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Meet our 2022-2023 Heart of the Apple Recipient and 2022-2023 Champions!

Champions For Learning is honored to announce this year’s Champions for learning as well as the Heart of the Apple Recipient. These are individuals who have helped change the lives of Collier County students. Congratulations to this amazing group of community leaders!

Heart of the Apple Recipient:

 

Gary Personette

Gary has been a volunteer since 2012, beginning with the Golden Gate High School Pilot project. He has mentored 5 Champions For Learning students. He has been a Board member, an Ambassador, a selection committee volunteer, a financial aid coach, and an event volunteer. Gary was instrumental in bringing the IncubatorEDU Entrepreneurship program to Collier County Public Schools, which prepares students to be creative and resilient problem solvers and critical thinkers. This program has

grown exponentially under Gary’s guidance over the past several years, this year expanding to all CCPS Elementary Schools.

 

Champions:

Pat Botthof
Pat has been a volunteer since early 2017, first serving as an event volunteer for Night of Champions. Since then, she has fulfilled several volunteer roles, including mentoring and serving on the ambassador council to support outreach and retention efforts.

 

 

Braulio Colón
As Vice President of Florida Student Success Initiatives, Braulio has facilitated a partnership with Champions For Learning to further improve college-prep and completion rates for limited-income, first-generation and underrepresented students in SWFL.

 

 

Ritch Cuvier
Ritch is a graduate from Champions For Learning / Take Stock in Children 11th grade Program. He currently works in IT for John R. Wood Properties. Ritch has been an active alumni volunteer, participating in networking opportunities and sharing his experience as a Champions For Learning graduate.

 

 

Serge Ecityan
Serge is on the board for Champions For Learning, and is actively involved in the Champions Advisory Council, Planned Giving Committee, Take Stock in Children Selection Committee, and the Classroom Grant Selection Committee. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst with BMO Wealth Management, which has sponsored Champions’ graduation event, Countdown to Cap & Gown, for the past 6 years.

 

Kim & Gary Price
Kim and Gary have supported Champions For Learning over the years in a number of ways; Gary has Chaired the Night of Champions, served on the Professional Advisors Network and Golden Apple Selection Committee, and both Kim and Gary’s businesses have been donors and event sponsors.

 

Marti & Gordon Watson
Marti and Gordon have been involved with Champions For Learning and the Take Stock program in the roles of mentor, selection committee members and donors since they came to Naples over 20 years ago. Gordon & Marti helped to build the relationship with FSW that lead to the TSIC 11th grade pilot.

 

These individuals will be honored at Champions For Learning’s signature event, Night of Champions on Saturday, February 25, 2023.

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Cards for Kindergarteners coming full circle

Last month Bailey M., a senior from Naples High School, chose to spend his community service hours making 28 cards for local kindergarten students. 

These cards were delivered by Champions For Learning to Sea Gate Elementary, the same elementary school Bailey attended.

“Starting school can be intimidating. For these Sea Gate kindergarten students, having beautifully drawn, encouraging cards from a 12th grade student reminded them that everyone starts at the same place. They loved the colorful cards,” shared Amy Snyder, Executive Director of Educator Programs at Champions For Learning.

Bailey made each card colorful with drawings of school supplies with a note inside, “Welcome to Kindergarten! Have fun and enjoy your year. Be kind and respect your teacher.”

Bailey said, “I wanted to include a message on the inside, but I wasn’t really sure how well they could read. So, I just tried to keep it pretty simple.”

The idea of making 28 cards for kindergarteners in Collier County came from a website the Collier County Public School District uses to communicate service opportunities with students. Many of the volunteer opportunities offered to high school students are as a result of an earlier collaborative effort through Future Ready Collier (FRC) to aid students in their search for approved service hours towards scholarships and other opportunities.

Champions For Learning is a partner and the backbone organization supporting Future Ready Collier, a network of organizations, businesses, schools and community members working to ensure every child in Collier County is ready for kindergarten, and every young person enters adulthood with a vision and a plan to accomplish that vision.

