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Champions For Learning Earns Highest 4-Star Rating From Charity Navigator


Strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned The Education Foundation of Collier County, Inc (operating as Champions For Learning) a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.

This is the sixth time that Champions For Learning has earned this top distinction. The 4-star rating is the highest possible rating and indicates that Champions For Learning adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way.

Champions For Learning is among only 14% of the charities evaluated who have received at least six consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Champions For Learning outperforms most other charities in America.

“Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that The Education Foundation of Collier County exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work. Only 14% of the charities we evaluate have received at least 6 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that The Education Foundation of Collier County outperforms most other charities in America,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets The Education Foundation of Collier County apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.”

“We are extremely proud to be receiving a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator,” says Bruce Mousa, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Our Board of Directors and staff work tirelessly toward the goal of creating life-changing learning experiences for every student in Collier County.”

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Community Partners Provide Laptops to Students Heading Off to College

The majority of Champions For Learning’s 75 recent graduates are headed off to college this fall, in fact several have even begun their next chapter this summer to get a jump on the year ahead.

You might remember back to last summer when Collier County Public Schools launched an initiative to provide all students with laptops for the 2020-2021 school year. The initiative, called Collier Connect, was planned prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic expedited the process so each student would have access to technology to continue learning seamlessly both at school and at home. The program, a major district venture and a huge accomplishment, provided laptops that would stay with the district’s 48,000+ students throughout their time at CCPS.

What many graduating seniors didn’t realize was that their school district-supplied laptop would need to be returned to the school district shortly after graduation, leaving several students in desperate need of this—rather pricey—school supply.

Today, a laptop truly is a necessary school supply for any college student. And at Champions For Learning, we are committed to ensuring that our graduated seniors that are heading to college students have access to any and all state-of-the-art technology available.

Champions was honored to receive a grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County that supported the purchase of nine brand new laptops. A long-time, cherished volunteer, Tom Gamber, purchased and refurbished fifteen additional laptops. In total, twenty-four graduated seniors received laptops, several just in time before beginning their summer semester.

Tracy, a recent graduate of Lely High School who had just turned in her CCPS laptop two days prior, was grateful to the donors who made it possible for her to receive her own laptop before heading to Florida SouthWestern State College in the fall to study Healthcare Administration, adding that “this is going to be a huge help at school!”

Laptops give students the flexibility and freedom they need to work on academic assignments anytime—anywhere, a convenient luxury. No matter where they are, a laptop allows college students the ability to bring their schoolwork with them. And with most college wireless networks, students are able to connect to the internet via their laptop from anywhere.

We can all remember going off to college like it was yesterday. We get our first taste of freedom when we get our driver’s license, but going to college is when we got to really experience independence. Maybe you felt excited, nervous or maybe even relieved. Most likely, you were finally out on your own and it felt great. Now, equipped with the laptops and technology they’ll need to succeed, these Champions For Learning’s students will feel great too.

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Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping 7/31 – 8/9!

The 2021 Florida Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday is happening again this year from July 31 – August 9, 2021. What used to be a tax-free weekend in Florida has been expanded to 10 days!

During these dates, you can purchase clothing, shoes, backpacks, and school supplies without paying the sales tax (6% here in Collier County). The tax-free holidays are part of HB 7061 passed by the Florida Legislature in 2021.

Here are the important details for the 2021 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday in Florida:


Begins on Saturday, July 31, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.
Ends on Monday, August 9, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

  • Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories (including backpacks) selling for $60 or less per item.
  • School uniforms less than $60 per item.
  • Certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item. Included items: pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook filler paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue, paste, rulers, computer disks, protractors, compasses, and calculators.
  • The first $1,000 of the sales price of personal computers or personal computer-related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.

For more information and a full list of qualifying items, visit https://floridarevenue.com/backtoschool.

It’s never too early to support schools and teachers!

Text “CFLteachers” to 44-321 to support our local educators.

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Attention Teachers! Classroom Grants Portal Opens 7/19

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grants opportunity allows teachers to apply for up to $2,000 per grant request to create innovative learning experiences for students.

“The impact of this grant will continue to be evident as we
progress through this year and years to come.”
– Kathleen Lawler, Pelican Marsh Elementary School

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grant online portal allows teachers to request classroom grants that are funded directly by the community to create innovative learning experiences for their students. 100% of these contributions go directly into the classroom for teachers to use with students.

The Classroom Grant portal opens Monday, July 19, 2021. To be considered for dollars from the Classroom Grants Fund, requests must be posted by Monday, September 13, 2021.

For more information, visit https://championsforlearning.org/what-we-do/for-educators-schools/classroom-grants/.

It’s not too early to start supporting the Classroom Grants Fund!

To support our teachers’ great ideas, text “CFLteacher” to 44-321.

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New campaign aims to help Florida students get “Cash for College”

Champions For Learning, as the backbone for Future Ready Collier, has partnered with Florida College Access Network (FCAN) to launch the “Cash for College” campaign to promote Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion as a crucial step as students and their families make plans for education beyond high school. About 4 out of 5 students in Florida use some combination of federal, state, and school-based aid to pay for college, and the way to access that aid is by completing the FAFSA.

