Woodelene Pierre, 16, of Immokalee, has always had a passion for taking care of people. Before she started high school, her dream was to become a pediatrician because she knew she specifically wanted to help care for children.
In seventh grade Pierre applied to the Immokalee Foundation and has been a member since. It wasn’t until joining the organization that she heard of neonatal nursing.
“I felt like [the Immokalee Foundation] was a great opportunity to get closer to my goals in life,” Pierre said.
Since 1991, the foundation has been preparing students in the Immokalee community for their future with a focus on education, career readiness and professional development from kindergarten to postsecondary education.
Through the foundation, Pierre chose to go into the health care pathway, which introduced her to a career in neonatal nursing.
“We went to Golisano Children’s Hospital, it sparked something in me,” she said.
When she saw what a typical day was like for health care workers at the hospital and heard from guest speakers who work with children, it was confirmation for Pierre that neonatal nursing was what she wanted to do.
Pierre is one of 40 foundation students who have been chosen to participate in a new health care education initiative with the Immokalee Foundation and Physicians Regional. She was also chosen to be one of 12 students participating in internships at the Pine Ridge Road and Collier Boulevard hospitals.
Physicians Regional is providing $75,000 for the initiative, which includes a health care summer camp at Florida Gulf Coast University for students ages 14-17 and for internships where students will have the opportunity to shadow health care professionals in various specialties and participate in medical-office-support activities. The summer camp and internships run from June 14 to July 8.
“The effort is a part of The Immokalee Foundation’s innovative Career Pathways Program, a comprehensive educational approach that breaks new ground in preparing students for professional careers. In addition to health care, pathways include business management and entrepreneurship, education and human services and engineering and construction management,” Immokalee Foundation officials said.
Physicians Regional will also match students in the health care and business management and entrepreneurship pathways with staff members to enhance their individual educational journeys.
“Our alumni are already working throughout Southwest Florida as physicians, nurses, physical therapists, technicians and more—and we’re committed to adding to the talent pool. This new initiative with Physicians Regional will be instrumental in helping us scale our existing health care pathway program to better meet the growing demand for health care professionals now and in the years ahead,” President and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation Noemi Y. Perez said.
Overall, the Immokalee Foundation pushes students toward their achievements, Pierre said.
“They (the foundation) are behind you through all of it … It is a great opportunity not many people can say they did. It’s a blessing,” Pierre said.