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Becoming A Champion For My Commmunity : Billensky

Hi, My name is Billensky and I’m a senior at Golden Gate High School. I live with my mother, my sister, and my grandmother. I have a job and work to help with household expenses, and I try to save money for the future when I can. Five years ago, my school counselor shared an opportunity with me that changed my life. I completed my application, and after a selection process, was inducted into Champions For Learning. I was matched with a mentor and was given the promise of a two-year college scholarship when I graduated high school.
When I was standing on stage being inducted, I looked out into the audience and saw a room full of people cheering me and my classmates on and realized I was a part of something far bigger than I could ever imagine. That evening I met my mentor for the first time as well as the donor that had funded my scholarship. My mother always encouraged me to work hard in school, which I did, but now I had a mentor and donor that I was determined not to let down.
Meeting regularly with the staff at Champions For Learning and my mentor has helped me stay on track and develop a plan for my future. Thanks to Champions For Learning, I’ve had the opportunity to visit several of the universities in Florida. That really helped me decide on which colleges to apply to. Without Champions For Learning, I wouldn’t have known where to start. Going to the weekly college and career preparation labs have also helped me learn how to network and how to prepare a resume. They also had volunteers who sat with me and my mom to help us complete my financial aid applications.
Champions For Learning has been there every step of the way. Today I have over a 4.0 GPA, I’ve completed my college and financial aid applications, and I’ve done over 100 hours of community service. I’m proud to say that I will be the first in my family to go to college! I have already received three college acceptances and $90,000 in scholarship offers – on top of the scholarship I earn through Champions For Learning. I’m so grateful to my teachers, my mentor, the Champions For Learning staff, and all the volunteers that have helped me along the way. Though I haven’t decided what college to attend yet, I’m looking forward to studying business and returning to Collier County, where I’ve grown up, and help pay it forward to the next group of students. Stay Tuned!
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Champions For Learning Announces Collier County Teachers of Distinction

Champions for Learning is excited to announce the 2019-2020 Teachers of Distinction for Collier County. As part of the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program, each school in Collier County Public Schools has the opportunity to nominate a teacher and best practice to highlight on behalf of their school. From this group of 53 Teachers of Distinction, Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee will identify the Golden Apple recipients.
The Teachers of Distinction not only receive a $250 cash award and multiple celebration activities, but also have the opportunity to share their ideas and practices across the county with their colleagues and the community through this process. With a vision of a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success, Champions For Learning creates opportunities for educators that support high impact learning experiences for every child.
The Teachers of Distinction and the Golden Apple recipients will be honored at the 30th Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner presented by Suncoast Credit Union on April 3, 2020 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.
Thanks to Presenting Sponsor, Suncoast Credit Union for the support provided educators. Generous support is also provided by Golden Apple Major Sponsors: Conditioned Air, eBella Magazine, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting, and Stock Development.
Opportunities to sponsor a school to attend the event are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales go to www.ChampionsForLearning.org/GA

Full List of Teachers of Distinction and Best Practice 

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Champions For Learning Awards More Than $75,000 In Classroom Grants

Today, Collier County teachers were surprised by Champions For Learning board members, volunteers and supporters as they received funds for their classroom grants.

During the course of the day, Champions For Learning awarded 136 grant checks that totaled $75,448 to 42 schools. The checks will provide teachers with the funds needed to implement creative and innovative learning experiences for students.These classroom grants were requested by Collier County teachers through the online grant portal on Champions For Learning’s website. The community can go to the website and fund requests (up to $2,000). This online grant program began in 2003 to enable the community to support teachers.

Thanks to a charitable gift from Suncoast Credit Union, which supports the technology and capacity for the classroom grant portal, 100% of community contribution goes into supporting teacher grants. The following provided significant contributions to fund specific teacher grants: Suncoast Credit Union, Florida’s Support Education License Plate Fund, Lucie Jenny MacCarthy Music Fund of the Community Foundation of Collier County, Perna-Rose Foundation for Hope, and Ray Harman in memory of Karen Harman.

Help provide life-changing learning experiences to students! There are still opportunities to fund a teacher’s great idea. Visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org/CWACgrants to support local classrooms today! 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 tag now, $20 of the annual $25 fee is donated to Champions For Learning and 100% of the funds support classroom grants.

