Both of my parents moved to Naples from the Bahamas and are school bus drivers. They’ve always instilled in my siblings and me the value of an education. I’ve always admired my teachers; their brightly decorated classrooms made me excited to learn new things that I would share with my brother.
Five years ago, my school counselor shared an opportunity that changed my life. My parents and I completed my application, and I was selected into Champions For Learning’s program. I was matched with my mentor Tammi, a retired teacher, and given the promise of a two-year college scholarship upon high school graduation. At first, I was nervous about meeting with my mentor, but those fears quickly diminished. As we learned more about each other, now I consider Tammi one of my closest friends.
Because of Champions For Learning and my mentor I have a clear path for my future. The weekly programming has guided me through the college and scholarship applications, helped us complete financial aid applications, and provided campus tours. Champions For Learning has been there every step of the way. Even now, with schools closed and “social distancing”, my mentor supports me through phone calls, and Champions For Learning is providing virtual sessions, webinars, and resources to ensure I stay on track during this critical time.
Today, I have served my community with more than 200 service hours, earned a 4.0+ GPA, been accepted to Florida Gulf Coast University and The University of South Florida and completed 55 scholarship applications to-date. When I graduate from high school this spring, I will also be graduating with my two-year degree from Florida SouthWestern State College and the first in my family to earn a degree. Through Champions For Learning, my community has shown they believe in me, and my teachers, and want us all to succeed.
When I close my eyes, I can already see my classroom, I know where each board will be and what will be on them, how my students’ desks will be arranged, and how I will use what I’ve learned from my own teachers. I want every student to have the same opportunities that I have.
I’m proud to live in a community that is united around supporting educators and I want to become a teacher so that I can impact students and give back to my community.
~Alaysha G., senior at Golden Gate High School, dual enrolled at Florida Southwestern State College
Celebrating Teachers: Adapting Golden Apple
TUNE IN TO WATCH:
30th Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers
Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 7 pm
Champions For Learning is celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program this year. Each year teachers from across Collier County and their best practices are recognized, and six teachers highlighted as Golden Apple recipients through committed media partners, Naples Daily News and NBC-2. The primary purpose for this recognition is to honor outstanding educators in our community, highlight their best practices, and share our community’s utmost respect for the profession of teaching.
The television special highlighting Collier County’s Golden Apple teachers and Teachers of Distinction will air on Sunday April 5th at 7 pm on NBC-2 and will feature the six Golden Apple teachers and their practices along with highlighting our sponsors and Teachers of Distinction. In addition, there will be social media to promote the television program as well as give our educators prominence in our community.
With the current challenges of the COVID-19 virus, we want to be socially responsible, and not put school staff and families at risk. In lieu of an annual dinner, and with the support of our generous sponsors, we will adapt the program and devote our celebrations to teachers and their classroom practices by funding classroom projects for each of the 52 Teachers of Distinction and Golden Apple teachers.
“We want to keep the focus on our teachers at this time, and hope that by investing in their classroom practices and avoiding large events, we will help to support the health of our community,” shares Susan McManus, President, Champions For Learning. “We are so grateful to our sponsors and the entire community for continuing to support and recognize the important role that teachers play.”
Thank you to Suncoast Credit Union as presenting sponsor of the Golden Apple program, along with major sponsors: and 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, Naples Grande Beach Resort, NBC-2, Stock Development, and Wells Fargo.
Students in six Collier County classrooms received bushels of golden apples as their teachers were surprised with Golden Apple awards. 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.
52 Teachers of Distinction representing 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 2019-2020 Golden Apple recipients. See attached list for the names of the Teachers of Distinction.
• Sarah Bratcher, Lake Park Elementary
• Eileen Fuentes, Sabal Palm Elementary
• Elizabeth Garcia, Manatee Middle
• Theresa Golden, Veterans Memorial Elementary
• Serena M. Hampton-Dunn, Gulf Coast High
• David Stehlin, Immokalee 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 2019-2020 Golden Apple recipients will each receive a grant (up to $5,000) from Suncoast Credit Union toward further developing their best practice. The Golden Apple recipients also receive an additional cash award thanks to the Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation.
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 3, 2020. This is the 30th annual celebration of Golden Apple as a longstanding tradition of the value our community places on the teaching profession.
Champions For Learning is excited to announce that one of our senior students, Emma has been chosen as a Leaders For Life Fellow. Emma is currently a senior at Naples High School and is dually enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Emma is one of 6 students selected through the statewide Take Stock In Children Program; fellows receive leadership training and professional development opportunities, a new laptop computer, and funding up to $40,000 to attend a 4-year public university in Florida. The L4L selection process was a competitive one with each (TSIC) county affiliate able to submit 2 student applicants. Of the 100+ applicants, a panel reviewed application essays, letters of recommendation, academic record, test scores, extracurricular activities, and video submission to ultimately select the 6 Fellows.