To learn more about Future Ready Collier, visit FutureReadyCollier.org

                   

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A Message from Barbara Evans, our new CEO

As of September 13th I will be the new CEO of Champions For Learning, the education foundation responsible for creating life-changing learning experiences for every student, with a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success. Champions For Learning serves a unique role in bringing the community together to support a culture of learning and innovation.

I’d like to thank Susan McManus for the work that she has done over the years. The legacy that she is leaving is incredible.  A special thanks to Dr. Terrie Mitev for serving as the interim.  She’s done an amazing job meeting with the staff and bringing the students together. I look forward to working and continuing to advance the Champions For Learning mission.

From a young age, I’ve understood the importance of education. I moved to this country as a toddler and had a parent who couldn’t help me with homework. I relied on my teachers to offer me assistance. I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the Champions For Learning and to support an organization that is working to support our educators.

There are great things happening at Champions. Everything from the new technical pathways pilot, the new support of the CCPS entrepreneurship program, and continuing to honor and support Collier County’s educators.

Thank you,
Barbara

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Classroom grant portal now open for Collier teachers, community funding

Florida Weekly

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grants: Find It, Fund It Collier portal is now open for the community to fund classroom projects that Collier County teachers have submitted for the 2022- 2023 school year.

Collier County teachers can apply for a classroom grant to help support innovative learning experiences within their classroom. Individual teachers (or teams) may apply for up to $2,000 per grant request and may submit multiple requests, if they are for different projects. Collier County teachers can learn more and apply for Classroom Grants through the Champions For Learning website, www.ChampionsForLearning. org.

Last year 226 Classroom Grants were funded by our community investing $115,230 into Collier County schools, impacting teachers and students across 53 schools.

Once Collier County educators submit their grant request, the classroom grants can be funded through one of two ways. Classroom grants can be funded by the Classroom Grants Fund, which is determined by a committee, or through community-based funding, sometimes known as crowdfunding. Classroom Grant requests must be posted by Tuesday, Sept. 13, to be considered for funding by the Classroom Grants Fund. For community-based funding, Classroom Grants must be posted by March 10, 2023.

The community has the opportunity to provide life-changing learning experiences to students through funding classroom grants. Visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org/CWACgrants to see a list of grants waiting to be funded and choose which local teachers and classrooms you want to support.

Thanks to a charitable gift from Suncoast Credit Union, which supports the technology and capacity for the Classroom Grant Find It, Fund It portal, 100% of community contribution goes into supporting teacher grants.

You can also help fund Classroom Grants through the License to Learn Fund (Florida Education Tag). Collier County community members can buy the new version of the license plate tag now, $20 of the annual fee is donated to Champions For Learning and 100% of the funds support classroom grants.

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Champions For Learning appoints new CEO, Barbara Evans long-time nonprofit leader in SWFL

Nikki Ross, Naples Daily News

Champions For Learning has appointed a new chief executive officer.

Barbara Evans, a long-time nonprofit leader in Southwest Florida, will begin her new role at the education foundation on Sept. 13. She is replacing Susan McManus, who stepped down in May after 29 years.

“I am honored to be joining the exceptional team at Champions For Learning,” Evans said in a news release. “As a mother of two school-aged children, I truly value our mission of creating life-changing learning experiences for every student.”

In her new role, Evans will take the lead on the foundation’s annual fundraisers, which will allow them to support more students and educators, according to the release. She will also expand programs that will support the needs of Collier County students.

“Our Board of Directors is thrilled to bring a leader of Barbara’s caliber to guide Champions For Learning. I am confident that we have found the perfect fit to support our mission,” said William Lutz, board chair, in the release. “Barbara brings a wealth of nonprofit success and strategic vision to the organization, which will be critical to our ability to grow and to serve even more Collier County students and educators. I am excited for what the future holds under her leadership.”

For the past 20 years, Evans has had a career in fundraising. She was formerly chief development officer at Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers.

Prior to her position at the food bank, she was the director of development at Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation and served six years as chief development officer for Grace Place for Children and Families in Naples. Under her leadership, the organization experienced revenue growth, both in annual operating and capital revenue, according to the release.

