Immokalee’s rising seniors using summer to virtually prepare for college

The summer before students’ senior year of high school is usually when they get serious about college planning.

By June or July, they’ll have ACT or SAT scores in hand and begin touring college campuses to find the right fit – financially, socially and academically.

For the class of 2021, though, this summer is different. Spring test dates were postponed, so many students don’t have any qualifying test scores to report. College campuses are closed, so tours are canceled. Admissions officers and counselors are harder to reach because they’re working remotely.

Despite the challenges, rising high school seniors in Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program are still preparing for August 2021, the date when they’ll start college.

Normally, Tutor Corps students would have opportunities to participate in one- to six-week pre-college experiences at universities across the country through the E.G. Salisbury Tutor Corps Summer Academy, a program funded by Guadalupe Center’s generous supporters. Instead, Guadalupe Center enrolled all 28 rising seniors in an online, general education course through Roberts Wesleyan College in New York.

Tutor Corps students are learning how to communicate professionally with professors and classmates over video calls, email and messaging platforms. They are beginning to understand the academic expectations of college students and recognizing the keys to success include initiative and self-motivation. And when the course is finished, each student will have three college credits on their transcript, which puts these first-generation college students one step closer to a college degree.

Beyond that, Guadalupe Center is providing an essay writing workshop over Zoom that offers assistance drafting essays required in college applications. Colleges received thousands upon thousands of applications from prospective students, with nearly everyone possessing strong GPAs, academic accolades and a lengthy list of leadership positions. What differentiates applications is the essay, so Tutor Corps students are learning writing tips and strategies to draft standout essays.

One of our volunteers is leading College 101 sessions that cover the basics of college life and lingo, like explaining the difference between liberal arts institutions and research universities, general education classes and courses required for a major, and two- and four-year schools.

Another summer session focuses on leadership, professionalism and other traits necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

Guadalupe Center also is registering Tutor Corps students for free virtual college fairs, where they can “visit” admissions officers to learn about degree programs, campus life, scholarship opportunities and more.

This most unusual of summers may actually be working out in students’ favor. Instead of limiting their opportunities, the move to virtual everything is creating endless possibilities for students to learn and grow. They will be better prepared for their senior year at Immokalee High School and in a great position to transition to college. Higher education may look different when they arrive on campus – or in a virtual classroom – but Tutor Corps students will be prepared.

College Education– By Sheila Oxx, director of the Tutor Corps Program 

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