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Celebrating our Champions — Supporting Educational Opportunities for All

Honoring those who succeed when it comes to education means looking at the entire community. It’s about the work the teachers, students and families contribute that really sets young learners up for the future.

This year, honoring the 2021 Champions felt a little different. We watched the entire Collier County community deal with rapid-fire changes. The pandemic made learning different, made engaging with others different, but it never changed the core values we hold close to our hearts at Champions For Learning.

Providing close to $3.8 million in support to students and educators within Collier County each year, we strive to engage the entire community in student success. To date, we’ve impacted 32,000 students. This number continues to grow as we create life-changing learning experiences for all.

Giving families and teachers what they need to stay focused on the future is a tenant of Champions for Learning, and each of our honorees at this year’s Celebration of Champions embodied this and more. Along with presenting sponsor Florida Gulf Coast University, we were proud to honor our 2021 Champions:

  • Frank Daveler who, along with his wife Ellen, have established a legacy at Champions for Learning. Not only have they provided the gift of scholarships, but recently funded the Center for Innovation at Champions For Learning. Here, deserving young adults are given educational opportunities foster success and help them gain life skill experiences.
  • Kiara Gonzalez-Duran who has benefited from our programs as both a student and now, as a kindergarten teacher.
  • Yadira Vintimilla, one of our mentors, uses time and opportunity to connect with those she mentors early on to establish long-term bonds.
  • Lynn Davidson, who we honored for her commitment to ensuring resources help as many who are in need as possible.
  • Beverly Feagin whose broad approach to academics includes helping students reach their goals through access to the right tools, resources and guidance.

Each honoree demonstrated dedication and love for the young people in the community.

The Celebration of Champions also recognized Nancy Potter as the Heart of the Apple. This award brings to light the work of a specific individual, and how he or she creates life-changing experiences for students and educators alike. Nancy, who draws her inspiration from the value of learning, works hard to help students achieve their dream, starting with self-sufficiency. That’s where, in her opinion, education begins.

The outpouring of appreciation and support from you during our Celebration of Champions this year was so meaningful. We are thankful for your faith in us to support the students of Collier County. Thank you for your donations and for logging on and bidding in our silent auction.

Proceeds from the online auction, along with the donations made during the celebration, directly support the scholarship fund and student programs at Champions For Learning.

If you were inspired by the stories of mentoring and the impact one can have on another’s life, please consider becoming a mentor with Champions For Learning. We are actively recruiting mentors for our new class. To learn more contact Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement, at 239-263-5783 or KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org. Or visit our website ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore to join us at our next All About Mentoring informational session.

Should you like to make a donation, please visit us here online. Your gift begins making an impact immediately.

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Meet Champions For Learning’s 2021 Heart Of The Apple: Nancy Potter

The Heart of the Apple salutes sustained, committed leadership in support of a community-wide culture of learning. This year’s Heart of the Apple, Nancy Potter, has led a life inspired by the value of learning and is truly devoted to ensuring Collier County students achieve their dreams.

Nancy is passionate in her belief that you cannot give a young person a better gift than the gift of self-sufficiency and that self-sufficiency begins with education. She also believes that there in no organizations in Southwest Florida that does education better than Champions For Learning.

Nancy recently sat down with us to share her experiences as a mentor with Champions For Learning:

Why do you believe mentoring is so powerful?

So there are many scholarships out there available to students, but this scholarship program is unique in the fact that it has that mentoring aspect, which makes the scholarship and the program that much more powerful. Because in addition to having the scholarship to look forward to, that these students work towards, they also receive one-on-one mentoring from adults in the community who have been there, who have had the experiences. And they also have opportunities through Champions For Learning to apply for additional scholarships and get to know how to manage the ropes. 

How would you have benefited from being a mentee as a young person? 

I don’t think it’s by accident that, when young people who grow up in a family where there are doctors or professors or accountants or what have you, that they go into those professions as adults. It’s because they hear about it at the dinner table, they live that life in the shadow of their family members where they’re overhearing and learning from these mentor family members about the process and how to get there. They learn that “yes I can”, “I can do that too”.

So I think that’s what mentors can do for young people who don’t have those opportunities. Where they don’t necessarily have a family member in their life who can “show them the ropes”. They are inspired by their families in many ways, but if the family member wasn’t a doctor, can they really learn how to become a doctor? Can they really feel confident that they can achieve certain goals that they may have individually?

So it’s a nice teamwork situation working with the families as an outside mentor who has other unique experiences and career histories. It’s just a really good overall learning experience for the student.

How do you think things would have been different for you had you had a mentor?

So knowing from my experiences being a mentor, if I had somebody who was a mentor to me I would’ve been less intimidated. I wouldn’t have felt so limited in my educational opportunities, my career opportunities. And I think I would’ve definitely benefited from hearing some of the other personal experiences in people’s lives.

