‘Circtacular’ raises over $950,000 for education programs in Immokalee

Guadalupe Center’s Circtacular, a circus-themed virtual fundraising extravaganza, raised more than $950,000 to support the nonprofit’s mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Livestreamed on Jan. 21 under the virtual big top, Circtacular was filled with special effects, comedic performances, compelling videos, heartfelt testimonials and traditional circus acts, including juggling, augmented reality, circus animals and an all-time favorite – pies in the face of Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo after online donations surpassed fundraising goals.

Guadalupe Center’s signature event is the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraiser and traditionally kicks off Naples’ winter season of philanthropic formal galas. In 2021, Circtacular instead was livestreamed to smart TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones across Southwest Florida and beyond.

“All year, our rallying cry has been ‘The show must go on,’ which refers to both Circtacular and our education programs,” Montecalvo said. “We have remained student focused and mission forward because, in our eyes, nothing can stop education as long as enough people passionately care about it. We are incredibly thankful for the unwavering support of our sponsors and donors who are helping rewrite the stars for students and families in Immokalee.”

Circtacular’s audience of philanthropists, business and community leaders, entrepreneurs and educators received patron party boxes filled with mementos, including a clown bowtie, animal crackers, locally-made custom cookies, popcorn and salsa, and Guadalupe Center accessories such as hats and face masks. The show’s interactive program featured dozens of students who are benefiting from contributions made by generous Guadalupe Center supporters.

During the show, current and former students shared their personal stories through “This Is Me,” a new campaign that introduces the talented, inspiring students of Immokalee to Southwest Florida. One of those students was Marc Dorcin, whose family moved to the U.S. from Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. He spoke no English at the time and was later assigned to remedial classes as a freshman at Immokalee High School. Now, after hard work under the tutelage of his mentors and staff at Guadalupe Center, Dorcin is enrolled in the rigorous Cambridge AICE program at school. Last year, his father passed away, and again Guadalupe Center stepped in to help, making sure he was still on track to graduate and pursue a college degree.

“Adversity is no longer my task-master; it will not control my future,” Dorcin said. “Instead, my future is filled with possibilities, including a college education.”

Circtacular’s primary fundraising mechanism was the Jump Up for Education, a lively interactive drive that allowed attendees to make a donation and “jump up” to show their support for Guadalupe Center. Donations large and small began pouring in, including a $100,000 match challenge from an anonymous donor.

Proceeds from Circtacular will support Guadalupe Center’s three educational programs: the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

Circtacular’s Big Top Sponsor was the Mary & Patrick McClain Foundation. Additional sponsors included Gamble Family Vineyards, Moorings Park Grande Lake/London Bay Development Group, Northern Trust, Priority Marketing, The Indium Corporation & Macartney Family Foundation, Heatherwood Construction, Waterside Shops, Carter, Elite Jets, Ficarra Design Associates and Infinite Professional Center. Media sponsors were Gulfshore Life/WINK, Life in Naples, Naples Daily News/LocaliQ and WAVV 101.1-FM.

Sharing co-hosting duties with Montecalvo was WINK News anchor Lindsey Sablan, who served as emcee. Auctioneer Greg Quiroga led the Jump Up for Education. 

WATCH: Circtacular

Guadalupe Center announces 2021 Board of Trustees appointments

Guadalupe Center has welcomed three additional leaders to its 2021 Board of Trustees, a governing body whose members serve as advocates and ambassadors for students and families in Immokalee. 

Newly appointed trustees include Debbie Toler, Eric Wallach and John Paro, who join 20 other individuals who help set policies and direction for the nonprofit organization. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. Trustees and Guadalupe Center staff oversee the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and the college preparatory Tutor Corps Program. 

“Our Board of Trustees helps guide the organization, and we’re excited to welcome these three incredibly talented individuals to our leadership team,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Each of them shares our vision and believes in our mission, and their passion and expertise will be critical as Guadalupe Center continues to create endless possibilities for students in Immokalee.” 

