Seeing the Future

FutureMakers Navigators Guide Adults to Career Vision

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

“What would you love to do if you could do anything?”

FutureMakers Navigator April Mesa presented this question to an unemployed man in Southwest Florida who lacked a vision for the incredible career opportunity Mesa would soon reveal to him.

It wasn’t that he didn’t HAVE a vision; he couldn’t SEE the vision through the barriers that stood in his way. For adults who could benefit from a credential beyond a high school diploma, barriers to those credentials include not knowing where to start, being overwhelmed by the steps needed, confusion about how to fill out forms, and not knowing how to pay for it all.

These barriers are precisely what a FutureMakers Navigator can help you navigate around.

Mesa explained that she and her fellow Navigator Shallyn Sims are trained in how to know what help is out there and how to get the steps completed to achieve that far-off vision of a better career, including applying for the FAFSA or scholarships, or updating a resume.

Their work covers multiple counties, but they stay current about resources specific to each county. In Charlotte County, for example, individuals who don’t have access to a computer or internet at home and need one in their job hunt can check out a Chromebook and hotspot from the Port Charlotte Public Library on Aaron Street. Chromebook bundles are available to be checked out for one month at a time on a first come, first served basis.

According to Mesa, currently only 41% of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 in Southwest Florida have a credential beyond a high school diploma. This leaves almost 60% of working adults in the region with the opportunity to advance their career options and improve the local workforce.

And if they can’t see it, these women can help!

United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC) set educational success as one of its top three priority areas. Our team focuses on early childhood education, and efforts that begin before a child is even born. The earlier we can make an impact in a child’s life, the better his or her educational journey will be.

But we also consider ourselves FutureMakers. We support and partner with these Navigators in their collective impact initiative to help Southwest Floridians achieve educational and career success.

Mesa told me, “Credentials. Credentials. Credentials. That’s the goal.” She said that an educated community uplifts the economy, to the benefit of everyone. The Navigators put an emphasis on skills needed for jobs that are in demand locally. This means that once a Charlotte County resident advances his or her career skills, they do not need to move away as there are local jobs just waiting for their new skillset.  

The gentleman Mesa was working with to see a vision for his new career took an assessment that indicated a graphic design career would suit him perfectly. Mesa found a local program in graphic design and explained all the necessary steps for how to get started in the program and pay for it.

With the barriers lifted, he could see the vision.

Mesa is incredibly enthusiastic about her work. She said that a lot of what she does is ease people’s anxiety and help them with the legwork. “This gives us an educated community,” she said.

If you know someone who could benefit from meeting with a FutureMakers Navigator, please contact April Mesa at or 239-333-4181. And for more information on all that FutureMakers is doing across Southwest Florida, visit

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at