Education is Changing Lives and Changing Immokalee

Guadalupe Center Early Childhood Education students at the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning groundbreaking held on October 30, 2020.

Poverty has impacted Immokalee for generations.

At 43.4%, the community’s poverty rate is among the highest in America. By comparison, its educational attainment rate is one of the lowest, with just 39.3% of adults earning a high school diploma.

The two are directly correlated and precisely why Guadalupe Center launched an ambitious expansion plan that offers hope to Immokalee by focusing on children as young as 6 weeks old.

Research shows the period between birth and age 5 is the most important stretch in a child’s academic, social, behavioral and emotional development as they learn how to think critically, express themselves and act around others.

A high quality program for disadvantaged students can deliver a 65% reduction in lifetime violent crime, 40% reduction in lifetime arrests and 20% reduction in unemployment.

Essentially, preschool is where children are set up for a lifetime of success.

Guadalupe Center broke ground on October 30, 2020 for a new educational campus that will create lasting, transformational change for students in Immokalee.

Guadalupe Center’s ambitious fundraising campaign, “Guadalupe Center 2020 & Beyond,” offers additional Immokalee families an opportunity to springboard their children’s lives through education.

Phase I was celebrated in August with the opening of the Monaghan Family Early Childhood Education Campus, which can provide life changing educational opportunities to 64 children.

Phase II will launch in 2021 with the completion of the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning, which will accommodate another 154 early learning students.

“2020 and Beyond” will allow Guadalupe Center to expand its Early Childhood Education Program from 307 students to 525 students.

According to the Florida Department of Education, only 18% of Immokalee children enter kindergarten at grade level. By comparison, 95% of students in Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program meet or exceed Florida’s kindergarten readiness standards.

Those students can matriculate to Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program, where 100% of students demonstrate reading and math gains each year. Then, the college preparatory Tutor Corps Program puts the final touches on their education.

Since that program’s inception, 100% of seniors have graduated from high school and 94% have earned a college degree. A high quality early learning program truly creates endless possibilities for a child’s future. Guadalupe Center students have gone on to become honor roll students and high school class valedictorians.

Guadalupe Center’s van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning is anticipated to open late 2021 and will accommodate another 154 early learning students, as well as 125 high school students in the college preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

They’ve earned full-ride scholarships to prestigious universities across the country. More than half of Tutor Corps students have returned to Immokalee, college degree in hand, to work as teachers, healthcare specialists, engineers, public service workers and business leaders.

They are spending their income at local restaurants, retail stores and farmers markets. They are buying homes and vehicles, true signs of independence for a young adult. They are also giving back to their communities by volunteering for charitable causes and helping the same organizations that helped them as children.

These former students offer concrete evidence that education can break the cycle of poverty in Immokalee.

Dawn Montecalvo is president of Guadalupe Center in Immokalee. To contribute to the ”2020 & Beyond” campaign and help create endless possibilities for additional students, please visit or call 239-657-7711.

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