(239) 643-4755


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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You’re Invited! Center for Innovation Community Open House: October 27th

You’re Invited!

Join us on October 27 to celebrate the Community Open House of the
Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning!

8:00-10:00am (8:30am Ribbon Cutting)

For over thirty years, Champions For Learning has been involved in preparing students for their future learning and career goals, utilizing the lab space within our office building to not only inspire students’ ambitions but to help them reach their goals.

Longtime Champion, Frank Daveler, was always grateful to facilitate students’ ambitions as they pursued their own success through opportunities otherwise inaccessible. Because of the $500,000 contribution from Frank and his late wife, Ellen, Champions For Learning was able to launch the Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning, allowing the lab space to be reimagined, moving the new Center into the future.

We mourned the passing of Frank last November, just two weeks shy of his 102nd birthday. Frank generously supported both Champions For Learning and FGCU’s School of Entrepreneurship after launching and selling more than a dozen companies in aerospace, engineering and manufacturing. A quote on his business card says, “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.” Words he was said to have lived by.

With a Grand Opening scheduled for October 27th, the Frank and Ellen Daveler Center for Innovation in Learning expands the capacity and opportunities for Champions For Learning to support innovation between teachers, students, parents, volunteers and community partners. The strongest theme is collaboration, as the spaces are meant to be rearranged to become functional lab spaces where students, teachers, and community partners can come together to discuss and innovate.

We believe the Davelers would have enjoyed seeing students, teachers and community members engaged in this way in this vibrant new space, creating opportunities for our community to connect with students as they prepare for their futures and to inspire solutions to complex challenges.

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“Cash for College” Supports Collier County Class of 2020 and 2021 High School Graduates

“Cash for College” Supports Collier County Class of 2020 and 2021 High School Graduates

Champions For Learning and Future Ready Collier Partner with Florida College Access Network to Support Students

Collier County high school graduates of the classes of 2020 and 2021 who completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid—more commonly known by its acronym, FAFSA—between now 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.

Champions For Learning and Future Ready Collier (FRC), an education collective impact network, have partnered with Florida College Access Network (FCAN) to administer Cash for College locally. FRC tracks annual student achievement indicators, including rates of FAFSA completion, which strongly correlate with students pursuing post-high school education or career training. FAFSA is a prerequisite for most financial aid, including athletic and merit scholarship. FCAN is a state partner to FRC, and is aligned in efforts to increase overall FAFSA completions and career progression.

Data show that, for the high school classes of 2020 and 2021, FAFSA completion was considerably lower than in prior years. As of June 2019, approximately 52.3% of graduating high school seniors had completed a FAFSA. For 2020, that figure is 49.8%, and 46% for 2021.

The implications are significant. As measured by FCAN, across the classes of 2020 and 2021, 3778 students in Collier County did not complete the FAFSA, which equates to $8,207,242 in available Pell grants left unused. Those who did complete the FAFSA collectively earned $7,234,017 in financial aid, which directly contributes to the Collier County workforce and economy. In Collier County, only 35.2% of adults age 25 to 34 have a technical certificate or college degree, which dramatically limits their earning opportunities. By 2030, it is estimated that 60% of Florida jobs will require some education or training beyond high school.

Jessica Manchette, the Chief Information Officer for Champions For Learning, FRC’s administrative backbone organization, and a team lead for FRC’s FAFSA-related efforts, comments, “It is key to help recent graduates understand that it’s not too late to submit a FAFSA and make a plan for their education. We hope that this helps generate awareness, and encourages students who perhaps were negatively affected by COVID or other life events to believe in their ability to achieve their career goals.”

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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Luxury Home Builder Opening Doors for Teachers and Students through Classroom Grants Program

Naples Luxury Builders is dedicated to making sure that every Naples custom home building experience — from the design stage to the final luxurious detail — is done with pride, honor, and integrity. Owner Steven Sunquist and wife Beverly, who have called Southwest Florida home for 15 years, are committed to excellence in every facet of custom home building, working tirelessly to make sure that every detail is done above and beyond client expectations.

