In 2017, a 14-year-old young man from Naples entered the Taste of Immokalee (TOI) summer internship program. That young man is Jeremiah Paul. Jeremiah was selected to be in the program as a pilot to see if middle school students were ready to perform the task required of the program. It was the first time the youth entrepreneurship program recruited a middle school student, and it was the first time the program included students outside of Immokalee, Florida. This was made possible by a grant from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation. Breaking down the invisible boundaries that separate some of the State’s wealthiest and poorest communities, that summer marked a milestone for both the TOI program and for the 24 impressionable minds that would learn to run and operate a business alongside peers of differing socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
Now, after five years with TOI, Jeremiah is graduating from Gulf Coast High School and heading off to the University of Miami this Fall as a Foote Fellow Honors Program student with the Singer’s scholarship. He plans to major in business with a focus on Marketing and Computer Science.
College’s today are not only looking for students with strong GPAs, but they also for students who are well rounded and are involved in different community activities. Jeremiah attributes a great part of his success to the experience and skills that he gained while working at Taste of Immokalee.
Although Jeremiah was the youngest student admitted into the program, he never let that stop him from completing an assignment. Creative, innovative, always hands-on, and inquisitive are just some of the words that we would use to describe this very talented young man. He consistently exhibited a great amount of maturity and the ability to rise to any occasion. As head of the marketing department, he was proactive and never needed to be told what to do. He was always searching for new creative ways to improve the marketing team and ways to put the company in the spotlight.
Jeremiah’s list of accomplishments throughout his education years in Collier County are impressive. While maintaining these responsibilities with Taste of Immokalee, Jeremiah was able to maintain his top 10% placement within his class ranking along with maintaining leadership positions in numerous clubs and organizations, such as Gulf Coast High School’s Model UN team and the National Honor Society. But as Jeremiah reflects, he shares “that having the opportunity to be mentored by Kristi Grigsby, Taste of Immokalee’s marketing consultant who comes with a wealth of experience from the corporate world, is what improved his writing skills to where he became a skillful debater who placed in many competitions not only statewide, but throughout the country.”
TOI students have the unique opportunity to learn and practice both the technical and soft skills needed in today’s job market, including the ability to solve problems and collaborate with peers, customers and partners. TOI gave Jeremiah the opportunity to put all that knowledge into practice. As he learned about entrepreneurship and became involved in the business operations behind Taste of Immokalee, Jeremiah and his peers learned how to apply their years of classroom learning to the real world. For example, math skills are applied as the students learn to manage finances in QuickBooks, determine breakeven points, profit margins, and calculate the most cost-effective shipping methods.
Sales and marketing are also integral components of the entrepreneurship program. Jeremiah has interned in our accounting, sales, and marketing departments. He discovered that marketing is what feeds his soul, and he realizes that he could be successful academically and still be available for other activities as well. We would like to also highlight that Jeremiah is the creator of most of our marketing and promotional materials including our annual Christmas catalogs. Jeremiah contributed to numerous local publications and through PR efforts secured story placements in stories published in newspapers and magazines about the company and the entrepreneurship program.
TOI gives students from both Naples and Immokalee the opportunity to work together and teach them that there are no silos in a business. Working with his colleagues from Immokalee has shown Jeremiah that even though people may have the determination and skill sets to achieve their goals, they may not have the same resources available to reach them easily. This realization has sparked a passion, as he shares: “It is this insight that has helped me understand my life’s purpose: exposing children in underdeveloped communities to life-changing resources.”
We are so excited and proud of all of Jeremiah’s accomplishments. With talent like this there is no telling how far this young man can and will go!
Spend a Day on the Green, and Change a Student's Life
With the success of last year's event, we are proud to announce our annual Charity Golf Tournament. We encourage you to join us for a day of golf at the phenomenal Estuary at Grey Oaks , followed by a cookout where you'll have the chance to meet the students involved in the program and hear how your support is transforming lives.
Event: Taste the Impact 2021 Charity Golf Tournament
Date: Sunday, October 17th, 2021
Location: The Estuary at Grey Oaks, 1600 Estuary Dr, Naples, FL 34105
*All proceeds benefit our Youth Entrepreneurship Program
Tickets are now available for the Live Virtual Cooking Class Fundraiser benefiting Taste the Impact. 100% of the proceeds will support the nonprofit’s youth entrepreneurship program that uniquely combines classroom learning and hands-on business experience to equip high school students with the skills they need to succeed in college and careers.
The Virtual Cooking Classes will be held once per month from May through October, 2021, and will feature a variety of top chefs, from local favorites to national celebrities. Chefs donating their time and talents for this fundraiser include (in order of appearance):
By Don Manly
Originally published in Coastal Breeze News on March 21, 2020
A serious illness several years ago led Marie Capita to take stock of just what she was doing with her life. The result of that internal dialog was a course correction, one that saw her exchange her legal career for one that she finds more fulfilling – helping prepare Immokalee’s high school students for career success once their school days end.
Capita is executive director of two organizations that are dedicated to providing the skills to accomplish that goal: Taste of Immokalee and Taste the Impact.
Taste of Immokalee is a student created and led company that provides hands-on experience in all aspects of business. The focus is on entrepreneurship and leadership and to prepare youths for college and careers. Founded in 2014, the company creates and sells specialty food products representing Immokalee’s diverse culture and rich agriculture. The products are sold online and in supermarkets, including in more than 240 Publix locations. Profits are returned to the community to benefit youth programs, and alleviate hunger and poverty.