Targeting Collier County’s Class of 2020 and 2021, the campaign aims to counteract the impact of COVID-19 on college enrollment. Nationwide, direct enrollment after high school graduation was down 6.9% in Fall 2020, and enrollment declines were 2.3 times steeper for low-income high schools compared to higher-income schools. Research also shows that low-income, first-generation -, and students of color are among the least likely to complete the FAFSA.

More To Come!

Champions For Learning plans to offer special incentives to those that complete the FAFSA, and will be creating a website for students to access free FAFSA and college enrollment resources in the coming months.

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Champions For Learning looks forward to in-person events in 2021-2022!

Champions For Learning looks forward to returning to in-person events for the 2021-2022 season!

Join in Friday, February 4, 2022 at Arthrex One for Night of Champions! 

As Champions For Learning’s signature event, Night of Champions celebrates the community of champions that has changed the lives of hundreds of Collier County students. This important celebration showcases our vibrant community, students and volunteers. Night of Champions includes a reception, three-course dinner, and silent auction.

Several high-impact sponsorship opportunities are available. Sponsorships support our student mentoring and scholarship programs, lifting the barriers that students on the path to career and college face and inspiring them to achieve.

Join in Monday, April 25, 2022 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort for our Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers!

Beyond simply an event, the Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers showcases our community’s educators’ innovative best practices that are exciting to students about learning and increasing student learning. During this community-wide event, the 2022 Golden Apple recipients, Golden Apple Teachers of Distinction, and the Collier County Public Schools Teachers of the Year are honored for the tremendous impact they make for our young people.

Golden Apple

The Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers includes a reception, elegant dinner, and inspiring presentations celebrating each of the Golden Apple teachers, giving guests a glimpse into their classrooms. The Golden Apple television program is aired on NBC-2 and posted to the Champions For Learning website and YouTube channel following the broadcast. The Golden Apple event and television show lead into Teacher Appreciation Week, culminating in a community-wide recognition and appreciation of educators. Several highly visible sponsorship opportunities are available.

Sponsorship Opportunities are currently available! 

To discuss sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jeff Jerome, Vice President of Marketing & Events, at 239.263.5785 or JJerome@ChampionsForLearning.org.

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Philanthropy at the Core of the Kendra Scott Mission

Kendra Scott is celebrating the opening of the brand-new store at Waterside Shops by hosting a special event benefitting Champions For Learning. A favorite of celebrities and fashionistas alike, Kendra Scott has the line of jewelry you’ve probably seen on the necks, wrists, and ears of women all over.

Taking the fashion world by storm, Kendra Scott uses her fame and fortune for a good cause as much as she can. Through the Kendra Gives Back program, the company has partnered with Champions For Learning to host an in-store and online event with 20% of the proceeds going to support Champions.

The in-store event is being held Friday, June 25th from 4:00-6:00pm at the new Kendra Scott store at Waterside Shops. Enjoy mingling with Champions For Learning volunteers and staff and complimentary to-go sips and sweets while you shop. If you are unable to stop by in-store to support, just visit www.kendrascott.com anytime Friday, June 25th and Saturday, June 26th and enter the code GIVEBACK-AACJS at checkout to donate 20% of your purchase to support Champions For Learning.

This is a great way to purchase some beautiful items for yourself and others for a great cause.

Through Kendra Gives Back, the company has been able to donate more than $30 million dollars to various causes throughout the country.

Support Champions For Learning at the Kendra Gives Back event, we hope to see you on Friday, June 25th. Kendra Scott is located at Waterside Shops, 5485 Tamiami Trail, between Sunglass Hut and White House/Black Market. For more information, call Jeff Jerome at Champions For Learning at (239) 643-4755.


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Everyone Has A Story…

Everyone Has A Story…

…yet figuring out how to tell your unique, personal story can be daunting.

Champions For Learning’s rising 12th-grade  students have recently completed draft versions of their Personal Statements – the essays written for college admissions committees showing who you are and why you deserve to be admitted – and are now working towards finalizing their drafts before the start of their Senior year.

Personal essay writing can be a painful and emotional process. Framing your strengths and experiences thoughtfully and with self-awareness—and in just 650 words or less—can be overwhelming. After all, this is one of the most important pieces of writing these students will have done in their lives up until this point. So are they nervous? Under pressure? You bet.

But what they aren’t is alone. To help take some of the anxiety out of the process, Champions For Learning volunteers and staff worked with students to guide them in crafting essays that they’re proud of. These sessions offered students a fresh, objective perspective, and help in identifying what’s working in their essay and what’s not.

Great personal statements bring students’ ambitions, challenges, and personalities to life. This week, students learned to pinpoint one story that best illustrates their brand and how to draw in and engage the reader from the very start. They also learned how to share their story creatively using fresh language and sensory details, honesty and clarity.