Naples Luxury Builders and the Sunquist family became involved with Champions For Learning four years ago, shortly after their children began school in the Collier County Public School system. Originally from the southside of Chicago, both Steven and Beverly’s families are overflowing with educators. Steven’s parents are teachers — his father is a retired Art teacher, and his mother teaches French at Mother McAuley High School – and his brother is an administrator at a public high school on the southside of Chicago.  Beverly’s sister, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle were also teachers, and she has countless cousins who are educators. “Where we grew up, success and opportunity were often determined by your zip code or who you knew,” said Beverly, adding “The value of good teachers and a solid education was never overlooked.”

After receiving his degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney on a football scholarship, Steven returned to his love of construction and was determined to succeed. Despite many obstacles, and through pure grit, Steven went on to own multiple construction and development companies in Southwest Florida. “I think back to high school and wonder ‘what if there was an organization like Champions For Learning?’ Had there been, I believe more of my classmates would have realized their potential.”

Having funded six grants already this year, the Sunquists believe that the Classroom Grants program gives teachers the opportunity to enrich their classroom with opportunities for students to learn outside of the box, providing them the tools and experiences they need to succeed. Beverly added that “it’s incredibly important to us that all children, no matter their circumstance or abilities, can achieve greatness. Whether a student has learning challenges, is gifted or anywhere in between, not every child learns the same.” Leaning towards grants that support special education students, STEAM, and entrepreneurship, they admire the teachers who go the extra mile for their students by helping them prepare for life outside of school, whether that’s college or a trade. Steven added, “We know how much teachers impact children’s lives.”

Naples Luxury Builders and the Sunquist family’s commitment to bettering the lives of students and providing teachers the tools they need to foster growth has made them an amazing partner of Champions For Learning and we could not be more grateful for their generous support.

“On behalf of the Naples Luxury Builders team, we wish all teachers
and students a very happy and successful school year!”
– Beverly & Steven Sunquist
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Inspired Educator Finds a Home on Champions’ Classroom Grants Committee

Classroom Grants provide opportunities for educators to share their projects with the community in hopes of gaining financial support from members of the community. This is facilitated through Champions For Learning, but is 100% dependent upon the generosity of the community.

The role of the community-based Classroom Grants Committee is so important to this process. These engaged community members read through all of the grants–scoring each request using a rubric, assist in delivering grants checks and visit classrooms throughout the district to see the grants in action.

The Classroom Grants Committee truly is an amazing way to support our local teachers and students. We’re so grateful to our community for giving of their time and talent in support of this amazing program.

One community member that has gotten in on the fun of the Classroom Grants Program is Dr. James (Jim) Schmotter. Jim has enjoyed an amazing academic career, serving at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, Lehigh University, Western Michigan University before his eleven years as President of Western Connecticut State University. In addition to his volunteer work with Champions, Jim currently serves as President of the Naples Council on World Affairs and is a member of Habitat for Humanity’s Family Selection Committee.

Recently, Jim was gracious enough to share his thoughts about his three-year tenure on the Classroom Grants Committee:

Tell us about yourself and why you first got involved with Champions For Learning.

Both my wife Daphne Jameson and I had careers in higher education; we met when we were both working at Cornell University.  She taught at Cornell for 38 years, but I moved around some, serving as business school dean at Lehigh University and at Western Michigan University and as president of Western Connecticut State UniversityIn 2015, we retired to Naples and became Florida residents.  I first heard of the work of Champions from a board member I met at a Northwestern University alumni gathering.  Subsequently, I talked with CFL staff at a Volunteer Fair at the Hilton and attended a “Champions 101” session.  I was impressed by the programs, but even more by the people—volunteers and staff—I met.

What about your background has inspired you to get involved with our organization?

Having been active in volunteer roles with organizations such as Junior Achievement, the United Way, and several community foundations in Connecticut, I was looking for opportunities to apply whatever career skills and knowledge I have to projects in our new community.  Champions For Learning clearly provided that match.  Working all those years at universities convinced me that the education of our youth is a process that extends from pre-kindergarten to high school and beyond.  A solid foundation built early is critical to success.  The programs of Champions for Learning—Classroom Grants, Career and College Prep and Take Stock in Children–all help provide that foundation.  So, I was pleased and honored to be asked to join the Selection Committees for Take Stock in Children and, later, Classroom Grants.