Full List of Classroom Grant Recipients 

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Announcing William R. Barker as 2018-2019 Heart of the Apple Recipient

Champions For Learning is proud to announce the recognition of William R. (Bill) Barker as the 2018-19 Heart of the Apple recipient. 

Each year, Champions For Learning awards a Heart of the Apple in recognition of sustained and committed leadership in support of building the culture of learning in our community through the mission of Champions For Learning.

Bill’s professional interests as a career newspaper professional, and his own personal commitment to education and the role that education plays in thriving communities has inspired his leadership of Champions For Learning, The Education Foundation of Collier County.

As the Regional President, Southeast, LOCALiQ and USA Today Network, and the Publisher of the Naples Daily News, Bill has been instrumental in continuing the almost 30-year partnership between Naples Daily News and Champions For Learning, with the newspaper as one of the founding partners.

Bill has very clearly identified education as a fundamental driver of community and economy.  And, as a Board Chair, and now Immediate Past Chair, Bill has provided significant leadership and has left a lasting imprint on the development of Champions For Learning.  He has long understood the significant and unique role of an education foundation, and he leveraged his talents and vision to support Champions For Learning’s role in community collaboration, and was a catalyst in the effort to bring a community together around common goals through Future Ready Collier. 

Bringing his own strengths to this work has helped to “shine the light” on the fundamental role that Champions For Learning, teachers, students and mentors play in changing lives every day—making sure our students and teachers know they are worthy of headlines.

 “We are excited to honor Bill who has had a significant impact on this generation of young people, and by extension, our entire community,” explains Susan McManus, President of Champions For Learning. “Bill truly embodies the Heart of the Apple award through his passion for helping teachers and students.”

Barker, along with all of the honored teachers in the Golden Apple teacher recognition program will be honored at the 29th Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner presented by Suncoast Credit Union on March 29, 2019 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Opportunities to sponsor a school to attend the event are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales, click here.

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Golden Apple Recipients Announced!

Today, students in six Collier County classrooms received bushels of Golden Delicious apples as their teachers were surprised with Golden Apple awards, which highlight best practices in teaching.  Representatives from Suncoast Credit Union, Presenting Sponsor of the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program, were joined by Champions For Learning board members, sponsors, and volunteers to present the awards to the teachers in their classrooms.

59 Teachers of Distinction (4 co-teacher teams) representing 55 Collier County Public Schools shared their best practices. Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee identified six (6) practices to highlight as part of the Golden Apple process.

Congratulations to the following 2018-2019 Golden Apple recipients.  See attached list for the names of the Teachers of Distinction.

  • Philip G. Barton, Immokalee Middle School
  • Kim Benedict, Gulf Coast High School
  • Stephanie Cashion/Deniece Giovinazzo (Co-Teachers), East Naples Middle School
  • Krista Fusco, Vineyards Elementary School
  • Ashley Stafford, Lake Park Elementary School
  • Jill Striz, Village Oaks Elementary School

 “At Suncoast Credit Union, we believe that the stronger we make our teachers, the stronger our students will be. For this reason, we create opportunities for educators to share best practices and to grow professionally,“ said Cindy Helton executive director of the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.  “The Golden Apple Awards enable us to recognize teachers whose dedication and practices stand above the rest. We hope that the grants will inspire them to continue investing in our students and to develop innovative practices.”  

The 2018-2019 Golden Apple recipients will each receive a grant (up to $5,000) from Suncoast Credit Union to allow the building of best practices.  All Teachers of Distinction receive a $250 award, and the Golden Apple recipients receive an additional cash award thanks to the Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation. 

The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation is funded through the credit union members’ use of their debit and credit cards. The Suncoast for Schools Rewards Debit Card and VISA Credit Card program automatically generates funds that are dedicated to education and health-related initiatives benefiting children in the local community.

The community will honor and thank the Golden Apple Recipients, Teachers of Distinction, and Collier County Public Schools’ Teachers of the Year at the Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner on March 29, 2019.  We will also be honoring William R. Barker as the 2018-2019 Heart of the Apple recipient for his contribution to our community.

The 2019 Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers is presented by Suncoast Credit Union and is generously hosted by the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Additional support is provided by our Major Sponsors: Conditioned Air, eBella Magazine, the Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2, and Wells Fargo.

