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FutureMakers partners come to aid of LaBelle students needing tuition assistance

By January 17, 2017No Comments5 min read

$430.96 donation helps rural engineering students complete certificates and access jobs in Hendry County

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2017) – Four-hundred dollars might not seem like a lot of money to many people, but for students trying to earn an advanced certificate, it can be the amount that holds them back from getting a good-paying job and filling a needed workforce gap.

Luckily there is a team of concerned leaders in our region who are working together to strike down barriers holding students back from accessing higher education. The FutureMakers Coalition’s goal is to transform our workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.

LaBelle residents Joel Flores and Ruben Ferreira recently benefited from FutureMakers’s partners Florida Southwestern State College, the Hendry County Economic Development Council and its subcommittee, the Education Improvement Task Force, and Direct Industrial Products and Machining all working together to help these students overcome a tuition barrier.

The two first-time college students were both receiving As and Bs in their classes toward earning their college credit certificate program of studies in engineering technology support specialist at FSW’s Hendry-Glades County campus. When it came time for the final class they needed, a Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) course, their funding fell short.

FSW’s School of Business and Technology Xcel-IT Coordinator Doug Goldman reached out to Brent Kettler and the Hendry Economic Development Council for assistance in obtaining the $430.96 each of the two students needed to finish their coursework.

“Through our Education Improvement Task Force, we had available funds to be able to help these two students complete their coursework which is directly in line with our goals of working together to solve education related challenges in Hendry County,” said Kettler. “As part of our focus to align local business and the Hendry County education community, we also saw an opportunity to provide these students a mentoring aspect which would further help their attainment.”

Kettler reached out to Mark Chapman, president of sales and procurement of Direct Industrial Products and Machining, an industrial construction supply store and fabrication/machine shop in LaBelle who has a team of CAD experts on staff asking him to offer the two students mentoring that would take place simultaneously during their final semester.

“This collaboration to support workforce development is a win-win for our community,” said Chapman. “We, like many other businesses in Hendry County, are in constant need of qualified workers and are proud to create an opportunity for these students to apply what they are learning at FSW so they can become part of a skilled workforce that will benefit us all.”

Flores and Ferreira are currently finishing their final CAD class at FSW and shadowing one of Direct’s CAD operators one hour per week to experience first hand how their coursework is applied daily in real life work scenarios. Upon successful completion, both will graduate with their 16-hour college credit certificates this spring.

“These were two students that never seriously entertained going to college because they didn’t think they could afford it, and it intimidated them,” said Goldman. “The change from when they started to now is remarkable. They are fully engaged and excelling. It gives me a very good feeling knowing that I was just one of many who have helped them and that both of them would now like to continue their education and next earn college credit certificates in information technology support specialist.”

“Stories like this are perfect examples of how private and public partnerships created through the FutureMakers Coalition are helping us move the needle on attaining our workforce goals,” said Tessa LeSage, who as director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation oversees the FutureMakers Coalition. “One class can be what keeps someone in our community from the completing the certificate or degree they need for a better-paying job equating to positions our regional businesses are desperate to fill if we have the skilled workforce available.”

In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at


Contact: Melinda Isley, APR, m.creativepr, 239-274-7736, cell: 239-565-1630,