Guadalupe Center celebrates 200th alumni to earn college degree

Immokalee is a close-knit, rural community comprised of hard workers who value family, friendship and a spirit of service.

Historically, though, Immokalee’s educational attainment rate lags behind many communities. U.S. Census data show just 5% of Immokalee adults have a bachelor’s degree. That rate is among the lowest in America and substantially less than Naples’ average of 57%.

That’s what makes Guadalupe Center’s latest accomplishment a milestone worth celebrating. This summer, the nonprofit cheered as Mateo Alexander Mateo-Mateo became its 200th alumni to earn a college degree. It took just a few days for Guadalupe Center to note its next college graduate, and then the next one, and then the next one.

In addition to the 200-plus graduates as of this summer, an additional 122 additional students were still enrolled at colleges and universities around the country. Another 30 seniors from Immokalee High School’s Class of 2021 also headed to campus this fall.

In 2017, Mateo-Mateo completed Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program, which provides Immokalee High School 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.

Mateo-Mateo, 22, completed the bachelor’s degree portion of his accounting program this spring at the University of Missouri and will earn a master’s degree next year. Over the summer, he completed an internship with an investment bank based in New York City. Although he admits the thought of going from a small, impoverished town to working on Wall Street would be a challenge, he keeps referencing an old adage.

“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Mateo-Mateo says.

Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. Although Mateo-Mateo is still writing his story, Guadalupe Center is excited about his future, as well as the next set of Tutor Corps students starting college. The Class of 2021 set a record with $4 million in scholarship offers and grants.

We celebrate high school graduates as they head off to college and college graduates as they start their careers. Dozens of alumni have returned to Immokalee as educators, doctors, financial professionals, health care specialists, engineers, public service workers and business leaders.

The pipeline of college graduates will transform Immokalee. Education has a direct correlation to poverty, so the lower the educational attainment rate, the higher the poverty rate, and vice versa. Census data show more than 37% of Immokalee residents live in poverty compared to just 8% in Naples. Education brings individuals, families and communities out of poverty.

Guadalupe Center will honor Tutor Corps college graduates on its Tutor Corps Wall of Fame at the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning, a new educational campus under construction in Immokalee. The Wall of Fame will be a key feature of Brynne & Bob Coletti Hall, the new home for the Tutor Corps Program.

Mateo-Mateo hopes his story, as well as those of other Tutor Corps graduates, shows the youth of Immokalee that the possibilities are endless through education.

“You can do whatever you want to in life, but you have to clench your teeth and do 100% honest work to get there,” Mateo-Mateo said.

– By Dawn Montecalvo, President of Guadalupe Center.

Why high school freshmen should think about college now

Today’s high school freshmen are 14 or 15 years old. 

They’ve just gone from top dogs in middle school to the smallest fish in a big sea. Academics are a cut above their previous studies. Their bodies and minds are going through periods of change, too. 

With high school just starting, college probably is the last thing on the minds of high school freshmen. But it should be. In fact, freshmen year helps lay the groundwork for sophomore, junior and senior years, and ultimately college.  

Below are five tasks that ninth-graders should be doing now to get a head start on their college planning.

High School Freshmen Checklist

(1) Meet with a school counselor. Academic advisors and guidance counselors help students set course schedules and monitor grades, but they’re also experts on college planning. Advisors can explain the college admissions process, financial aid, placement testing and what to expect from campus life. 

(2) Explore college options. Across America, there are more than 4,300 degree-granting institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Education. No two schools are alike. There are two- and four-year schools, public and private colleges, and liberal arts and research institutions. Colleges are located in urban, suburban and rural locations. There also are trade schools that offer certificates and professional licensure. 

(3) Understand finances. Colleges are expensive. That’s why it is important for parents and students to have a conversation about finances. Published tuition prices, however, aren’t necessarily the amount that all students pay. There are an abundance of scholarships, grants, loans and work study programs that help reduce the cost of attendance. You just need to know how to find them. 

(4) Review college majors. Teachers start asking this question in kindergarten: what do you want to be when you grow up? Now is the time for freshmen to start answering it. Guidance counselors can help students narrow down possible career choices based on abilities and interests. Another way to begin narrowing the list is by visiting websites of colleges to see what degree programs are available. 

(5) Study, study, study. High GPAs and test scores unlock the majority of colleges, and thus more academic opportunities. By ninth grade, elementary and middle school grades are wiped clean, and every freshman starts the school year with a clean slate. Planning, time management and effort are critical factors that determine academic success. Freshmen should begin studying for the ACT or SAT, and set a goal of finishing the first semester with a 4.0 GPA. 