What’s your first memory of being a mentor? 

It was a little bit of a stressful situation because I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know if I had it in me to be the person that could help a young person out in a way that was meaningful. So I was a little nervous about it, but I can tell you that my best memory is after leaving the first mentoring meeting and walking out, I felt like I was walking on cloud nine!

It was just such a wonderful experience. First and foremost, it’s just nice to be around young people.  And second of all, I just received so much back personally from those meetings. It grew into a very good relationship, to the point where we each felt certain parts of the other’s souls. 

How do you think you got to that point in mentoring?

I think it was just natural, it was a natural progression. When I mentor, my goal is to demonstrate that the student can achieve whatever they set their mind to. And I will tell them a lot of my personal experiences – good and bad – so that hopefully from what I say they can put that in the back of their mind so that they can eventually, when faced with some choices, make their choices accordingly. And it may or may not happen, we all have to make our own mistakes, but knowing what I did or how I overcame situations, hopefully there will be a lesson learned. 

What do you wish other people knew about Champions For Learning?

I wish other people had the opportunity to participate in the events that show the results of all the hard work that the people that work for Champions For Learning and the people who volunteer for Champions For Learning do for our students, our teachers, and for our community.

This year, our annual event Celebration of Champions, formerly Night of Champions, will be virtual and accessible to our entire community at no cost. We hope that you join in to see more of Nancy’s story, and all the stories of this year’s Champions and the impact they have made in our community. This virtual experience, presented by Florida Gulf Coast University, showcases our vibrant community, alumni, students and volunteers.

Register today to tune in at no cost: https://championsforlearning.org/celebration-of-champions/.

Mentors help high-school students stay on track for personal and professional success. They are trusted advocates and excellent listeners, not tutors. Typically, this program is a school-based mentoring program, but is currently happening virtually. We hope to resume in-person mentoring sessions over lunchtime on school grounds in the future.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor through Champions For Learning, we invite you to attend an “All About Mentoring” session by visiting https://ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore or by contacting Kristin Peras at KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org or 239-643-4755. Seasonal residents are welcome!

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Renovation of The Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning Officially Begins

PRESS RELEASE

(February 3, 2021 – Naples, FL)  PBS Contractors broke ground to mark the start of the construction for the $500,00 Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning at Champions For Learning on Friday, January 29, 2021.  The project includes both an expansion and a renovation and the new Center for Innovation in Learning will provide a collaborative, multi-use space for teachers, students, parents, volunteers and community partners to support one another.

Champions for learning staff renovation projectLeading the renovation kickoff ceremony were several members of Champions For Learning’s Board of Directors, including Barbara Melvin, Dr. Bruce Mousa, Chuck Carlsen, Stephanie Lucarelli and Susan McManus.

In 2016, Champions For Learning purchased the first floor of our office building.  Thanks to the generosity of Mary Seaton Breese, Lavern Norris Gaynor and Mary Garwood Ingram, the space became the permanent home of Champions For Learning.  Since then, Champions For Learning utilized two-thirds of the space and the other third had been occupied by a tenant, who has since moved.  This gave Champions For Learning an opportunity to transform this additional space into a Center For Innovation in Learning.

Aligning with the Davelers’ life experiences, the Center will have a heightened focus on developing the entrepreneurial spirt in our community around learning.  An entrepreneurial spirit supports the ability to innovate solutions to complex social, economic and environmental challenges.  This center will enable students, teachers, volunteers and community partners toward this goal, and continue to provide the collaborative capacity for Champions For Learning to facilitate the Future Ready Collier network. The Frank and Ellen Daveler Center For Innovation in Learning is scheduled to be complete by Spring 2021.

Mr. Frank Daveler, Champions for Learning's Center for Innovation in Learning

Frank Daveler embodied the spirit of innovation, not just in his decades-long career, but in his devotion to uplifting the next generations of entrepreneurs.  Believing in the power of curiosity and a love for learning, Frank was honored to facilitate countless students’ ambitions as they pursued their own success through opportunities otherwise inaccessible.

The new Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning will expand the capacity and opportunities for Champions For Learning to support collaboration and innovation with teachers, students, parents, volunteers and community partners,” explained Susan McManus, President & CEO, Champions For Learning.  “The expansion and renovation of the remainder of the first floor will provide much needed space, technology and enhanced efficiency and will illustrate the entrepreneurial spirit that the Davelers valued.”

In addition, Mr. Daveler will be honored at this year’s Celebration of Champions event, a virtual celebration honoring those who exemplify what it means to make a commitment to our students and their futures through mentoring, leadership, collaboration and community involvement with educators and students. Individuals may register to watch the virtual experience and participate in the online auction at no cost. To register, visit https://championsforlearning.org/celebration-of-champions/.

