NCEF Shining Star

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands – one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

AJ teaching music to students at Gargiulo Education Center

AJ Rodriguez started with the NCEF-funded Gargiulo Education Center (GEC) in kindergarten and he is now the first in his family to graduate and go on to college. Largely through his perseverance and the Financial Literacy Program at GEC, he has received scholarships to fully cover his tuition for the music program at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).

After teaching this summer, AJ decided to become a certified music teacher. In addition to working on the weekends, he fills his time with extracurriculars like participating in the Basketball Band at FGCU, recording music at the Federal Work-Study, playing in the Jazz Symphonic Band, and playing guitar and singing at his church.

With his many obligations and engagements, he would still like to find time to work and give back to Gargiulo Education Center that has helped him so much. In AJ’s words, “When I first started this program, I was what you would say – broken and afraid. I am so grateful because my brother has also been given the opportunity to attend the Gargiulo Education Center. The thought of it closing and not being here to help these kids out scares me. I could have been just another statistic. I could have been a dropout. I am just so grateful for NCEF in supporting this program.”

Click here to learn more about NCEF and the Naples Winter Wine Festival.