In Partnership With 

The S.M.A.R.T. initiative  was created  as a pilot program to provide emotional health support and first aid for Gargiulo Education Center migrant students due to lack of services available in our area of North Naples. While it is clear that there is a serious need for psychological intervention in today’s young society with mental health challenges and disorders, it is even more evident among the migrant children population. Many of the children have serious anxiety, anger and depression disorders due to the stress of the migrant lifestyle.  It is hard enough for our children to return from school to an empty house, but the limited time spent with their parents (or in some cases a single parent) is more than challenging. Complications and miscommunications among children and parents are attributable to growing up in varied cultures. We feel these are key reasons why migrant students may have misunderstandings with family, struggle with behavior issues, and potentially develop maladaptive coping strategies. We intend to demonstrate and uncover individualized strengths to realize their own ability to effectively manage and express emotions and pressures.

Gargiulo Education Center and Counselors of SWFL are working together and collaborating with other organizations such as David Lawrence Center, AVOW Hospice, United Arts Council and other local entities to develop programming outlets. One major goal in developing S.MA.R.T., is to avoid the shame or embarrassment that often goes along with the  term Mental Health. Instead, to make S.M.A.R.T., building emotional intelligence and self control, as something to be proud of and sought after. One of the ways that we achieve this, is to engage and enlist our students from our Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Program  to work with us to develop the program, graphics and curriculum as part of their job requirements. In doing so, these qualities are instilled in the students without any of the stigma that goes along with the words Mental Health.


The S.M.A.R.T. program integrates 5 elements that will assist the students in developing emotional intelligence and wellbeing. Emotional intelligence helps us by creating the ability to not allow outside events to affect our choices and actions or reactions. We become the masters of our own destiny.

By utilizing the acronym S.M.A.R.T. (Serenity, Meditation, Awareness, Respect and Trust) in an ongoing curriculum and lesson plan, the students are taught within  various mediums such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math,  in addition to acting, music and songwriting as outlets for students to express their feelings and emotions.

The program begins with the first letter of S.M.A.R.T. , S for Serenity, where students begin to build a therapeutic relationship with staff and support team. They work to gain a sense of identity and learn ways to manage their emotions. Communication styles are presented and assist students to build healthy support systems. Following is M for Meditation encourages students to relax and be mindful. To stay in the moment and reflect, contemplate and have personal consideration. Next is A for Awareness. Awareness strategies assist our students with setting personal goals, changing negative thoughts, identifying and accepting their emotions. This aspect will enable the children to know when they are having a problem and gain a sense of confidence to reach out to others.  The topic of Respect represent the R in S.M.A.R.T. Respect presents our students with ways to resolve conflict, find personal values and build self-efficacy. They will gain confidence in themselves, and their abilities. Lastly the letter T for Trust. The students will learn Trust because we feel this will propel them to trust themselves, show ethical behavior, and faith in others.  Students will develop an open-mind and practice using empathy, creating balance, being dependable and build integrity.

The S.M.A.R.T. elements are on rotation,  with each rotation delving deeper into the individual components and potential emotional triggers. The counselors and teachers work weekly to introduce these different aspects into our students’ lives with in a safe and healthy environment. Should a development or a breakthrough occur, it is communicated immediately to one of our mental health therapists on site. We are working hard on the consistency on our mental health team for over all congruency and trust. The optimal scenario is to build the program to include at least one therapist daily.

We are truly grateful to our partner, Patty’s Place. To learn more about their mission please visit their site at