In high school, it’s easy to get off track with so many potential distractions. That’s why Guadalupe Center emphasizes college, and what it takes to get there, from day one. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators should all be willing to help. After all, today’s high school students represent the next generation of leaders. 

Freshmen essentially have four years to pave their path to college. Although the ship hasn’t necessarily sailed for sophomores, juniors and seniors, delaying the planning process only cuts down the time students have to make these incredibly important decisions. The clock is ticking. 

By Daniel Martinez, Tutor Corps Program high school director at Guadalupe Center. For more information, please visit GuadalupeCenter.org or call 239-657-7711. 

Tutor Corps students shop for future at Guadalupe Resale Shop

Each year, Guadalupe Resale Shop welcomes high school graduates of Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program for a fun shopping trip.

Students are allowed to select up to 10 items priced at $40 or less, at no cost. Students often use this opportunity to add pants, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, jackets and coats to their wardrobes, as well as business attire for job interviews and formal events.

Check out photos of the Tutor Corps Class of 2021 shopping at Guadalupe Resale Shop.

Tutor Corps Shopping Trip

Guadalupe Galaxy fundraising gala will be held Jan. 20 at Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort

Guadalupe Center has announced the date and theme for its signature fundraising gala, an annual event that supports life-changing educational programs for students in Immokalee. 

Guadalupe Galaxy: Constellations of Hope, Charting the Future” begins at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 20 and will be held at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, 2600 Tiburon Drive in Naples. 

“Guadalupe Center has always been a hub of positivity and optimism, a place that gives hope to students and families in Immokalee as they work toward a brighter future,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “The event’s theme captures the essence of Guadalupe Center as we help build a strong educational foundation that will skyrocket student success in school, college and careers.” 

Event chairs for Guadalupe Galaxy are Bev Cherry and Debbie Toler. Both women are longtime supporters and current Board of Trustees members who are dedicated to building a strong future for students at Guadalupe Center. 

“I’m thrilled to be involved and co-chair Guadalupe Galaxy,” Toler said. “Guadalupe Center has such a tremendous impact in changing the lives of so many students through education. Our galaxy theme is so relevant in enabling kids to chart their future.” 

“This will be a fun event to celebrate the present and future successes of our true stars… our beautiful children, of course,” added Cherry, “and also the staff, volunteers, mentors, supporters, families and so many more!” 

Guadalupe Galaxy details

Guadalupe Galaxy will be an in-person event featuring heartwarming student performances and speakers, galaxy-inspired décor, the return of a live auction and out-of-this-world entertainment. The gala will include the popular Jump Up for Education, a lively interactive call to action that allows attendees to make donations and jump up to show their support for Guadalupe Center. 

In 2021, Guadalupe Center’s fundraising gala, Circtacular, was a virtual, circus-themed event that raised more than $1 million to support the nonprofit’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. 

Tickets are $500 per person with patron ticket packages. Table sponsorships also are available. 

Guadalupe Galaxy sponsorships and underwriting opportunities are available, including Invitation Sponsor ($7,500), Program Sponsor ($5,000), Student Experience Sponsor ($3,000) and Valet Sponsor ($2,000). Sponsorship opportunities include event tickets, recognition at the gala and marketing exposure. 

For tickets or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Special Events Coordinator Tammy Richelieu at 239-963-3668 or email TRichelieu@GuadalupeCenter.org. 

EVENT PAGE: Guadalupe Galaxy

DIY blogger’s home renovation brings cash prize, national attention to Guadalupe Center

Kelly Hartley wanted to transform the look of her bathroom through a low-cost, DIY renovation.

She will end up transforming the lives of students through a high-quality education.

Hartley, a self-taught designer, interior stylist, DIYer and blogger from Naples, was one of 15 home décor bloggers that competed in the 2021 FrogTape Paintover Challenge. All contestants were given a budget of $1,000 and assigned a specific design trend. Hartley’s theme was “rest easy,” which meant she had to create “a space that provides peace of mind and offers sanctuary from daily stresses.”

Hartley opted to refresh her guest bathroom with a modern, contemporary look by enhancing the vanity, installing a new mirror, creating faux shiplap on the walls, restyling shower and floor tiles, replacing plumbing and lighting fixtures, and repainting the room.

“My goal for this project was to create a calming space for my family to relax and unwind,” Hartley said. “I love that my daughters now start and end their days in a soothing environment.”

