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Educator Resources

Champions For Learning Announces 2022-2023 Collier Golden Apple Recipients

On March 22, students in six Collier County classrooms received bushels of apples as their teachers were surprised with Golden Apple awards, highlighting best practices in teaching.

Champions For Learning staff, Board members and selection committee volunteers were joined by major sponsors to present the Golden Apple awards to six teachers in their classrooms. Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee met and visited the classrooms of 60 Teachers of Distinction representing 58 Collier County Public Schools to learn about their best practices. Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee identified six practices to highlight as part of the Golden Apple process.

Congratulations to the following 2022-2023 Golden Apple recipients.  Click HERE for the full list of Teachers of Distinction.

  • Marlon Alfaro, Manatee Middle
  • D’Nai Bullen,Corkscrew Elementary
  • Sylvie Certa,Gulfview Middle
  • Anne Coots, Osceola Elementary
  • Ashley Crosby, Golden Gate Middle
  • Michael Gonzalez, RCMA Immokalee Community Academy

“Collier County has many educators that make a difference in students’ lives daily. Champions For Learning is honored to be the organization that highlights these teachers for all that they do,” said Barbara Evans, President and CEO of Champions For Learning. “I could not be prouder of our selection committee who spent countless hours learning about the best practices from the 60 Teachers of Distinction. It is clear we have a community who believes Education is Everything.”

The 2022-2023 Golden Apple recipients will each receive a grant ($5,000) to allow the expansion of their best practice. All Teachers of Distinction receive a $250 award, and the Golden Apple recipients receive an additional cash award.

“At Suncoast Credit Union, we believe a community that invests in their educators builds a strong foundation for students, businesses and community at large. Our Foundation was formed in 1990, and since then, we have raised more than $40 million dollars to provide a better future for children. By creating learning opportunities through community grants, Suncoast helps create stronger teachers and students. We are proud to support opportunities for educators to share best practices and to grow professionally,” said Kourtney Berry, executive director of the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.

“Being able to recognize dedicated teachers who stand above the rest is the heart of the Golden Apple Awards. Our goal by participating in The Golden Apple Awards is that the grants will inspire teachers to continue investing in our students and to develop innovative practices,” said Berry.

Champions For Learning will honor the Golden Apple Recipients, Teachers of Distinction, and Collier County Public Schools Teachers of the Year at the 33rd Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner on Friday, May 12, 2023 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.

Champions For Learning would like to thank our Presenting Sponsor Suncoast Credit Union as well as Major Sponsors: Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, Naples Illustrated, NBC-2, and Stock Development.

For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales click HERE.

Families, students, and the entire community are invited to join in the celebration by tuning in to NBC-2 for the Golden Apple television program highlighting quality education in Collier County classrooms.  The program will be aired on Saturday, May 13 on NBC-2 at 8:00pm.

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Financially Supporting our Educators following Hurricane Ian- A letter from Barbara Evans

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian destroyed parts of Southwest Florida. Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) was unable to resume school on Monday, October 3, 2022, because of staffing shortages not because of structural issues of the schools. Dr. Patton expressed deep concerns about the retention of the CCPS educator workforce. Due to the storm, our educator workforce is facing serious challenges with housing and transportation.

The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning leaped into action to help address the CCPS retention challenges. We joined voices with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to secure an initial $350,000 gift from the Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund which set our strategy in motion.

Champions For Learning has extensive experience in selection processes. We leaned on our experiences and developed a grant application, borrowing from a disaster relief nonprofit to build our Hurricane Ian application. Our grant application was posted on the CCPS website, and our application window was November 11, 2022 through November 30, 2022.

Eligible applicants must work for Collier County Public Schools (including CCPS Charter Schools). Applicants must demonstrate that they have sustained damage to their home or vehicles due to Hurricane Ian. Applicants were required to document all financial information related to all insurance claims and possible temporary living situations and temporary transportation solutions.

Champions For Learning put together a selection committee 100% composed of dedicated members of our community to make the award decisions. The committee utilized a selection rubric designed to identify educators with the greatest relief needs while removing any opportunity for personal biases. The committee maintained the goal of anchoring the Collier County educator workforce with intentionality, consistency, and fairness in their methodology for awarding.

