Ivy league graduate attributes success to scholarship from Winter Wine Fest

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:
Regine Francois, former student at Guadalupe Center

With almost $200 million raised in 20 years, the stats behind the Naples Winter Wine Festival are pretty impressive.

As the festival kicks off this weekend, we hear from Regine Francois, a woman whose dream was made possible all because of the event.

“I remember one night, we shared a bag of potato chips and margarine for dinner. There was no electricity in the house,” said Regine Francois.

Now, Francois has just graduated from an Ivy league school with zero debt, and lives in New York City, all thanks to a full ride.

Her parents moved from Haiti, her dad picked peppers and her mom was a housekeeper.

She was one of six children, and they didn’t have much, but her parents still held high expectations.

“I remember in third grade my parents sat me down and told me that we can’t afford a college education for you but we want you to go to college,” said Francois.

That conversation eventually lead Regine to the Guadalupe Center, where she was part of their unique tutor corps program.

“Every year that you’re in the program you can also earn up to $4,000 dollars in college scholarships,” said Francois.

Some of that money comes from the Naples Children and Education Foundation, the non-profit behind the Winter Wine Festival.

The CEO of NCEF, Maria Jimenez-Lara beams with pride talking about Regine. It is their money that pays for programs at forty different non-profits.

“20 years later we now see very clear systems for oral health, for vision care, for primary care for counseling, for after school programs, for early learning,” said Jimenez-Lara.

At Guadalupe Center, a week of day care cost $39.

From early on to college, NCEF’s goal is to make a difference, which is something not lost on Regine.

“That’s what the wine festival really does, funds dreams. My dream,” said Francois.

In order to receive the funding from the festival and NCEF, non-profits like Guadalupe Center must reapply every year and NCF asks where that specific money is going.

You can read more about the people behind the festival in this month’s Gulfshore Life magazine.


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