About Champions For Learning™
Champions For Learning™, the education foundation in Collier County, is an independent, community-based, non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that strives to create life-changing learning experiences for every student. With a vision of 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. The organization has been awarded the highest four-star rating for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency by Charity Navigator and achieved the highest distinction as an exemplary Local Education Foundation. Become a Champion for Learning and visit ChampionsForLearning.org.

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Champions For Learning Reveals 2020-2021 Celebration of Champions Honorees

PRESS RELEASE

(February 01, 2021 – Naples, FL) Champions For Learning is proud to announce their 2020-2021 Celebration of Champions honorees.

The honorees are being recognized at the Celebration of Champions virtual experience on Friday, February 26, 2021 at 6:00pm. These individuals will be honored for their impact on the lives of students through mentoring, leadership, collaboration and community involvement with educators or students. The honored Champions exemplify what it means to make a commitment to our students and their futures.

Celebration of ChampionsThe 2020-2021 Celebration of Champions honorees are: Frank Daveler, Lynn Davidson, Beverly Feagin, Kiara Gonzalez-Duran, Yadira Vintimilla, as well as this year’s Heart of the Apple recipient, Nany Potter. To learn more about the 2020-2021 Champions, please visit: championsforlearning.org/featured-champions/meet-the-champions.

“We look forward to sharing the stories of this year’s Champions and the impact they have made in our community,” says Susan McManus, President of Champions For Learning. ”The Celebration of Champions honorees truly exemplify how our community comes together to make a difference in the lives of students and their families.”

Proceeds will ensure Champions For Learning student programs will continue to help change lives for generations to come through College & Career Readiness programs and scholarships.

We would like to thank our generous sponsors:
Presenting sponsor: Florida Gulf Coast University

Major sponsors: Karen & William Lutz, Naples Daily News, Naples Illustrated, Stock Development and Suncoast Credit Union.

Individuals may register to watch the virtual experience and participate in the online auction at no cost. To register, simply go to championsforlearning.org/celebration-of-champions. Virtual watch party sponsorships are also available. For more information, please contact Jason Kurek at 239-643-4755 or JKurek@ChampionsForLearning.org.

About Champions For Learning™
Champions For Learning™, the education foundation in Collier County, is an independent, community-based, non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that strives to create life-changing learning experiences for every student. With a vision of 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. The organization has been awarded the highest four-star rating for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency by Charity Navigator and achieved the highest distinction as an exemplary Local Education Foundation. Become a Champion for Learning and visit ChampionsForLearning.org.

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Champions For Learning Class of 2021 – Update

Despite starting their senior year in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, the Champions For Learning Class of 2021 has been resilient and adapted to changing circumstances.  We were thrilled to see our students come into our office one-by-one and socially distanced for their individual senior photos.

We will continue to provide updates on their progress.  To date, the ninety (90) seniors have submitted more than 250 applications for college, university, or technical programs with already more

than 120 acceptances.   Students are diligently applying for scholarship sources to ensure the best opportunities for them to gain financial support to earn their education as close to debt-free as possible.

As we all know, life continues to be challenging, and we are so proud of our seniors and grateful for the support of our staff and volunteers in continuing to help students work through these challenges.

 

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Meet the Champions

Meet The Champions 

 

 

 

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Inspired To Give

From Student to Teacher, Meet Kiara 

Through Champions For Learning I’ve been inspired by my mentor, community, and the students I teach. My name is Kiara and I am a Kindergarten teacher at Village Oaks Elementary in Immokalee and a 2012 graduate of the Champions For Learning programs.

My whole life has been about learning. Learning to be a better student, a better community member, and a better teacher. I strive to be the best educator I can be because of those who advocated and believed in me as a student.

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Tom Gamber: Star of Giving Recipient

After serving twenty-five years in the Navy and teaching for five years In San Jose, California, Tom Gamber decided to move to Naples, Florida in 2000, At this time, he started to repair and teach the community about computers.

With his passion for computers and a little help from his friends at Greater Naples Leadership, Tom learned about Champions For Learning ten years ago.

At first, he started by donating computers to a few students who needed them for school but realized many more students had the same need.

In total, Tom has donated over 142 refurbished computers to Champions For Learning and has restored all 38 student lab computers to Windows 10, all through his partnership with Microsoft.

“This work for me is so important because I know that these computers are going to students who need them, if I can help even one student in his studies, I know that I have made a difference,” said Tom.

He hasn’t stopped there; Tom has also mentored students for the last eight years. “For me mentoring is exciting and I feel like I learn just as much as the students do. My favorite part about mentoring is receiving the student’s perspective on today’s issues,” said Tom.