The event hashtag will be #GoldenAppleCollier and #Champs4Collier

Opportunities to sponsor a school to attend the event are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales go to www.ChampionsForLearning.org/GA.

Families, students, and the entire community are invited to join in the celebration by tuning in to NBC-2 for the Golden Apple television program highlighting the great work of teachers in Collier County classrooms.  The program will be aired on Friday, March 29 on NBC-2 at 8:00pm, and rebroadcast multiple times after on The Education Channel.

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Corky and Chuck Carlsen Announced as Champions For Learning Mentors of the Year

Chuck and Corky first became involved with Champions For Learning by mentoring two students through the Take Stock in Children program, and brought their passion to the success of their mentees.

Chuck joined the Board of Directors and serves as the Vice Chair of Community Outreach. His leadership with the Champions For Learning Ambassadors Council has helped the volunteer outreach group to recruit a significant number of volunteers and mentors. Chuck and Corky are also this year’s Mentors of the Year.

Chuck and Corky not only give their time, but also provide philanthropic leadership.   Last year, they were instrumental in meeting a financial matching challenge for the College and Career Preparation Program that helps to sustain support for future students.  Their impact is put best by Isabel, Corky’s mentee, “My experience with my mentor is a one in a million.”

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Champions For Learning Honors Community Leaders at Night of Champions

On February 1 ,Champions For Learning is honored community leaders. These individuals were honored 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.

“We are honored to be highlighting these community leaders who have immense dedication to impacting students and teachers,” says Susan McManus, President of Champions For Learning. ” The Night of Champions honorees truly embody what it is to be a Champion.”

Proceeds for this event helped support Champions For Learning student programs including College & Career Readiness programs and scholarships.

The 2019 Night of Champions honorees are:

  • Ingrid & Fabrizio Aielli: Ingrid and Fabrizio are the owners of the Aielli Group, a company that operates the restaurants Sea Salt Naples, Sea Salt St. Pete, Barbatella, and Dorona. 
  • Stacy & Todd Bradley: Todd, of Cummings & Lockwood, serves on the Planned Giving Council. Stacy, a long-time educator, has volunteered on the Golden Apple Selection and Grants Committee.
  • Corky & Chuck Carlsen: Corky and Chuck became involved with Champions For Learning by mentoring two students through the Take Stock in Children program. Corky and Chuck are the 2019 Mentors of the Year.
  • Yolanda Flores: Yolanda is currently the Administrative Director for Postsecondary Adult and Community Education for Collier County Public Schools.
  • Florida Prepaid College Foundation: Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Foundation has awarded over 44,705 scholarships and collaborated with 170 local community-based organizations.
  • Mary Lynn Hill: Mary Lynn serves on the Champions Advisory Council and as a active Glass Slipper Alumni recipient, helps to raise scholarship money for female graduates.
  • Sharon Hood: As founder and publisher of èBella magazine, Sharon enjoys telling her 22,000 readers about Champions For Learning and how they can get involved.
  • Charles Kerwood III: Charlie, of Waller Financial, is involved through the Planned Giving Council and serves on a student selection committee for Champions For Learning.
  • Mike Martin: As current President of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), Mike has brought his philosophy that to be a good citizen people need to participate in the community.
  • Dawna E. Pipersburg: Dawna, of Rembrandt Accounting, is involved in the Take Stock in Children student selection committee. and serves on Champions For Learning’s Board of Directors.
  • Steve Pontius: Steve is the Executive Vice President of Waterman Broadcasting Corporation and General Manager of our NBC2 media partner.
  • Carol Windfeldt: Carol, a long-time volunteer, has helped facilitate the organization’s strategic planning process, most recently resulting in the new vision and refreshed mission statement.
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Florida’s Support Education Specialty License Plate Gets a Fresh Look

After 25 years and more than a million miles on Florida’s highways, the Support Education specialty license plate has a fresh look. While the design is new, the cause remains the same – when a Florida resident purchases or renews their Support Education specialty tag, $20 goes directly back to support schools, teachers and students in the county where the tag is registered.  In Collier County, Champions For Learning, The Education Foundation of Collier County, invests 100% of those proceeds into classroom grants.

Since its introduction as Florida’s second specialty license plate in 1994, over $13 million dollars has been raised through the collaborative efforts of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF) and local education foundation members throughout the state.

