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Connecting Tomorrow’s Champions To Their Futures

My name is Jose and I am a 2016 graduate of Champions For Learning’s Take Stock In Children scholarship and mentoring program. While attending Florida SouthWestern State College full time, I’ve also worked for a real estate technology firm for the past two years. This April, I graduated from FSW with my Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree in Supervision and Management. I’ve also recently purchased a home in Naples and have just accepted a promotion at my firm, making me Associate Regional Manager. I grew up in a family where our financial situation meant that college wasn’t going to be an option without a scholarship. Not only that, but I was preparing to be a first-generation college student, so navigating my future and applying for college just wasn’t guidance that my parents were able to provide. Champions For Learning provided the resources, knowledge, and accountability I needed during high school that has ultimately led to my success today. For me, the key component of the Champions For Learning program was the mentoring aspect. There was a time during high school that I went through a rough patch. There were challenges within my family and I didn’t know quite how to handle them. My mentor served as a rock during that time, he met me at school every week for lunch and we really bonded. That was a pivotal moment for me, and I truly believe that the stability that my mentor was able to provide led to me making it through. It’s amazing to me how many community members are willing to give back, people who truly care. The Champions For Learning mentors give not just days or months, but years of their lives to be mentors for students in Collier County. I feel like I was given this amazing opportunity by Champions For Learning, and that those experiences have led to who I am today. Join In. Your gift to Champions For Learning inspires our community to continue to work together. No gift is too small; your gift can be combined with others to support life-changing learning experiences. Text to Give is easy, simply text “Champs21” to 44-321.  

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Champions For Learning Announces 2021-2022 Glass Slipper Recipients

Champions For Learning is proud to announce the 2021-2022 Glass Slipper recipients. The honorees are Stephanie Lucarelli, Dianne Mayberry-Hatt, and Marty McCune (see below for bios). Each year, the Glass Slipper event is held to honor female leaders for their dedication and service to the children of Collier County. This event and recognition program benefits young ladies who are graduates of Champions For Learning scholarship and mentoring programs and helps meet their needs as college students. Since the inception of the Glass Slipper event in 2004, $130,000 has been raised, providing 26 young women the funding needed to complete their degrees. The goal for this year’s event is to raise $30,000 to purchase scholarships for an additional 6 young women. Join Champions For Learning in honoring the Glass Slipper recipients at a reception and luncheon, held on December 9, 2021 at 11:30 am – 1:00 pm at The Club at Olde Cypress. A presentation featuring the three honorees and students will be followed by a silent auction perfect for holiday shopping. This year’s event is being co-chaired by Gina Lostracco and Dottie Whipple, both previous Glass Slipper honorees. The event is being sponsored by Naples Daily News and Naples Illustrated, and hosted by Stock Development. Meet the 2021-2022 Glass Slipper Recipients: Stephanie Lucarelli is a committed advocate for education and Champions for Learning. She has been on the Board of Directors and has helped with various event committees.  She mentored for three years, with one mentee graduating last year, and is currently mentoring a 9th grade student.  She is involved with the grants committee and serves as a Champions Ambassador. Her passion is an inspiration to many and she is very deserving of this award.     Dianne Mayberry-Hatt has been a “champion” for education for many years. Her commitment to every facet of the mission of Champions For Learning’s mission, along with her significant leadership has distinguished her service. Dianne is a past board chair, has mentored three young ladies, has been a part of the Golden Apple Committee, Connect Now and the Classroom Grants Committee.     Marty McCune has been a committed mentor with Champions for five years and she is currently mentoring her second student.  She also serves as a mentor liaison supporting other mentors in their mentoring experience.  She has been highly involved as a Champions Ambassador, helping to recruit new people to the organization and raising awareness in the community, along with pitching in to help with office projects, events and teacher appreciation deliveries.  

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Thank you Mrs. Gaynor-Outstanding Philanthropist 2015

On November 12th, Mrs. Lavern Gaynor was recognized as the Outstanding Philanthropist for 2015 by the Everglades Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals as part of the annual National Philanthropy Day celebration.  She was joined by her family, friends, many community members and two of the Take Stock in Children graduates that she helped to support, Nasha Etienne a student at FGCU and Missa Desir a student at FSW.

