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Champions For Learning Recognized for Program Excellence by Take Stock in Children

For the third consecutive year, The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning has received the Luminary Award from the Take Stock in Children (TSIC) state office by earning a Gold rating and meeting or exceeding 100% of key performance indicator goals.

Take Stock in Children is a statewide academically focused mentoring program that guides students towards successful completion of high school and college enrollment. Take Stock in Children empowers students from households with low incomes, many of whom are on track to become the first in their families to graduate from high school, to overcome the barriers to higher education they face. Champions For Learning has been an affiliate of the Take Stock in Children program since 2000.

Key performance goals accomplished by Champions For Learning include over 3,200 mentoring sessions totaling more than 1970 hours which equals 99% of students meeting their mentoring session goal. Champions For Learning was able to match 100% of newly inducted 8th grade students with a mentor within 30 days of contract signing. Lastly, every student in Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children program completed one-on-one sessions with a College and Career coordinator. These are just a few of the key performance indicators accomplished by Champions For Learning.

“Receiving this award for a third year in a row is a reflection of the hard work our student programs staff provides to Collier County students to ensure they can be successful in postsecondary education and in life,” said Barbara Evans, President & CEO of Champions For Learning.

This multi-year program model integrates elements of highly effective college and career access programing, including mentorship, college and career access workshops, one-on-one college and career coaching, and scholarships.

Each student in the Champions For Learning Take Stock in Children program is matched with a volunteer adult mentor for the duration of their high school career. Mentors meet with their student mentees at least sixteen times per year on the school campus, at Champions For Learning office, or through monitored video meeting options. This Luminary Award also reflects the dedication our mentors have when it comes to serving as a catalyst for educational success for the students in Collier County.

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Champions For Learning Provides Visits to College Campuses this Summer

For our students and program staff, campus tour days in June and July began by arriving at Champions For Learning before the sun was even up. Each trip hosted more than 40 Champions For Learning high school students who would board a charter bus to embark on an exciting, jam-packed day exploring one, or sometimes two, college universities here in Florida.

The bus rides to the universities were a little quiet. As you might expect, teenagers are not the most talkative or energetic when they wake up this early. However, that all changes when the bus arrives on campus. This year, Champions For Learning took students to tour Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, University of Central Florida, University of Florida and University of South Florida.

Once on campus, Champions For Learning students start the guided tour portion of the visit. Our students gain firsthand views of each campus and the surrounding community. They have opportunities to visit academic buildings, sit in on classes, and speak face-to-face with current college students, faculty, and staff.

“I think it was an amazing experience. The campus was really big and there were a lot of majors to explore,” said Uriel S., a Champions For Learning student who visited University of Central Florida for the first time. “I saw that Orlando is an amazing place to live and the lifestyle. I really enjoyed being there.”

Part of the campus experience is having our students eat lunch in the dining hall and trying the meals they would be eating if they attended that school. After lunch, the tour of the campus continues with one last stop at the bookstore for some campus merchandise, that is, if time allows.

Once back on the bus, either headed back to Naples or to a second university to tour, the games begin! Champions For Learning’s two Bank of America Student Leader interns took the time to make trivia games that correlate to the day’s campus tour. Consisting of five questions and a bonus question, students must answer trivia questions, such as the name of a statue or building they saw during the tour. The person with the most correct answers in the shortest amount of time then wins a piece of merchandise from that college campus.

Many of our students have never visited a college campus, and brochures, catalogues, and websites do not offer a comprehensive picture of the college experience. Their parents often work full-time and cannot afford to take off work to visit a college campus hours away. Others simply cannot afford to make the long drive. It is because of these reasons and more that Champions For Learning provides college campus tours.

Campus visits are an essential step in the college search process. By providing this opportunity, Champions For Learning is empowering students to dream big and work towards realizing their post-secondary goals.

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Technical Pathways Summer Camp Igniting Educational Passions

Champions For Learning student programing does not stop once the school year ends. From June 12 to June 22, 19 students from Champions For Learning’s Technical Pathways, Take Stock in Children, and College and Career Preparation programs, attended Lorenzo Walker Technical College’s annual Technical Pathways summer camp. This two-week long camp allowed students to receive hands-on exposure helping teach real-world concepts and how to apply them.

