(239) 643-4755


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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Champions For Learning Announces Collier County Teachers of Distinction

Champions For Learning Announces Collier County Teachers of Distinction

(October 26, 2021) Champions for Learning is excited to announce the 2021-2022 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 60 Teachers of Distinction from 58 schools (Click Here for full list), Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee identifies the Golden Apple recipients. Last year, Champions For Learning honored all teachers throughout Collier County for the extraordinary work they did despite ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward, proving that teachers truly are the heartbeat of every community.

Today, each Teacher of Distinction received a $250 cash award, and now have the opportunity to share their ideas and practices across the county with their colleagues and the community through the Golden Apple 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.

Thanks to Presenting Sponsor, Suncoast Credit Union, for the support provided to educators.  Generous support is also provided by Golden Apple Major Sponsors: Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, Naples Illustrated, NBC-2, and Stock Development.

The Teachers of Distinction and the Golden Apple recipients will be honored at the Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner, presented by Suncoast Credit Union, on April 22, 2022 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

Several highly visible sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales go to https://championsforlearning.org/golden-apple/.

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. Our organization has been awarded the GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency and Charity Navigator’s highest four-star rating, both demonstrating our commitment to sound fiscal management, accountability, and transparency, as well as achieved the highest distinction as an exemplary Local Education Foundation. Become a Champion for Learning and visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org.

 About Suncoast Credit Union

Suncoast Credit Union is the largest credit union in the state of Florida, the 10th largest in the United States based on membership, and the 10th largest in the United States based on its $14.3 billion in assets. Chartered in 1934 as Hillsborough County Teachers Credit Union, Suncoast Credit Union currently operates 75 full-service branches and serves more than 979,000 members in 40 Florida counties. As a community credit union, anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in the counties Suncoast Credit Union serves in Florida is eligible for membership. In 2021, Suncoast Credit Union’s field of membership was expanded to include public K-12, college educators and support staff from all of Florida’s 67 counties. Since its founding in 1990, the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation has raised and donated more than $32 million to organizations and initiatives that support the health, education and emotional well-being of children in the communities that the credit union serves. For more information, visit: suncoastcreditunion.com or follow us on social media.

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Investors Guide 2021-2022 Now Available

The need is great. So are the opportunities.
Champions For Learning, listed under our legal name, The Education Foundation of Collier County, Inc., has been awarded the GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency and Charity Navigator’s highest 4-star rating.
Click HERE to access the brand new Champions For Learning Investors Guide 2021-2022.
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Champions For Learning grants fund teacher projects focused on students’ needs, innovation

Champions For Learning grants fund teacher projects focused on students’ needs, innovation

By Rachel Fradette, Naples Daily News

Media specialist Tiffany Weeks had to find a way to hear from her younger students at Lavern Gaynor Elementary even behind the veil of a mask.

A solution to the problem came to her — and eventually funding came with it.

Weeks found that a ball with a wireless microphone could help her more quiet students find their voices and confidence in the classroom, especially during literary discussions in the library.

“It’s hard enough to hear them as it is. They talk very softly. They’re afraid to communicate. Then you put a mask across their face it makes it even more difficult because sometimes you can’t even tell if they’re talking,” Weeks said.

Weeks, who has applied each year for more than 11 years, said she noticed the microphone during a training course and decided to do more research and go for a grant.

“This should allow me to hear what they have to say and should also help encourage them to want to speak,” Weeks said.

Fifth-grade students Aiyanna Bustillos, 10, and Rachelle Joseph,10, said they are happy for Weeks and excited to see what happens with all six of her grants, including the microphone ball.

“She earned it,” Joseph said. “She’s wonderful and kind.”

Weeks’ six grants are among more than 200 grants totaling about $101,747 being awarded by Champions For Learning to teachers at 50 schools, a record for the education foundation.

The Collier-based organization that hand-delivers teachers’ grants annually brought back in-person visits to schools this year after COVID-19 altered deliveries last year.

Teachers throughout Collier County were celebrated Thursday outside their schools with grant checks and recognitions.

Janet Perna, who volunteers with Champions For Learning, said she became more involved to help make a difference even in a modest way.

“Education to me is where it all starts,” Perna said. “We have challenges in the country in terms of our educations levels, quality of the workforce for new jobs, and it really starts in elementary school.”

Perna has served on the foundation’s grant selection committee for six years. As a former IBM executive, Perna said she wants to see more young girls enter the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Perna said she noticed as educators began to ask for funding for character education.

“How do we help these kids learn about what’s appropriate behavior, how to respond when they’re frustrated and how to respond in a healthy way?” Perna said.

