Making a REAL impact for students, families in Immokalee

Alejandro Loredo-Turruviates learned the value of hard work at an early age.

Dawn Montecalvo

When Alejandro was 8 years old, his father left the family. Alejandro and his two sisters watched their mother work long days in the tomato fields of Immokalee, pulling in $400 a week– barely enough to cover essentials.

The family did not own a car, so they were forced to rely on others for rides. At times, his mom did not have enough money for laundry soap, so she improvised with dish soap from the kitchen.

“I learned to take on responsibilities such as cleaning our apartment, throwing the trash out to the dumpster down the street, and even going to the store alone to get food when she wasn’t home,” Alejandro recalled.

Alejandro’s older sister, Lucero, worked two jobs to help supported family, buying clothing and food for her little brother. All the while, Alejandro was enrolled in educational programs at Guadalupe Center, first with the Early Childhood Education Program and then the After-School Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program. His sister later introduced him to Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program, which offers a high-quality education that opens students’ eyes to the world of endless possibilities at their fingertips.

“Alejandro’s story is common in Immokalee, where many children see their parents working long hours doing backbreaking work,” said Daniel Martinez, director of Tutor Corps’ high school program. “This generation of students is poised for success because they’ve witnessed firsthand that determination, ambition and hard work are important, but can only take you so far. Education is the springboard to their future.”

While in elementary school, Alejandro started his own snow cone business, selling cold treats to friends and neighbors. Now an 18-year-old senior at Immokalee High School, the entrepreneur recently launched another venture, a pressure washing business, cleaning up homes and driveways across Immokalee, Lehigh Acres and even Cape Coral.

Alejandro credits his mother and sisters for inspiration, along with guidance from Guadalupe Center staff and mentors as he navigates the college admissions process.

“Together, they taught me how to manage my time, showed me that responsibilities in life are not as difficult as they mayhem, and provided me with the support I needed growing up,” Alejandro said.

What’s next for Alejandro? He’ll be graduating from Immokalee High School this spring and enrolling in college, where he plans to major in business or accounting. Alejandro shared his story in January as keynote speaker at Guadalupe Center’s “Elevate the Journey,” an annual gala highlighting accomplishments of students while raising awareness and support for transformational education programs.

Making a Real difference

Since 1984, Guadalupe Center has been a bedrock for thousands of students in Immokalee. Its nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program lays the academic, social, behavioral and emotional foundations for students from birth through age 5. The After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program supplements reading and math instruction for students in kindergarten, first and second grades. The Tutor Corps Program, which empowers college-ready students like Alejandro, has an astounding 100% success rate with high school graduation and college acceptance.

As Guadalupe Center celebrates its 40th anniversary, the organization is recognizing four pillars of its success: Resilience, Empowerment, Achievement and Leadership. Guadalupe Center is making a REAL difference in the lives of students, families and the entire community of Immokalee.

Forty years of being REAL has transformed generations and helped every student recognize that possibilities are endless and dreams have no limits. Every individual can write his or her own success story.

About the Author

Dawn Montecalvo is president and CEO at Guadalupe Center, which provides high quality educational programs for nearly1,950 students annually in Immokalee.

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