2017-06-15 / Top News

Guadalupe Center Tutor Corps grads are on their way


Above: The 2017 Guadalupe Center Tutor Corps graduates and their families at Grey Oaks Country Club. 
TONY ZOLLO / COURTESY PHOTOS Above: The 2017 Guadalupe Center Tutor Corps graduates and their families at Grey Oaks Country Club. TONY ZOLLO / COURTESY PHOTOS At Guadalupe Center’s recent celebration dinner, 25 Immokalee High School seniors in the center’s Tutor Corps program crossed the stage at Grey Oaks Country Club to be congratulated on being the first generation in their family to graduate high school and go on to college.

In addition to 22 endowed and special scholarships that were awarded, the Tutor Corps seniors each graduated with up to $16,000 in Guadalupe Center scholarship money earned from tutoring elementary school students every day after school.

Nearly half of the graduates received support as children from other Guadalupe Center educational programs. Nine had attended after-school tutoring and summer enrichment programs during elementary school. They, like hundreds of other children who enter Immokalee elementary schools each year not speaking English and lacking the skills necessary to be successful in school, needed the same kind of help they provided years later as Tutor Corps students.

Right: Tutor Corps graduate Dr. Elizabeth Martinez with her husband Bernaldino and their daughter, Soraya, at this year’s graduation celebration. Right: Tutor Corps graduate Dr. Elizabeth Martinez with her husband Bernaldino and their daughter, Soraya, at this year’s graduation celebration. Three past Tutor Corps students, all now young professionals working in careers of their choosing, were part of the graduation celebration.

Helen Midney, a 2008 Tutor Corps graduate with a double degree in political science and Russian from Bowdoin College, returned to Immokalee to be near her family and take on the role of coordinator of the Tutor Corps program from which she graduated.

Ms. Midney’s older sister, Elizabeth Martinez, also a Tutor Corps graduate and now a pediatrician and mother with plans to open a practice in Immokalee, was in the audience with her husband and daughter.

And filming the event for Telemundo Television was Maria Castro, a 2009 Tutor Corps graduate who went on to earn a degree in communications from Barry University.

“It is always such a wonderful feeling to see our early childhood education program students return to us in high school with a desire to attend college,” Dawn Montecalvo, president of the center, said. “They are the very embodiment of the success of our educational programs.”

Another Tutor Corps graduate, Alex Mateo, was the keynote speaker for the graduation celebration. Often through tears, he recounted the night his alcoholic father tried to kill his entire family. Luckily the police arrived in time and Alex, 10 years old at the time, never saw his father again. He will serve decades in prison, and though Alex’s family is now safe, life continued to be a struggle. Alex helped his mother by picking tomatoes for $30 a day, grocery shopping alone and babysitting his younger siblings.

He also enrolled in programs at the Guadalupe Center.

“Education breaks the cycle of poverty and renews the soul,” he told the audience.

And he is well on his way to breaking that cycle. Alex graduated from Immokalee High School and earned an associate’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University. He made the Dean’s List in his first semester at FGCU and became part of the University’s honors program the next semester. And he still managed to document more than 300 community service hours.

Alex concluded his speech with sentiments echoed by most Tutor Corps students. Having the staff of the Guadalupe Center and their mentors behind them, believing in them and gently guiding them toward making their dreams of graduating high school and attending college a reality, keeps them on track and opens windows for them to explore new opportunities and adventures. Tutoring younger students with similar backgrounds allows them to mentor as they had been mentored. And the center’s Summer College Experience Program, which allowed Alex to attend Phillips Exeter Academy for a few weeks, immerses students in challenging learning environments where they meet others from around the world.

Alex will use his Ametek Foundation Endowed Scholarship to attend the University of Missouri where he plans to study business. Future plans call for law school and possibly a career on Capitol Hill and maybe even a Senate seat. He hopes to have an impact on the world and help others from similar backgrounds.

The Guadalupe Center is the second largest recipient of funds from The Naples Children & Education Foundation, founders of the Naples Winter Winter Festival. For a tour, to volunteer or for more information, call 657-7158 or visit www.guadalupecenter.org. ¦

Oh, the places they’ll go

Here are the 2017 Tutor Corp graduates and the schools they will attend in the fall:

>> Arcadia University: Adriana Mateo, Jasmin Ramirez and Mark Trejo

>> Hillsboro Community College: Alyssa Navarro

>> Hofstra University: Juan Carlos

>> Florida SouthWestern State College: Lexus Cano, Jaylen Carroll, Diovionne Clifton, Lucero Loredo and Diana Reyes- Hernandez

>> Florida State University: Benjamin Lucio and Brian Reyes

>> Michigan State University: Lexi Ramirez

>> Salisbury School: Ulises Soto

>> University of Central Florida: Rosalinda Matayer and Lonnie Vega

>> University of Florida: Jacqueline Argueta and Maria Espinoza

>> University of Missouri: Alexander Mateo

>> University of South Florida: Kayla Boney, Damian Gonzalez Perez, Ebony Hernandez, Antonio Jaimes and Michelle Velasco

>> Wartburg College: Juana Perez- Mandujiano

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