Community members interested in researching and funding grants for teacher projects can do so through an online grant portal where teachers also submit their applications.

See the list:Here’s the full list of grants delivered by Champions For Learning

Golden Gate Middle and Golden Terrace Elementary teachers picked for grants

Band director Ashley Crosby led her students into Golden Gate Middle School’s courtyard to hear that some of their old instruments would finally be replaced.

“We have a big need for instruments in our program,” Crosby said. “And some of our instruments have seen better days, and they are needing to be replaced.”

More than 220 students participate in the school’s band program, which received $2,000 to purchase six clarinets, five trumpets and five flutes.

“We’re going to use this money to replace some instruments that we use,” Crosby said to her students.

Three of her colleagues at the school also received grants.

Down the street in Golden Gate, Golden Terrace Elementary teachers Stephanie Irish and Joyce Cordell stepped out of their classrooms to hear their projects had been funded.

Cordell said one of her three grants will engage more students in reading through graphic novels that combine visuals and plot.

“They’re like comics,” Cordell said. “So speech bubbles and it’s bright and colorful.”

Cordell said classics are transitioning to a graphic novel style, and her kids are biting.

“They are reading them like crazy,” Cordell said.

Irish, who started at the district 15 years ago, said she still has former students who recall when her class watched chicks hatch in an incubator.

Irish requested funds for the project this year in one of her three grant proposals to Champions For Learning.

“They’ll be like, ‘Remember when you did that project with us,’ and it wasn’t, ‘Remember when you taught us how to take a test,” Irish said.

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

Please consider subscribing to support journalism in your own backyard. 


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Boosting FAFSA Completion in Collier County

Boosting FAFSA Completion in Collier County

FAFSA opens October 1!

When it comes to paying for college, there’s nothing more important for students to do than complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form, filed annually, is the gateway to virtually all federal, state, and institutional financial aid, and many private scholarship providers require it as well. Unfortunately, completion rates for the FAFSA have been low the past couple of years due to the impact of COVID-19 — in fact, the Collier County students that don’t complete the form are leaving over $8 million in financial aid on the table each year.

In the face of rising costs and spiraling student debt, those dollars are more important than ever. To help get them to the students who need them, the federal government has worked to simplify the FAFSA process in recent years — the opening date moved up to October 1, the IRS and Department of Ed worked together to allow importing of prior-year tax data, as well as several updates to simplify and expand access.

Ideally, these changes should lead to more students completing the form. But, to work as intended, FAFSA and FCAN (Florida College Access Network) also lean on organizations like Champions For Learning and Future Ready Collier to spread the word.  Since we advise and support students, we’re able to directly help boost FAFSA completion rates, as well as provide a leadership role for our whole county through Future Ready Collier.

Here’s how Champions For Learning is taking a lead role with Future Ready Collier partners on FAFSA completion efforts this Fall:

  • Incentives to Class of 2020 and 2021, whose FAFSA completion may have been affected by COVID-19: Collier County high school graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 who complete a FAFSA between June 1, 2021 and October 31, 2021 can enter to win prizes through the Florida College Access Network’s Cash for College program. Entries are accepted through October 31, 2021 at futurereadycollier.org/cash-for-college/. Students who submit their FAFSA confirmations will be eligible for prizes including a laptop, money for textbook purchases, and Amazon gift cards. This incentive program is being promoted by mail via Collier County Public Schools, via TikTok, a video-sharing app commonly used amongst teenagers that allows users to create 15-second videos, as well as other social media channels.


  • FAFSA Completion events hosted by Collier County Public Schools: Champions For Learning supports several CCPS Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion events throughout the month of October. Students who need help filling out their FAFSA can attend an in-person session with expert staff and receive personal assistance. Open to all Collier County Public School students and their families, this year’s FAFSA Completion Events are being held at the following locations on the listed date/time:
    • October 4 at Immokalee High School at 2pm-5pm
      (presented by the Guadalupe Center)
    • October 9 at Gulf Coast High School at 9am-noon
      (presented by Champions For Learning)
    • October 9 at Florida Gulf Coast University, Lutgert Hall at 9am-noon
      (presented by FutureMakers)
    • October 23 at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School at 9am-noon
      (presented by Boys & Girls Club of Collier County)
    • October 30 at Barron Collier High School at 9am-noon
      (presented by Florida Gulf Coast University)


  • Instant Admissions Decisions: Champions For Learning has coordinated with two of our local colleges to create an amazing opportunity for those that attend the FAFSA Completion events. Admissions officers from FSW (Florida SouthWestern State College) will be in attendance at all of the FAFSA Completion events and will be able to provide instant admissions decisions to students and their families. FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University) is supplying an admissions application fee waiver to each of the students in attendance at the FAFSA Completion events. This means that students that attend a FAFSA Completion event have the opportunity to not only learn how much financial aid they can expect, but also be admitted to college… all in one day!