Toler is a community leader with a passion for helping nonprofits, particularly those focused on education and youth, and spent her professional career in corporate marketing and communications. She serves on the statewide Board of Trustees for Pace Center for Girls and was vice president of marketing for SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. Toler earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and communications from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Wallach is a retired partner with DLA Piper, a global business law firm. He previously chaired Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman’s employment practices and litigation practice. Wallach is an honorary trustee with the New-York Historical Society and a former trustee of Christina Seix Academy. Wallach, a mentor in Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.

Paro is chairman and CEO of Hallstar, a specialty chemical company serving the industrial, beauty and personal care sectors. He’s worked for the company since 1986 and previously worked in marketing and sales for FMC Corporation. Paro earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bucknell University and a Master of Business Administration in marketing and finance from the University of Chicago.

In addition to the three appointments, Guadalupe Center also announced executive leadership positions for 2021 that includes Joe Baughman (chair), Fred Hagemann (vice chair), Dr. Carl Ehmann (treasurer) and William Dempsey (secretary). 

Guadalupe Center breaks ground on van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning

Guadalupe Center broke ground on Oct. 30 for a new educational campus that will create lasting, transformational change for students in Immokalee. 

The van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning will feature two academic buildings with multiple classrooms, a library, learning lab, cafeteria and kitchen, playground, administrative offices, mentor lounges, commons areas, medical and dental suiteoutdoor gardens and a student wall of fame. The campus will accommodate up to 154 students in Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program, as well as 125 high school students in the college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. 

Guadalupe Center named the campus in honor of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloowhose generous $5 million matching gift helped launch the project and inspired others to give. Within the campus, Brynne & Bob Coletti Hall will become the new home for the Tutor Corps Program. Barron Collier Companies donated 9.5 acres for the new campus. 

A strong early childhood education gives children the best opportunity for future success, and this expansion will allow more students to get a head start on an education that will carry them through school, into college and beyond,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “We are truly grateful for all of the generous donors who stepped forward to help this dream become a reality for families in Immokalee. 

Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE). It also is recognized through the Southwest Florida Stars – Quality Rating and Improvement System and Gold Seal Quality Care Program through the Florida Department of Children and Families. Additionally, Guadalupe Center has a five-star rating from the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida. 

Tutor Corps is a highly selective, college preparatory program that offers guidance in college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance, as well as wages for tutoring younger students at Guadalupe Center. 

In August, Guadalupe Center opened the Monaghan Family Early Childhood Education Campus, which can accommodate up to 64 students ages 6 weeks to 3 years old. The addition of the van Otterloo campus will bring Guadalupe Center’s total student population to more than 1,800 students annually. 

Guadalupe CenterConstruction costs for both new campuses are being funded through “Guadalupe Center: 2020 & Beyond,” a capital and operational campaign raising money to build new educational centers, hire additional staffexpand academic programs and establish an operational endowment fund. 

“When our children were old enough to have conversations about philanthropy, we discussed creating a foundation and what causes we’d like to support as a family, such as a hospital or museum,” Rose-Marie van Otterloo said. “Everyone said education, and that’s what we’ve been supporting for the past 20 years.” 

After moving to Naples, a friend introduced the van Otterloos to Guadalupe Center. After that first visit, Rose-Marie was hooked. 

“I fell in love with this place because of its mission,” she said. “The only way to get out of poverty is through education, and Guadalupe Center is providing hope to so many families in Immokalee.” 

Construction on the van Otterloo campus, which will be located at 3655 Westclox St. in Immokalee, is expected to be complete in late 2021. Project partners include Heatherwood Construction, David Corban Architects and Peninsula Engineering. 

Guadalupe Center is recognizing donors through a naming opportunity campaign. Several investment opportunities are still available, including classrooms, building wings and offices. For information about additional giving opportunities, please contact Senior Director of Philanthropy Kelly Krupp at 239-657-7711. 

Guadalupe Center launches Back-to-School Shoes & Supplies Drive for Immokalee students

Guadalupe Center has launched its 28th annual Back-to-School Shoes & Supplies Drive to provide students with new sneakers and school supplies as the 2020-21 academic year begins.

