Making a Difference for Children
Fresh perspectives for the dog days of summer
Making our way through summer, we look forward to a brighter school year for the children of our community.
In this chapter, we salute the work of Zulaika Quintero, principal of Immokalee Community School and Molly Arthur, director and founder of Educational Pathways Academy. These visionary women lead different charges to ensure that their students have every opportunity to overcome the obstacles they face.
We also take a look at how Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s launch of its unique Climate Change patch is inspiring environmental activism in today’s young leaders. To earn the patch, Girl Scouts must demonstrate an understanding of the science behind global warming and work together to address solutions.
Following the theme of environment, park ranger Trish Schranck introduces us to the Welcome and Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park. Making its debut this summer, it is the first education center to open in a Florida state park in 20 years.
And as summer is upon us, the professionals at Aesthetics in Plastic Surgery by Kiran Gill offer three important tips for keeping skin heathier during Southwest Florida’s harshest months.
We also present a parade of pooches in honor of National Mutt Day, July 31. Here, you can paw through our readers’ iconic images of their favorite four-legged friends — even in these dog days of summer.
Three simple steps to keeping your skin healthy in the summer months
Summer brings on a bevy of skin care issues, but these simple tips will keep your skin healthy — and beautiful!
1. Keep It Clean: Use a foaming cleanser to clean off summer’s SPF and sweat. Exfoliate regularly.
2. Hydrate: Lighten up, but don’t skip the moisturizer.
3. Protect: SPF is your skin’s best friend. The sun’s UV rays cause damage, resulting in wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and cancer. Find a sunscreen you like and wear it every single day.
Aesthetics in Plastic Surgery by Kiran Gill, M.D. is located at 6610 Willow Park Drive, Suite 104, Naples. To learn more, call 239-596-8000 or visit www.kirangillmd.com.
NATIONAL MUTT DAY
Sit and Stay!
You won’t want to miss our readers’ pooch pix
Be they mutt, purebred or not-so-sure bred, dogs bring indescribable joy to their owners. Ahead of National Mutt Day — July 31 — we invited our illustrious readers to share pooch pix and fast films of their four-legged best friend loves.
We ask you to sit, stay and paw through owners’ submissions because, as W.R. Purche said, “Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.”
in this issue
Calling Explorers of All Ages
Family-friendly Welcome and Discovery Center opens at Lovers Key State Park
Zulaika Quintero leads student transformation from personal experience
by Kathy Grey
“Anything is possible,” says Zulaika Quintero.
That belief was the inspiration of her journey as an educator, one that led her to ultimately take the helm as principal of RCMA Immokalee Community School, recently renamed RCMA Immokalee Community Academy.
Early this year, Quintero was the recipient of Florida’s Principal Leadership Award — a Florida Tax Watch honor bestowed upon only three elementary school principals in the state.
As head of Collier County’s only dual-language, tuition-free public charter school, her dedication to transforming the lives of her students — most of them children of migrant farm workers — is something she takes personally.
Because she’s been there.
Growing Up Working
Quintero and her four siblings, Felipé, Elva, José Jr. and Edwin, are children of migrant farmworkers who settled in Immokalee when Zulaika was 5 years old.
“Our family bond is very close,” Quintero says, as she recalls years of working in the fields of North Carolina (bell peppers and sweet potatoes), Missouri (corn, watermelon, tomatoes and peppers) and Tennessee (tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins).
Uvani Lopez-Galvez, Zulaika Quintero and the Tax Watch team
“My younger brother and I were the ‘pickers’ because we were so little. It was hard. It’s hot, in the 90s, and you’re looking at that long row ahead of you, and you wish you could sleep in,” she says. “That made me look at my life … a way to change the mold for me and my own family.”
She attended Collier elementary schools — Pinecrest, Lake Trafford and Highlands — leaving in April and not returning until October or November, depending on the growing season.
In seventh grade, she says, her parents prioritized schooling, returning to Immokalee in time for school. That’s when she says she began to blossom.
“My grades got better. I was already in honor courses by eighth grade and taking honors and AP courses in high school.”
But it wasn’t always easy, because her folks had to follow the crops.
“I missed my mom,” she recalls, holding back tears. “I’d go to my sister, but she’s not my mom.”
Making a Difference for Students
It’s that level of understanding (plus years of ensuing higher education and experience as an educator herself) that makes Quintero uniquely qualified to lead RCMA Immokalee Community Academy. She understands the plight of farm workers who need to provide for their children, and she understands the needs of their children to receive the best education possible.
Principal Zulaika Quintero and student
“Our executive director at the time asked me what my five-year goal was. I told her I’d like to teach in the classroom. I wanted to support a community that would help provide that support.”