Tell me about what you enjoy most about serving on the Classroom Grants committee?

The creativity and commitment to student success that Collier County teachers demonstrate in their grant applications are inspiring.  What’s especially enjoyable for me is to see how different strategies with different curricular and technological approaches are being applied.  There’s a rich array of educational tools available these days, but often the demands of high-stakes testing discourage their use. As evinced by the number and quality of applications, the Classroom Grants Program counters this trend. It also supplements the school district’s budget, which I know is welcome. But what’s most fun is to receive letters and cards of thanks, often hilariously creative, from students who’ve participated in the grants we’ve funded.

What is it about the Classroom Grants Program that has inspired you to fund various projects?   

We’ve tended to gravitate to projects that match our own backgrounds and intellectual interests.  This year, for instance, we’re funding two projects that provide history students an opportunity to go back in time for virtual tours of the Roman Colosseum and other ancient sites.  But we’ve also funded grants that used classic movies to inspire challenged learners and that provided recorders to all students in an elementary music class.  There are usually around two hundred applications from which to choose, and usually, it’s difficult to decide which of the promising submissions to support.

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

I don’t think the average Collier County resident—permanent or snowbird—recognizes the impact that Champions For Learning has on our community.  Literally hundreds of teachers and thousands of students benefit from the programs that Champions, thanks to the support of its donors and friends, is able to offer.  I also don’t think that the wide array of volunteer opportunities Champions offers is well understood.  A key element its mission is providing mentors for high school students, and many in the community value that experience.  However, there are many other ways to become involved in the great work Champions is doing.  Just contact the staff through their website.  They’ll find a place where you can apply your talents.  And—I guarantee—you’ll find it worthwhile!

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Student Helps Others Complete FAFSA to Get Financial Aid

As a daughter of immigrants, I, like many, am the first in my family to have the opportunity to attend college. One of the many struggles faced by first-generation students is the lack of parental support in their education. Though many immigrant parents support the idea of their child going to college, due to the language barrier, many parents tend to take a step back from any involvement related to their student’s education.

As my senior year began approaching, knowing I wouldn’t have any help from my parents, I was dreading completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Luckily, I was able to grasp an understanding of the application after attending the financial aid night offered in my high school. It was finally October 1st the clock had just struck midnight and I rushed to the FAFSA page. Though the webpage crashed, after several attempts I successfully completed the FAFSA application alone at 2 am.

Excited and relieved that I had gotten through the application, I tweeted about my completion. Surprisingly, I received an overwhelming number of messages from peers asking for assistance.  It began with my closest friend, Karen, I sat down with her Spanish-speaking parents and talked them through the importance as well as the process of FAFSA. Word quickly began to spread at school, and I ended up helping approximately 20 families complete the FAFSA form.

I quickly realized that the language barrier is much deeper than just my family, it negatively impacts a multitude of students throughout Collier County.

Until I head off to begin my own college success story in the spring of 2022 at The University of South Florida, I’ll be working at Champions For Learning to help recent graduates and current high school seniors complete the FAFSA.  As part of this work, I’ll be helping to build a webpage of resources and step-by-step tutorials in English and Spanish.  This work is part of a statewide initiative through the Florida College Access Network called Cash For College.

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Champions For Learning Earns Highest 4-Star Rating From Charity Navigator


Strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned The Education Foundation of Collier County, Inc (operating as Champions For Learning) a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.

This is the sixth time that Champions For Learning has earned this top distinction. The 4-star rating is the highest possible rating and indicates that Champions For Learning adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way.

Champions For Learning is among only 14% of the charities evaluated who have received at least six consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Champions For Learning outperforms most other charities in America.

“Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that The Education Foundation of Collier County exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work. Only 14% of the charities we evaluate have received at least 6 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that The Education Foundation of Collier County outperforms most other charities in America,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets The Education Foundation of Collier County apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.”

