Education Offers Immokalee Students Endless Possibilities
Getting an Education
Four boys – Lucio, Sergio, Alex and Daniel – watched their father work long hours, oftentimes 12 hours a day, in the tomato fields of Immokalee while their mother worked as a school custodian.
José and Maria Martinez earned enough to put a roof over their heads and food on the table, but with limited English skills and no high school diploma, their career options were also limited.
“They always said that their job was to work hard and make money for the family, and our job was to get an education,” Daniel said. “They wouldn’t settle for anything less than straight A’s.”
That insistence is paying off.
From an early age, all four boys showed academic promise, ambition and a strong work ethic passed down from their parents. Each was accepted into Tutor Corps, Guadalupe Center’s highly competitive college preparatory program that offers academic guidance, a part-time job tutoring younger children in Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring Program, mentoring and scholarship money.
Tutor Corps changed the boys’ trajectory in life.
Lucio earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida (UF) and is a civil engineer in Tampa. Sergio also earned a bachelor’s degree from UF and teaches English to students in Hong Kong. Alex graduated from Bowdoin College and works in Philadelphia for an organization helping people with disabilities establish their independence.
And with a near-perfect 3.75 GPA, Daniel graduated on Dec. 15 summa cum laude from UF with a degree in emergency management. He is starting his career by giving back, working as Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring Program coordinator at Pinecrest Elementary and advisor to the freshmen class of Tutor Corps students.
Breaking the cycle
Four children. Four college graduates.
The Martinez family illustrates precisely Guadalupe Center’s mission – breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the students of Immokalee.
“Education is the true equalizer,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “Earning that high school diploma, then a college degree, helps students overcome the cycle of poverty that has repeated itself in Immokalee for generations.”
According to the U.S. Census, only 39 percent of Immokalee adults have completed high school, and just 3.5 percent have earned bachelor ’s degrees. Nearly half of the population lives in poverty.
All 29 seniors in the Tutor Corps class of 2018 are now in college. In fact, 100 percent of Tutor Corps students have matriculated to college over the past decade, and more than 92 percent have earned a degree. By comparison, the national graduation rate for low-income students is just 16 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“Tutor Corps sets extremely high expectations for our students, but it also provides them with opportunities to meet those expectations – mentoring, employment, college success workshops and help applying for financial aid and scholarship money,” said Jorge Perez, Tutor Corps college coordinator. “If they are willing to work hard and apply their talents, these students can attend college, earn a degree and work in the profession of their choice.”
Guadalupe Center begins laying an academic foundation at an early age, starting with the high-quality Early Childhood Education Program. An astounding 94 percent of its Pre-K graduates meet or exceed Collier County’s kindergarten readiness standards. An After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program supplements education for children in kindergarten, first and second grades.
“The Martinez brothers’ achievements demonstrate superbly how Guadalupe Center creates endless possibilities through education,” Montecalvo said. “We are so grateful for the mentors who offer invaluable guidance and insight as these students progress through high school, as well as the generous individuals whose contributions help provide students with wages for tutoring children, fund college exploration trips and fund scholarships that ultimately make higher education a reality.”
For more information about volunteering as a Tutor Corps mentor or contributing to the Tutor Corps Program, please call 239-657-7711 or visit GuadalupeCenter.org.