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Mentor Becomes ‘Golden Ticket’ for One Champions For Learning Student

Nine years ago, Watson Marcelin was paired with his mentor Shepard M. Scheinberg through Champions For Learning’s Take Stock In Children program. Since Marcelin’s eighth grade induction into the program in 2013, Scheinberg has been one of Marcelin’s biggest cheerleaders, providing him with support and advice. “Who would’ve known a relationship that I started with a complete stranger in the 8th grade would’ve come to fruition how it has today,” said Marcelin. “Shep is more than just a mentor to me. We met almost every week for about 6 years. He is a direct correlation to the success I’ve had.” Throughout Marcelin’s high school career, Scheinberg pushed Marcelin to be the best version of himself he could be. From lessons on saving money to accepting people from different backgrounds, Scheinberg used his platform as a mentor to help prepare Marcelin for the future. “You know, I always tried to build confidence in Watson and I would always tell him, ‘You can be anything in the world. You can be President of the United States. You can be a senator; you can do anything’. I tell him that today as well because he has this potential. That’s what mentoring is all about. To try to draw out that potential and build on it,” said Scheinberg. Marcelin says having Scheinberg for a mentor who was there every step of the way was his “golden ticket”. “I was just very lucky to have him as a mentor.” said Marcelin. “Lucky in so many ways. Little things, like when I was in high school, he would come to every single lacrosse game or football game I had. Little things like that went a long way.” After Marcelin graduated from Champions For Learning and Lely High, he and Scheinberg continued to stay in touch as Marcelin attended the University of Florida and double majored in Anthropology and Economics with two minors in Entrepreneurial studies and Statistics. Marcelin now lives in Naples and works remotely from home as a Sales Development Representative in the tech sales sector. Today, Scheinberg is still invested in Marcelin’s success and continues to find ways to connect and network him with other people. Marcelin says he believes Scheinberg thinks his job as a mentor is not yet finished. “It’s the influence I was able to have on Watson that has been so rewarding. I think I got more out of it then Watson,” said Scheinberg. Saturday, April 9th, Marcelin and Scheinberg had the opportunity to catch up in the same place they met nine years ago; Champions For Learning’s 8th Grade Induction. There, Marcelin got to speak on his time in the Champions For Learning program, crediting his success in life to his mentor, Shepard Scheinberg. At the induction, Champions For Learning welcomed 47 new students into its Take Stock In Children (TSIC) program. These 47 students are current eighth-graders from nine Collier County middle schools that will be partnered with a mentor who will help support and guide them throughout their high school years and help prepare them for college and/or a career. The Take Stock In Children program through […]

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Lifting Each Other Up Through Mentoring

Lifting Each Other Up Through Mentoring — by Yadira Vintimilla, Mentor Growing up in New York City I didn’t have a mentor or anyone to guide me. I wanted to be an advocate, a mentor for someone. I found that at Champions For Learning. Three years ago I was paired with my mentee Hailey and not only has Hailey inspired me but I have also been able to make a difference in her life. Being a mentor is more than just giving someone time. It is about watching a student progress and cheering on the student through their successes and being a guide. It is important to me that my mentee knows I am always in her court through the good, the bad and the ugly. There is real value in being a mentor because not only are you investing in the student but also in the community. Not only am I a mentor, I am a friend to my mentee and know that our relationship will go beyond four years. The pandemic has not changed our relationship it has helped us to become even closer through our virtual mentoring sessions. We can spend more time with each other virtually and I am still able to see her progress and growth. I am very proud to be a mentor. The big sister I never had, Yadira Vintimilla — by Hailey, Mentee To everyone she is just my mentor, to me she is so much more than that. When I first entered the Take Stock In Children program, the thought of having to interact with a total stranger was a bit intimidating. Meeting Yadira for the frst time, it was an instant connection. The best connection. My favorite thing about my relationship with Yadira is how open we are; our relationship is genuine. Yadira is truly an inspiration. She truly makes an effort to always be there for me, from school, relationships, jobs, life, she is always present with a smile. I strive to be like my mentor. I admire her intelligence; I had never met such an empowered woman. Having a mentor has been the best thing to happen to me. Not only does she guide me academically and pushes me towards my goal of becoming an orthodontist, she also guides me through life. She encourages me to be involved in my community, that is why I volunteer through the American Cancer Society. Thanks to our conversations, I have been able to maturely make decisions that benefit me. My mentor is a blessing to me and I am so lucky to have her in my life. Are you interested in becoming a mentor? Champions For Learning is continuing to recruit mentors for our upcoming needs. If you or someone you know is interested, please join us at an All About Mentoring session, a learning opportunity for individuals seeking to learn more about mentoring. The session will review information regarding the mentoring program and the role and responsibilities of a mentor, including the next steps to getting started. For more information about becoming a mentor, please contact Kristin Peras at KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org or […]

