- Noemi Y. Perez
The Immokalee Foundation’s Jerry and Janet Belle
Immokalee Foundation Board Chair and mentor Jerry Belle with mentee Joel Guerrero
More than almost any other region in the nation, we are all part of a community blessed by the extraordinary generosity of others.
I recently read there are 1,948 organizations in the greater Naples metro area, including Naples and Marco Island. These Naples metro nonprofits employ 23,404 people, earn more than $2 billion in revenue annually, and have assets of $7 billion.
With so many worthy causes, we continue to be grateful when The Immokalee Foundation rises to the top of a local humanitarian’s A-List.
When Janet and Jerry Belle moved to Aqualane Shores in 2008, they supported several nonprofits financially. Jerry was still working and had limited time to become actively involved. When Janet was selected to the Greater Naples Leadership Masters Class XXI, she learned about The Immokalee Foundation, among others.
Then, after Hurricane Irma, the Belles quickly learned of the devastation east of Naples and asked a friend who had a business in Immokalee how they could help. He knew they were interested in education, so this extraordinary gentleman directed Jerry and Janet Belle to The Immokalee Foundation. This timely introduction would ultimately change the lives of many of Immokalee’s deserving student population.
After meeting with staff and students in person, it quickly became apparent that The Immokalee Foundation’s mission was perfectly aligned with the couple’s interests.
The Foundation provides high-quality educational services with an impressive 100% high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rate. Foundation students continue their success after high school with a 92% postsecondary completion rate.
What begins as student success ultimately translates into career success, with an impressive 83% of Foundation alums working in their field of study.
Jumping in headfirst, Jerry became a mentor to an Immokalee Middle School student, Joel Guerrero—an exceptional scholar who graduated as salutatorian at Immokalee High School last year.
A retired CEO, Jerry was elected Chairman of the Board in 2019. And his most frequent observation? “The Immokalee Foundation is the most efficient organization I have ever been involved in. Thirty-nine staff support over 1,300 students—with a 100% high school graduation rate!”
But the Belles are perhaps most proud of being part of the development of The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program, an innovative after-school and summer curriculum recognizing students’ needs for guidance and assistance in planning careers, not just in supporting academics.
An outgrowth of a study of economic data and collaboration with area educators and employers, Career Pathways enables students to explore and choose from four unique professional pathways: Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Healthcare.
The program is a critical part of the journey for foundation students, many of whom never considered college a realistic option. It provides highly-customized educational and professional development support for Immokalee’s best and brightest—from middle school through postsecondary education. Specific components include mentorship, paid internships, field trips, ACT prep, scholarships, and more.
This bold, unique program begins early—in sixth grade—to ensure that students attain the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to secure high-demand, rewarding professional careers in Southwest Florida, with or without a college degree.
The program has been recognized regionally and nationally as a revolutionary approach to building upon traditional education.
It would be easy and fun to say that we were “Saved by the Belles”—and in many ways, that is true—but Jerry and Janet Belle would be the first to enthusiastically welcome even more of you to join us. Your personal impact is waiting to happen!
About The Immokalee Foundation
For more than 31 years, The Immokalee Foundation has been preparing the next generation of leaders through a 100% focus on education, career readiness, and professional development for students in Immokalee. The Foundation provides new pathways to success and financial independence through robust programming that prepares students for well-paying, in-demand professional careers. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, become a mentor, signature events, volunteer as a career panel speaker or host, donate, or include the Foundation in your estate plans, please call 239.430.9122 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.