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For more than 30 years, the Immokalee Foundation has carried out its mission of getting more Immokalee natives through high school and into college.

A recent partnership with BCB Homes has furthered that mission.

An 18-home subdivision, adjacent to an orange grove and not far from Immokalee High School, will be under construction over the next five years.

“One of our clients about four years ago had a vision for empowering young people in the community to get into the construction industry,” said Greg Brisson, president of BCB Homes, which typically builds high-end, luxury homes from Marco Island north to Sarasota. “He was on the board of the Immokalee Foundation and reached out and asked us if we could develop a program. And we jumped at the opportunity.”

The end result is the Learning Lab, where Immokalee students can get hands-on experience in managing the construction of a real house.

The first family of four moved into theirs in mid-December. They paid $260,000 for a house that appraised at $280,000.

“It’s hard to find homes like this in Immokalee,” said Francia Hyacinthe, a nurse. She and her husband Schiller have two children: Schimar, 3, and Felicia, 5.

“When I was growing up in Immokalee, I had the opportunity to learn a trade,” she said. “You learn a trade, and you can grow up and teach it to the next generation.”

Danny Trejo, 18 and a recent Immokalee High School graduate, helped manage construction of the house as one of the first participants in the new partnership with BCB Homes.

“A year ago, there was nothing here,” Trejo said, gesturing at the home he helped build. “I love the way things look at the end. Now there’s already a family living in there. It’s amazing.”

Trejo looks to be building more in the future. He’s a freshman at FGCU, majoring in construction management and minoring in computer information systems.

Noemi Perez, CEO of the Immokalee Foundation, celebrated with the partners and participants of the program Friday as the project continues.

“It’s an exciting moment,” Perez said. “It’s amazing that we’ve been able to come to this point. It’s been a number of years that we’ve really been thinking about this project in general. To see it all come together, there’s no way to describe the emotion and the excitement that we all have.”

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