Friday, January 21, 2022

Future business leaders learn how to work a room

Students of The Immokalee Foundation learned the value of making a positive first impression in a business setting during a recent networking reception at the Hilton Naples.

Dressed for success, 63 juniors, seniors and college apprentices interacted with some of the area’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs sharing their goals, ambitions and how they plan to achieve their lifelong careers. The business executives provided insight from the transition to college, entering the workforce and path to their current positions. This was all part of a career training day The Immokalee Foundation provided for their scholars to offer awareness of professional etiquette and networking strategies.

Students gathered in the hotel lobby prepared to ask significant questions about their prospective career paths they want to lead upon graduation in May. They worked the room introducing themselves to 45 people from different occupations ranging from the CEOs and presidents of Fifth Third Bank, NCH Healthcare System, Barron Collier Companies and Corporate Dimensions, co-owners of Lane Insurance and Tory’s Hair Salon to the district manager of D’Amico & Partners and attorneys at Vernon-Healy as well as business exec’s with Florida Gulf Coast University, Quarles and Brady LLP, Arthrex and Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and Public Relations. Board members of The Immokalee Foundation also gave their encouragement and advice to the students they support all year long.

“The face-to-face contact builds confidence in each of these future business leaders,” said Liz Allbritten, TIF’s executive director. “Socializing with diverse professionals gives them a wide perspective of options available to them in the workforce.”

Immokalee High School senior Ruth Estrada never understood how important networking was to her. “The people I met can really help me throughout my steps of becoming a nurse.”

Each student gained knowledge of how to project necessary and interesting details in a succinct and graceful manner. Students created and exchanged business cards in the hopes of making that one connection which could further their potential future opportunities.

“I really enjoyed meeting Kate O’Brien, manager of fund development at Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida,” said Stephanie Alcime, a junior at Immokalee High School. “Kate encouraged me to complete my award levels in the Girl Scouts, and explained the benefits as well as offered some great tips on how to make it happen.”

The business leaders provided insights into making connections, building enduring and mutually beneficial relationships that are crucial to securing a job and advancing in a career.

“The students did an excellent job of presenting themselves and making conversation,” noted Maureen McGovern, administration of Quarles & Brady LLP. “They were articulate, professional and courteous, and I enjoyed meeting them.”

Prior to the networking reception, TIF provided the students with an etiquette luncheon and training session underwritten by Shula’s Steak House. “Social and dining etiquette plays a key role in the workforce today,” said Brenda O’Connor, senior vice president with The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. O’Connor and Wilma Boyd, owner of Preferred Travel, instructed the first portion of the day’s session about appropriate and professional dining etiquette. During a four-course meal presentation, the students were given detailed instructions about proper table manners and formal dining including when and how to order, the meal service and proper behavior. Boyd and O’Connor also instructed the students about how to engage in conversation, when to bring up business, handling of table mishaps and being a good host.

The second session of the day was a hands-on networking seminar conducted by Ryan Williams, a member of the Young Professionals of Naples. Williams offered the students information about how to network with business leaders. The students learned about suitable social skills, exercising body language and how to wear a name tag and to conduct themselves in a professional atmosphere. He shared tips to develop a personal style as well as how to make an introduction that is impactful, to leave a good impression and to react to uncomfortable situations. Williams also presented helpful hints on what are inappropriate manners and talking points when mingling.

“I feel more confident about meeting leaders. I enjoyed practicing at the luncheon and then before the reception,” added Alcime. “It’s really nice that The Immokalee Foundation and Naples Hilton did this for us.”

“It is exciting and wonderful to offer this opportunity to kids who have never experienced a fine dining atmosphere,” said Clark Hill, general manager of Hilton Naples. “We were impressed by the maturity and professionalism of all the young women and men in attendance.”

The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and career development, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development. To learn more about volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

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