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Inspired Educator Finds a Home on Champions’ Classroom Grants Committee

Classroom Grants provide opportunities for educators to share their projects with the community in hopes of gaining financial support from members of the community. This is facilitated through Champions For Learning, but is 100% dependent upon the generosity of the community. The role of the community-based Classroom Grants Committee is so important to this process. These engaged community members read through all of the grants–scoring each request using a rubric, assist in delivering grants checks and visit classrooms throughout the district to see the grants in action. The Classroom Grants Committee truly is an amazing way to support our local teachers and students. We’re so grateful to our community for giving of their time and talent in support of this amazing program. One community member that has gotten in on the fun of the Classroom Grants Program is Dr. James (Jim) Schmotter. Jim has enjoyed an amazing academic career, serving at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, Lehigh University, Western Michigan University before his eleven years as President of Western Connecticut State University. In addition to his volunteer work with Champions, Jim currently serves as President of the Naples Council on World Affairs and is a member of Habitat for Humanity’s Family Selection Committee. Recently, Jim was gracious enough to share his thoughts about his three-year tenure on the Classroom Grants Committee: Tell us about yourself and why you first got involved with Champions For Learning. Both my wife Daphne Jameson and I had careers in higher education; we met when we were both working at Cornell University.  She taught at Cornell for 38 years, but I moved around some, serving as business school dean at Lehigh University and at Western Michigan University and as president of Western Connecticut State University.  In 2015, we retired to Naples and became Florida residents.  I first heard of the work of Champions from a board member I met at a Northwestern University alumni gathering.  Subsequently, I talked with CFL staff at a Volunteer Fair at the Hilton and attended a “Champions 101” session.  I was impressed by the programs, but even more by the people—volunteers and staff—I met. What about your background has inspired you to get involved with our organization? Having been active in volunteer roles with organizations such as Junior Achievement, the United Way, and several community foundations in Connecticut, I was looking for opportunities to apply whatever career skills and knowledge I have to projects in our new community.  Champions For Learning clearly provided that match.  Working all those years at universities convinced me that the education of our youth is a process that extends from pre-kindergarten to high school and beyond.  A solid foundation built early is critical to success.  The programs of Champions for Learning—Classroom Grants, Career and College Prep and Take Stock in Children–all help provide that foundation.  So, I was pleased and honored to be asked to join the Selection Committees for Take Stock in Children and, later, Classroom Grants. Tell me about what you enjoy most about serving on the Classroom Grants committee? The creativity and commitment to student success that Collier County teachers […]

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Community Partners Provide Laptops to Students Heading Off to College