The new design promotes the importance of education in the Sunshine State and is among only a few specialty tags in Florida where the money goes directly back into the county where the tag was purchased or renewed. Florida’s K-12 local education foundations invest in classroom innovation, recognize excellence, and provide targeted support beyond what tax dollars provide such as free school supplies for students who can’t afford them, classroom grants for teachers and after-school enrichment programs.

“The Support Education specialty tag is a powerful way for citizens to demonstrate their commitment to our public schools and provide needed, local support for teachers and students,”

Said Mary Chance, president of the CFEF.  “We are so excited to debut the new design and hope more Florida drivers will support their local teachers and students with the purchase or renewal of the Support Education license tag.”

The annual fee for the Support Education specialty license plate is $25. Local taxes and state fees may apply and first-time purchase price and fees may vary based on scheduled vehicle registration renewal date. The new Support Education tag design is available now and can be purchased in-person at your local tax collector office or online at LicenseToLearnFL.com.

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Champions For Learning Open House

New year, new opportunity to learn how to be a life-changer! Champions For Learning is kicking off the new year by opening our doors and inviting the community to connect with our students, teachers, volunteers, and staff, and tour our newly renovated space. 

Attendees of the open house will learn about the mission, impact and ways to get involved.  Bring a friend!

What:  Champions For Learning Open House
When:  Friday, January 18, 2019
When:  3 pm – 6 pm
Where:  3606 Enterprise Avenue, Naples, FL  34104

For information, please RSVP to Rachel Welch at RWelch@ChampionsForLearning.org or (239) 643-4755.

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Golden Apple Recipients Announced!

On February 23 students in five Collier County classrooms received bushels of Golden Delicious apples as their teachers were surprised with Golden Apple awards, which highlight best practices in teaching.  Representatives from Suncoast Credit Union, presenting sponsor of the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program, were joined by Champions For Learning board members, sponsors, and volunteers to present the awards to the teachers in their classrooms.

This year each school  brought forward a teacher and best practice to highlight on behalf of their school. From this group of Teachers of Distinction, Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee identified five teachers to highlight as Golden Apple recipients.

Congratulations to the following 2017-18 Golden Apple recipients.  See attached list for the names of Teachers of Distinction.

  • Staci Haralson Barretta, Big Cypress Elementary
  • Hope Cliff, Sea Gate Elementary
  • Mary B. Eckard, Highlands Elementary
  • Dylan Richard Opper, Pinecrest Elementary
  • Heather Thornton, Gulf Coast High

“At Suncoast Credit Union, we believe that the stronger we make our teachers, the stronger our students will be. For this reason, we create opportunities for educators to share best practices and to grow professionally, “ said Cindy Helton executive director of the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.  “The Golden Apple Awards enable us to recognize teachers whose dedication and practices stand above the rest. We hope that the grants will inspire them to continue investing in our students and to develop innovative practices.”

The 2017-18 Golden Apple recipients will each receive a grant (up to $5,000) from Suncoast Credit Union to allow the building of best practices.  All Teachers of Distinction receive a $250 award, and the Golden Apple recipients receive an additional $500 award thanks to the Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation.

The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation is funded through the credit union members’ use of their debit and credit cards. The Suncoast for Schools Rewards Debit Card and VISA Credit Card program automatically generates funds that are dedicated to education and health-related initiatives benefiting children in the local community.

The community will honor and thank the Golden Apple Recipients, Teachers of Distinction, and Collier County Public Schools Teachers of the Year at the Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner on April 16, 2018.  We will also be honoring Thomas Riley as the 2017-2018 Heart of the Apple recipient for his contribution to our community.

The event is presented by Suncoast Credit Union and is generously hosted by the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Additional support is provided by Adams Food, Inc./McDonald’s, CenturyLink, Conditioned Air, eBella Magazine, the Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2, Perna-Rose Foundation for Hope, Wells Fargo.

The event hashtag will be #goldenapplecollier and #Champions4Collier

Opportunities to sponsor a school to attend the event are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales click here.

Families, students, and the entire community are invited to join in the celebration by tuning in to NBC-2 for the Golden Apple television program highlighting the great work of teachers in Collier County classrooms.  The program will be aired on April 22 on NBC-2 at 7:00pm, and rebroadcast multiple times after on The Education Channel.

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