In January of 2020, Mary Asta was making one of her regular trips to the farmworker’s housing camp to check-in on the families when she spotted a boy about 15 wandering around. “Who is that boy? Why isn’t he at school today?” she asked. She was curious because she was familiar with most of the school-age children, yet she didn’t know this young man.  His name is Julio.

Mary approached Julio and introduced herself. He had heard of her, as so many of his friends attended the Gargiulo Education Center and would often talk about all the wonderful things she does for them. When she asked him about his studies, Mary came to find out he was NOT enrolled in 10th grade.  There was an issue with his birth certificate and the school would not let him enroll without getting it resolved – something his (single) mother didn’t know how to. So Julio was not going to school, and had quite a confused and resentful attitude about it. He was resigned to his predicament and had given up. He felt like nobody cared, so he didn’t care either.

Mary immediately went to his mother and offered her support in getting this resolved. With their blessing, Mary went to the school and discussed the issue. She set forth on assisting him with getting the proper birth certificate,  getting him re-enrolled in school, and coming to the Center on a daily basis. Having already missed half of his 10th grade year, he had a significant amount of catching up to do. It was a daunting challenge. His poor attitude and lack of structure made this journey a struggle – but the Center was not giving up – and we wouldn’t let Julio give up either. 

With the help of the teachers, Julio slowly got back on track academically. This accomplishment seemed to re-awaken something in him. The attitude that was born from the “this is an impossible task” attitude started to change. The more he accomplished, the more positive his attitude became. With his studies under control, he started engaging in the other programs the Center offered, such as the Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Program (EAP) where he learned many career paths. One he loved was working as a teacher’s assistant. And through the  program he was also able to obtain his learner’s permit and subsequently his driver’s license, all of which was a tremendous challenge. But, he now has a birth certificate he could use as identification and for the rest of his life. He learned how to drive using the Ford Edge that was donated to the Center by a generous donor, as his mother did not have a driver’s license and was without a car. He really started to open up and became one of the most engaged students we have ever had at the Center.

Julio went on to graduate in 2023 and is now a Freshman in his second semester at Southwest Florida College. He’s received multiple scholarships, many of which the Center helped him apply for to assist with his studies. What is his focus of study? Teaching. Julio wants to be a teacher. After experiencing the love and support from the teachers at the Center, he wants to give back and do the same for others. When he’s not in class, Julio volunteers at the Center as a teacher’s assistant, which has even further fostered his love for helping kids.

It’s amazing how things can change in just a few years. Julio’s life will forever be changed for the better because of one random Camp visit and someone caring enough to ask why. Because of the care and support he found at Gargiulo Education Center, Julio now believes in himself and his future.

Julio . . . we believed in you all along.