Tom has been mentoring much longer than his time in Naples, “all teachers are mentors, as a high school teacher in San Jose, teaching inner-city students, I had to be that mentor for them,” said Tom.

During his time as a teacher, Tom built more than forty computers for students to have a place to do their homework or to just come in and play games. Later, he taught the same students how to build computers from scratch that they could take home.

“If I can teach the students I mentor anything it is that there are three stages in life; the first is learning, the second is earning, and the third is returning,” said Tom. He hopes to instill a passion for giving back to the community in his students.

As for being awarded the Star of Giving award, Tom was shocked. “I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was for students. For me, computers are my passion and I take each one as a challenge. I am proud and grateful to be a part of an organization that gives back and also invests in the future of the community,” said Tom.

The Star of Giving award was presented by Waterside Shops on behalf of Champions for Learning. The community celebrated a day of shopping at Waterside Shops on December 11th, where 10% of total sales benefited Champions For Learning!

 

To donate click here

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Alumnus Update: Tyler

After graduating from the Champions for Learning and Naples High School in 2017, Tyler decided to leave the Sunshine State for the Mountain State. Now he is in his senior year at West Virginia University majoring in Finance.

For Tyler, going to college was only a distant thought. Growing up in a single-parent home, he wasn’t really sure what steps he had to take or how to make college a possibility. Though Champions For Learning he joined the Take Stock in Children Program where he was paired with his mentor Bill Beynon. During his weekly lunch meetings with Beynon where their discussions ranged from the stock market to college planning, Tyler received the guidance he needed to reach his goals.

Tyler continues to lean on his mentor for guidance and advice, professionally and personally! Tyler has been able to intern with his mentor at Capital Wealth Management and hopes to follow in his footsteps and also be a financial advisor one day.

“My mentor has become one of my best friends, he has been able to guide me beyond my four years of high school and continues to be in my life,” said Tyler.

Despite COVID-19 Tyler has continued his internship virtually! He has been able to learn about wealth management and has had one on one experience with clients helping with their investment portfolios.

Campus involvement was key for Tyler in being able to give back in his campus community. Tyler quickly became involved in Greek life by rushing Sigma Nu where he is now the Vice President of his fraternity. Tyler also became involved in his Student Government Association and his Global Business Brigades Club as a translator.

“I am so thankful for Champions For Learning because it was through them that I was able to meet my mentor and learn how to take advantage of all of my opportunities. I learned the value of volunteering and giving back,” said Tyler.

 

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Announcing The Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning at Champions For Learning

Champions For Learning, The Education Foundation of Collier County,  is pleased to announce the $500,000 contribution from Frank Daveler and his late wife, Ellen, to launch the Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning at Champions For Learning.

In 2016, Champions For Learning purchased the first floor of our office building.  Thanks to the generosity of Mary Seaton Breese, Lavern Norris Gaynor, and Mary Garwood Ingram, the space became the permanent home of Champions For Learning.  Since then, Champions For Learning utilized two-thirds of the space and the other third had been occupied by a tenant, who has since moved.  This gave Champions For Learning an opportunity to transform this additional space into a Center For Innovation in Learning.

The new Center would expand the capacity and opportunities for Champions For Learning to support collaboration and innovation with teachers, students, parents, volunteers, and community partners.  The expansion and renovation of the remainder of the first floor will provide much-needed space, technology, and enhanced efficiency.

Aligning with the Davelers’ life experiences, the Center would have a heightened focus on developing the entrepreneurial spirit in our community around learning.  An entrepreneurial spirit supports the ability to innovate solutions to complex social, economic and environmental challenges. This center will enable students, teachers, volunteers, and community partners toward this goal, and continue to provide the collaborative capacity for Champions For Learning to facilitate the Future Ready Collier network.

Frank Daveler embodies the spirit of innovation, not just in his decades-long career, but in his devotion to uplifting the next generations of entrepreneurs. Having funded, with his late wife Ellen, substantial entrepreneurship programs at the University of South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University, the Davelers’ lasting legacy will live on with Champions For Learning through the Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning. At a spry 102, Frank’s passion for the work, and for the young people, is clear. Believing in the power of curiosity and a love for learning, Frank has been honored to facilitate countless students’ ambitions as they pursue their own success through opportunities otherwise inaccessible.

“Frank’s profound understanding of how investing in others, particularly young people, can transform not only their lives, but the entire community is the driving force behind his philanthropy and the founding principle for this Center,” states Susan McManus, President, and CEO of Champions For Learning.  “On behalf of students, teachers, and our entire community, we are grateful for Frank’s support and vision for our future.”

The Frank and Ellen Daveler Center For Innovation in Learning is scheduled to be complete by Spring 2021.

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