The Heart of the Apple salutes sustained, committed leadership in support of a community-wide culture of learning. This year’s Heart of the Apple, Nancy Potter, has led a life inspired by the value of learning and is truly devoted to ensuring Collier County students achieve their dreams.
Nancy is passionate in her belief that you cannot give a young person a better gift than the gift of self-sufficiency and that self-sufficiency begins with education. She also believes that there in no organizations in Southwest Florida that does education better than Champions For Learning.
Nancy recently sat down with us to share her experiences as a mentor with Champions For Learning:
Why do you believe mentoring is so powerful?
So there are many scholarships out there available to students, but this scholarship program is unique in the fact that it has that mentoring aspect, which makes the scholarship and the program that much more powerful. Because in addition to having the scholarship to look forward to, that these students work towards, they also receive one-on-one mentoring from adults in the community who have been there, who have had the experiences. And they also have opportunities through Champions For Learning to apply for additional scholarships and get to know how to manage the ropes.
How would you have benefited from being a mentee as a young person?
I don’t think it’s by accident that, when young people who grow up in a family where there are doctors or professors or accountants or what have you, that they go into those professions as adults. It’s because they hear about it at the dinner table, they live that life in the shadow of their family members where they’re overhearing and learning from these mentor family members about the process and how to get there. They learn that “yes I can”, “I can do that too”.
So I think that’s what mentors can do for young people who don’t have those opportunities. Where they don’t necessarily have a family member in their life who can “show them the ropes”. They are inspired by their families in many ways, but if the family member wasn’t a doctor, can they really learn how to become a doctor? Can they really feel confident that they can achieve certain goals that they may have individually?
So it’s a nice teamwork situation working with the families as an outside mentor who has other unique experiences and career histories. It’s just a really good overall learning experience for the student.
How do you think things would have been different for you had you had a mentor?
So knowing from my experiences being a mentor, if I had somebody who was a mentor to me I would’ve been less intimidated. I wouldn’t have felt so limited in my educational opportunities, my career opportunities. And I think I would’ve definitely benefited from hearing some of the other personal experiences in people’s lives.
What’s your first memory of being a mentor?
It was a little bit of a stressful situation because I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know if I had it in me to be the person that could help a young person out in a way that was meaningful. So I was a little nervous about it, but I can tell you that my best memory is after leaving the first mentoring meeting and walking out, I felt like I was walking on cloud nine!
It was just such a wonderful experience. First and foremost, it’s just nice to be around young people. And second of all, I just received so much back personally from those meetings. It grew into a very good relationship, to the point where we each felt certain parts of the other’s souls.
How do you think you got to that point in mentoring?
I think it was just natural, it was a natural progression. When I mentor, my goal is to demonstrate that the student can achieve whatever they set their mind to. And I will tell them a lot of my personal experiences – good and bad – so that hopefully from what I say they can put that in the back of their mind so that they can eventually, when faced with some choices, make their choices accordingly. And it may or may not happen, we all have to make our own mistakes, but knowing what I did or how I overcame situations, hopefully there will be a lesson learned.
What do you wish other people knew about Champions For Learning?
I wish other people had the opportunity to participate in the events that show the results of all the hard work that the people that work for Champions For Learning and the people who volunteer for Champions For Learning do for our students, our teachers, and for our community.
This year, our annual event Celebration of Champions, formerly Night of Champions, will be virtual and accessible to our entire community at no cost. We hope that you join in to see more of Nancy’s story, and all the stories of this year’s Champions and the impact they have made in our community. This virtual experience, presented by Florida Gulf Coast University, showcases our vibrant community, alumni, students and volunteers.
Register today to tune in at no cost: https://championsforlearning.org/celebration-of-champions/.
Mentors help high-school students stay on track for personal and professional success. They are trusted advocates and excellent listeners, not tutors. Typically, this program is a school-based mentoring program, but is currently happening virtually. We hope to resume in-person mentoring sessions over lunchtime on school grounds in the future.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor through Champions For Learning, we invite you to attend an “All About Mentoring” session by visiting https://ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore or by contacting Kristin Peras at KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org or 239-643-4755. Seasonal residents are welcome!