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‘It’s one of the most gratifying things I have done’; More Mentors Needed

Champions For Learning is dedicated to creating life-changing learning experiences for students. One way this is achieved is through the mentor program Champions For Learning offers.

Students are accepted into the program in 8th grade and matched with a mentor through high school. Someone who encourages them and helps them achieve their career and colleges goals after graduation.

Many mentors involved in the program have done so for years. Wayne Mullican has been mentoring students through Champions For Learning over four years.

“I did this for the gratification of helping students succeed in life,” says Mullican. “It is one of the most gratifying things I have done.”

Mullican says mentoring is a way to give back to his community when his golf game is not doing great.

More Mentors Needed 

At the end of the month, the process of matching current 8th graders, who have just been selected into the Champions For Learning program, with mentors will take place. However, Champions For Learning is in need of more wonderful mentors who want to support education in Collier County and impact students’ lives.

CFL is in search of people like mentor Dottie Whipple.

“I value education. I went to college my whole life at night,” says Whipple.

Whipple says as a single mother, she worked hard for her education. Her and her son were in college at the same time. Whipple graduated a year before her son.

Whipple says she did not know about Champions For Learning and its mentor program when her son was in high school. Instead, she was the champion and mentor for him. Now, knowing about the program, she is able to help other students succeed.

“It’s wonderful to help someone look forward to a future they never though they would achieve,” says Whipple.

Dottie volunteers alongside her husband, John Whipple.

“It’s like being a guide. Helping these students get to the next level,” says John.

Volunteers such as Wayne, Dottie and John are the reason many high schoolers in Collier County are successful in high school and move on to accomplish great things. It is because these high schoolers have someone in addition to their parents in their corner, rooting for them and helping them.

Becoming a Mentor

If you are wanting to give back to the community, consider becoming a mentor today. A schedule for upcoming meetings and gatherings for those wanting to become a mentor can be found under ‘Learn More’ on the Champions For Learning website. To apply to become a mentor and for more information on the mentor program, you can visit the Champions For Learning website.

Mentors should have 2+ years of Collier/Lee County residency. A minimum of 15 sessions with your mentee is required within the academic calendar year. All new individuals seeking to become a mentor are asked to attend an All About Mentoring learning session, to better understand information regarding the mentoring program and the role and responsibilities of a mentor, including the next steps to becoming a mentor. Champions For Learning provides training and workshops to attend with your mentee, and networking events with other mentors.

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Suncoast Credit Union Impacting Student’s Financial Futures

The Suncoast Credit Union is making a difference in the lives of Champions For Learning students in various ways. From financial lessons, to providing five, $2,000 scholarships to 2022 high school seniors, it is evident Suncoast Credit Union cares about future generations success.

“Young adulthood is a great time to learn money management techniques that can last a lifetime. Familiarizing high schoolers with financial concepts empowers them to make wise decisions when they become financially independent,” said Rhiannon Ray, Youth Outreach Specialist at Suncoast Credit Union.

Suncoast Credit Union has hosted multiple zoom sessions with Champions For Learning. Financial experts from the credit union have provided students guidance on financial situations they may encounter after graduation.

“I knew a few things about it [finances], but this presentation really explained credit scores and what I can focus on later on when I’m trying to build my credit, or buy a home or get a loan.” said Juliana, Champions for Learning student and 9th grader at Lely High School. “It really explained and elaborated what I need to pursue later on in my future.”

Financial experts from Suncoast Credit Union discussed factors to consider when preparing for financial independence. Topics such as budgeting, how to use credit wisely, preparing for future bills and how to open a checking and savings account were just a few of the topics discussed.

“We hope to create a space where learners can ask questions, set goals, and learn the necessary steps to becoming financially secure,” said Ray.

For some students, the topic of financial independence is relevant now. This is true for Juliana. She is only a freshman, but is already preparing for life after she receives her drivers license by planning to buy a car of her own.

“I do a lot of sports and extracurriculars. I feel like it’s very important to have stable transportation,” said Juliana.

Already having a solid grasp on finances, Juliana says the zoom session was still beneficial.

“Essentially, I really need to budget more. When it comes to budgeting, I have to find a value of how much I want to spend on myself, on the car and on other things like food and bills I might have to pay later on,” she said.

Now with the financial advice from Suncoast Credit Union, Juliana hopes to soon get a job, then save and budget for a car.

In addition to the financial literacy lessons being hosted by Suncoast Credit Union, each year the credit union invests in our community through five, $2,000 scholarships available to all Collier County seniors.

