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Immokalee Foundation

Students of The Immokalee Foundation pursuing careers in health care have been given the opportunity to learn what it’s like to work in a hospital environment through a new summer internship initiative. 

In partnership with Naples-based Physicians Regional Healthcare System, this internship is part of The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program. Students enter the program in sixth grade after being chosen through an application process that includes a formal interview with a panel of community members.  

The Career Pathways program has had immense success, with 100% of its students graduating high school and 92% graduating from post-secondary education. There are four different pathways that the students can choose, this internship opportunity being for rising 12th graders who have chosen the health care pathway.  

“The benefit here is that we have provided the education to the students so that when they come into the internship they’re pretty much 99% sure that this is the path that they want to go into,” said Noemi Perez, CEO and president of The Immokalee Foundation 

Students are given their pathway curriculum upon entering the program, so getting the experience with Physicians Regional is something the students have had years to prepare for. When Perez and her team talked with Scott Lowe, market CEO of Physicians Regional, about ways to collaborate, they were all quick to see how this would be a benefit for both organizations.  

“I think that the same type of equal mindset is where the synergy happened,” Perez said. “[Lowe] saw the vision. We’re giving the kids opportunity, bringing in the educational component, and his future vision of making sure that he invests into the next generation is a win-win for everyone.” 

Within this four-week program, students will be immersed into every different department of the hospital from clinical to administrative. This way, the high school seniors get exposure to the entirety of the health care delivery model.  

Some of the experiences these students get include shadowing doctors as they perform X-rays, prepare a patient for surgery and perform surgery. They will also learn the importance of the marketing and billing aspect of hospital work.  

The Immokalee Foundation sees a lot of value in mentorship as students will be mentored individually by health care staff within the academic year either on campus or virtually. “I think [mentorship] is a great resource for these kids as they figure out really what they want to do long-term,” Lowe said.  

Physicians Regional provided The Immokalee Foundation a check for $75,000 to cover costs of the internship program including the transportation, meals and attire. The donation also helps fund its Healthcare Summer Camp hosted at Florida Gulf Coast University. The camp is made up of 40 students, ranging from rising ninth to 11th graders. Each week, the students will be taught a different aspect of health care and take field trips to a different organization.  

The next step for many of The Immokalee Foundation health care students after completing the internship at Physicians Regional is aiming to become CNA Certified. “Earning certifications upon graduation is a benefit to a lot of organizations especially in health care,” Perez said. “What hospital wouldn’t want a certified high school graduate to come on board and find their roots?”  

The Immokalee Foundation and Physicians Regional are planning to partner each year for these two initiatives as a way to benefit the whole community. 

“We want to be the pipeline of talent for Southwest Florida,” Perez said. “I think this partnership is going to highlight to other organizations that it’s good to start investing in the future because it’ll take time, but ultimately, it’s worth it.”   

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