The majority of Champions For Learning’s 75 recent graduates are headed off to college this fall, in fact several have even begun their next chapter this summer to get a jump on the year ahead. You might remember back to last summer when Collier County Public Schools launched an initiative to provide all students with laptops for the 2020-2021 school year. The initiative, called Collier Connect, was planned prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic expedited the process so each student would have access to technology to continue learning seamlessly both at school and at home. The program, a major district venture and a huge accomplishment, provided laptops that would stay with the district’s 48,000+ students throughout their time at CCPS. What many graduating seniors didn’t realize was that their school district-supplied laptop would need to be returned to the school district shortly after graduation, leaving several students in desperate need of this—rather pricey—school supply. Today, a laptop truly is a necessary school supply for any college student. And at Champions For Learning, we are committed to ensuring that our graduated seniors that are heading to college students have access to any and all state-of-the-art technology available. Champions was honored to receive a grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County that supported the purchase of nine brand new laptops. A long-time, cherished volunteer, Tom Gamber, purchased and refurbished fifteen additional laptops. In total, twenty-four graduated seniors received laptops, several just in time before beginning their summer semester. Tracy, a recent graduate of Lely High School who had just turned in her CCPS laptop two days prior, was grateful to the donors who made it possible for her to receive her own laptop before heading to Florida SouthWestern State College in the fall to study Healthcare Administration, adding that “this is going to be a huge help at school!” Laptops give students the flexibility and freedom they need to work on academic assignments anytime—anywhere, a convenient luxury. No matter where they are, a laptop allows college students the ability to bring their schoolwork with them. And with most college wireless networks, students are able to connect to the internet via their laptop from anywhere. We can all remember going off to college like it was yesterday. We get our first taste of freedom when we get our driver’s license, but going to college is when we got to really experience independence. Maybe you felt excited, nervous or maybe even relieved. Most likely, you were finally out on your own and it felt great. Now, equipped with the laptops and technology they’ll need to succeed, these Champions For Learning’s students will feel great too.

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Introduction to Innovation

For years Champions For Learning has been involved in preparing students for their future learning and career goals, utilizing the lab space within our office building to not only inspire students’ ambitions but to help them reach their goals. Longtime Champion, Frank Daveler, was always grateful to facilitate students’ ambitions as they pursued their own success through opportunities otherwise inaccessible. Because of the $500,000 contribution from Frank and his late wife, Ellen, Champions For Learning was able to launch the Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in January, allowing the lab space to be reimagined, moving the new Center into the future.       Scheduled for completion in June 2021, the new Center will expand the capacity and opportunities for Champions For Learning to support collaboration and innovation with teachers, students, parents, volunteers and community partners. As you look at the renderings of the reimagined Center, you will see that the strongest theme is collaboration. The spaces are meant to be rearranged to become functional lab spaces where students, teachers, and community partners can come together to discuss and innovate. We believe the Davelers would have enjoyed seeing students, teachers and community members engaged in this way in this vibrant new space, creating opportunities for our community to connect with students as they prepare for their futures and to inspire solutions to complex challenges. We are excited about the opportunity to engage teachers, students, parents and the community through the Center for Innovation and know that you are excited to move into the future with us! Champions For Learning is in need of funding for furniture and materials for student modular workstations and conference rooms for the Frank & Ellen Daveler Center For Innovation. Contributions to the Innovation Center will be matched dollar for dollar. Join in. Your gift to Champions For Learning inspires our community to continue to work together. No gift is too small–your gift can be combined with others to support life-changing learning experiences. Should you like to make a donation, please visit us here online. Your gift begins making an impact immediately.

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Top Five Reasons for Becoming a Mentor

