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.
Originally Published in the Immokalee Bulletin, July 31, 2020
This summer, when so many businesses are closed and unable to hire, as an essential business, 15 students in our community have been provided with paid internship opportunities through the Taste of Immokalee (TOI) Summer Internship Program. These are students who have completed the Taste The Impact Apprenticeship program and are now gaining hands-on business experience as they run the company, working alongside business executives in areas including marketing, accounting, sales, operations, human resources, and customer service.
By Jeremiah Paul, Taste of Immokalee Student Intern
This year has been a new adventure for all of us, but one thing that has stayed the same is the generosity from you, our supporters. Taste the Impact’s number one goal is to ensure that our students have the resources, skills, and guidance to succeed. We would not be able to do this without your help.
We want to thank everyone who has donated, volunteered, purchased Taste of Immokalee products or has supported Taste the Impact in any other way. Here are some examples of the many ways that your kindness has gone above and beyond in the past few months.
Emily Simpson, Special to The News-Press, July 23, 2020. Read the full story on News-Press.
An alarm clock buzzes around 4 a.m. reminding them it’s time to start their day. Once up, Jeanne and Jean Astreide travel to the potato packing house, where they spend the next 10 hours working. The couple returns home around 9 p.m. to a house full of children and find their work is not over.
Yvelande Astreide and her siblings witnessed their parents’ lifestyle as farmworkers. After working long shifts, Astreide’s mom and dad came home to a list of routine duties: prepare food, check homework, and wash clothes.
“It was horrible to see my mom and dad come home after work,” Astreide said. “It’s not a pretty picture at all. They get hurt. They get tired.”