As we gleaned a deeper understanding of the individual needs and shared our methodology and process, securing additional funding was less of a challenge. Champions For Learning secured a $587,830 gift from the Collier Community Foundation. We worked with Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to approach Governor and First Lady DeSantis for an additional $250,000 from Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund.

The committee reviewed 179 applications, and we are providing funding to 177 applicants. Two of the applicants are no longer employed by Collier County Public Schools.

On Friday, January 20, 2023, Champions For Learning began distributing the funds to educators and staff. This funding will help with 1) deductibles for homeowners, flood, and car insurance, 2) rental increases for those who had to change rentals due to the storm, 3) first last and security deposits for those who had to move due to the storm, 4) those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a total loss, 5) those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a partial loss and were displaced, 6) storage expenses incurred for items that were salvaged, 7) household items (furniture, etc.), and 8) home repairs not covered by insurance. Our efforts are affording Champions For Learning to allocate more than $1.2 million for our Hurricane Ian response.

The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning has been committed to ensuring that these funds that have been entrusted to us for distribution achieve the goal of our donors to assist educators in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. We are proud to be the conduit to ensure that our educators are anchored. We are proud that our donors invested in our Hurricane Ian response due to the integrity and intentionality of our selection and award process. We are proud that we can assist with ensuring Collier County Public Schools with their most pressing issue around educator retention. We are proud to be champions for learning. Education is everything.

In gratitude,

 

Barbara Evans, CFRE

President and CEO

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Classroom Grants Still Available for Funding

Teachers and students across Collier County are enjoying life-changing learning experiences through classroom grants that have been funded from generous donors just this school year! On Classroom Grant Delivery Day this school year, Champions For Learning awarded a record-breaking 280 grant checks that totaled $166,288 to 55 schools in Collier County. These checks provided teachers with the funds needed to implement creative and innovative learning experiences for their students.

Since Classroom Grant Delivery Day in October, even more classroom grants have been funded and various classroom have already received their supplies to fulfill their grant request.

Ms. Marks, a fourth-grade language arts teacher at Veterans Memorial Elementary, received a subscription to four different magazines for kids, which she previews with her students each month to engage them with the content.

“We have received two issues of each of our four magazines so far. We will continue to get new issues throughout the rest of the school year. The kids absolutely love reading the magazines. They get so excited when I bring in a new issue. They love reading them together and discussing the different topics. They also love finishing their work a little early so they can go over and check out a magazine,” said Marks.

Marks says these magazines keep students up to date on current events. For students who may be too overwhelmed to choose a large novel to read, they can engage with shorter articles, which may spark their interest and lead them to seek out books on the same topic.

Ms. Cholka’s class, a special needs class at Lely High, is also benefiting from this school years classroom grants. The funding this class received has helped support rewarding student success in Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is an internship program at NCH Baker Hospital for students with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 18-22. Students participate in three unpaid internships in different departments of the hospital throughout the school year. The goals of the program are for students to explore a variety of career paths, learn marketable job skills, and obtain meaningful employment either at NCH or within the community by the end of the year.

This funded classroom grant allows for Ms. Cholka to provided consistent rewards to her students for reaching their employment goals at the internship. This helps take the place of a paycheck and gives students incentive to continue to work hard.

“The Perna-Rose Foundation for Hope has generously funded our grant request two years in a row, and we are so thankful!  This has allowed us to continue our reward program by providing gift cards for our weekly raffles.  The students get so excited when they win a gift card, which in turn motivates them to do their best.  We truly appreciate your support of the Project SEARCH program at NCH Baker Hospital,” said Cholka.

Much like the classroom grant projects listed above, there are still plenty of grants waiting to be funded by generous community members. By funding a classroom grant, you are helping provide a life-changing learning experience for multiple students within Collier County.

Click HERE to view the classroom grants that still need funding for this school year.

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Teacher of Distinction Breakfast 2023

Teachers from across Collier County gathered for Champions For Learning’s annual Teacher of Distinction breakfast on January 5th, graciously hosted by Adams Foods/McDonald’s, Inc. at the Shoppes of Pebblebrooke. The 2022- 2023 Teachers of Distinction came together to kick off the new year and the next phase of the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program.

