Taste of Immokalee is Proof Positive
Dieulerne Deceus (left) and Yvelande Astreide (middle) – More than a hot sauce business, Taste of Immokalee is a thriving community program headed by Executive Director Marie Capita (right).
In 2014, as part of a youth entrepreneurship education program, a group of Immokalee High School students created hot sauces using family recipes. They tested the products at the Stone Crab Festival in Naples the following year … and sold every single bottle.
Their surprise popularity inspired the students to start Taste of Immokalee, which is way more than a sauce-making operation. It’s a business-training program for local students, investing its proﬁts back into the community.
Students join a business department — operations, human resources, accounting, marketing, sales — that’s managed by a student leader. Before they can become paid interns, students must complete a program of workshops and trainings in business fundamentals and soft skills.
Since 2014, 432 students have participated in the program, and 204 have been paid interns. Executive Director Marie Capita says about 98% of them have gone on to college. That’s signiﬁcant because in Immokalee, just 40% of adults have a high school diploma and only 5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree.
Many students stay involved with the program, even after graduation. They learn to create marketing strategies, digital catalogs, and how to keep up with industry trends and changing consumer tastes.
A recent graduate of Immokalee High, Deceus will be attending the University of Florida this fall. Her mother works in a packinghouse, and she has been involved in Taste of Immokalee since she was a freshman. She manages ﬁnancial records, reconciles the books and makes sure everyone gets paid.
This summer she added another key duty: Training her successor. In college, Deceus plans to study health education and behavior and pursue a career as a pediatrician.
Born in Haiti, Astreide moved to Southwest Florida when she was 8; her parents worked in Immokalee packinghouses. As a high school senior, she joined the program, worked in every department, got comfortable with public speaking and managing projects, and continued working with Taste of Immokalee as an administrative assistant while attending Florida SouthWestern State College.
She graduated this year with a business degree and was hired at Taste of Immokalee to run operations full time as No. 2 to Marie Capita, the business’s executive director.
“It’s really cool to see these kids transform and learn so much while they are in high school. They can take these skills
with them wherever they go.” — Yvelande Astreide