SWFREC Partnership with Immokalee 1 By 1 Leadership Foundation Offers Student Internships

Kelsey Fry Research 0 Comments

photoAlfredo Villalobos-Perez watches intently as entomology assistant Jose Castillo explains
the relevance of the number of psyllids (vector insects of citrus greening) on the other side of the microscope
in front of them. As the whirling machines around them gather data, Villalobos-Perez and Castillo are seeking
some answers of their own.

Villalobos-Perez is one of the students who have recently completed a paid internship at the UF/IFAS
Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee. This opportunity is a result of
the relationship that has formed between the 1 By 1 Leadership Foundation and the SWFREC.

The 1 By 1 Leadership Foundation has been dedicated to working with Immokalee students for more than 10
years. The foundation is better known for the student-led business called Taste of Immokalee that sells salsas
and other products in Winn-Dixie and Publix stores throughout the state. However, one of its newest initiatives
includes partnering with the SWFREC.

The SWFREC is an agricultural research center that serves growers in Collier, Lee, Hendry, Charlotte, and
Glades counties. While the center has utilized area student interns in the past, the 1 By 1 partnership has
revived such opportunities for three recent graduates of Immokalee High School (IHS).

Villalobos-Perez, a graduate of the IHS class of 2015, has been interning at the center for two years. He
volunteered during his senior year of high school with the agricultural engineering department and this
summer interned in the entomology department through his college institution, Grinnell College in Iowa. He
plans to follow the medical route and become a doctor. At the SWFREC, he helped to run his own research
project focused on studying the use of a predatory insect as a biological control mechanism for the psyllid.
“My research has been an eye-opening and rewarding experience,” Villalobos-Perez says. “Knowing that the
work I am doing could help someone in their field of work is amazing.”

Marvin Francois graduated from IHS this past spring. Like Villalobos-Perez, he too worked this summer in the
SWFREC entomology department under professor Dr. Phil Stansly along with Castillo and technician Monica
Triana. Francois is attending Santa Fe College in Gainesville this fall to pursue a degree in biology.

“Being able to work at the center has reinforced my passion for science,” he explains, adding that exposure to
science protocol and lab techniques will be helpful in the future. While one of the most impactful aspects of
Francois’ internship has been finding a mentor in Triana, however, Stansly explains that internships like these
create a two-way beneficial street.

“These internships offer the students real-world working experience, but we at SWFREC benefit equally in the
work that the students do for us,” Stansly explains. “Our UF/IFAS programs are quite fortunate to participate
in this partnership, which helps the Immokalee students and our research.”

Jasmin Jaimes, a graduate of the IHS class of 2016, began interning this summer in the SWFREC
communications department. Jasmin began attending UF this fall and plans to pursue dual degrees in
psychology and family, youth, and community sciences. As a SWFREC intern, she assists with developing
press releases and updating various brochures that promote the center and its research. This particular
internship is expected to run into the school year because of the nature of the work and the ability for it to
serve as a service-learning opportunity from a distance.

These are exciting times not only for the students participating in the internships but also for the SWFREC and
1 By 1 Leadership Foundation. Dr. Calvin Arnold, SWFREC center director, and Dr. Richard Hailer and
Sinclaire Williams, 1 By 1 supervisors, are interested in getting more local students to take part in the
experience.

Dr. Hailer, who supervises the Cultivate Immokalee project (students create and maintain earth boxes to grow
plants), explained the reason 1 By 1 began this outreach with the SWFREC: “I think that these internships
have allowed for organizations like UF/IFAS to use the great talent of IHS student leaders while giving them a
chance to get real-life experience and give back through service-learning.”

Jaimes agrees with Villalobos-Perez and Francois in her belief that these internships can have a great impact
on students.

“An internship with SWFREC will not only broaden the horizons of local students to various career and
learning opportunities,” she says, “It will also add on to 1 By 1’s and UF’s goal of developing young and
confident leaders.”

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