Lorenzo Walker Technical College hosts this opportunity each summer to give high school students the opportunity to explore a variety of technical disciplines to help students discover to alternative educational pathways that lead to careers which do not require a traditional four-year degree.

Students at the camp were offered three different technical pathways to explore, Transportation, Culinary, and Health Sciences. Each group was led by industry educators, providing guidance and expertise to students. The curriculum for the Health Sciences portion was developed with the help from two current Champions For Learning students, Gaby and Evansley.

Champions For Learning’s helped eliminate transportation barriers for students with working parents. Before and after camp, students were allowed to be dropped off at Champions For Learning until their parents could pick them up. Students were transported to and from Lorenzo Walker Technical College.

“I am so grateful for Champions For Learning for offering this opportunity. My parents work late and cannot pick me up until after work. Thanks to Champions For Learning, I have somewhere to stay so my parents do not have to worry,” shared Emily C., an incoming tenth grade student at Barron Collier.

Emily is interested in pursuing Hospitality as a career. She chose the culinary track not only because cooking is one of her hobbies but more importantly, she was able to explore her academic interest. Emily participated in camp last year and had so much fun, she returned this year.

“I am having so much fun making all sorts of new foods dumplings, wontons, cookies, and pasta. We went on two field trips that taught us how to practice teamwork, communication, and how to collaborate with others. Without Champions For Learning, I would not have any plans this summer and would miss out on all these memories. I plan to go again next year,” said Emily.

This summer camp demonstrates to students the possibilities of what their future could look like helping them make informed decisions.

By providing relevant educational experiences for our students, they are better prepared with academic, technical, and employability skills necessary to succeed in their chosen careers and in further postsecondary education.

Champions For Learning is proud to serve as a catalyst for educational success by investing in Collier’s students and educators. For more ways to support our Champions For Learning’s student programs, please visit our website.

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Using the Summer to Prepare for FAFSA Completion

Summertime does not always mean a break from school. For Champions For Learning students, many utilize this time to get ahead for the next school year. This is why Champions For Learning is already starting labs on applying for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to help rising seniors prepare for what is to come during the school year.

Applying for free student aid can be challenging for many, especially for first generation students whose parents did not attend college. The application is lengthy and requires personal information to be submitted.

“A lot of times, you’re not 100 percent sure what is required and what isn’t, so this took a lot of pressure off of doing it myself,” said Zaden M., a rising senior at Palmetto Ridge High School who attended one of the Champions For Learning FAFSA Labs.

To prepare for applying for the FAFSA in the fall, Champions For Learning is preparing students in the summer. Champions For Learning hosted three labs that went

“A lot of times, in school, you are not going to learn things like this so this is actually a great resource to learn these things,” said Zaden.

Topics such as being aware of non-government websites that impersonate the FAFSA website, preparing an account for the student and their parent, and making sure the right information and paperwork is being gathered for when it does come time to apply were all items covered during these labs.

Preparing Champions For Learning students early on for the FAFSA completion will hopefully lead to students submitting their applications earlier and it being easier to do so. An early submission could mean more money awarded to the student. You are more likely to qualify for federal, state, and college-offered grants if you file the FAFSA early. In fact, some studies show that students who fill out the FAFSA early get twice as many grants, on average, as compared with students who file the FAFSA later. It is because of this that Champions For Learning is preparing students during the summer, and will then will help students complete the FAFSA in the fall.

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Champions For Learning Prepares Graduates for College

On Thursday, June 8th, Champions For Learning hosted its Senior Send-Off and provided our 2023 high school graduates with refurbished bicycles and laptops to use at college as well as a Wal-Mart gift card for each student. Because of the generosity of Bikes for Tykes and North Naples Church, we provided these recently graduated seniors with the tools they need to succeed in college.

Some graduates from Champions For Learning will not have a car in college. With college campuses being widespread, having transportation is crucial. Bikes for Tykes refurbished 25 bikes to help the 2023 Champions For Learning graduates who are in need of transportation in college. Students were also provided with helmets and bike locks.

“We have an annual event with Champions For Learning, a place where I also mentor children. It’s a bike giveaway for the graduates as an award for those who are going to a campus that may be too big to walk around. So we offer our bikes,” said John Whipple, Champions For Learning mentor and Vice President of the Bikes for Tykes board.

