By Dawn Montecalvo, President of Guadalupe Center
This time of year, we’re all looking to buy that perfect gift, something that’s memorable, comes from the heart and makes a lasting impact.
The most valuable gifts, however, don’t always come wrapped in pretty boxes with a bow on top.
The gift of education can transform lives and offers hope to children battling the odds. Education never falls out of fashion or becomes obsolete. Dollar for dollar, education offers an unparalleled return on investment.
Guadalupe Center’s generous supporters understand the difference their donations are making in the lives of more than 1,300 Immokalee children each year.
A mountain of data shows that Guadalupe Center’s educational programs are successful – more than 95% of pre-kindergarten graduates enter school having met or exceeded Florida’s kindergarten readiness standards, 100% of students in the after-school Tutoring Program show academic gains in reading and math, and 100% of Tutor Corps seniors graduate high school and are admitted into college. An astounding 92% graduate with a degree.
Beyond the numbers, though, are stories. Stories of hope. Stories of achievement. Stories of triumph. Here is one family’s story: With a father working in construction and a stay-at-home mother, life in Immokalee wasn’t easy for this family of six.
“My dad is a hard worker,” said Alberta, 18, the oldest of four siblings. “We didn’t have much, but we had enough to get by.”
In July 2015, though, the children’s mother suddenly passed away. Alberta assumed more of a parenting role, preparing meals for the family and taking care of household chores.
Two years later, Guadalupe Center entered their lives. Alberta, now a senior at Immokalee High School, and Rosaura, now a 16-year-old sophomore, joined Tutor Corps, a college-preparatory program that offers guidance in college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance.
Alberta and Rosaura also have opportunities to earn wages by tutoring younger students, helping supplement income for the family.
Elmer, 11, is a sixth-grader at Immokalee Middle School and has participated in Guadalupe Center’s Summer Enrichment Program. The youngest sibling, 5-year-old Graciela, went from being a nonverbal preschooler attending Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program to a thriving kindergartner at Pinecrest Elementary School. She’s now attending Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring Program to continue building her reading and math skills.
Alberta, who struggled balancing schoolwork with home life, is on track to graduate next spring and plans to double-major in business management and engineering.
“Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be right now without Guadalupe Center,” she said. “They’re always there to support me and gave me an opportunity to take care of myself as a person and as a student.”
Alberta’s family is just one story, a few trees in the forest of students whose lives are being transformed by Guadalupe Center.
Guadalupe Center’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. It’s working. Former Tutor Corps students have returned to Immokalee as proud college graduates, working in the community as teachers, first responders, health care workers, engineers and other professionals – proof that education can set students on a path to a brighter future.
Guadalupe Center has been able to help so many students because of donors who support the Center’s three remarkable programs: Early Childhood Education, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment and Tutor Corps. Without philanthropic support, these highly successful programs would not exist, and Guadalupe Center would not be able to continue meeting the growing needs for educational programs in Immokalee.
There is no gift more important than the gift of education.
Alberta and her siblings have a very bright future thanks to generous individuals, businesses and organizations in this community. Education truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Year-end gifts of any amount can be made through a secure digital form at Guadalupe Center.org/donate. All donations are tax deductible Guadalupe Center | 509 Hope Circle, Immokalee, FL 34142239-657-7711 | GuadalupeCenter.org