Emma is involved in many ways in the community, she founded a Creative Writing Program that provides workshops for middle school students. Emma is involved with Gulfshore Playhouse as not only a stage manager but also as a mentor for the students. She also initiated the March For Our Lives movement in southwest Florida with the help of local groups. Emma is passionate about literature, she started a magazine called Generation Z and is the co-founder of the Literary Magazine at Naples High School. Emma will be pursuing a degree in English at Wellesely College and aspires to be an English professor one day.
The Champions For Learning College and Career Prep Program kickstarted and pushed Juan to figure out what his next steps would be in his education. “The staff at Champions For Learning gave me the knowledge and tools I needed to succeed, they were my advocates. From filling out my FAFSA to getting everything ready to attend Florida Gulf Coast University, Champions For Learning was there every step of the way,” said Juan.
After graduating from the program Juan started as a nursing major at FGCU but he quickly figured out that nursing wasn’t for him. He changed his major to Criminal Justice and immediately fell in love with all his classes.
Since starting his post-secondary education Juan quickly got involved on campus starting with the Office of Student Support Services with an academic group called TRIO. He also joined the honors college in his sophomore year and became part of the swim club. He has been able to lead the swim club as their captain to Nationals for the past three years and he is ranked number two in the state of Florida in his division. Along the way he also joined a fraternity, Phi Delta Theta has given him many opportunities he wouldn’t have otherwise and has helped him to give back to his community by volunteering with various organizations.
Now he is interning with the Department of Juvenile Justice in Fort Myers where he works with youth, “the best part about interning with them is that I get to impact my community similar to the way that my community was able to make an impact on me through Champions
For Learning,” said Juan. After graduation, he will be applying to law school and wants to become an assistant district attorney or pursue business law.
Champions For Learning is proud to mark 30 years of community impact through education.
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. In 1990, Champions For Learning was founded by community and business leaders who believed the best opportunities for students were when the community was involved as a full partner with schools and educators in the success of students. The community’s recognition of the unparalleled role that teachers play in their students’ learning began a long tradition Golden Apple in honor of the profession of teaching. Champions For Learning expanded by creating student programing and continuously growing while listening to the needs of the community.
Champions For Learning has a significant impact as it brings the community together to create a culture of learning, innovation, and inspiration for not only students but the educators who support them. As Champions, we Champion students and in return, they Champion our community’s future. Beverly Feagin, Chair of the Board of Directors, invites the community to get involved. “If you would like to see your contributions make a difference in the lives of students and their families- and in the future of our community- there is no better place to start than Champions For Learning.” Champions For Learning celebrates a legacy of leadership in its 30th anniversary year by recognizing its past board chairs as the Heart of the Apple honorees. Join us in celebrating our leaders who have created 30 years of impact for the future of our children and our community. Join us on February 7, 2020 at Night of Champions. For tickets please call at (239) 643-4755 or visit ChampionsForLearning.org/night-of-champions.
Past Board Chairs
· 1989-1990: Byron Koste
· 1990-1991: Bill Barton
· 1991-1992: Alan Horton
· 1992-1993: Don Barber
· 1993-1994: Laird Lile
· 1994-1995: Colleen Conant
· 1995-1996: Grover Whidden
· 1996-1997: Brian Martin
· 1997-1998: Rachel Gutman
· 1998-2000: Lloyd Liggett
· 2000-2001: Chris Vernon
· 2001-2002: Thomas Riley
· 2002-2003: John James
· 2003-2004: Bill Thomas
· 2004-2005: Vivian Dawson
· 2005-2006: Mike Maxwell
· 2006-2007: Mary Lynn Hill
· 2007-2008: Todd Bradley
· 2008-2009: Sharon Treiser
· 2009-2010: Claudine Leger-Wetzel
· 2010-2011: Kaleigh Grover
· 2011-2012: Dianne Mayberry-Hatt
· 2012 – 2014: Jim Hoppensteadt
· 2014-2015: Keith Walker
· 2015- 2017: Bill Barker
· 2017-2019: Lynn Davidson
· 2019-Present: Beverly Feagin
Champions For Learning is proud to announce the 2019-2020 Glass Slipper recipients. The honorees are Donna Issenmann, Lili Montes, and Dottie Whipple.
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 benefit young ladies who are graduates of Champions For Learning student programs, and helps to generate funds for the third and fourth year of their post-secondary education.
Join us in honoring the Glass Slipper recipients at a cocktail reception, which will be held on December 11, 2019 from 6-8pm at the Club at Olde Cypress There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction perfect for your holiday shopping. Tickets for the event are $50.
For tickets please visit ChampionsForLearning.org/news-events/glass-slipper or call (239) 643-4755
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!
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