The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways Learning Lab recognized by Collier County commissioners

Posted 4/16/21

The Collier County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, April 14, recognized The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways Learning Lab and received an...

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The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways Learning Lab recognized by Collier County commissioners


NAPLES — The Collier County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, April 14, recognized The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways Learning Lab and received an update on the 18-home subdivision underway in Immokalee. The Learning Lab serves as a hands-on professional career experience for students participating in the foundation’s Career Pathways program.

Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, provided a brief overview to Commissioners about the Learning Lab and the foundation’s successes – including the 100 percent high school graduation rate for its students, who also have a 100 percent acceptance rate into postsecondary college and technical programs.

Following the presentation, Commission Chair Penny Taylor said, “Thank you for grounding learning into practical applications. Thank you for using the initiative and the creativity to understand kids can’t go out onto a construction site so let’s just build our own homes. Thank you to Collier Enterprises for donating that land to make it possible. This is life changing.”

Commissioner Bill McDaniel explained that the Learning Lab is “near and dear to his heart” since he put himself through college by working as a carpenter and learning different trades along the way.

“A project like this is just invaluable,” he said.

“Your Vice President of Philanthropy, Melissa Phillips, along with so many other people on your staff, are amazing ambassadors for Immokalee, the children, their families, and everybody you are helping,” said Commissioner Rick LoCastro. “It’s more than houses. It’s the incredible people who have stepped forward to be amazing donors. Congratulations for all you do.”

About the Career Pathways Learning Lab

Collier Enterprises generously donated 8.3 acres of land for the Learning Lab subdivision on Foundation Way and helped underwrite the cost of the permitting and infrastructure work, an investment of more than $1 million. The Ray Foundation’s $250,000 matching grant provided a significant boost in getting the Learning Lab underway. The Immokalee Foundation also partnered with BCB Homes and Immokalee Technical College (iTECH) to develop a high school curriculum of after-school and summer programs that incorporate on-the-job, experiential learning and paid internships.

Students in two of the foundation’s Career Pathways – Business Management & Entrepreneurship and Engineering & Construction Management – are working alongside BCB Homes professionals and other homebuilding contractors to learn technical and professional skills that are in high demand throughout Southwest Florida.

“It is commercially and logistically impractical to find our students internships at existing residential construction sites while maintaining the quality of instruction and training needed to complete industry-recognized certifications before high school graduation,” said Walt Buchholtz, The Immokalee Foundation’s operations director. “Our student interns are working at the Learning Lab subdivision during and after school and receiving real-world experience from some of Southwest Florida’s best general contractors and subcontractors.”

The Learning Lab’s first home, which was completely underwritten by The Wasie Foundation, broke ground last October and is on track for summer completion. The three-bedroom, two-bath, single-family home will have 1,680 square feet of air-conditioned living area plus a two-car garage and a lanai. The home will be sold at market price to further support The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways Learning Lab program.

Each Learning Lab home will require approximately seven months to complete. Buchholtz said The Immokalee Foundation expects to build three homes per year and anticipates completing the Learning Lab in 2027.

The Immokalee Foundation is providing supervision for students during new home construction, and iTECH supports onsite educational instruction. A double-wide trailer provided by Lipman Family Farms serves as a meeting space and on-site classroom. Learning about land development, home construction, marketing and sales, coupled with their educational curriculum, is helping Career Pathways students achieve employability upon high school graduation and pursue postsecondary education to attain their chosen professional careers.

“The Learning Lab is built on our partnerships,” said President and CEO Perez. “This innovative program would not be possible without the support of Collier Enterprises, BCB Homes, our generous donors, and many other community partners, including those that provide services on a pro-bono or reduced-fee basis.”

The Learning Lab is a program of The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways, which provides the youth of Immokalee with robust after-school and summer programming that prepares them for well-paying, in-demand professional careers. Along with Business Management & Entrepreneurship and Engineering & Construction Management, Career Pathways empowers students to pursue careers in Education & Human Services and Healthcare.

For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has provided a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, becoming a mentor, its signature events, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

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