“We believe the best way we can build better communities is by investing in education and health-related initiatives for children,” said Cindy Helton, Executive Director of the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation. “Through the Suncoast Credit Union Scholars program, we have the opportunity to invest in individual human potential, which is particularly rewarding.”

For more information on the Suncoast Credit Union Scholarship as well as qualifications, visit the Champions For Learning Website. 

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Creating Champions for Night of Champions

The preparation for an event the caliber of Night of Champions begins months out. However, the color schemes and seating charts are not the only things being prepared.

“The preparation for Night of Champions happened well before the event. The prep started weeks ago during our lab sessions with students,” says Ashlie Johnson, Chief Program Officer, Champions For Learning.

12th grade students began preparing for Night of Champions weeks prior to the event.

What began with networking mixers ended with high school seniors putting their newly learned skills to the test Friday, February 4th.

Night of Champions is a signature event at Champions For Learning, this year sponsored by Huntington Private Bank. The event celebrates the community of Champions that have changed the lives of hundreds of Collier County students. This important celebration showcases the vibrant community, students and volunteers who help make Champions For Learning successful.

High school seniors who participated in this year’s event first learned how to converse with a stranger. They were taught and practiced scenarios such as entering a conversation, exiting a conversation and interrupting a conversation.

The following week, students put their newly learned conversation skills to the test at the Naples Yacht Club, where they learned proper etiquette and table manners. Former Mayor of Naples, Bill Barnett and Brenda O’Connor of the Naples Yacht Club, were in attendance to teach students the power of a good handshake.

“All of the efforts we have made in preparation, were truly to equip the students so they could be authentically themselves and actually enjoy the evening,” says Johnson.

Preparation for the event also included teaching students how to write an effective thank you note. This, to ensure table hosts at the event are shown appreciation and thanked.

These lifelong lessons will set students up for success in whatever they do.

High school seniors are not the only students being impacted by this event. Students like Jeffrey, an 11th grader at Lorenzo Walker TechnicalStudents conversing at Night of Champions High School and part of the Champions for Learning program, recognize the importance of Night of Champions.

‘I felt like it was an opportunity for me to contribute to the community, especially Champions For Learning. I know they do a lot for the students. The least you can do as a student is try and help contribute with them,” says Jeffrey.

Jeffrey dedicated a Monday afternoon to helping Champions For Learning stuff envelopes for the event. A tedious task that he completed with a smile.

“I could be home, doing some homework or just chilling in my room. I felt like, I always want to contribute, especially with this program. They offer a lot of opportunities. They offer a lot of help for not just me, but to every single student who is a part of Champions,” says Jeffrey.

Next year, current 11th graders like Jeffrey in the Champions For Learning program will have the same opportunity to learn etiquette and life skills in preparation for Night of Champions.

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Introducing UPLIFT

“Champions aren’t born, we lift each other up.”
The mission of Champions For Learning is grounded in the vision of a fully engaged community. UPLIFT, our new newsletter, highlights community members who are contributing to their community and lifting one another up through the work of Champions For Learning.

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Celebrating Champions

This piece was originally printed in Naples Illustrated (January 2022): https://www.naplesillustrated.com/ni-current-issue/

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Our students are AMAZING. Join in and support students directly.

Our students are AMAZING.

Given the right tools, they can and do succeed.

Support students directly. 

Here’s how you can help: 

Support the Take Stock in Children


Through a four-year mentoring program, graduates earn a 2-year scholarship to FL state colleges & technical schools.


Invest in


Provide in-person support for students in financial aid, career exploration, goal-setting and self-advocacy.


Provide students with


Help students overcome barriers to stay on track.


Invest in


Connects interested students with technical pathways, in collaboration with Lorenzo Walker Technical College. 


Reserve your table for the


February 4, 2022 | Celebrate this year’s Champions for the tremendous impact they make on our students. Proceeds support Champon’s student programs. Click HERE to purchase tickets or a table. 


Join In.

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Champions For Learning to Name Five Suncoast Credit Union Scholars in 2022

The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation is partnering with the Champions For Learning to offer 5 of $2,000 scholarship awards to high school graduates in the Class of 2022. Class of 2022 high school graduates in Suncoast Credit Union’s 21-county service territory have the opportunity to apply for financial support to continue their education, thanks to a $116,000 investment in scholarships by the Tampa-based credit union’s Foundation.

Applications will be open now through February 11, 2022 and are available at https://championsforlearning.awardspring.com/.

