Immokalee students gain college, life experiences over the summer


Many students in Immokalee have never left Florida, flown on an airplane or set foot on a college campus. That all changed this summer for one fortunate group of 21 students in the college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program at Guadalupe Center. 

It started with a pre-dawn wakeup call and trip to Southwest Florida International Airport for a flight to Rochester, New York. One of the TSA agents, coincidentally, had volunteered with Guadalupe Center while in AmeriCorps, a friendly face that proved beneficial as she alerted students to the do’s and don’ts of traveling, like not packing full-sized bottles of shampoo into carry-on bags. Students learned how to change terminals during a connection in Philadelphia and navigate baggage claim in Rochester. 

Upon arrival, our host from Roberts Wesleyan College was holding a “Welcome to Rochester” sign. The group boarded a Roberts Wesleyan bus and headed straight for campus, where they would spend the next two weeks studying, socializing and learning about what college life is truly like. Until that point, their only knowledge of campus life was what they’ve heard from older siblings and teachers, or seen on television. 

Campus sessions offered overviews of potential majors and career fields, as well as the skills needed to succeed in college, like time management, focus and priority-setting. They were able to sleep in residence halls, eat on campus and experience classes taught by college professors. They had opportunities to meet with academic advisors to discuss career aspirations and potential college majors, and volunteer for charitable causes. 

All 21 students are juniors and seniors at Immokalee High School, and all 21 likely will end up in college. Since its inception, 100% of students in Tutor Corps have attended college, many times at elite institutions like Roberts Wesleyan on full-ride scholarships. 

The college experience isn’t just about books and classrooms, though, so Tutor Corps staff created a series of fun activities to keep students engaged – go-karts, mini-golf, arcade games, a bonfire and visits to the movie theater, water park, museum and baseball game. Rochester is about one hour from Niagara Falls, so on the final day of the trip, students boarded a bus for a surprise trip to see North America’s most famous waterfall. Students let out oohs and ahhs as the mist hit their faces, soaking in the sights and scenery that couldn’t be more different from the flat tomato fields and freshwater lakes around Immokalee. 

This experience played out across multiple college campuses and cities this summer through Guadalupe Center’s E.G. Salisbury Tutor Corps Summer Academy, which provides pre-college experience that show students there is a world out there waiting to be explored. 

The Summer Academy is like a food sample that supermarkets provide to shoppers. Give them a taste of something, and they’ll want more. These 21 students had an opportunity to sample college, and they returned to Immokalee excited about their futures and ready start the college application process. 

– By Jorge Perez, college director for the Tutor Corps Program