If transportation is not an issue for students, but technology is, Champions For Learning provided 25 refurbished laptops to 2023 program graduates who do not have a computer or tablet since turning in their Collier County Public Schools device upon graduating. These laptops have been donated and refurbished by community members.

“Today they [Champions For Learning] provided me with a laptop and a bike which is one of the many things I do need to be successful when I go to FSU. I need a bike to travel around from class to class so I’m not late because you know they preach punctuality here, so they are helping me a lot,” said Tanya Raphael, 2023 Champions For Learning graduate. “They gave me a laptop which I am very thankful for so I can get my assignments done. There is no excuse not to get my assignments done because I do have a laptop now. They have really given me the foundation that I need to succeed while I am in college.”

In addition to a bike or laptop, each Champions For Learning 2023 graduate was given a $20 Wal-Mart gift card, courtesy of North Naples Church, to help them purchase school / dorm supplies needed. Champions For Learning recognizes that each student has different needs when entering college. Through the support of the community and various organizations, Champions For Learning is able to be the conduit and meet the needs of our students.

“While we are celebrating our 2023 graduates this year, we are already thinking about our 2024 graduates, what they will need and how the community can be a part of their success story. We are already looking forward to those graduates, these graduates coming back and being the future of our community,” said Jessica Manchette, Chief Programs Officer, Champions For Learning.

To support Champions For Learning’s student programs, you can make a gift here.

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Champions For Learning’s Class of 2023 Prepares for Graduation

As high school graduation for Collier County Public Schools approaches, Champions For Learning celebrated the 2023 graduates of the organization in a separate ceremony on May 2nd. This graduation, Countdown to Cap and Gown, was hosted at Artis – Naples and was a fun opportunity for the 80 graduating seniors, their families, and their mentors to come together and celebrate all the success this class has accomplished so far.

The Champions For Learning’s 2023 graduating class has put in countless hours and work to help better themselves as well as our community. Despite the challenging circumstances this class has been faced with over the past four years, a pandemic and a catastrophic hurricane, the graduates of Champions For Learning have persevered and have produced extraordinary results because of it. Collectively, the class of 2023 has accomplished the following to date:

  • 297 applications submitted for college or technical programs
  • 187 college acceptances
  • 67 Industry certifications and counting
  • 6 students will be graduating with their associate degree at the same time as graduating from high school because of dual enrollment

On top of these amazing statistics, the Champions For Learning class of 2023 has collectively served over 10,400 hours of community service.

“These accomplishments are no easy feat. All of our programs’ graduates have done an amazing job utilizing opportunities to meet their goals,” shared Jessica Manchette, Chief Programs Officer, Champions For Learning. “Four years ago, when these students were inducted into our program, we could have never predicted all their accomplishments. We commend their hard work toward reaching their goals for the future.  Each student brings unique attributes to the collective class. We are so proud of our students and excited to see all that they will accomplish.”

The Champions For Learning’s 2023 graduating class is made up of students enrolled in one of the two programs the organization offers, Take Stock in Children or College and Career Preparation.

The Take Stock in Children program is a mentoring program for students, from families with low incomes, in 8th through 12th grades. Students commit to staying drug and crime free, maintaining their grades and meeting with their mentor regularly.

When Take Stock in Children students enter 11th grade, they are dual enrolled in the College and Career Preparation program as described. Upon graduation, Take Stock in Children students earn a two-year state college scholarship.

“The staff at Champions never failed to make me feel like whatever I was going through was going to be okay,” said Hector R., a 2023 graduate from Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children’s program. “Having an organization like Champions For Learning care so much about my future and about my success makes me feel so grateful.”

The College and Career Preparation Program works with 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in Collier County Public Schools, charter, and private schools who are working towards high school graduation and postsecondary education or technical training. These students come from households with low incomes and middle-class gap who cannot afford the full cost of post-secondary education or technical training without help.

The program incorporates college- and career-preparation program components that have been proven to be highly effective: academic support, college and career planning, leadership development, college access and visits, coaching, service learning, and financial literacy. College and Career Preparation students may earn an In-Demand Careers or Project STARS Scholarship in this program.