The Paintover Challenge attracted 15 designers across nine states, and online voters tapped Hartley’s renovation project as the winner.

For her efforts, the DIY blogger received a $2,500 cash prize. In addition, she was able to direct support to a nonprofit organization of her choice. She designated Guadalupe Center, which will receive a $10,000 cash donation to support its mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Hartley also was awarded another $2,500 to execute a design project at Guadalupe Center. In the coming weeks, she will help transform a cluttered office and storage space into a beautiful, tranquil teachers’ lounge that Guadalupe Center’s team of dedicated educators can use to unwind, enjoy lunch, plan student activities and have small meetings.

“They do such amazing things for the children in Immokalee, so I am just so honored and excited to be able to do this with them,” said Hartley, who creates high-end style and décor on a budget.

Beyond the $10,000 donation, Hartley also introduced a national audience of designers, DIYers and bloggers to Guadalupe Center. In encouraging online support, Hartley asked the nearly 85,000 followers on her Instagram page, @hartley_home, to consider the impact of their votes – helping provide life-changing educational opportunities at Guadalupe Center – when considering their favorite renovation project, even posting images of happy, engaged students at Guadalupe Center.

FrogTape, a leading brand of painters’ tape, also posted about Hartley and Guadalupe Center on its social media pages, which include a Facebook page with 63,000 followers and an Instagram page with 26,000 followers.

As a grassroots, locally run nonprofit, Guadalupe Center relies on a small army of supporters to help raise awareness and support for educational programs that, quite literally, change lives. More than 95% of students in the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, for instance, meet or exceed kindergarten readiness standards. Every student who attends the After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program make significant learning gains in math and reading. Among students in the college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program, 100% graduate from high school and 94% graduate with a post-secondary degree.

A high-quality education changes students’ lives. Thanks to Hartley and those who voted for her bathroom renovation project as the best, Guadalupe Center is 10,000 steps closer to making students’ dreams of a brighter future become a reality.

Philanthropy in 2021: Six strategies to cultivate donor relationships

Personal relationships are a critical component of philanthropy.

Donors don’t often give solely because they support a cause. They give because they trust the people behind the cause. It’s those individuals who set policies into motion, establish successful programs and ensure exceptional financial stewardship, and ultimately accomplish an organization’s mission and vision.

During the pandemic, though, face-to-face communications were limited at best. As a result, a study published by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Candid Research Solutions found that one-third of nonprofits in the U.S. were at risk of closing within two years because of financial impacts from COVID-19.

Not every nonprofit floundered during the pandemic, though. In fact, many flourished by implementing innovative outreach programs that connected with donors and potential supporters on a deeper, more personal level.

A return to “normalcy” will bring back traditional donor relations activities, like fundraising galas and social events. However, organizations that adopted new communications strategies during the pandemic discovered additional ways to connect with key stakeholders, and it’s likely that some or all of the following strategies will remain long after the pandemic:

· Video: As the only means of face-to-face communications for a time, video offered opportunities for personal connections through personalized messages, one-on-one conversations and group presentations, essentially connecting organizations to a larger audience through Zoom, Teams or other platforms.

· Social media: As a running news feed, social media allows nonprofits to control the message while offering more frequent updates than traditional news media can provide. Visuals are especially important in allowing audiences to see how the organization is accomplishing its goals.

· Cell phones: Text messages and phone calls offer simple ways for periodic check-ins to stay top of mind with supporters. One-on-one communications, even without back-and-forth dialogue, helps maintain a positive relationship.

· Email: Platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow organizations to create monthly or quarterly e-newsletters to reach supporters, philanthropic partners, volunteers, community leaders and even media. Crisp designs with colorful images and catchy headlines keep recipients engaged and help drive traffic to the website.

· Virtual events: After canceling in-person philanthropic events in 2020 and early 2021, many organizations are considering smaller galas or hybrid events for the 2021-22 fundraising season. Virtual events don’t have to disappear, though. With lower production costs and a shorter planning timeline, virtual events offer opportunities to create dynamic, authentic events that resonate with audiences near and far. Online donation portals are secure and fast.

· Small gatherings: While face-to-face fundraising and large-scale events might not be as frequent in the near future, there is a growing interest in more intimate gatherings. One-on-one conversations in a safe, familiar environment with fewer attendees offers a good opportunity to personally deliver new collateral, such as a printed annual impact report, that helps demonstrate the importance of philanthropic support and overall organizational success.