This year’s Suncoast Credit Union Scholars program represents a continued philosophy of the foundation to support education initiatives and the well-being and potential of children.  Since its inception in 1990, the Foundation has contributed more than $33 million including more than $2.4 million in scholarships.

“We believe the best way we can build better communities is by investing in education and health-related initiatives for children,” said Cindy Helton, Executive Director of the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.  “Through the Suncoast Credit Union Scholars program, we have the opportunity to invest in individual human potential, which is particularly rewarding.”

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Champions For Learning Announces 2021-2022 Champions

Champions For Learning is proud to announce this year’s honored Champions and Heart of the Apple recipients.

The honorees are being recognized at the Night of Champions Dinner on Friday, February 4, 2022, at Arthrex One for their impact on the lives of students through mentoring, leadership, collaboration and community involvement with educators or students. These honored Champions exemplify what it means to make a commitment to our students and their future. As a partner with Arthrex, sharing a common vision for innovation in our community, we are pleased to be hosting this special celebration at Arthrex One.

The 2021-22 Night of Champions honorees are: Hope Daley and Matt Dykes of Guerilla Media, Guenther Gosch, Angie E. Joseph, Janet Perna and Melanie Rose of the Perna-Rose Foundation for Hope, and Kristy Schoen Pollard of the Schoen Foundation. This year’s Heart of the Apple recipients, Marcelo and Betty Alvarez, are also being honored for their sustained and committed leadership in support of building the culture of learning in our community through the mission of Champions For Learning.

“It is a great honor to be highlighting a group of community leaders who are dedicated to impacting students,” says Susan McManus, President of Champions For Learning. ”The Night of Champions honorees truly embody what it is to be a Champion for our students’ future.”

We would like to thank our generous sponsors:

Presenting sponsor: Huntington Private Bank

Major sponsors include Naples Daily News, Naples Illustrated, Suncoast Credit Union, Stock Development, and scholarship sponsor, Florida Gulf Coast University.

Proceeds will support Champions For Learning student programs. Tickets for this event are $350. To learn more about how you can join in, please visit https://championsforlearning.org/night-of-champions/ or call (239) 643-4755.

Table and event sponsorships are also available. For more information, please contact Champions For Learning at 239-643-4755 or Events@ChampionsForLearning.org.

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Champions For Learning Announces 2021-2022 Glass Slipper Recipients

Champions For Learning is proud to announce the 2021-2022 Glass Slipper recipients. The honorees are Stephanie Lucarelli, Dianne Mayberry-Hatt, and Marty McCune (see below for bios).

Each year, the Glass Slipper event is held to honor female leaders for their dedication and service to the children of Collier County. This event and recognition program benefits young ladies who are graduates of Champions For Learning scholarship and mentoring programs and helps meet their needs as college students. Since the inception of the Glass Slipper event in 2004, $130,000 has been raised, providing 26 young women the funding needed to complete their degrees. The goal for this year’s event is to raise $30,000 to purchase scholarships for an additional 6 young women.

Join Champions For Learning in honoring the Glass Slipper recipients at a reception and luncheon, held on December 9, 2021 at 11:30 am – 1:00 pm at The Club at Olde Cypress. A presentation featuring the three honorees and students will be followed by a silent auction perfect for holiday shopping.

This year’s event is being co-chaired by Gina Lostracco and Dottie Whipple, both previous Glass Slipper honorees. The event is being sponsored by Naples Daily News and Naples Illustrated, and hosted by Stock Development.

Meet the 2021-2022 Glass Slipper Recipients:

Stephanie Lucarelli is a committed advocate for education and Champions for Learning. She has been on the Board of Directors and has helped with various event committees.  She mentored for three years, with one mentee graduating last year, and is currently mentoring a 9th grade student.  She is involved with the grants committee and serves as a Champions Ambassador. Her passion is an inspiration to many and she is very deserving of this award.



Dianne Mayberry-Hatt has been a “champion” for education for many years. Her commitment to every facet of the mission of Champions For Learning’s mission, along with her significant leadership has distinguished her service. Dianne is a past board chair, has mentored three young ladies, has been a part of the Golden Apple Committee, Connect Now and the Classroom Grants Committee.



Marty McCune has been a committed mentor with Champions for five years and she is currently mentoring her second student.  She also serves as a mentor liaison supporting other mentors in their mentoring experience.  She has been highly involved as a Champions Ambassador, helping to recruit new people to the organization and raising awareness in the community, along with pitching in to help with office projects, events and teacher appreciation deliveries.


