PERSEVERANCE LEADS Immokalee teen to success, bright future

Dawn Montecalvo

Dreams usually do not materialize without a few failures along the way. That helps create perspective.

“I know what it is like to lose,” admits Hiram Edgar Martinez-Santos, a senior at Immokalee High School. “I know what itis like to hope and dream and not reach the level you wish for; however, I also know that perseverance is key.”

Hiram recalls being rejected from a competitive college preparatory program at age 12 because he did not meet the minimum requirements. It was a life-changing moment.

“I was very upset, but mostly embarrassed because I felt like I had failed my mom who was with me during that moment,” he said. “That was the day I lost hope because I felt as if I lost any chance to achieve my dream of going to college. I tried to convince myself that college was not the correct path for me. However, deep down I knew that I feltshame.”

He also talked to his father, who issued this poignant advice: “In life, there will always be setbacks that make you feel like you cannot accomplish anything, but that is only true when we decide to give up… so never give up.”

Rather than accept defeat, Hiram worked harder. He studied more. He got more involved at school. He set goals. He focused more on his future. Once in high school, Hiram applied for, and was accepted into, Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

The program provides students with college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance, as well as wages for tutoring younger students.

“Tutor Corps did not only give me the opportunity to go to college, but it also gave me the best tools for life,” Hiram said. “It gave me hope, love and guidance.”

Tutor Corps students are surrounded by peers, staff members and mentors who believe in them. Hiram also believes in himself, one of the reasons that Guadalupe Center staff selected him as the keynote speaker at Guadalupe Galaxy, the nonprofit’s signature fundraising event held in January at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

“Hiram’s message resonates with individuals from all walks of life,” said Daniel Martinez, Tutor Corps high school director at Guadalupe Center.“

Patrons at Guadalupe Galaxy, whether they were retired corporate executives, teachers or business owners, all had to work hard to reach their goals while recognizing they had a little help along the way.”

Later that night, those generous patrons provided support that will enable the next generation of leaders to achieve their dreams.

The gala raised more than $1.2 million to support Guadalupe Center’s mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Today, Hiram isn’t just succeeding – he’s thriving. His dream is to become a wildlife biologist, and he trimmed his postsecondary options to four institutions: North Central College, Roberts Wesleyan College, St. John’s University and Wartburg College. He has been accepted into all four and qualified for sizable scholarship packages thanks to Guadalupe Center’s partnerships with each college.

When he steps foot onto campus in August, Hiram will be the first person in his family to attend college. He often thinks about Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.”

“My perception of life has changed as I have aged. All my achievements, losses and failures taught me that nothing is easy in life and if you want something, go work for it,” Hiram said. “I know that I will succeed, but more importantly, I know when I fail, I will get back up and persevere.”

Dawn Montecalvo is president of Guadalupe Center in Immokalee. To learn how to support students like Hiram, please visit or call 239-657-7711.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.