This is always a special celebration for the teachers, as McDonalds prints tray liners with the photos of the Teachers of Distinction and each teacher is provided a framed copy. Additionally, Adams Foods provides teachers with a branded tumbler. This year, a fifth grade Entrepreneurship class at Eden Park Elementary, that manages the Bobcat Boutique – a student run business that designs and cuts vinyl items- made the tumblers, which made the gift even more special for the teachers.

“The Golden Apple program is a wonderful way for the community to celebrate and elevate the amazing teachers in Collier County Public Schools,” said Amy Snyder, Executive Director of Educator Programs, Champions For Learning. “The teachers make a difference in their classrooms day after day and having a morning outside of their classrooms, being celebrated by the community, is always special.”

The Teacher of Distinction McDonald’s breakfast is just one component of the Golden Apple program. In addition to several celebration and networking opportunities, the community-based selection committee learns about and observes the Teachers of Distinction best teaching practices, which leads to the selection of the Golden Apple recipients.

Click HERE to view pictures from the event!

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Champions For Learning Releasing Over $1M in Ian Relief Funding to Collier County Teachers & School Staff

 177 Collier County teachers and school staff will be receiving over $1 million in Hurricane Ian relief funding from Champions For Learning. This funding allows Champions For Learning to meet 177 educators’ housing and transportation needs as they rebuild post-Ian, thus keeping them anchored in Collier County Public Schools. Our community has come together to assist in securing our community’s educator workforce and should be so proud.

The damage caused by Hurricane Ian has brought a heightened awareness to the lack of housing for school staff in Southwest Florida. Some teachers were unsure where they would live, their homes either leveled by Ian’s 150 mph winds or uninhabitable due to the storm surge that flooded large portions of Southwest Florida. Yet despite having lost their homes, their cars, their belongings, teachers have not lost hope. Educators and school staff in Collier County went back to school within days after the storm, welcoming students with compassion and care.

Following Hurricane Ian, the Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning was awarded a $350,000 gift from Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund, a private fund initiated by Governor and First Lady DeSantis to assist Collier County educators facing serious challenges with housing and transportation. This funding was intended to help teachers and school staff get back on their feet.

“The need was overwhelming.  After sharing the needs of our employees with Champions For Learning, their team took immediate action. What they have done is nothing short of life-changing,” said Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli, Interim Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools (CCPS).

Since the initial gift, Champions For Learning has also secured additional funding beyond the original $350,000. Collier Community Foundation, through their Collier Comes Together fund, has invested $587,830.15 to the relief efforts. The Governor and First Lady directed an additional $250,000 affording Champions For Learning to allocate more than $1 million for our Hurricane Ian response. This additional funding means being able to meet more educator needs as they rebuild, thus keeping them anchored in Collier County Public Schools. Our community has come together to assist in securing our community’s educator workforce and should be so proud.

“We are proud to have earned the community’s trust in our Hurricane Ian relief efforts. We take that trust seriously and will continue to help our community rebuild and repair through our Collier Comes Together Fund,” said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, President and CEO of Collier Community Foundation. “Teachers and school staff are integral to our community, so it was an easy decision to commit these funds to Champions For Learning to address the housing challenges our educators face.”

“Knowing that our partners have invested in our Hurricane Ian relief efforts due to the integrity and intentionality of our selection process is a source of pride,” said Barbara Evans, President and CEO of Champions For Learning. “We are grateful for their investment that affords our ability to anchor Collier County Public School educators and staff. The Education Foundation of Collier County is proud to be a conduit for these funds.”

Although outside their typical scope of work, Champions was tasked with distributing these funds to public school educators and school staff facing transportation and housing challenges due to Hurricane Ian. In November, Champions For Learning created an online application and disaster intake form that was made available to all public school educators in Collier County; assembled a selection committee of volunteer community members passionate about education in our community, and developed a scoring rubric designed to identify educators with the greatest relief needs while removing any opportunity for personal biases. The committee maintained the goal of anchoring the Collier County educator workforce with intentionality, consistency, and fairness in their methodology for awarding.

“Champions For Learning would like to thank our selection committee for their work. This was not a typical selection process for our organization,” said Barbara Evans, President and CEO of Champions For Learning. “This committee fully embraced this sacred work and were committed to being thorough.”