Although the pandemic forced nonprofits to think “outside the box,” many strategies to communicate with donors and influencers are here to stay and can help deepen relationships.

– By Kelly Krupp, CFPE, vice president of philanthropy at Guadalupe Center.

How to Give: DONATION GUIDE

Guadalupe Center requests back-to-school donations for Immokalee students

Guadalupe Center is requesting donations of school supplies through its 29th annual Back-to-School Shoes & Supplies Drive, which outfits hundreds of students with new sneakers and school supplies.

Requested items include writing utensils, paper products, art supplies, classroom supplies and student accessories. The National Retail Federation estimates the average household will spend $849 on back-to-school shopping in 2021.

“The majority of students we serve come from low-income households, and summer is an especially difficult period financially for families since so many jobs in Immokalee are seasonal,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Every child should be able to walk into class on that first day of school eager to learn and with the resources to succeed academically.”

Guadalupe Center is requesting donations of:

Writing utensils: No. 2 pencils, erasers, pens, crayons, highlighters, small pencil sharpeners, pencil cases, washable markers and permanent markers.

Paper products: composition writing books, spiral notebooks, folders, binders and student agenda books.

Art supplies: blunt scissors, construction paper, glue bottles and glue sticks.

Classroom supplies: dry erase markers, white board erasers and plastic bags.

Student accessories: flash drives, backpacks and headphones.

Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,500 students annually through its nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. The nonprofit’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

This year, Guadalupe Center again partnered with Snyderman’s Shoes of Naples and Laces of Love to distribute new shoes to more than 300 students.

Monetary donations can be made online through a secure portal at GuadalupeCenter.org/how-to-give. New school supplies can be dropped off or mailed to Guadalupe Center at 509 Hope Circle, Immokalee, FL 34142; Guadalupe Center’s development office at 2640 Golden Gate Parkway, Suite 205, Naples, FL 34105; or Guadalupe Resale Shop, 12980 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 10, Naples, FL 34110. All donations are tax deductible.

For questions or to schedule a donation pick-up, please contact Haley Thalheimer at 239-657-7120 or HThalheimer@GuadalupeCenter.org.

Wish List: Click Here

Guadalupe Center welcomes 3 additions to Board of Trustees

Guadalupe Center has added three new members to its Board of Trustees, including a former student who returned to Immokalee after graduating from college.

Maria Munguia Cortes, Liz Curtin and Susan Duke have joined Guadalupe Center’s governing body, which offers oversight for the education-focused nonprofit and advocates for students and families in Immokalee.

Cortes is a 2016 graduate of Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program who attended Wartburg College in Iowa on scholarships earned through Guadalupe Center. She returned to Immokalee and now serves as management trainee in community relations for Lipman Family Farms in Immokalee.

Curtin is an active community volunteer who is currently a co-mentor in the Tutor Corps Program, sharing her experiences, insights and advice with an Immokalee High School student. She also serves on the University of Notre Dame’s Undergraduate Experience Advisory Council.

Duke is a dedicated philanthropist whose charitable causes focus predominantly on education, children and families, basic needs, faith-based needs, health and hygiene, disaster relief and refugee relief. A former foster parent, Duke served as a court-appointed child advocate for youth in the child welfare system.

“We’re excited to welcome these three incredibly talented women to our Board of Trustees,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Their insight and leadership will be invaluable as Guadalupe Center expands its programs to provide additional students with access to high-quality educational programs.”

Guadalupe Center offers a nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and Tutor Corps Program. The nonprofit serves more than 1,400 students annually and will grow in early 2022 with the opening of the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Class of 2021: Tutor Corps seniors earn $4 million in scholarship offers, grants

All 30 high school seniors graduating from Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program will be attending college in the fall and have received a collective $4 million in scholarship offers and grants, including $378,400 in scholarship funding by tutoring children in Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program.

Guadalupe Center honored its Tutor Corps Class of 2021, its largest class to date, on May 4 during a private ceremony held at Immokalee High School, where students were joined by family members and mentors to celebrate their achievements. Notable statistics from the Tutor Corps Class of 2021 include:

– Students earned an average weighted GPA of 4.0

– 17 of 30 students earned college credits while in high school (their average was nearly 21 credits each)

– 12 of 30 students are the first in their family to graduate from high school

– 26 of 30 students are first-generation college students

“The Tutor Corps Class of 2021 overcame disruptions in their education caused by the pandemic, Hurricane Irma and other life challenges, but emerged stronger and more resilient,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “As these young men and women head to college in the fall, I am confident they will continue excelling in the classroom and on campus, like they have done for the past four years during high school.”

