Naples Winter Wine Festival 2011: Just the Boost They Needed
Mariela Vega is going to college. When you consider her parents only have a junior high education, this is a huge achievement. “My parents both didn’t go to high school; they only got through eighth grade,” Mariela,17, says. “I saw how my parents struggled and how they worked; I knew that I didn’t want to be like that. Even though I respect what they do, I didn’t want that to be me.”
To help her prepare for college, Mariela joined Tutor Corps, a program with the Guadalupe Center. Tutor Corps helped Mariela prepare for the college admission test, work through the application process and understand what she can expect from a post-secondary education. “If there were more programs like this, I believe many students wouldn’t be lost in college or take the wrong path in life,” Mariela says.
Imagine that every meal is a challenge, that every word you speak is a battle of pronunciation. That’s what one little girl, Gracie Mei, faces every day. Gracie, five, was born with a cleft lip and palate, making speech and eating difficult. Before her mother, Dale , adopted her, Gracie received surgery to correct her cleft lip.
In May of 2011, Gracie started attending Fun Time Early Childhood Academy. Prior to that, Gracie knew only Chinese. Through speech therapy, Gracie has learned how to voice what she needs and, because other children now understand her speech, has begun to grow socially. “What they really did for her was provide her with an environment to thrive,” Dale Lively says. “Without NCEF providing money so the school could be amazing, she wouldn’t be accomplishing what she is accomplishing now.”
Steven Newell has always been a very happy boy, his mom, Becky Newell, says. “That is very common with kids with Down syndrome; the happy gene seems to be part of the package.” But Steven shied away from the limelight. “One of the things he was always afraid of was having people watch him do stuff; he didn’t like being the center of attention.” Now, Steven proudly marches to center stage of trophy day and doesn’t mind when people focus on him. “The fact that he is able to participate in Naples Equestrian Challenge that has received so much from NCEF has allowed his confidence to bloom,” Becky Newell says.
“I like to ride the horses. They’re nice and gentle,” Steven says. “I like to ride Ted because he’s a goofball. Riding makes me strong.”
Meghan Barton had heard all the stories, “Little boys are slower to talk than girls,” “So-and-so didn’t talk until he was three,” but when she would look into her son’s eyes, she knew that something was different. “I’m looking in his eyes and I’m knowing this kid wants to tell me and he can’t,” Barton says. Just glancing at Caden, three, you’d think he was like any other kid, but until Caden began attending ABLE Academy he had no words to communicate with, only temper tantrums.
After failed attempts with other speech therapists, Barton signed Caden up with a speech therapist working out of ABLE Academy. Caden has only been attending school since July 2011, but he has already started using small phrases, and has memorized his colors and numbers. Caden wouldn’t be able to attend ABLE Academy without the help of NCEF scholarships. “We couldn’t afford to bring him here; it’s because of the Winter Wine Festival and NCEF that we are able to have him here.”