A business enterprise started by high school students is paying dividends for over 60 teens - and they're using the profits to help fund community relief programs and student education. Students with Taste of Immokalee have created a new line of salsas, barbecue and hot sauces, using tomatoes grown in and around Immokalee.
"We're student-created and student-led," said Kency Cesar, a sophomore at Gulf Coast High School. At only fifteen, she's part of the marketing team behind Taste of Immokalee.
The enterprise was created in 2014 by a group of students who wanted to do what they could to alleviate poverty in Immokalee. The profits are used for student scholarships and community relief groips.
Yvlande Astrid, now in college, stayed on after high school to do administrative work for TOI.
"We started off with one little spice, and it was just a club that we were doing," Astrid said. "And it turned out to be this amazing program that we're helping a lot of kids with."
TOI also raised $10,000 for the Benison Distribution Center, which used the money to buy a new truck for deliveries to those who lost almost everything they owned to Hurricane Irma.
"Our main goal is just to help the community," Cesar said.
Taste of Immokalee's products are sold locally, including in 18 Publix stores.
"Now we want to reach more," said Jeremiah Paul, a high school freshman, who is also part of the company's marketing team. "We want to move into the Fort Myers area and other parts of Florida."
Astrid said that the student-run business has changed her life, and is now studying for a career in marketing.
"I actually fell in love with business marketing, so the company helped me figure out what I want to do with my life," she said. "I've always been grateful for that."
Many of Taste of Immokalee's salsas and sauces are low-calorie and cholesterol free. They can be ordered online here.