Even though life is not always easy and there are many reminders of poverty in Immokalee, there are also many amazing examples of generosity.
We have much to be thankful for. In 2020, Taste the Impact saw great success and made great impact in the community. This could not have been achieved without the generosity of people like you. We are blessed by the many supporters who make Taste the Impact possible, including our donors who provide necessary resources, dedicated volunteers who spend time teaching and mentoring our students, and our partners from non-profit agencies who allow us to reach more students and add depth to our programs.
As one of the founders of our sister organization, Taste of Immokalee, our dream in 2014 was to provide students living in poverty with the opportunity to change their lives and their community through entrepreneurship. Our dream has become a reality that has taken root in many hearts and has sparked change in Immokalee’s environment and beyond.
Through our weekly workshops, students learn the soft skills that can bolster their careers. Students are eligible for certification under the Florida Ready to Work Soft Skills Assessment program and have the opportunity for a paid educational work-based internship, thereby reinforcing the skills they have learned throughout the year.
Last year, Taste the Impact served nearly 100 students in the community, including 32 work base paid internships. To continue expanding our program in 2021 and providing more students with the opportunity to participate, we need your support! Now, you can double your impact thanks to our newly announced SPRING CAMPAIGN.
Please consider making a tax deductible gift before June 1 and double your impact: a donation of $1,000 turns into $2,000, $100 turns into $200! Your gift to Taste the Impact will help more young people change their lives and their community through entrepreneurship.
We thank you and wish you and your family peace and God's blessings!
Regine Francois, Taste of Immokalee Alumnus
Columbia University Graduate, Class of 2019
What makes Taste the Impact unique is that it is attached to a retail business, Taste of Immokalee. Taste of Immokalee is a student-created, student-operated business used as a tool to provide the students with real-world experience in business. Thanks to our customers and supporter who purchased our holiday bundles, in 2020, our Holiday Bundle Sale was a big success. The students were able to sell 831 bundles this year, and the company was able to hire 3 temporary laborers from Immokalee during the holiday. The profits from the sale of these bundles will go to charity.
Special thanks to Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop for partnering with us this holiday season to bake our Orange Zest Chocolate chip cookies and companies such as Charles Schwab, Fifth Avenue Family, Agnoli, Barber & Brundage, Naples Nephrology, Southern Florida District Church of the Nazarene, Ave Maria DaVita Dialysis Clinic, One by One Leadership Foundation and Clifton Larson Allen for purchasing the bundles for their customers and employees. This year let our bundles bring some JOY to the lives of your loved ones, colleagues, staff, and friends.
If you have missed your favorite Taste of Immokalee products, the team is standing by, ready to take your online orders.
Thanks to our supporters, sponsors, venue, and volunteers, our 2020 Charity Golf Tournament was a great success. We raised $20,505. This will help us continue to provide a needed service in the community. Attendees were able to enjoy an afternoon of golf at one of Southwest Florida's premier courses, the Club at Olde Cypress. The Golf Tournament featured a box-lunch, prepared by the chef at Olde Cypress Golf Club and snacks and beverages throughout the course. This was a fun time for golfers to come out and enjoy some fresh air, all while staying safe and following COVID-19 CDC restrictions for gatherings.
We look forward to seeing everyone on the greens again this year.
In 2020, thanks to your generosity and support, Taste the Impact served 95 students in the community. Through our company, Taste of Immokalee, we provided 16 paid educational work base Summer internships and 16 paid educational work base In-school internships. Students who participated in our internship program had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in business and soft skills needed to be successful in their career paths. Under the guidance of professional business mentors, they were actively involved in all areas, including finance, operations, product research, HR, customer service, sales, and marketing. This early exposure provides the opportunity to discover their passion and strengths and begin forging a successful career path. Students are earning industry-recognized certifications and gaining marketable skills.
In a 2020 survey conducted by the Collier County School District, it was reported that out of the 192 students who answered that they had completed a High School Internship, 19 reported Taste of Immokalee as their place of employment during the internship. With your help, we are able to achieve one of our goals which are to increase the number of students who have completed an internship before graduating from high school.
To date, Taste of Immokalee and Taste the Impact has served 432 students and has provided 204 paid educational work base internships to students in the community. With your help, we are looking to increase these numbers in 2021.
In 2020, Taste the Impact launched its Career Readiness & Soft Skills Development pilot program. As the “skill gap” among young people increases, Taste the Impact, a Taste of Immokalee initiative, partnered with Grace Place, Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Gargiulo Education Center, and the Greater Naples Chamber to prepare young people for success in their career paths. The purpose of this collaborative movement is to increase the number of high school students with fundamental employability skills. Partnering organizations will embed the Taste the Impact curriculum in their existing Career Path program. What sets the Taste the Impact Career Readiness & Soft Skills Development program apart from other career-based education programs is its focus on not only classroom learning but also the ability to put that knowledge to work in a real-world entrepreneurial environment. To give students a sense of reality and hands-on experience throughout the curriculum, we use the Taste of Immokalee, a student-created and student-operated business, as a tool to provide students with a more concrete learning experience. The videos, case studies, and best practice scenarios come from student interns’ experiences as they are working in the Taste of Immokalee company. In this innovative model, learning is less abstract and more hands-on.
In 2021, with your help, we are looking to bring in more partners into this innovative, collaborative movement.
eBella Magazine, Aug/Sep 2020 issue. Story by Jennifer Reed, Photography by Heather Donlan.