Guest Commentary ‘Be Flamazing’ gala shines spotlight on possibilities

By Dawn Montecalvo
President of Guadalupe Center
As the leader of a nonprofit organization, potential donors and volunteers often ask me to explain Guadalupe Center’s mission. The official mission statement is to “break the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.”

The dots are easy to connect – a high-quality education is proven to result in higher wages and job stability, and thus a better standard of living. That serves as the basis for Guadalupe Center’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and Tutor Corps Program.

Statistics tell a story, but they don’t put a name or face to that story. That’s why Guadalupe Center students are front and center at all of our events.

At the flamingo-themed Be Flamazing gala on Jan. 16, children performed on stage for guests to showcase their music and performance talents. High school students served as greeters and ushers, striking up conversations with arriving guests and sharing their hopes for the future. And our keynote address wasn’t delivered by a motivational speaker, political figure or retired corporate executive. It was given by Alberta Morales, a senior in our college preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

Guests at Be Flamazing heard an incredible story of tragedy, perseverance and achievement.

Alberta’s father worked in construction and her mom was a stay-at-home mother. The family struggled, but got by until Alberta’s mother suddenly passed away. As the oldest sibling, Alberta was thrust into a parental role, preparing meals for her dad and three siblings in addition to taking care of household chores.

Two years later, Alberta discovered Guadalupe Center and its Tutor Corps Program, which offers guidance in college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance, as well as an opportunity to earn wages by tutoring younger students, which helped supplement income for the family.

Ultimately, Alberta’s three siblings followed her to Guadalupe Center and are now receiving academic support so they, too, can excel in the classroom.

Every student at Guadalupe Center has a similar inspiring story, and thanks to the generosity of supporters, nearly 1,300 students are building an academic foundation that will carry them through school and beyond. Thirty corporate partners joined hundreds of guests and Be Flamazing’s presenting sponsor, the Moglia Family Foundation on behalf of Amy and Paul Heuerman, in raising an incredible $1.2 million to support Guadalupe Center’s educational programs and students like Alberta. Without philanthropic support, Guadalupe Center would not be able to create endless possibilities or make a lasting impact for the students of Immokalee.

To conclude her speech at the Be Flamazing gala, Alberta shared her plans for the future. After graduating from Immokalee High School in May, she will be attending Roberts Wesleyan College in New York, where she will major in business administration.

“The journey that has led me toward my mountain was a treacherous and fulfilling one,” Alberta said. “I would not change any of it, if it meant I would end up here with the opportunities and blessings of a lifetime.”

About the Author
Dawn Montecalvo is president of Guadalupe Center in Immokalee, a nonprofit organization with a mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

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