Guadalupe Center has hired Jim Ragusa, a longtime teacher and principal in Collier County, as senior director of early childhood education.
In this role, Ragusa works with a team of center directors, curriculum specialists and teachers to coordinate Guadalupe Center’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, which has 525 students spread across four campuses in Immokalee – the Morgridge Family Early Childhood Education Campus on Hope Circle, van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning on Westclox Street, Monaghan Family Early Childhood Education Campus on Harvest Drive and The Martin Foundation Campus at Lake Trafford Elementary School.
Ragusa, a native of Homestead, moved to Southwest Florida after Hurricane Andrew and began teaching in Collier County in 1996. He has taught in Collier, Lee and Miami-Dade counties and held administration roles at Everglades City School, Golden Gate High School and Palmetto Ridge High School. In his first year at Palmetto Ridge, the Collier County School District named Ragusa as its 2020 Principal of the Year.
Ragusa, one of 12 community members who participated in Guadalupe Center’s 2021 Leadership Day, earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies education from Florida International University and a master’s degree in science educational technology from Nova Southeastern University.
“Jim has been in the classroom and in the principal’s office, and that experience as both a teacher and administrator will be a tremendous asset to staff, students and families in Immokalee,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “He has worked at schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged students, so he understands the unique challenges that Guadalupe Center is facing.”
In Immokalee, 97% of students are declared economically needed. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. In addition to the Early Childhood Education Program, the nonprofit also operates the After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Overall, Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,750 students annually.
Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program is accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE). It is recognized as a Gold Seal Quality Care Program through the Florida Department of Children & Families.