Tutor Corps is a college-preparatory program that offers guidance in college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

The Tutor Corps celebration event featured remarks by Board of Trustees Chairman Joseph Baughman, Montecalvo, Vice President of Programs Bob Spano and Tutor Corps Program Director Sheila Oxx. Three students – Perla Munoz, Jose Reyes and Jean Jocirin – delivered invocations in English, Spanish and Creole, respectively.

Despite missing their junior and senior proms, athletic events, field trips, college visits and many other opportunities because of COVID-19, Spano noted that all 30 students still reached the finish line. Now, they can focus on what’s ahead. “Students, the future is your motivation,” Spano told students during his address. “Learn from the past, but live in the future.”

Graduating senior Lunex Illozier, a self-taught musician and academic scholar who will be majoring in biomedical engineering at Roberts Wesleyan College, delivered the keynote address.

Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Class of 2021 includes Mariana Brito, Ricardo Castillo, Lorve Cherilus, Ashley Decius, Marc Dorcin, Kayla Etienne, Diyanara Galvan, Mariela Galvan, Malaya Hollins, Lunex Illozier, Jean Jocirin, Jazmin Leon, Karina Lopez-Ramirez, Daniela Martinez, Pedro Miguel, Laura Morales-Nito, Esteban Moreno, Perla Munoz, Rosaura Munoz-Luna, Geraldine Pierre, Gierdy Pierre-Paul, Daniela Rafael, Jose Reyes Dubon, Gisel Reyes, Benny Reyna, Ethan Rincon, Veronica Sanchez, Noemy Segura Sanchez, Jaime Sifuentes and Maria Tistoj.

Prized artwork and precious metals seek new homes in Southwest Florida

When one thinks of “treasure hunting,” images of sword-swinging pirates and metal detectors racing over the beach may come to mind. But for most modern-day treasure hunters, the search happens in air-conditioned strip malls, where thrift and resale stores offer a thrilling prospect of treasure hiding in plain sight.

Valuable items once housed in Naples-area homes have made their way to the shelves of Guadalupe Resale Shop, an upscale resale store in North Naples specializing in like-new furniture, clothing and home décor. The Resale Shop regularly receives donations of designer labels, fine jewelry, antique curiosities and high-quality furnishings. On occasion, though, there is a proverbial shimmer of gold in the pan, and something that may have once been pricey turns out to be priceless.

Fortunately, these treasures aren’t falling into unwitting hands. The Resale Shop has a history of pairing valuable décor with savvy buyers. In 2019, for instance, Toronto-based art collector Ron Woods purchased an original oil painting by S. Lewiston, valued at $2,000, for a bargain price of $175. The painting, one of Lewiston’s signature tableaus of the Venetian canals, now hangs in the library at St. Joseph’s Villa, a retirement community in Dundas, Ontario. Just one year later, international gallery curator Aldo Castillo discovered “Janet,” a lifelike statue by prolific hyperrealist sculptor Marc Sijan, in the Resale Shop’s front window. Castillo, a Naples resident, had been a longtime donor to Resale Shop, and thus was not surprised to find such an extraordinary piece of art on display. “People in Naples donate some very nice things,” Castillo noted. Much to the joy of local investors and resellers, these “nice things,” especially artwork and jewelry, will only appreciate value over time.

At Guadalupe Resale Shop, it’s more than just the shoppers hawking for treasure who benefit from high-value items. Proceeds help fund the Guadalupe Center’s transformational education programs for low-income students in Immokalee, including the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and the college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Each is designed to foster personal and academic success, preparing students to be lifelong learners and leaders.

Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,400 students per year, and as more supporters donate high-end items to the Resale Shop, that number will only continue to grow. To put things into perspective, Castillo’s purchase of the “Janet” statue alone provided Guadalupe Center with enough funds to outfit a preschool classroom with a year’s worth of art and music supplies. These remarkable donations are creating opportunities all over the county, and as collectors are finding their next great investment, local children are finding their passion.

Guadalupe Resale Shop accepts donations throughout the year, and all donations are tax-deductible. The Resale Shop also offers free home pickup for large items, such as bedroom furniture and kitchen tables.

You never know who – or what – will wander through the doors of Guadalupe Resale Shop. Even if customers don’t walk away with a priceless treasure, they’ll still have made a difference in the lives of students in Immokalee.

– By Kat McNabb, manager of Guadalupe Resale Shop