These funds are being distributed as qualified disaster relief payments. Champions For Learning is able to fund 1) deductibles for homeowners, flood, and car insurance, 2) rental increases for those who had to change rentals due to the storm, 3) first last and security deposits for those who had to move due to the storm, 4) awards for those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a total loss, 5) awards for those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a partial loss and were displaced, 6) awards for storage expenses incurred for items that were salvaged, 7) awards for household items (furniture, etc.), and 8) awards for home repairs not covered by insurance.

“It is hard to put into words how grateful I am to Champions For Learning and how much this will mean to the CCPS family members whose lives were changed by Hurricane Ian. This support demonstrates how committed Champions For Learning is to ensuring our teachers and staff remain here and continue to educate our students,” said Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli, Interim Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools, adding, “I know this monumental task was unexpected, however Champions for Learning staff, board, and volunteers handled it with transparency and compassion. Thank you also to the Collier Community Foundation for its support immediately after the hurricane and in this long-term recovery effort.”

Collier County educators that have applied for funding were made aware on January 18, 2023, that a decision had been made regarding their award, but will learn of the amount of the award when they receive the funding at Champions For Learning. Funds will be ready for pick up beginning the afternoon of January 20, 2023, by appointment only.

Champions For Learning in the News
Read more about the funds released to Collier County teachers and staff by clicking the links below:
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Champions For Learning Announces Collier County Teachers of Distinction

Champions for Learning is excited to announce the 2022-2023 Teachers of Distinction for Collier County. As part of the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program, each school in Collier County Public Schools has the opportunity to nominate a teacher and best practice to highlight on behalf of their school. From this group of 60 Teachers of Distinction  from 58 Collier County schools, Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee identifies the Golden Apple recipients (see list below).

Each Teacher of Distinction received a $250 cash award, and now has the opportunity to share their ideas and practices across the county with their colleagues and the community through the Golden Apple process. With a vision of a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success, Champions For Learning creates opportunities for educators that support high impact learning experiences for every child.

Thanks to Presenting Sponsor, Suncoast Credit Union, for the support provided to educators. Generous support is also provided by Golden Apple Major Sponsors: Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, Naples Illustrated, NBC-2, and Stock Development. The Teachers of Distinction and the Golden Apple recipients will be honored at the Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner, presented by Suncoast Credit Union, on May 12, 2023 at The Naples Grande Beach Resort.

Several highly visible sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales, contact Jason Kurek at jkurek@championsforlearning.org.

PDF of 2022-23 Teachers of Distinction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Disaster Assistance Application Now Open for Collier County Teachers in Need

Many Collier County teachers are facing serious challenges with housing and transportation following the destruction of Hurricane Ian. The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning – is uniquely positioned to articulate the needs of Collier County students and educators in times of need. To help, Champions For Learning has joined voices with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to secure a $350,000 gift to assist Collier County educators. This gift is part of the $2 million dollar gift from Governor and First Lady DeSantis’ Florida Disaster Fund, divided amongst the six education foundations (Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Collier, DeSoto and Hardee) who are facing similar staffing challenges post Ian.

Champions For Learning has extensive experience in selection processes and has leaned on their experiences to develop a grant application. This application window is now open and is available on the Collier County Public School website (https://www.collierschools.com/staff). Applications are due on November 30, 2022.

“These funds will directly assist our educators who are admirably teaching and supporting students while trying to rebuild their own lives,” said Dr. Kamela Patton, Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools. “We are grateful to partner with our Education Foundation of Collier County, Champions For Learning, to directly support staff who need this assistance the most.”

To be eligible, applicants must work for Collier County Public Schools (including CCPS Charter Schools). Applicants must demonstrate that they have sustained damage to their home and/or vehicle(s) due to Hurricane Ian. Applicants are required to document all financial information related to insurance claims, possible temporary living situations and temporary transportation solutions.

“Champions For Leaning is proud to be the conduit to ensure that our educators are anchored in our community. We are proud that we can assist Collier County Public Schools in resolving educator housing and transportation needs, their most pressing issue around educator retention post-Ian,” said Barbara Evans, CEO of Champions For Learning. “Education is everything.”

Champions For Learning is putting together a selection committee 100% composed of dedicated members of the Collier County community to make the award decisions. The committee will utilize a selection rubric designed to identify educators with the greatest needs while removing any opportunity for personal biases.

