Florida Weekly Column

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap

by Juana Brown, Director of Charter School for RCMA (Redlands Christian Migrant Association)

The room was already filling up with first grade parents when Mrs. Sanchez arrived. She sported the standard attire of soiled jeans, long sleeve shirt and a loosely knotted kerchief around her neck worn by most farm workers. She greeted Miss Wise and Miss Drago, the first grade teachers, apologizing for her lateness and took her seat among the thirty six other first grade parents. It was a full house. Mrs. Sanchez chatted with several parents and shared how Marby, her first grader, had been reminding her of this important meeting for several days, suggesting that she write it on the calendar so she wouldn’t forget. As the teachers stepped up to the front of the room, several staff members began to distribute the IPads to each family.

Mrs. Sanchez had been very nervous about the evening’s training; after all, like most participants she had never used a computer or accessed the internet.  When the teachers explained how the IPads would be a way for her to help Marby at home and reinforce what he learned at school, she was determined to do her best.  First step was opening the cover, the second step was turning it on; by the end of the evening her group of parents had even managed to use the camera to video themselves.

When she asked what would happened if she forgot all of this at home, Miss Drago assured her that Marby was a very good teacher and would be more than glad to help.

This important ritual has marked the beginning of the school year for first and second grade students and their families at RCMA’s Immokalee Community School for the last three years. In this small rural school, notable for serving children of working poor agricultural families, parents and students are learning together through a unique program facilitated by the use of IPad minis.

This program helps foster a link between home and school by enlisting parents in support of students at home using concrete activities with built in accountability. Students take the devices home and work on reading skills introduced, modeled and practiced in the classroom. Parents work alongside students using reading strategies and IPad skills learned in the workshops. The process is videoed by a student or parent for viewing by teachers the next day.

One surprising effect of this process has been the frequent sighting on the videos of siblings joining in and participating in the learning activity. Zaida, Marby’s five year old sister, is one of the most frequent sightings.

As the school year drew to a close Mrs. Sanchez and Marby each had a request. Marby wanted to continue using his device in second grade. Mrs. Sanchez wanted to continue participating in the technology workshops.

With continued support from partners like the SWFL Community Foundation, RCMA can say “yes” to these requests and help bridge the opportunity gap for students like Marby and their families.


RCMA has been serving migrant and low-income families in rural, agricultural communities in 21 Florida Counties, including Collier County, for over fifty years. We provide child development, education, and family services to children as young as six weeks through a range of programs. Our Immokalee Community School, a Title 1 school, serves 246 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and 200 students in the out-of-school time and summer programs. We also provide a series of support services for families, including workshops and training to help them grow their skills as their children’s first educator and advocate. To learn more about how you can support our work call (239) 658-3560 or visit www.rcma.org.

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.























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