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Becoming A Champion For My Commmunity : Billensky

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

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

Full List of Teachers of Distinction and Best Practice 

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

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

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

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

Help provide life-changing learning experiences to students! There are still opportunities to fund a teacher’s great idea. Visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org/CWACgrants to support local classrooms today! You can also help fund Classroom Grants through the License to Learn Fund (Florida Education Tag). Collier County community members can buy the new version of the tag now, $20 of the annual $25 fee is donated to Champions For Learning and 100% of the funds support classroom grants.

Full List of Classroom Grant Recipients 

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Champions For Learning Celebrates 30 Years

Champions For Learning is celebrating 30 years of creating life-changing learning experiences for every student. Our community recognition has begun with a proclamation by the City of Naples recognizing September 24th as Champions For Learning Day in collaboration with schools across Collier County.

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Champions For Learning Earns Fourth Consecutive 4-Star Rating

Champions For Learning’s (The Education Foundation of Collier County) strong financial standing and commitment to accountability and transparency has led the organization to earn a four star rating by Charity Navigator, the leading charity evaluator in America, as it celebrates its 30th year as an organization.

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Champions For Learning Announces 2019 -2020 Board of Directors

Champions For Learning is proud to announce their 2019-2020 Board of Directors as we celebrate 30 years. This group of professionals and community leaders are dedicated to creating a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success along with preparing for the next 30 years.

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Attention Class of 2020 Attend a Rising Senior Workshop!

Registration is open for the Class of 2020 to attend Champions For Learning’s Rising Senior Workshops.

These Rising Senior Workshops are provided at no cost to Collier County students and families thanks to the generous support of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and Naples Children & Education Foundation.

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Congratulations Graduates!

The 12th grade students who have accomplished their goals in Champions For Learning programs were celebrated in a Countdown to Cap and Gown Celebration, presented by BMO Harris Bank, on April 11th at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.

More than 450 people—board members, school staff, donors, volunteers, mentors, parents, and alumni joined to celebrate the 95 seniors representing 11 high schools participating in the Take Stock in Children and College and Career Preparation programs of Champions For Learning.

To-date, the senior class (95 students), has accomplished the following

  • 220 college acceptances
  • 9600+ community service hours
  • And, to date, earned 104 scholarships totaling just over $3.4 million dollars

The Champions For Learning Class of 2019 was named in honor of Claudine Leger-Wetzel for her leadership and commitment to the mission of Champions For Learning which has spanned almost 14 years and represents her personal dedication and passion for education, along with the her professional role with Stock Development sharing their commitment to education.

The student program support is generously provided by many donors and in particular, thank you for the incredible generosity from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Take Stock In Children Foundation, Florida Prepaid Foundation, Naples Children and Education Foundation, Suncoast Credit Union, and the School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program through the State of Florida and Consortium of Florida Education Foundations.

In addition to BMO Harris Bank as presenting sponsor, these sponsors also helped to make the evening celebration possible:  AT&T, Gulfshore Insurance, Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, and Naples Daily News.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to help Champions For Learning earn matching scholarship dollars for next year’s class, or you would like to get involved as a mentor, please contact Champions For Learning at 643-4755.

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Attention 10th Graders- College and Career Prep Program Application- NOW OPEN!

Champions For Learning would like to encourage students in 10th grade from public or independent high schools, to apply for the Champions For Learning College and Career Preparation Program. This program is provided at no cost to students and families thanks to the generous support of many donors and in particular, thank you for the incredible generosity from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Naples Children and Education Foundation, Suncoast Credit Union, and the School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program through the State of Florida and Consortium of Florida Education Foundations. 

Students are provided with:

  • College and career preparation program in Champions For Learning on-site lab (Summer of 2019 through 2021)
  • Family workshops on college processes such as applications, financial aid and college planning
  • Naviance, a web-based tool that enables students to stay on track with college access tasks as well as ACT and SAT test preparation

Program Eligibility:

  • Current 10th grade student in a public or private school in Collier County (and resident of Collier County
  • Minimum 2.5 unweighted GPA
  • Must satisfy credit requirements to be on pace to graduate in spring of 2021
  • Must have good attendance
  • Exhibit good behavior in and out of school
  • Student must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or an eligible non-citizen
  • Meet the program income eligibility:  Eligibility is limited to households with a combined adjusted gross income for tax filers and earned income for those not required to file a federal tax return of less than $119,915.  2018 taxes preferred, but will accept 2017 taxes.

The deadline to apply for the program is May 8, 2019 and it is a competitive application process.  To download an application, visit ChampionsForLearning.org/apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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