Champions For Learning is committed to ensuring that these funds that have been entrusted to the organization for distribution achieve the goal of the donor to assist educators in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. 100% of this gift will be distributed without administrative fees.

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Golden Apples: Foundation, sponsors to fund Teacher Appreciation Week in lieu of yearly awards

Rachel Fradette, Naples Daily News

Golden Apple day in Collier County, with all of its surprises and tearful excitement, is transforming this year to celebrate educators in a new way amid the pandemic.

In lieu of the annual awards and dinner, Champions For Learning announced that 58 Collier County schools will receive funds to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week how they see fit.

Every school through Golden Apple sponsors will receive $2,000 to salute teachers May 3 to May 7 with a special emphasis on May 4 when community appreciation is encouraged.

The county’s education foundation said the pandemic led to a different opportunity and they ran with it.

“We’ve always done well when we’ve listened,” Susan McManus, president of Champions For Learning, said. “I think that was what came across this year.”

McManus said the foundation could not just proceed with their typical program this year; they needed to hear from educators like in every other year.

Foundation staff spoke to Collier school leaders about what teachers were feeling about the unprecedented year and how they might celebrate innovation and hard work in classrooms, McManus said.

“The principals and the selection committee taking the time to be on the phone and talk through all this, you know, it’s inspired us. It’s encouraged us,” McManus said. “I’m so glad we did it. I can’t even imagine right now trying to go through the motions of that, that same process or celebration.”

From coordination with their parent-teacher organizations to creative themes, schools are in the process of developing how their communities will salute their educators, Lisa Church, chief community impact officer for the foundation, said.

“I was just so impressed so far with what I’m seeing around how the principals are engaging so many people in the celebration plan,” Church said.

Church said she hopes to see Collier as a community reflect on what it has meant to have schools open this year and think about ways to say thanks you to teachers and school staff.

Last year, Collier schools hosted the foundation’s annual surprises mere weeks before the shutdown in Florida.

The results of school closings led to the cancellation of the foundation’s annual dinner, which celebrates awardees and other educators.

The coronavirus pandemic also prevented community volunteers from being able to visit classrooms as part of the selection process for the awards, McManus said.

“We did come to that understanding with them that we would make a commitment to helping the community really understand what it’s been like this year, maybe not by picking just teachers of distinction individually but by our organization really committing to putting a whole different process in place,” McManus said.

Lee County’s annual celebration sponsored by The Foundation for Lee County Schools moved forward with safety precautions and measures in place. Six Lee County teachers took home their Golden Apples last month.

In addition to the Teacher Appreciation Week celebration, Collier’s Champions For Learning is honoring educators through a TV special on April 25 that will focus on teaching and learning through the year.

This year’s program is dedicated to Lavern ‘Lal’ Gaynor, a prominent Naples philanthropist who often involved herself with the organization. She died this week at age 97.

Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at rfradette@gannett.com.

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2021 Golden Apple Celebrating this Extraordinary Year of Teaching and Learning

This year, more than ever, it is so important for us, as a community, to appreciate and honor teachers and principals across Collier County for the extraordinary work they have done in ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward.  While the pandemic has prevented Champions For Learning from sending community volunteers into schools to identify individual Golden Apple recipients, it also provides an opportunity to tell a larger story about teaching and learning over the course of this extraordinary year.

Join in the celebration by watching the 31st Annual Golden Apple program presented by Suncoast Credit Union and broadcast on NBC-2 on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, at 7 pm.   This is a story of exemplary leadership, courage, resilience, creativity, and collaboration of our Collier schools and educators, which has allowed our community to move forward in ways other communities have not.  Our educators are the heartbeat of every community.

In lieu of the annual dinner and with the support of our generous sponsors, funding of $2,000 will be provided to 58 schools to help each school community celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3 – 7). On Tuesday, May 4th, the entire community is encouraged to show their gratitude for our schools and educators.  Champions For Learning has organized a list of appreciation ideas which can be found at https://championsforlearning.org/appreciation.

The Golden Apple program is presented by Suncoast Credit Union and supported by major sponsors Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and Stock Development.

 

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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.

Frank & Ellen Innovation Center Classroom | Champions for Learning   Frank & Ellen Innovation Center Classroom | Champions for Learning   Frank & Ellen Innovation Center Classroom with People | Champions for Learning

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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