More than 100 second-graders from four Immokalee elementary schools learned about Southwest Florida’s coastal wildlife and habitat at Guadalupe Center’s 26th annual Buddy Day on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The program paired “little buddies” from Pinecrest, Lake Trafford, Highlands and Village Oaks elementary schools with “big buddies,” dedicated volunteers from area communities including Hideaway Beach, Fiddler’s Creek, Verona Walk and many others. Together, they rotated through fun, educational stations including beach exploration led by Everglades National Park at The Gulf Coast Visitor Center, a birding program with the Big Cypress National Preserve Rangers, games run by Marco Island YMCA and crafts overseen by community volunteers.

Nearly 200 volunteers, along with generous business partners, helped make Buddy Day a success yet again.

“Buddy Day is a fantastic opportunity to reward students in our After-School Program for working so hard to improve their reading, math and English skills,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Creating hands-on learning experiences like these and developing stronger academic backgrounds for the children of Immokalee will ultimately help us accomplish our mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education.”

Buddy Day was held at Hideaway Beach on Marco Island and many residents of the community served as “big buddies,” even offering children rides on their decorated golf carts. Every child also received a new book, while Kids 2 Camp provided stuffed animals.

About Guadalupe Center
Guadalupe Center is a purpose-driven, nonprofit organization with proven results in creating endless possibilities for the students of Immokalee through education and fostering personal and academic success that leads to economic independence. With a focus on breaking the cycle of poverty through education, Guadalupe Center is proud of the children’s accomplishments: 94% exceed kindergarten readiness measures, 100% of Tutor Corps high school seniors graduate high school and are accepted into college and more than 90% graduated with a post-secondary degree.