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Students in Immokalee Foundation programs not only excel in academics but also as charitable citizens.

Jonathan Cantu, a foundation alumnus who graduated from Immokalee High School in 2011 and Philadelphia University in December 2016, illustrated that spirit recently by nominating the foundation for a philanthropic program at Altar’d State, the clothing and gift store at Coconut Point where he is assistant manager.

“Along with being a Christian-based company, the brand prides itself on being a giveback company,” Cantu said.

Each quarter, the staff from the franchise’s 100-plus stores are given a theme; based on that theme, they choose a nonprofit to receive 10 percent of net sales one day a week during that quarter.

For fall 2018, the charity focus was ‘helping children.’ Cantu saw an opportunity.

“I told them about the foundation’s mission and what they’re doing for children in Immokalee, helping them look beyond high school and know they have the opportunity to excel,” Cantu said.

Cantu knows from personal experience: He was a junior in high school when he decided he would pursue a career in fashion – but he had no idea how to go about it. He had heard great things about The Immokalee Foundation, so he sent a letter about how much he wanted to attend a summer program at the Art Institute of Chicago to prepare for a future in fashion.

That’s when doors began to open. Not only did he spend that summer in the program at the Art Institute of Chicago, but he also attended another at the Illinois Institute of Art. While working on body casting, painting, art history and fashion design, he created his own 10-piece designer garment collection and earned his first three college credits.

Through advice, contacts and scholarship money from the foundation, he earned his degree at Philadelphia University. In addition to Altar’d State, Cantu has had experience working for Nautica, QVC and Lilly Pulitzer, as well.

Cantu told his coworkers about the Take Stock in Children scholarship opportunities and the foundation’s mentorship program. “I explained to them why I felt so driven to help The Immokalee Foundation,” he said, “and my coworkers thought it was special. They were really excited they were able to help.”

Over the course of 11 Mondays, 10 percent of the net sales at Altar’d State were earmarked for The Immokalee Foundation, which added nearly $4,000 to the foundation’s general fund to support programs that serve children beginning in elementary school through post-secondary education.

Store personnel learned about The Immokalee Foundation so they could share the organization’s success stories with customers, who were invited to take brochures and learn more through the foundation’s website.

By now, Cantu has had experience working for Nautica, QVC and Lilly Pulitzer as well.

More: Guest Column: Immokalee Foundation receives strategic initiative partnership award

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, becoming a mentor, its signature events, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit https://immokaleefoundation.org.

Noemi Y. Perez, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at noemi.perez@immokaleefoundation.org.

 

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