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Who are the top teachers in Collier schools? Teachers of Distinction named ahead of Golden Apples

by Rachel Fradette, Naples Daily News

In Immokalee, where Bray has taught for seven years at Lake Trafford Elementary School, she is part of the family, she said.

Amanda Bray, center, a fourth grade teacher at Lake Trafford Elementary School in Immokalee was named a Teacher of Distinction by the Champions For Learning organization on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. She is a teacher from Collier County Schools who is on the short list for the Golden Apple Awards. Presenting the award are Amy Snyder, right, from Champions For Learning and Marie Clement, from Suncoast Credit Union in Immokalee. On the left is principal Joy Alvarez.

“Immokalee is like my second home,” Bray said. “I love it here.”

For Bray, she wants to make proud those families who made her welcome.

Bray was one of 60 teachers representing 58 schools in Collier County to be recognized Tuesday with a Teachers of Distinction award from Champions For Learning. From this list, a selection committee will pick six teachers for a Golden Apple Award.

Every school in Collier County can nominate a teacher and that teacher’s best practice. Teachers receive a $250 prize, a nomination for a Golden Apple Award and participate in networking to share practices with other teachers.

Who is your school’s Teacher of Distinction? Collier’s education foundation released the list

In her classroom, Bray transforms her space into different experiences, like Multiplication Inc. based on Disney’s Monster Inc., because she wants her students more involved in learning.

“You learn more when you have a memory that goes with it rather than just memorizing things,” Bray said. “I try to always make my classroom memorable for the kids.”

Monica Drew, center right, a first grade teacher at Eden Park Elementary School in Immokalee was named a Teacher of Distinction by the Champions For Learning organization on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. She is a teacher from Collier County Schools who is on the short list for the Golden Apple Awards. Presenting the award is Amy Snyder, second from left, from Champions For Learning and Marie Clement, left, Suncoast Credit Union in Immokalee. Suncoast Credit Union is a sponsor. Principal, Mark Frehe is third from left.At Eden Park Elementary, Monica Drew is creating leaders in her first-grade classroom.

One of those leaders is 6-year-old Jason Gomez. He takes his role as teacher’s assistant seriously.

He sharpens pencils, writes the date and mission on the board and plugs in their class laptops.

“I have to do my job,” Gomez said.

Her students, like Gomez, are motivated to be responsible for themselves, so Drew utilizes her best practice that keeps leadership exercises at the forefront.

“They all have those little incentives inside themselves, and that’s what I want to bring out,” Drew said.

Drew said she hopes her students will take what they are learning and bring what they learn home.

“Yes, they’re only six and seven years old, but they are capable of so much and if they can do that here, imagine what they can do when they get older not just in school and the community and in their homes,” Drew said. “That’s why I do it.”

Ashley Wippel, center, a teacher at Immokalee High School was named a Teacher of Distinction by the Champions For Learning organization on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. She is a teacher from Collier County Schools who is on the short list for the Golden Apple Awards. She is flanked by Marie Clement from Suncoast Credit Union in Immokalee, left, and Amy Snyder from Champions For Learning, right.“They can disagree with their opinions, but they always come prepared and it’s nice to see them self-motivated,” Wippel said.

Wippel, who started teaching in Collier schools eight years ago, said she tries to empower her students to be confident in their own abilities.

Wippel said she loves to teach in Immokalee so much that she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

In his more than 20 years in career and technical education, Immokalee Technical College’s executive director Dorin Oxender said he had never met a better instructor than Robert Boyle.

“He’s a rock star,” Oxender said.

Boyle started teaching Immokalee Technical College’s heavy equipment service technician program three years ago.

Robert Boyle, a teacher at Immokalee Technical College was named a Teacher of Distinction by the Champions For Learning organization on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. He is a teacher from Collier County Schools who is on the short list for the Golden Apple Awards.

In the program, which has a 100% job placement rate, Boyle said he expects excellence from his students.

“I try to teach them that to get ahead in this business, to actually do well in this business, you have to continuously learn,” Boyle said.

His practice starts his students in the classroom working on reading, quizzes and open discussion about practices, and then he starts hands-on labs, like tearing apart engines.

“We do practical hands-on labs using all of the tools and equipment that they would normally use in the field,” Boyle said.

Boyle, who worked as a heavy equipment technician for more than 35 years, said he was “deeply, honestly moved” by the recognition.

“It means a lot to me to be recognized for what I do,” Boyle said. “But more importantly, for my program to be recognized for what it does because this is not just me, it’s the school. It’s the students. It’s all of my sponsors, my sponsoring employers. I mean they all have a big piece of this.”

Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at rfradette@gannett.com.

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