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Sponsorship opportunities, tickets available for Scholarship Gala
August 21, 2019

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Join the Haitian-American Community Coalition of SWFL for their 4th annual Scholarship Gala, which is the organization's major fundraiser for support deserving Haitian-American students.

Haitian-American Community Coalition of SWFL President Beatrice Jacquet-Castor said he organization began in 2015 because there was a need for a voice in the Haitian community.

With between 25,000 to 35,000 Haitians living in the Southwest Florida community, a voice was needed, especially when practicing their voting rights.

"We saw the need to become the voice for the population that we call the invisible. Nobody knows about them," Jacquet-Castor said, adding that they wanted to be a political voice for them, so they could get resources within the Haitian community. "In 2015 we were able to get three of the Lee County school boards elected into office. This is when Haitian people started understanding in order for their voice to be heard, they needed to participate in voting, knowing their candidates and going out and voting for people that care for their community."

With the Haitian community helping in getting three board members elected, she said they were able to make sure the Haitian students received the resources they needed to be successful. This was important because less than 50 percent of the Haitian kids were graduating with high school diplomas.

When Haitian students came to the district there were given assessments in English, rather than in their native language, resulting in not passing, or understanding, the assessment.

When Spanish-speaking people integrated here "they were given an assessment test within their language, which allows them to be successful, verses the Haitian kids that were relocating to Florida," Jacquet-Castor said.

Things have changed since the organization began, which includes a partnership with the School District of Lee County school board.

"Right now I have a meeting scheduled with the director of the ESOL department. We have several of the school board members that are members in the organization," she explained. "We do have the school implementing the resources needed to be successful and be able to graduate and get a full secondary education. This is what has led us to have a scholarship gala."

The 4th annual Haitian Heritage Educational Scholarship Gala will be held from 5 to 9:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 21, at Broadway Palm Theatre, 1380 Colonial Blvd., in Fort Myers. Advanced tickets are $60 and $30 for those 13 and younger. Tickets are $70 at the door. They can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com under Haitian Heritage Educational Scholarship Gala.

There are also sponsorships available, $2,500 for platinum, $1,000 for gold and $500 for silver. Businesses and organizations can also purchase ads for the souvenir booklet, which range from $175 for a full page back to $25 for a business card. Deadline is Sept. 23.

"All the proceeds that come in from the scholarship gala does go to the kids. The more support that we get from the community the more we are able to give," Jacquet-Castor said. "We are encouraging the community to partner up with us and support."

The gala will include a dinner, networking opportunities and a great evening of fun while learning about the Haitian community. The event will include a guest speaker from Miami who will share issues, and a Haitian comedian. Scholarships will also be provided.

Last year four $1,000 scholarships were given to Haitian-American students.

Students have to write a 1,000-word essay expressing why they should be selected and how a scholarship would help them, as well as letters of recommendations from guidance counselors and teachers.

She said the scholarship chair is Betsy Vaughn, a member of the school board.

"Hopefully we can fill up Broadway Palm this year. We are seeing a great need," Jacquet-Castor said, adding that they are seeing great gains with GPAs. "The Haitian community, they have GPAs of 5.0. We are seeing an interest. We can only provide scholarships based on the amount we have come in at the gala."

For additional information, visit haitianamericanccf.org.

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