Guadalupe Center to expand in Immokalee

NAPLES – Guadalupe Center is expanding its Early Childhood Education Program with the addition of a new campus in Immokalee’s Jubilation neighborhood.

The new campus, which was made possible through a lead gift from Helene and Rich Monaghan, will feature six classrooms and accommodate up to 64 children ages 6 weeks through 3 years old.

On Monday, April 22, Guadalupe Center held a “Breakthrough” demolition event in which donors, staff and volunteers donned sledgehammers and hard hats to participate in the first phase of renovation. The 6,233-square-foot facility at 1170 Harvest Drive will be redesigned and renovated over the next few months.

“There is a critical need in the underserved community of Immokalee for affordable early childhood education,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “The research shows that birth to age five is a critical period of development, and the possibilities are endless for students like ours who can be part of a high-quality early childhood education program. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’ll be able to provide more students with a strong academic and social foundation, which will better prepare them for kindergarten and support their success in many ways throughout their lives.”

The new campus now under renovation is located in a bustling section of Immokalee, where nearly half of residents – 43.4% – live in poverty. According to the U.S. Census, only 39.3% of Immokalee adults have high school diplomas and 4.8% have earned bachelor’s degrees. Guadalupe Center’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee, and expansion plans have been in the works for several years.

“The generous gift from Helene and Rich Monaghan, as well as their leadership, was the stimulus for our donors to once again step forward to help Guadalupe Center and the children of Immokalee,” said Linda Yost, Guadalupe Center’s campaign chair. “This expansion is a tremendous accomplishment for a nonprofit organization like ours, and it’s certainly gratifying to know that we’ll be able to provide a high-quality education to even more children in the future.”

Guadalupe Center was able to purchase the new facility debt-free and pay for renovations entirely through additional philanthropic support provided by Mary and Phil Beuth, Clark Family Foundation, Susan and Mike Duke, Aprile and Gene Renna, Sharon and William Schoen, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.

Sharon and William Schoen have funded renovation costs and are challenging Guadalupe Center and its donors to raise an additional $500,000 to cover annual operating costs for the new campus. Guadalupe Center will begin a fundraising initiative seeking sponsors to help cover tuition costs for children attending the new campus.

Guadalupe Center presently offers its Early Childhood Education Program at the Morgridge Family Foundation Center on Hope Circle and at The Martin Foundation Campus at Lake Trafford Elementary. Because of limited space in these facilities, Guadalupe Center also offers the Smart Start Program to help parents become the best “first teacher” their child has at home. Combined, the Early Childhood Education Program serves approximately 375 children, but Guadalupe Center has a waiting list exceeding 500 children.

Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program is accredited by the Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE), Southwest Florida Stars – Quality Rating and Improvement System, and Gold Seal Quality Care Program from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for implementing high-quality academic and operational programs. It also has a five-star rating from the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida.

In addition to its successful Early Childhood Education Program, Guadalupe Center also offers an After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Combined, the three programs serve more than 1,300 Immokalee youth.

To participate in Guadalupe Center’s campaign to fund the new center’s operating costs, please visit GuadalupeCenter.org or call 239-657-7711.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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