ingride Shackelton, Immokalee Readers, Edison State College, Investigator

Angelica Torres, Career Development, Edison State College

Shelika Trevino, Take Stock in Children, iTECH, Hair Design

Mariela Vega, Take Stock in Children, Birmingham Southern College, Medical/Surgeon

Martha Vilcin, Career Development, Edison State College, Physical Therapist

Sophia Zetina, Immokalee Readers, Florida Gulf Coast University, Education

 

Post-Secondary TIF Graduates

Tomas Baltazar, College Success, Florida Gulf Coast University, Marketing & Human Resource Management, Bachelors

Milca Bellegarde, College Success, Florida State University, Communication Sciences & Disorders, Bachelor of Science

Oscar Chavez, College Success, University of Tampa, History, Bachelor of Arts

Kristen Dimas, College Success, Florida State University, Biological Sciences, Bachelor of Science

Cecelia Estrada, College Success, Florida Gulf Coast University, Social Work, Bachelors

Israel Estrada, Career Development, Immokalee Technical Center, Multimedia Design

Claudenet Exceus, College Success, University of Florida, Sports Management, Bachelors of Science

Brittany Gonzalez, College Success, Florida Gulf Coast University, Communication Public Relations, Bachelors of Arts

Aaron Henry, College Success, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Business, Bachelors

Elisa Huapilla, College Success, Florida State University, English Education, Bachelors

Ambline Jean, College Success, University of Central Florida, English, Bachelors of Arts

Emmanuela Lebrun, College Success, University of Florida, Women Studies, Bachelor of Arts

Britney Matthews, College Success, University of Iowa, Economics, Bachelors of Arts

Jose Mendieta, College Success, University of Central Florida, Business Administration, Bachelors of Science

Maria Mendoza, College Success, Florida Gulf Coast University, Nursing, Bachelors of Science

Yesenia Meza, College Success, Heritage Institute, X-Ray Technician, Certification

Miguel Morales, College Success, University of North Western Ohio, Agricultural Equipment Deisel Technology Certification

Martin Navarro, College Success, George T. Baker Aviation School, Aircraft Maintenance Technician Certification

Nancy Sanchez, College Success, Florida Gulf Coast University, Social Work, Bachelor of Social Work

Tiffany Taylor, Career Development, Immokalee Technical Center, Multimedia Design

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