A.J. and his younger brother Aaron, both started attending the center in Kindergarten, a few years apart. In 2023 they will be doing something together – they will both be graduating. Over the past decade and a half, these brothers have watched the center grow. It wasn’t always easy for them. They loved participating in the center’s various programs and learned to embrace the opportunities afforded to them in these programs supported by organizations such as Naples Children’s Education Foundation. (NCEF)

A.J. will be graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University this summer with a bachelor’s in Music Education and has secured a job teaching his passion at Lemuel Teal Middle School in Lehigh. 

Aaron, who loved taking part in the Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Program (EAP), will be graduating from Gulf Coast High School next month. In the EAP, Aaron was able to work with the Cypress Woods Golf Club chefs and staff to learn not only the back operations, but the front of the house operations as well. It was during this time that he fell in love with culinary arts. It set him on a course that has now earned him the inaugural FGCU Sirio Maccioni Culinary Scholarship which was awarded to him at the recent Royal Table at Le Cirque gala in March. Aaron will soon be attending FGCU to pursue his love of the culinary arts and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him . . . maybe one day we’ll find him in the kitchen of Le Cirque.

We here at GEC couldn’t be more proud of what the Rodriquez brothers have accomplished and the fine young men they have grown to be. In AJ’s own words . . .  

“If it were not for the program, who knows where I would’ve ended up. It kept me in school and I excelled as a student. The GEC program not only helped me as an academic, but it also taught me how to be a model citizen.”