Angie Joseph, a 2017 Champions For Learning graduate and recent Florida Atlantic University graduate, was one of the volunteers on hand working one-on-one with students. “I think the most interesting thing I learned today is the amount of fear there is revolving around being boastful. I wanted to assure the students that they could be proud of what they have achieved and own their truths.”

“I wanted them to walk away with a better understanding of how to write a personal statement that was both true to themselves and their personalities. After speaking to them, I wanted them to come alive on the page… I’m excited to see them go for it!”

The college admissions process, and in particular the essay writing process, gives students the invaluable opportunity to delve into who they are and who they’re becoming, but it can be an overwhelming experience. This week, Champions For Learning students were empowered by the experience and, in turn, volunteers were inspired as they watched them grow.

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Community Funds Over $95,000 in 2020-2021 Classroom Grants


The Classroom Grant opportunity continues to impact thousands of students throughout Collier County’s schools, both public and independent. This provides the ability for teachers to experience the support of a community committed to a variety of learning experiences. Even with such an uncertain start to the school year, teachers utilized the Classroom Grant portal to request what they needed for their classrooms, and the community responded graciously.

The Classroom Grant online portal allows teachers to request classroom grants that are funded directly by the community to create innovative learning experiences for their students. 100% of these contributions go directly into the classroom for teachers to use with students immediately.

The impact of this grant will continue to be evident as we progress through this year and years to come.”
– Kathleen Lawler, Pelican Marsh Elementary School


Below are just two examples of the 170 fully funded projects from the 2020-2021 school year:

Project: Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art

Teacher: Carole Burns

School: Veterans Memorial Elementary School

Grade(s): 1st Grade

Impact: 34 students impacted

Cost: $484.80

Investor: Suncoast Credit Union

“The art comes to life throughout the year in our kindergarten classroom as the students explore key social studies and science concepts and standards through art and language using a process called Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art.

Each student created water-color crayon resist artwork to represent learnings during the Science and Social Studies curriculum. The students then wrote poems about fall and about USA symbols, accessing descriptive language and literary devices from their paintings.

These pictures provide an example of how essential concepts, important language arts skills, and the arts can be integrated into one dynamic learning experience.”

– Carole Burns, Veterans Memorial Elementary


Project: Close Emotionally – while social distancing – WE DINE TOGETHER, thanks to you!

Teacher: Anna Bowe

School: Lely High School

Grade(s): 9 – 12 Grades

Impact: 1,000+ students impacted

Cost: $999.01

Investor: Perna-Rose Foundation of Hope

In its second year, the “Friendship Garden” at Lely High School continues to flourish.  As a project of the We Dine Together International Club, the students designed and created the garden in the 2019-20 school year as a place of relaxation, conversation and connection.

During this school year, the garden has taken on a deeper meaning as students navigate the COVID-related restrictions and learn how to make this a space to foster connection in the midst of separation.  The students are learning not only how to plan a garden space, but also how to consider others and create a space for emotional growth and healing.


The Classroom Grant portal is currently closed for individual grants, but will reopen in July 2021 for new grant requests for the 2021-2022 school year.

To support teachers’ great ideas and donate to the general Classroom Grants Fund for 2021-2022, click HERE or text “APPLE21” to 44-321.

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Groups work together to provide bikes for college-bound students

Groups work together to provide bikes for college-bound students

Link to WINK News story

Champions For Learning staff and student receiving bikeTransportation is expensive, but especially for young, college-bound students. A car may be out of reach for those who have big college plans and a small budget.

Now, two groups in Collier County are teaming up to make sure that dozens of students have a way to get from place to place.

Three college-bound Champions For Learning students receive bikes


Bryan just graduated from Naples High School. “Learning quality material meeting great people and just getting to live life with like-minded friends,” he said.

There’s no doubt that 2021 high school graduates are ready to spread their wings and fly. But, before they head off to their respective campuses, they need a way to get around.

Dorothy Whipple is a mentor at Champions for Learning. “The students need it. Most of them don’t have the money for cars,” said Whipple.

Some are looking for a way to move about campus and get to class. Others need a way to get to work.

Bikes For Tykes Naples

Djully graduated from Lely High School recently. “The new change having new opportunities to live for myself,” she said.

Todd Geroy is with Bikes for Tykes. “You know, all these students are going to be going off to college, and it will be their transportation,” Geroy said.

Todd Geroy from Bikes for Tykes is teaming up with Champions for Learning to help these new graduates transition to college a bit more smoothly.

Jonh Whipple is also a mentor with Champions for Learning. “It’s really surprising that so many kids that are going to college have never been on a bike they don’t know the front from the back, so we’re giving bike lessons here today,” said John.

Bryan has decided he’s staying local and will be going to FGCU. With some help, he picked out the perfect ride on Friday.

“I was looking at it since the beginning it was kind of calling my name,” he said.

This new ride may not have air conditioning, and only has two wheels but it still makes a world of difference.

“I’m super excited I’m going to be riding it a lot it’s going to be put to great use,” said Brian.

And of course, that’s what matters the most.

This is the first year that Champions for Learning and Bikes for Tykes teamed up to give away bikes to new graduates. Altogether, they were able to give away more than 40 bikes.

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