The Guadalupe Center in Immokalee is a symbol of hope.
For more than 30 years, the nonprofit organization has guided pre-kindergarten through high school-aged students toward a better future, one focused on education as an answer to breaking the cycle of poverty.
The success stories – 79 college graduates, thousands of kindergarten-ready students and first-generation children speaking English – are many.
In 2014, the center served 1,065 children through its three core programs, graduating nearly 100 from the Early Childhood Education Center; expanding its after-school mentoring to four Immokalee elementary schools and 650 children; and helping 14 college-bound high school seniors in its Tutor Corps Program secure $1.1 million in scholarship and financial aid, including up to $16,000 they each earned tutoring younger students. To date, 101 Tutor Corps graduates are attending college, 70 students are enrolled in the program and a record 27 seniors are among the class of 2015.
With costs ranging from $1,700 to $9,500 per pupil, Guadalupe Center relies on the generosity of its many community benefactors who provide precious funding and volunteer hours.
Also supporting the center is its annual signature fundraising event, which raised $780,000 during the 2014 sold out soiree. Organizers of January 14’s “Fire & Ice: Igniting the Flame of Learning” at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, are hoping patrons will once again pledge to help more children and make on the spot scholarship matches for Tutor Corps seniors.
“We are proud of the many accomplishments we have achieved over the past 30 years, but we are far from finished,” said Roger Vasey, development committee chairman. The needs are great. Parents work hard but live below the poverty line. Currently, 350 children are on the Early Childhood Education Program’s waiting list, the center has identified a need for additional after school elementary enrichment sites, and Tutor Corps receives more student applications than the program can accommodate.
Tutor Corps students know all too well the chance they’ve been given, the difference their participation makes in their lives and the students they tutor.
“A favorite moment for me at the center was the day that I graduated college and came back as a teacher,” said Esmeralda Sanchez. “Seeing that moment when these children discover they’re capable of doing something that they thought they couldn’t do before is indescribable.”
Each day, employees, tutors like Sanchez, and volunteer Tutor Corps mentors David and Rebecca Shopay see the excitement for learning flickering in the eyes of a child.
Former teachers and first generation college graduates in their families, the Shopays have mentored several students since volunteering in 2006.
Rebecca recalls a Dartmouth graduate sharing her experience being so far from home.
“She was enormously homesick those first few years away from her family, so she tacked a picture of her mother out in a field picking
tomatoes to her bulletin board,” Rebecca said. “It helped her stick to her goal.”
“These kids have found their way into our life and our hearts, and we have been richer for the experience,” added David. Attendees of Fire & Ice, featuring live music, exciting auction lots and a fantastical world of flames and frost, will have an opportunity to meet the Tutor Corps class of 2015. They’ll also be able to contribute to students’ college funding during “Scholarship Raises.”
The event, from 6 to 10 p.m., also features auction prizes that will whisk winners to New York City, Napa Valley and France or allow them to host the party of the year. William Boyajian of Port Royal Jewelers in Naples, has created the diamond, sapphire and platinum Orchid Bee ring inspired by a Tutor Corps student essay and photo.
For more information about Guadalupe Center and Fire & Ice, visit www.GuadalupeCenter.org or call 239.657.7124.