The nonprofit is collecting new notebooks, writing utensils, art supplies and other classroom items, as well as monetary donations, that will ensure students are prepared for success when classes resume. This year’s collection is critically important as many parents in Immokalee face unprecedented economic hardships caused by COVID-19.

“Immokalee’s unemployment rate typically rises during the summer because agriculture jobs decrease, but this year, parents who work in retail, restaurants, hospitality and other service jobs also are struggling financially,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “To level the playing field, we as a community must ensure that all students have access to the supplies and resources necessary to succeed academically.”

Guadalupe Center, which has a mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee, will distribute supplies to students in its Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and Tutor Corps Program. Requested supplies include:

  • Paper products: composition writing books, index cards, lined notebook filler paper, notebooks and number cards.
  • Writing utensils: colored pencils, crayons, markers and pencils.
  • Art supplies: blunt scissors, construction paper, glue, googly eyes, paint, paint brushes, pipe cleaners and Play-Doh.
  • Classroom supplies: dry erase markers, paper plates, pencil sharpeners, pompoms, rulers and 9×12 student lap whiteboards.
  • Cleaning supplies: alcohol, bleach, disinfectant wipes, face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and spray bottles.

Guadalupe Center also has partnered with Snyderman’s Shoes of Naples and the nonprofit Laces of Love, which will be distributing new shoes to Guadalupe Center students in the coming weeks.

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.

Avoid the ‘summer slide’ by keeping children engaged, learning

Researchers estimate that students lose the equivalent of one month of learning during summer vacation. 

Teachers nationwide can attest that the “summer slide” is a challenge. Educators often spend the first few weeks each fall reviewing what students already learned, but forgot, during the previous school year. 

This year poses an even bigger challenge, particularly for families in Immokalee, where COVID-19 is impacting both the health and financial wellbeing of families. Guadalupe Center’s sole mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education, so even though classes are not in session, teachers and staff have been working tirelessly to make sure this summer isn’t a total loss. 

Schools shifted to virtual education in March, and while teachers in Southwest Florida did a remarkable job given the circumstances, virtual classes are no substitute for the real thing. It’s difficult to maintain academic momentum with a sudden switch to distance learning. 

In typical summer, students can participate in academic-based summer camps to continue learning, but most are not operating this year. Family road trips to zoos, aquariums and museums also might be difficult to schedule this summer. Even public libraries are either closed or operating with reduced hours. 

But learning must go on. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis already has announced Florida’s plans for reopening schools in August. The first day for public school students in Lee, Hendry and Charlotte counties will be Aug. 10, followed by Collier County on Aug. 12. 

Knowing the importance of summer learning, Guadalupe Center has provided parents with the tools to make sure their children are still progressing over the summer including books, online resources and activities for home, as well as training sessions to help parents take a more active role in their child’s education. 

While most parents are not certified teachers, they can guide learning until classes resume in August. 

Below are five tips from Guadalupe Center’s credentialed teachers to help parents prepare preschool and elementary-age children for the first day of school: 

  • Summer programs: If possible, enroll your child in an educational summer program. In-person camps and activities are very limited, but virtual programs are widely available and often free. Many virtual programs cover science and nature and include hands-on activities that children can complete at home. 
  • Reading: Read aloud to your children daily to help develop their language and listening skills while also stimulating their imagination. Pre-school and elementary students also should read to their parents. 
  • Sight words: Children should practice their sight words, which are core words used in the English language – such as “the,” “and” and “it” – that should be immediately recognizable while readingMastering these words increases fluency and comprehension. 
  • Writing: While reading involves decoding messages, writing means putting thoughts onto paper. Have children complete basic writing assignments, like describing their favorite food, sport or cartoon character. Go deeper by having them explain why it’s their favorite. 
  • Math: School homework often involves a math worksheet, but there are other ways children can practice their math skills. Have your child count out food items, read numbers on a sign, count coins, calculate time on a clock or other math-based activities. These may only take a few seconds, but they keep a child’s mind sharp. 

