Impacting Immokalee and its students through early childhood education

For the 307 students who attend Guadalupe Center’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, the future is extremely bright.

Children who attend a high-quality early learning program experience a higher rate of academic and career success. Guadalupe Center students have become valedictorians of their high school class, dean’s list college graduates and successful professionals making a difference in their community.

Unfortunately, Collier County has a shortage of seats in accredited early learning centers. Of the estimated 5,000 children under the age of 5 who live in poverty, just 1,000 are enrolled in a high-quality pre-school program. Guadalupe Center operates at capacity and has a waiting list that surpasses 500 students. If Guadalupe Center is not able to accommodate these students, it’s likely they will remain at home until age 5 when it’s time to begin kindergarten. That’s too late to start school!

Thanks to generous individuals who recognize the importance of early learning, Guadalupe Center has launched an ambitious plan to expand its Early Childhood Education Program to more children. This spring, the nonprofit organization will open the Monaghan Family Early Childhood Education Campus, which will serve an additional 64 students ages 6 weeks to 3 years old. Then in 2021, Guadalupe Center will open the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning, which will accommodate another 154 students in the Early Childhood Education Program as well as the 108 students in Tutor Corps at the Brynne & Bob Coletti Hall.

To understand the potential impact of these programs, one only needs to connect with Crystal Wood-Morales, director of the new Monaghan campus. After receiving a high school diploma, Crystal worked in the restaurant industry for seven years. Her career path changed after enrolling in college, where she earned two associate degrees and ultimately a bachelor’s degree that led to her promotion from teacher to site administrator and now center director.

“Growing up, I overcame many obstacles that made me the strong, independent, responsible and hardworking person I am today,” Crystal said. “I want to teach the children of Immokalee to overcome any obstacle they encounter. I want them to know that through determination, hard work and education, they can accomplish anything in this lifetime. My goal is to teach students that they can do great things and that this is their time to learn, grow and to shine.”

The Monaghan and van Otterloo campuses will create jobs in a community where economic growth is challenging, adding 58 new full-time positions. The expansion will further help children in Immokalee see that they have what it takes to overcome the profound challenges of living in an impoverished community. This is all done through education! As adults, Guadalupe Center students will enjoy higher earning potential, economic security and career satisfaction, thereby changing their family’s destiny for generations to come.

Through the Guadalupe Center 2020 & Beyond campaign, you can help build endless possibilities for students in Immokalee today, tomorrow and beyond! Gifts of any amount can be made securely online at, or you can call Tracy Connelly at (239) 657-7711 to make a pledge. All donations are tax deductible and warmly appreciated.