Summer Academy – Bridges High School and College for Guadalupe Center Students

Robert Spano

Raquel Garcia decided to major in nursing after being torn between medicine and business. Odalis Zapata-Martinez learned that leadership is about enabling others to act rather than commanding them. Mariela Galvan enjoyed s’mores at a small gathering of students from places near and far.

The trio were among 31 students in Guadalupe Center’s E.G. Salisbury Tutor Corps Summer Academy who participated in one  to six week pre-college experiences at 26 university campuses in 15 states, including Ivy League, ACC, SEC and Big XII schools. The immersive summer program allowed students to explore potential majors of study as well as get a taste of college life.

“It’s important that students understand what college will be like before they select a college and their major, and this program
provides that insight,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “It is more than experiencing the challenges
of college-level course work, but they also lived away from home for the first time, which presents an entirely new set of personal

The Summer Academy’s goal is to build a bridge between high school and college, and it is a key element of Guadalupe Center’s
college preparatory Tutor Corps program that offers guidance in college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance. Students also have opportunities to earn wages by tutoring younger students. Some of the campus based Summer Academy sessions offered overviews of potential majors and career fields, but a big
component of instruction focused on skills needed to succeed in college, like time management and setting priorities.

Jennifer Santos participated in programs at both the University of Missouri and Wartburg College, an Iowa institution that incorporates  community volunteerism into its curriculum. She returned to Immokalee with a better understanding of her skills
and the endless possibilities that exist for Tutor Corps students. “I learned about myself as a person and as a leader,” Jennifer
said. “I want to share my new abilities and enlighten my community about the possibilities for students like me.”

In addition to taking courses in forensics, engineering, nursing and other fields, students saw Colonial-style architecture in
New England and skyscrapers in several cities, as well as visited Niagara Falls in New York and Eastern State Penitentiary in
Philadelphia. Students raised in Immokalee often have limited life experiences, so the Summer Academy offered many firsts for
participants. “It was my first time on a plane, so I was very nervous, but when I got to the University of Dayton, I felt welcomed and I really enjoyed my time on campus,” recalled Karina Lopez. “The program focused on a holistic approach to engineering and helped me figure out what type of engineering I might like to pursue in the future.”

Upon their return, students were required to draft essays documenting their experiences and lessons learned. They also created  poster boards and PowerPoints to present at a Summer Academy ceremony in October attended by mentors and supporters  whose generous donations made the trips possible.

Guadalupe Center, which has a mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee, is requesting additional support to continue offering these life changing experiences to students. To help build a bridge between high school and college for the youth of Immokalee, please email or call 239-657-7145.


Robert Spano is vice president of programs for Guadalupe Center in Immokalee, a nonprofit organization with a mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

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