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Student, Mentee, Now Teacher!

Alaysha G., an alumni from Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children, program will cross the stage this month earning her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Florida Gulf Coast University. Alaysha started her educational journey in Naples. She was born and raised in Collier County and began pursuing teaching because it is her passion.

“In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. That is until I started volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County. I knew teaching was for me because of the instant bonds I made with the kids. I loved them and wanted to give back,” shared Alaysha.

Alaysha was inducted into the Take Stock in Children’s program at Champions For Learning program in eighth grade, almost seven years ago. Since then, Alaysha has grown up with the guidance and wisdom of her mentor Tammi Pittaro, a former teacher of thirty-seven years.

“The chances that I was paired with Mrs. Tammi, a former teacher, definitely made me believe this was my calling. She inspired me to be a teacher. She always encourages me, and to this day keeps pushing me to want to be a better me,” shared Alaysha.

Pittaro was recently awarded as a recipient of a Glass Slipper for her dedicated involvement in Collier County. Alaysha accompanied Pittaro to the event when receiving the award. Both are still very close to this day.

Alaysha relied on scholarships to help her fund her undergraduate years and joined Champions For Learning knowing she needed the support.

“Growing up, my parents told me they were not able to pay for my college. I made sure I earned enough scholarships to pay for my schooling,” said Alaysha. “Champions For Learning did a great job in preparing me for college. If I did not have Champions, I don’t know where I would be. They gave me the right resources, helped me with financial aid, applying for colleges, my personal statements, networking events, all which I am so very grateful for,” said Alaysha.

As a now retired teacher, Mrs. Pittaro continues to support Alaysha especially in her college programs where she would give her tips that could be implemented into her lesson plans.

“Alaysha is a special person. I am blessed to have been her mentor and I’ve learned as much from her as she’s learned from me. She’s a very special person in my life and always will be,” said Pittaro. “I’m so excited for her future and I know she is going places. She is going to make a big difference in the world and have a huge impact on the people that come after her.”

Alaysha was recently accepted into Florida Guld Coast University’s master’s program where she will earn a degree in Special Education while being a substitute teacher in Collier County.

Champions For Learning is so proud to serve amazing students, teachers, and future educators. Giving back and serving as a mentor can change a young person’s life. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or want to learn how to give back in our community, join us for a Champions 101 to learn more about the need in our community and how you can impact our students, families, and teachers in Collier County.

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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, which can only have positive outcomes for your own life.

Reason #4: Mentors become part of the Champions For Learning family.

Champions For Learning offers a connection to our community that many often feel is missing. It’s a connection to the needs that exist in Collier County, to like-minded volunteers and mentors, to the teachers, students and families the community served through Champions For Learning, and to the Champions For Learning staff.

When you offer your time to mentor, you not only make a difference in the life of your mentee and in the future of our community, you also become a part of the Champions For Learning family. A family that is dedicated to creating life-changing learning experiences for students, but also a family that is very much dedicated to one another.

Reason #5: Mentors leave a legacy.

Most of us long for a legacy, some stake in the future that says, “I was here.” What better legacy than to be a part of shaping the future of our community?

Mentors can have a lasting impact on their mentees. This is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a mentor… just knowing the small contribution you have made to the life of a young person can be incredibly rewarding.

Remember how lost and confused you sometimes felt during high school?  By acting as a mentor, you can help make challenges and transitions easier for your mentee. And when you reflect on what you have given to your mentee, you receive a profound sense of legacy and gratification.

Q & A with Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement, Champions For Learning

Kristen Peras, Champions For Learning

What’s the purpose of the mentoring program?

The mentoring programs offered through Champions For Learning break the cycle of poverty by identifying high-achieving, low-income public school students who show the potential to go to college and providing them with holistic support. More than 200 high school students are active in the program each year.

What do students need to do to qualify for the program? And what kind of assistance do they receive?

Students entering 9th Grade with economic need, good grades, behavior and attendance in school, and a desire to achieve post-secondary goals may apply to the program. The program offers students a caring volunteer mentor, a professional College Success Coach, and College Readiness support.

What is the end goal of the program?

Upon successful completion of the program, students earn a two-year state college scholarship from Champions For Learning. To date, Champions For Learning has impacted over 32,000 students.

Do mentors need special experience or skills?

No experience is required, and training is provided. Mentors are trusted advocates and excellent listeners, helping the student reach their goals, develop life skills, learn to advocate for themselves, and ensure they take advantage of resources and opportunities available — mentors are not a tutors or counselors.

How long of a commitment do mentors need to make?

Mentors are encouraged to continue to mentor the same student through his/her high school graduation to continue building the relationship with the mentee and their family.

How often do mentors meet with their mentees?

Mentors meet with mentees face-to-face or through virtual sessions during the academic year, sessions are typically held bi-weekly.

Can mentors meet with mentees virtually?

Virtual Mentoring via Zoom is offered to connect with mentees in supervised settings during lunch and after school hours. Virtual mentoring allows for seasonal mentors to be engaged all year and working mentors to have a session from the office.

Are there any requirements for mentors?

All mentors must undergo a screening process through Collier County Public Schools. Once screened, Champions For Learning matches you to a student and coordinates an introduction with your mentee.

Do mentors receive guidance from Champions for Learning?

Mentors receive a wealth of resources and training opportunities from Champions For Learning to ensure the success of the program and relationship and to help inform the focus of your meetings, including direct support from Champions For Learning staff and seasoned mentor liaisons, as well as online resources and webinars. If at any point a mentor has a concern about their mentee, they are encouraged to notify the Champions For Learning team to help resolve the issue.

What should we do if we’re ready to take the next step?

Contact me – Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement – at 239-643-4755 or KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org. Or visit our website — ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore — to join us at our next All About Mentoring informational session.

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