Have you ever considered being a mentor but uncertain about getting involved? Champions For Learning offers Collier County community members the chance to mentor high-achieving, low-income public school students who show the potential to go to college. Upon successful completion of the program, each student mentee earns a two-year state college scholarship from Champions For Learning. Here are five reasons why we ask you to look beyond the obstacles that may have held you back in the past and to take the next steps in becoming a mentor for a local student today: Reason #1: Mentors change lives.  Just think about the impact you can have on a young person’s life! Do you remember a teacher, a coach or a friend who said or did something that changed the trajectory of your life?  This is your chance to do that for someone else.  Not every mentoring partnership is life changing but every mentor has the potential to instigate change. You may not think that you have much to offer but engaging with someone who has had an entirely different background can be immensely rewarding for both of you. Many young people in our community don’t see attending college as a possibility, but you can help change this. Give a new generation the encouragement and support that will help them make the most of their potential. Seeing a student developing their life skills firsthand and, knowing that you have played a part in this, can be incredibly satisfying. Reason #2: Mentoring allows you to gain new perspectives.  Mentoring is a unique opportunity to step outside your normal circle of friends and family to gain an intimate understanding of how the world looks through someone else’s eyes.  New perspectives lead to fresh ideas, and who knows where fresh ideas could lead you? Mentoring gives you the chance to engage with someone younger than you, who may see things very differently than you. In a changing world, it can be very rewarding to understand how those who have come after you think, and also how they view your own generation. Mentoring a young student also helps bridge the generation gap, as each generation can come to understand the other’s motivations, goals, and attitudes.  In fact, we’ve found that at some point during most mentoring experiences, it begins to feel like there’s no gap at all. Reason #3: Mentoring feels good.  We guarantee you that once you become a mentor the “feel good” factor will take hold.  There is little more rewarding than knowing you are making a difference in someone else’s life. Mentors have the opportunity to build up someone’s skill set and confidence – and that’s a relationship not easily forgotten.  Not to mention, the idea of enlightening another person’s life will always add additional happiness to yours. Mentoring is more than just a fancy word for supporting someone else. It is a commitment of time and effort that is incredibly rewarding, providing a sense of fulfillment that extends far beyond your mentor/mentee sessions. It is knowing that you have made an impact on your mentee while at the same time undertaking some valuable self-reflection, […]

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Celebrating our Champions — Supporting Educational Opportunities for All

Honoring those who succeed when it comes to education means looking at the entire community. It’s about the work the teachers, students and families contribute that really sets young learners up for the future. This year, honoring the 2021 Champions felt a little different. We watched the entire Collier County community deal with rapid-fire changes. The pandemic made learning different, made engaging with others different, but it never changed the core values we hold close to our hearts at Champions For Learning. Providing close to $3.8 million in support to students and educators within Collier County each year, we strive to engage the entire community in student success. To date, we’ve impacted 32,000 students. This number continues to grow as we create life-changing learning experiences for all. Giving families and teachers what they need to stay focused on the future is a tenant of Champions for Learning, and each of our honorees at this year’s Celebration of Champions embodied this and more. Along with presenting sponsor Florida Gulf Coast University, we were proud to honor our 2021 Champions: Frank Daveler who, along with his wife Ellen, have established a legacy at Champions for Learning. Not only have they provided the gift of scholarships, but recently funded the Center for Innovation at Champions For Learning. Here, deserving young adults are given educational opportunities foster success and help them gain life skill experiences. Kiara Gonzalez-Duran who has benefited from our programs as both a student and now, as a kindergarten teacher. Yadira Vintimilla, one of our mentors, uses time and opportunity to connect with those she mentors early on to establish long-term bonds. Lynn Davidson, who we honored for her commitment to ensuring resources help as many who are in need as possible. Beverly Feagin whose broad approach to academics includes helping students reach their goals through access to the right tools, resources and guidance. Each honoree demonstrated dedication and love for the young people in the community. The Celebration of Champions also recognized Nancy Potter as the Heart of the Apple. This award brings to light the work of a specific individual, and how he or she creates life-changing experiences for students and educators alike. Nancy, who draws her inspiration from the value of learning, works hard to help students achieve their dream, starting with self-sufficiency. That’s where, in her opinion, education begins. The outpouring of appreciation and support from you during our Celebration of Champions this year was so meaningful. We are thankful for your faith in us to support the students of Collier County. Thank you for your donations and for logging on and bidding in our silent auction. Proceeds from the online auction, along with the donations made during the celebration, directly support the scholarship fund and student programs at Champions For Learning. If you were inspired by the stories of mentoring and the impact one can have on another’s life, please consider becoming a mentor with Champions For Learning. We are actively recruiting mentors for our new class. To learn more contact Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement, at 239-263-5783 or KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org. Or visit our website ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore […]

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