The impact these programs have on students within our community is made possible through generous donors. Consider making a gift to Champions For Learning to support our student programs.

To view more photos from the Countdown to Cap & Gown event, click HERE.

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Making a Lasting Impact – Mentoring at Champions For Learning

At Champions For Learning, to be a mentor is to serve as a trusted advocate and listener to a student.

Chelsea Pittman has learned this firsthand since becoming a mentor last spiring when she was paired with her current mentee, Leidy.

“Leidy moved to the United States from Cuba as she was entering the seventh grade. She was beginning to learn English, the American school system and transitioning into high school, all at once. It was a big transition for her,” shared Chelsea.

Mentors, like Chelsea, in Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children program are paired with students at the beginning of the mentee’s freshman year of high school, to ensure students will have guidance and leadership during these crucial next four years.

“She is very smart, so smart. Our first year was us talking through how she adjusted to high school in America. She was balancing her classes both English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), learning about high school football, clubs, and participating in the Champions For Learning program. Her plate was very full,” said Chelsea.

Because Chelsea and Leidy are close in age they have found it easier to connect and relate to one another.

“I feel like an older sister to her [Leidy], where I can coach her though it all. We are both very lucky that we have each other,” said Chelsea.

Not only is Chelsea making a difference in Leidy’s life, but Leidy is impacting Chelsea in ways she never would have imagined.

“I have learned so much about her. Leidy has taught me about her culture and just how different things are for her family still living in Cuba. It makes me feel very grateful to be here and to be afforded the opportunities of living in Naples,” Chelsea explained.

Wanting to make a difference and give back to her community combined with being familiar with Champions For Learning’s mission, Chelsea knew mentoring was the best way to get involved.

“Naples is a highly philanthropic community, with many ways to give the gift of time and treasure. People my age aren’t in the position to donate financially but can make a difference by donating time. Being a mentor is a fun and easy way to give back to your community without digging into your wallet if you can’t afford it,” Chelsea shared.

For those in Collier County that may want to find ways to support others and give back, Chelsea explained, “Look around, you will see the kids in this community that need our help. It doesn’t take much to be an advocate and listener as you help a student reach their goals for post-secondary education and develop life skills along the way.”

Champions For Learning currently needs mentors to serve students who will attend Golden Gate High, Barron Collier High, and Palmetto Ridge High next school year. If you are interested in learning more, join us for a virtual All About Mentoring Session! Dates and times can be found on our website!

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Are You Ready For Be Future Ready Day?

On Saturday, March 25, 2023, students in Collier County will have the unique opportunity to attend Be Future Read Day at Coastland Center Mall hosted by Future Ready Collier.

This event will allow students an opportunity to receive an instant admissions decision to a local college, be able to start and complete their FAFSA, and can be the first to apply to the JumpStart scholarship. All in one afternoon!

This event is for students that may want to go to college, haven’t made college plans yet, or are realizing they want to seek a certification or degree.

Be Future Ready Day was designed as an idea through Future Ready Collier to help high school seniors in Collier County be ready for life after high school.

Champions For Learning is proudly supporting Future Ready Collier to help coordinate this day to help the class of 2023 no matter their future plans.

Champions For Learning will be tabling at the event to promote the JumpStart Scholarship to provide Collier County students an opportunity to earn extra financial assistance.

To support Future Ready Collier, Champions For Learning volunteers and staff will be on site to assist students and families in completing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applications.

Future Ready Collier is inviting local colleges Florida Gulf Coast University, Keiser University, Florida SouthWestern State College, and Lorenzo Walker Technical for instant admissions decisions and admission fee waivers for students. This means that a student that brings their transcript, ACT/SAT, and CCPS student device could get their decision right there, a great move in the right direction for these students.

Future Ready Collier volunteers will be on site to help student seniors complete their FAFSA.

This is an important step to ensure students have the funding they need to pay for what degree or certification they are seeking.

The JumpStart scholarship will open that day at 11 am which totals 30-credit hours (a full year at a state college). This scholarship will be a first come first serve priority. No essay required.

Students will be asked to bring their FSA ID, social security numbers, 2021 Federal Income Tax Returns, CCPS laptop, and high school transcript.

