IMMOKALEE, Fla - An Immokalee program is breaking the cycle of poverty through education. The Guadalupe Center's Tutor Corps program is helping students overcome the odds to graduate from high school, go to college and achieve the American dream.
Friday night hundreds of Immokalee seniors walked across the stage and received their diploma. But, for 23 students, Tutor Corps is making sure their journey goes well beyond high school.
Ivan Gijon Cruz, Stephanie Castro and Rolby Seneus have a lot in common. All three were born and raised in Immokalee. All three are first generation college students and all three were hand picked four years ago to join the Guadalupe Center's Tutor Corps program.
"My parents, they barely made it through sixth grade, so going to college I am doing it for me and i'm doing it for my parents as well," says Stephanie Castro.
Castro is going to Arcadia University just outside Philadelphia on a full ride scholarship. Rolby is going to FIU in Miami and Ivan is going to FGCU.
"Just to be able to say my son is graduating and he's going to college is just amazing because they worked their lives in the fields and just to be able to say that, wow, the American dream is realistic," says Ivan.
This year, Tutor Corps has 23 graduating seniors moving on to college. "Having the path set for you and all you have to do is walk on it, that's just an amazing opportunity," says Rolby.
The program was originally designed to help students starting in 9th grade and guide them to make sure they get to college. "They might not have the help at home to maneuver through the process. The school is inundated with a number of students, but the need is there," says Megan McCarthy, Vice President of programs for the Guadalupe Center.
The students also work after school mentoring kids in elementary school. "Very few can really emphasize and really understand what these younger kids are going through," says McCarthy.
For these graduates, it's about overcoming the odds, changing the norm and setting new standards for those following in their footsteps. "I'm able to show there's a way out, that there's a new light at the end of the tunnel," says Ivan.
Tutor Corps also follows the students through college to ensure they graduate. Right now, 93 percent of participants get a four year college degree.