  • Virtual Financial Aid Night: Champions For Learning’s Jessica Manchette, along with representatives from the Community Foundation of Collier County, FGCU, and CCPS are producing a virtual information session regarding financial aid, scholarship options, and the supports available receive both financial aid and scholarships.  The presentation will air Tuesday, September 28th from 6-8pm. It will stream live on the district website www.collierschools.com and The Education Channel – Channel 99 (Comcast, CenturyLink, or Summit Broadband).


  • Staff Dedicated to FAFSA Completion: Originally introduced to Champions For Learning as a Bank of America summer intern, Maria Primucci is a recent high school graduate working with Champions For Learning before attending the University of South Florida in the spring of 2022. As a daughter of immigrants, Maria was uncertain about how she would obtain the resources to go to college. After attending a financial aid session hosted by her high school, Maria was able to complete her FAFSA, and subsequently heard from friends and classmates who were struggling with their applications. Maria observes, “FAFSA can seem intimidating, especially in homes where there are language barriers. I feel privileged to be able to help others like me. FAFSA helps open doors that students may have assumed were closed to them.”
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Lifting Each Other Up Through Mentoring

Lifting Each Other Up Through Mentoring
— by Yadira Vintimilla, Mentor

Growing up in New York City I didn’t have a mentor or anyone to guide me. I wanted to be an advocate, a mentor for someone. I found that at Champions For Learning. Three years ago I was paired with my mentee Hailey and not only has Hailey inspired me but I have also been able to make a difference in her life.

Being a mentor is more than just giving someone time. It is about watching a student progress and cheering on the student through their successes and being a guide. It is important to me that my mentee knows I am always in her court through the good, the bad and the ugly.

There is real value in being a mentor because not only are you investing in the student but also in the community. Not only am I a mentor, I am a friend to my mentee and know that our relationship will go beyond four years.

The pandemic has not changed our relationship it has helped us to become even closer through our virtual mentoring sessions. We can spend more time with each other virtually and I am still able to see her progress and growth. I am very proud to be a mentor.

The big sister I never had, Yadira Vintimilla
— by Hailey, Mentee

To everyone she is just my mentor, to me she is so much more than that. When I first entered the Take Stock In Children program, the thought of having to interact with a total stranger was a bit intimidating. Meeting Yadira for the frst time, it was an instant connection. The best connection. My favorite thing about my relationship with Yadira is how open we are; our relationship is genuine.

Yadira is truly an inspiration. She truly makes an effort to always be there for me, from school, relationships, jobs, life, she is always present with a smile.

I strive to be like my mentor. I admire her intelligence; I had never met such an empowered woman.

Having a mentor has been the best thing to happen to me. Not only does she guide me academically and pushes me towards my goal of becoming an orthodontist, she also guides me through life. She encourages me to be involved in my community, that is why I volunteer through the American Cancer Society. Thanks to our conversations, I have been able to maturely make decisions that benefit me.

My mentor is a blessing to me and I am so lucky to have her in my life.

Are you interested in becoming a mentor?

Champions For Learning is continuing to recruit mentors for our upcoming needs. If you or someone you know is interested, please join us at an All About Mentoring session, a learning opportunity for individuals seeking to learn more about mentoring. The session will review information regarding the mentoring program and the role and responsibilities of a mentor, including the next steps to getting started.

For more information about becoming a mentor, please contact Kristin Peras at KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org or 239-263-5783.

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Now Recruiting Volunteers!

Champions For Learning is continuing to recruit mentors for our upcoming needs. If you or someone you know is interested, please join us at an All About Mentoring session, a learning opportunity for individuals seeking to learn more about mentoring. No experience is required to become a mentor, and training is provided. Mentors are trusted advocates and excellent listeners, helping the student reach their goals, develop life skills, learn to advocate for themselves, and ensure they take advantage of resources and opportunities available — mentors are not tutors or counselors.
For more information, please contact Kristin Peras at KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org or 239-263-5783.

INCubatoredu@CCPS Volunteers
Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) has a successful Entrepreneurship program at the middle and high school levels and are seeking volunteers to guide young teams of entrepreneurs! This is a fun and exciting way to support the next generation of business leaders! Click here for more information.
If you are interested, or know someone who may be, please considering joining the upcoming Collier County Public Schools INCubatoredu@CCPS Volunteers informational session, hosted by Champions For Learning on Wednesday, October 6 at 4:00-5:00 pm via Zoom.
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