We are so excited to help get Collier County students ready for their future!

Click here to access the flyer for more information Be Future Ready Day

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Day of Service

During Spring Break, Champions For Learning hosted Day of Service, a dedicated day to give students the opportunity to volunteer out in the community. This unique opportunity is another example of how Champions For Learning prepares students for their future.

Thanks to the C’MON Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples and our own volunteer program managers, students gained a better understanding of what organizations look for in their volunteers and how the actions of others create positive impact on non-profits all across Collier County.

After lunch, students traveled to the Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC), to see firsthand how volunteers can serve our community. They learned how volunteers are selected and trained to work alongside the horses and riders at NTRC. All of the students were wowed by the experience and some who had never seen a horse up close gained a better understanding of the important role they play in helping others.

Juliana, a sophomore attending Lely high school shared, “My favorite part of today was petting the horses. I feel that it is very important to give back to our community due to how much the community gives to us. It’s really important for me to give back to my community knowing that they give constant support to me, my family, friends, and community members.”

In the afternoon, students visited Meals of Hope where they learned what it takes every day to deliver meals to people who need them most in our community. They were so moved by what they learned the group of 38 students packed 20,520 meals in two hours, a new record for Meals of Hope! In twenty-four hours that followed the visit, those meals were distributed throughout areas of Collier County.

Julia, a freshman attending Gulf Coast high school shared, “My favorite part of today was helping package meals for Meals of Hope for the Southwest Florida community. It felt really great working with others to get the project done.”

She continued, “Volunteering is important to me because it is helping me towards college and helping others. I like helping others and it makes me feel good to know I am making a difference.”

Thanks to our community partners and supporters, our students made a big difference during Day of Service. And we aren’t done yet!

April 29th Champions For Learning will be working with Meals of Hope again this time with a team motivated to continue giving back! More information about future volunteer opportunities will be available soon.

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Etiquette Luncheon

Naples Yacht Club graciously hosted an Etiquette Luncheon to prepare seniors involved in programming at Champions For Learning for Night of Champions. Eagerly awaiting this signature event, the students arrived at Naples Yacht Club where recent Glass Slipper recipient Brenda O’Connor and former City of Naples Mayor Bill Barnett facilitated an informational etiquette class instructing basic techniques and formalities.

This special event not only prepares our students for Night of Champions, but more importantly, it gives them skills for a successful future. Champions For Learning cannot thank Brenda, Bill and the Naples Yacht Club enough for their support.

A few students shared their perspective and what they learned from this opportunity.

Hector R. shared, “The luncheon was very nice and professional. This practice is needed for someone that doesn’t normally eat so formally. I learned a lot and it was nice to learn how to be more proper at a table. I am very excited for Night of Champions!”

Adriana S. explained, “For my final JROTC project, we learned about etiquette, but this event was helpful because I was able to learn new things. I am happy Champions hosts events like these. Learning proper etiquette is very important especially for the kids that are not exposed to this kind of dining experience. I feel more comfortable knowing what to expect at Night of Champions.”

Champions For Learning is proud to provide this unique experience to our students, so they feel prepared and confident not only at Night of Champions but also in their future.

Boone N. shared, “I was a bit nervous coming to the luncheon because I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very comfortable going there. I learned plate etiquette and how it is used to make other people feel comfortable. They gave good insight and how this is beneficial for our future and for job interviews. I’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this, but I am glad I went, it was something new.”

Thanks to the generous support of Naples Yacht Club, Champions For Learning students were taught the proper etiquette for attending a formal dinner. Champions For Learning offers these unique experiences to students to prepare and educate them beyond the classroom.

The next step for students in preparation for Night of Champions will be a networking reception opportunity February 7th and 8th hosted at Champions For Learning.

Champions For Learning’s signature event, Night of Champions will be held on February 25 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.

The following honorees will be celebrated that night: Gary & Kim Price, Serge Ecityan, Braulio Colon, Pat Botthof, Ritch Cuvier, Marti & Gordon Watson and Heart of the Apple: Gary Personette.

For more information and ticket purchases visit our website.

Lindsay Lydon is a graduate of Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children mentoring and scholarship program. She is currently a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University studying marketing and advertising and is working part-time with Champions For Learning.

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