She started as a roving teacher with a cart, teaching Spanish to students from kindergarten through sixth grade.
“I never said ‘no’ to anything. That’s something my parents instilled in me. If you’re facing an obstacle, you just do it.”
When a social worker position opened at the school, she took courses and was trained to be an advocate for families and students. She was so effective in the role, that school meeting attendance leapt from 10 to 80 in just 11 months.
Ultimately, Quintero was offered the position of principal for the 2016/17 school year. She brought the school’s grade from a “D” to a “B” in her first year — something that has been maintained every year since.
She also successfully campaigned for the K-6 RCMA Immokalee Community School to become RCMA Immokalee Community Academy, this year serving grades K-7. In the 2022/23 school year, the academy will serve grades K-8. The school’s overall curriculum embraces the integration of social and emotional skills to help ensure students’ smooth transitions as they progress to higher levels of education.
The Florida’s Principal Leadership Award she received in early 2021 also meant that rising seventh-grader Uvani Lopez-Galvez earned a two-year scholarship toward his college education.
“That was huge,” Quintero says of the student who so struggled through second grade and, with his parents’ support, she says, “is now one of our highest scholars.”
Quintero is one of many of the school’s teachers, aides and staff members who know firsthand the challenges migrant and disadvantaged populations face.
“(We) understand where our kids are coming from and have the compassion, empathy and mindset that everything is possible for our students and families,” she says, adding that the students’ parents revere their children’s teachers.
“They are very respectful to our educators and make our jobs easier … so their children will do better in life and in their education. Our parents see that we’re giving our all, and they want to be part of it. It’s a partnership.”
Creating Educational Pathways is Molly Arthur’s labor of love
by Kathy Grey
Marcie Burland is Arthur’s former coworker and current EPA board member.
“These challenges do not solely lie with the student. Families struggle with finding answers, solutions and acceptance and are called on to advocate for their child in a way most parents never experience,” Burland says. “With generally accepted statistics, 12% of Americans contend with dyslexia.
“When Molly started Educational Pathways Academy, many families found the answer to their children’s challenges. It’s a labor of love, finding qualified educators with the commitment to make a difference in the lives of families, one student at a time.”
Arthur cites the school’s systemic, multi-sensory approach based on Orton-Gillingham; the publication, “Overcoming Dyslexia” by Dr. Sally Shaywit; Scarborough’s Reading Rope model; and 100 years of proven research for teaching students with dyslexia.
In addition to vast sources of knowledge, Arthur’s faith sustains her.
“I believe this school is the Lord’s plan for these kids,” she says of what could be seen as the physical manifestation of God’s love for underserved children who need remediation and individual attention first and foremost.
Julie Glenn was reading the newspaper a few years ago and noticed a piece about the opening of a new private school in Naples that catered to the needs of students with dyslexia.
“I thought it was cool,” Glenn says. She never dreamed that the school would become a major part of her family’s life.
A pre-K teacher noticed that Glenn’s daughter, Arianna, was highly intelligent. She also detected some unique thought processes as Arianna started learning her letters. Following pre-K, Arianna attended a private elementary school that promised to pay keen attention to the child’s unique learning patterns.
“I found it interesting that they didn’t talk about dyslexia until they started standardized testing,” Glenn says.
Arianna began to flounder. And when she was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia — learning disabilities that affect reading and writing — Glenn thought back to the newspaper article about the new school.
Arianna is now 10 years old and has been a student at Educational Pathways Academy (EPA) in Naples for two years.
Once a frustrated, anxious and dispassionate student, Arianna understands that she’s bright, social and inquisitive, and yes, she learns differently. Importantly, she knows she’s not alone. Her fellow students also process information differently.
“She reads now, and she wants to read,” Glenn says. “She reads billboards on road trips. She asks how words are spelled. It’s like, ‘I’m dyslexic, and that’s cool. I can see things other people can’t. Her confidence level has been remarkable.”
One song Mom and daughter like to sing on those road trips is “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” as they thank their lucky stars for Molly Arthur, the woman who made that school possible.
Arthur is one of the few graduates from the Naples schools who went off to college, taught elsewhere and came back home to put her degree to work locally. With a pre-K education emphasis, Arthur taught in Collier public and private schools.
“I kept seeing kids — about three or four out of 20 — who had reading disabilities,” she says.
In 2015, she started tutoring full time.
“One boy in particular was severely dyslexic. He became my project. I learned from him and he learned from me.”
And then it occurred to her: “I could do so much more if I had (these kids) full time. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”
Two years later, she opened Educational Pathways Academy.