“We are extremely proud to be receiving a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator,” says Bruce Mousa, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Our Board of Directors and staff work tirelessly toward the goal of creating life-changing learning experiences for every student in Collier County.”

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Community Partners Provide Laptops to Students Heading Off to College

The majority of Champions For Learning’s 75 recent graduates are headed off to college this fall, in fact several have even begun their next chapter this summer to get a jump on the year ahead.

You might remember back to last summer when Collier County Public Schools launched an initiative to provide all students with laptops for the 2020-2021 school year. The initiative, called Collier Connect, was planned prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic expedited the process so each student would have access to technology to continue learning seamlessly both at school and at home. The program, a major district venture and a huge accomplishment, provided laptops that would stay with the district’s 48,000+ students throughout their time at CCPS.

What many graduating seniors didn’t realize was that their school district-supplied laptop would need to be returned to the school district shortly after graduation, leaving several students in desperate need of this—rather pricey—school supply.

Today, a laptop truly is a necessary school supply for any college student. And at Champions For Learning, we are committed to ensuring that our graduated seniors that are heading to college students have access to any and all state-of-the-art technology available.

Champions was honored to receive a grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County that supported the purchase of nine brand new laptops. A long-time, cherished volunteer, Tom Gamber, purchased and refurbished fifteen additional laptops. In total, twenty-four graduated seniors received laptops, several just in time before beginning their summer semester.

Tracy, a recent graduate of Lely High School who had just turned in her CCPS laptop two days prior, was grateful to the donors who made it possible for her to receive her own laptop before heading to Florida SouthWestern State College in the fall to study Healthcare Administration, adding that “this is going to be a huge help at school!”

Laptops give students the flexibility and freedom they need to work on academic assignments anytime—anywhere, a convenient luxury. No matter where they are, a laptop allows college students the ability to bring their schoolwork with them. And with most college wireless networks, students are able to connect to the internet via their laptop from anywhere.

We can all remember going off to college like it was yesterday. We get our first taste of freedom when we get our driver’s license, but going to college is when we got to really experience independence. Maybe you felt excited, nervous or maybe even relieved. Most likely, you were finally out on your own and it felt great. Now, equipped with the laptops and technology they’ll need to succeed, these Champions For Learning’s students will feel great too.

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Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping 7/31 – 8/9!

The 2021 Florida Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday is happening again this year from July 31 – August 9, 2021. What used to be a tax-free weekend in Florida has been expanded to 10 days!

During these dates, you can purchase clothing, shoes, backpacks, and school supplies without paying the sales tax (6% here in Collier County). The tax-free holidays are part of HB 7061 passed by the Florida Legislature in 2021.

Here are the important details for the 2021 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday in Florida:


Begins on Saturday, July 31, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.
Ends on Monday, August 9, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

  • Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories (including backpacks) selling for $60 or less per item.
  • School uniforms less than $60 per item.
  • Certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item. Included items: pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook filler paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue, paste, rulers, computer disks, protractors, compasses, and calculators.
  • The first $1,000 of the sales price of personal computers or personal computer-related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.

For more information and a full list of qualifying items, visit https://floridarevenue.com/backtoschool.

It’s never too early to support schools and teachers!

Text “CFLteachers” to 44-321 to support our local educators.

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Attention Teachers! Classroom Grants Portal Opens 7/19

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grants opportunity allows teachers to apply for up to $2,000 per grant request to create innovative learning experiences for students.

“The impact of this grant will continue to be evident as we
progress through this year and years to come.”
– Kathleen Lawler, Pelican Marsh Elementary School

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grant online portal allows teachers to request classroom grants that are funded directly by the community to create innovative learning experiences for their students. 100% of these contributions go directly into the classroom for teachers to use with students.

The Classroom Grant portal opens Monday, July 19, 2021. To be considered for dollars from the Classroom Grants Fund, requests must be posted by Monday, September 13, 2021.

For more information, visit https://championsforlearning.org/what-we-do/for-educators-schools/classroom-grants/.

It’s not too early to start supporting the Classroom Grants Fund!

To support our teachers’ great ideas, text “CFLteacher” to 44-321.

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