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Cards for Collier Kindergarteners

Starting kindergarten can be scary for some, but one Collier County student is doing what he can to make the beginning of the school year a little more enjoyable.

Bailey M. is entering his senior year at Naples High School. To get ahead on some community service hours this summer, Bailey handcrafted 28 cards for local kindergarten students to have as they begin school.

“I have a really fond memory of when I was in kindergarten, an older kid coming to read to us”, said Bailey. “I wanted just to do something similar for other kindergarteners today. So they have something fun to look back on.”

Bailey made each card colorful with drawings of school supplies with the note inside, “Welcome to Kindergarten! Have fun and enjoy your year. Be kind and respect your teacher.”

Bailey says, “I wanted to include a message on the inside, but I wasn’t really sure how well they could read. So, I just tried to keep it pretty simple.”

The idea of making 28 cards for kindergartners in Collier County came from a website the Collier County Public School District uses to communicate service opportunities with students. Many of the volunteer opportunities offered to high school students are as a result of an earlier collaborative effort through Future Ready Collier (FRC) to aid students in their search for approved service hours towards scholarships and other opportunities.  Champions For Learning is a partner with and backbone organization supporting Future Ready Collier, a network of organizations, businesses, schools and community members working to ensure every child in Collier County is ready for Kindergarten, and every young person enters adulthood with a vision and plan to accomplish that vision.

“There were a few opportunities that I was debating doing, but this one stood out to me. It just felt like something that was up my alley”, said Bailey.

When these cards are delivered to kindergarten students beginning their educational career, Bailey says he hopes they enjoy opening the cards and it is fun for them. That is why he included lots of colors and picture, so that it would appeal to kindergarteners.

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CHAMPIONS FOR LEARNING NAMES BARBARA EVANS AS NEW CEO

CHAMPIONS FOR LEARNING NAMES BARBARA EVANS AS NEW CEO

“Our Board of Directors is thrilled to bring a leader of Barbara’s caliber to guide Champions For Learning. I am confident that we have found the perfect fit to support our mission,” said William (Bill) J. Lutz, Board Chair. “Barbara brings a wealth of nonprofit success and strategic vision to the organization, which will be critical to our ability to grow and to serve even more Collier County students and educators. I am excited for what the future holds under her leadership.”

Evans has a nearly 20-year career in fundraising. She currently serves as chief development officer at Harry Chapin Food Bank. Prior to her position at the food bank, she was the director of development at Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation and served six years as chief development officer for Grace Place for Children and Families in Naples. Under her leadership, the organization experienced explosive revenue growth, both in annual operating and capital revenue.

“I am honored to be joining the exceptional team at Champions For Learning,” said Barbara Evans. “As a mother of two school aged children, I truly value our mission of creating life-changing learning experiences for every student. Having moved to this country as a toddler, I understand the educational challenges that many of Collier County’s students face by not having a parent at home who can help them with their homework. My teachers were instrumental in ensuring that I received the help I needed. I am thrilled to be part of an organization that values, empowers and supports teachers and principals to ensure the highest impact learning experiences are afforded to every child in Collier County.”

Evans and her husband have two young children, both of whom attend Collier County Public Schools. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and former VP of membership on the board of directors of the Greater Naples Area Planned Giving Council. Evans was selected as the 2017 Outstanding Fundraising Executive by the Collier-Lee chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She is a graduate of the 2018 Leadership Collier Foundation, earned her CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) in 2018 and has a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.

“On behalf of the CEO Search Committee, I’m excited to watch Barbara build upon the success of Champions For Learning and take the organization to the next level,” said Stephanie Lucarelli, Board Member and CEO Search Committee Chair.

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Champions For Learning aiding teachers facing financial stress

Reporter: Jennifer Morejon Writer: Paul Dolan, WINK News

Collier County teacher Sandy Mendoza knows teachers and parents spend a lot of money doing back-to-school shopping, and inflation is worsening the financial stress.

A Southwest Florida non-profit is trying to help ease that financial stress building up on teachers.