The most important factor in preparing your child for the start of school is time. You must make time for learning. Block out specific times on the calendar or assign educational tasks before and after mealtimescreating structure to the day. 

August is quickly approaching. Much like an athlete, students need a preseason to get in shape for school, and summer is that preseason.

By Jamie Rossi, assistant director of schoolage programs at Guadalupe Center

Guadalupe Center dedicates NCEF Infant/Toddler Wing to honor partnership with Naples Children & Education Foundation

Guadalupe Center recognized its longstanding support from the Naples Children & Education Foundation on Feb. 20 by dedicating a wing of its main campus in Immokalee in honor of the philanthropic organization.

The NCEF Infant/Toddler Wing is one of two wings at the Morgridge Family Early Childhood Education Campus, which serves up to 270 children ages 6 weeks through 5 years old. With its bright colors and comforting environment, the Infant/Toddler Wing was constructed in 2006 with support from NCEF. Along with the Jim Near Wing, the facility offers hope to many families who are otherwise unable to afford a high-quality early learning program.

In January, NCEF celebrated its 20th Naples Winter Wine Festival, which has raised $212 million since its inaugural event in 2001. Guadalupe Center has been a beneficiary since the grant process was initiated in 2002.

“The generosity of guests at the Naples Winter Wine Festival has been incredible since its inception, and NCEF grants have helped provide tens of thousands of children across Collier County with a stronger education, better health care and the resources to excel,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “Guadalupe Center would not serve as many students, nor be as successful, without NCEF’s generous support and leadership over the years.”

The Naples Children & Education Foundation’s mission is to improve the educational, emotional and health outcomes of underprivileged and at-risk children. Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,400 lower-income Collier County students and is focused on breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Guadalupe Center offers a nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

Through its annual grants and strategic initiatives, NCEF has impacted more than 45 of the most effective nonprofits in the community, providing 275,000 children with services and resources they need to excel.

“We are honored to have the Infant/Toddler Wing named after NCEF,” said NCEF Chief Executive Officer Maria Jimenez-Lara. “Guadalupe Center is a prime example of the highly effective nonprofits in our community which exemplify the highest levels of efficacy and accountability in serving underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County.”

Guadalupe Center partners with University of Florida’s College of Dentistry, NCEF Pediatric Dental Center to provide services four times a year to children in Guadalupe Center’s programs. Services include free dental screenings, sealants and fluoride treatments through proceeds generated at the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

“It’s my hope that dedicating our Infant/Toddler Wing in NCEF’s honor will permanently serve as a reminder of how much the organization has impacted Guadalupe Center,” Montecalvo said. “It’s incredible to think about how many children have excelled in school, attended college and are now gainfully employed with families of their own because of support from the NCEF and attendees of the Naples Winter Wine Festival.”

Guadalupe Center enhances After-school Tutoring Program through grant from United Way of Collier County

Guadalupe Center is enhancing its successful After-school Tutoring Program through a generous grant from United Way of Collier County.

United Way is providing $46,000 to help fund an After-school Tutoring Program widely regarded as a difference-maker for children in Immokalee. Guadalupe Center’s program operates throughout the school year and serves 840 students in kindergarten, first and second grades who have scored below-level on county and state assessments.

Guadalupe Center’s teachers provide extra attention and support to ensure students reach the academic milestones required for success in school.

“It’s incredibly important to build a strong academic foundation at an early age, and 100% of students enrolled in our After-school Tutoring Program show learning gains in math and reading,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “The grant from United Way of Collier County will help us reach additional students who just need a little more support to catch up to their peers, and ultimately excel in the classroom and beyond.”

Guadalupe Center is one of 21 partner agencies supported by United Way of Collier County, which directs its assistance to organizations addressing health, education and financial stability. In 2018, United Way of Collier County raised a record $6.1 million, nearly doubling the 2017 total of $3.3 million as more than 3,000 individuals and organizations made donations or pledges.

Guadalupe Center’s After-school Program operates at all five elementary schools in Immokalee: Pinecrest, Highlands, Village Oaks, Lake Trafford and Eden Park.