“In the beginning of the year it’s about $200 for notebooks, composition books in order to keep things organized, we purchase those things … and throughout the year, with our different activities and projects that we have, we continue to buy things throughout the year,” said Mendoza, a Calusa Park Elementary School teacher for the last 23 years.

“We do purchase a lot of things so our kids feel comfortable and they are not worried. A lot of the students can’t afford them, the families are going through rough times… it’s wonderful to color and draw with brand-new pencils and crayons,” said Mendoza.

Champions For Learning is helping teachers and parents not feel the constriction of the financial stress through their classroom grants. Teachers can apply for up to $2,000 for supplies, field trips, and other special projects.

“I think that so many people are looking for ways to support our teachers and our students,” said Amy Snyder the director of the educator programs for Champions For Learning.

The community and local businesses donated more than $115,000 helping more than 200 teachers in 2021.

“Champion For Learning and the grants they give are a bridge between schools and the community,” said Mendoza.

Champions For Learning is hopeful they can beat the $115,000 in donations this year. Anyone who would like to support the cause can donate to Champions For Learning year round.

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Classroom grant portal helps teachers with school supplies for innovative projects

Rashaad Vann, Fox 4 Southwest Florida

On average, $750 was spent on school supplies by teachers last year.

Historically, it’s the highest amount ever spent according to the Adopt-A-Classroom website.

When you think about things that you want for the classroom, there are things we were looking for even yesterday that Amazon currently doesn’t have,” Dr. Cindy Gomez, Collier County Public Schools District TSA said. “So we have to be creative.”

Dr. Gomez talks about the challenges teachers face when trying to come by school supplies.

“Teachers have the ability to say, ‘well I’m going to get creative. This is the way I still can make it happen,’” Gomez said. “But I need A B and C.”

Teachers are able to get grants for supplies to create innovative projects and more for students with the help of the Classroom Grant Opportunity portal held by Champions For Learning.

“They can write that grant up to $2,000 and say ‘this is what I want to do, and this is how many students that it’s going to reach.’” Gomez said.

“It is also an incredible opportunity for our community to get to know our teachers,” Amy Snyder, Director of Educators Programs for Champions For Learning said.

Snyder said residents are able to see what teachers may need and how they can help out.

“The supplies needed to do a school garden and someone who’s excited about gardens is going to say, ‘hey I’m going to get on that,’” Snyder said. “’I’m going to make sure that the school can have this opportunity.’”

“It’s a great way for teachers to reach lots of students in a variety of ways,” Gomez said.

The classroom grant portal is open to the community, anyone is able to donate and see a list of classroom grant requests.

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Naples Florida Weekly: Two Collier high school students selected as 2022 Student Leaders

In Collier County, fewer than 50% of residents aged 24-65 have earned a twoyear degree or higher, according to the Florida College Access Network. Without access to career skills-building opportunities like the Student Leaders program, many young people may be left behind from a fast-changing job market, leading to higher rates of youth unemployment. Along with the Student Leaders program, Bank of America is connecting more than five teens and young adults to paid jobs and internships across Southwest Florida with Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee County and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.

The Class of 2022 Southwest Florida Bank of America Student Leaders are:

Allyson Horst: A senior at Barron Collier High School, Allyson founded the Health and Humanity Club at her school to help address poverty and homelessness by volunteering and partnering with local organizations. She aspires to expand the club to schools within Collier County so the rising generation can be educated on the struggles those with limited means face in their community. She is also involved with Grace Place for Children & Families, Meals of Hope, and her school’s student council.

Alfa Vergara-Nunez: A senior at Naples High School, is dedicated to giving back to her Hispanic community. As a minority with non-English speaking parents, she attended New Horizons, an organization providing after-school tutoring, mentoring and career guidance from kindergarten to eighth grade. Years later, she is giving back as a New Horizons volunteer helping their students with homework and overcoming language barriers so they can thrive.

The Southwest Florida-based Student Leaders are participating in programming that includes a collaborative project with Champions for Learning to create new content for the College and Career Toolkit as well as the classroom grant portals. As high school students, their input and recommendations are helping to shape the annual program plans.

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