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Collier County School’s honor all their teachers for National Teacher Appreciation Week

 

NBC2 News Story: Collier County School’s honor all their teachers for National Teacher Appreciation Week

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.– Each year, a select number of teachers that go above and beyond are presented a Golden Apple Award.

This year, the non-profit organization, Champions For Learning, decided all teachers in the Collier County School District deserve something special during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

For teachers across the country, it’s been a difficult 14 months.

Bruce Mousa, Incoming Chair for Champions For Learning said, “We consider the educators the superheroes and just because they’re dealing with a precious commodity.”

Some teachers thrust themselves into a new world of virtual learning while others worked to maintain a COVID-safe classroom environment.

Kelsey Ruemler, Media Specialist at Gulfview Middle School said, “I wake up every single morning thinking what I can do to help these students be successful.”

“This year, all educators are Golden Apple winners,” Mousa said.

The non-profit teamed up with local sponsors to gift each school a bushel of apples, flowers, and a $2,000 grant for administrators to use however they’d like.

At Poinciana Elementary School, Principal Jessica Davis said her staff decided to put a twist on their mantra this school year.

“….Our Flame of Knowledge Burns Bright and then during Teacher Appreciation Week it is Our Flame of Knowledge Burns Bright Because of You. You being the teachers,” Davis said.

Just like every other day the school decided to put the kids first and use the grant to rent air hockey tables, bring in a food truck, and gift students lunch bags.

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Golden Apples over gold stars: Collier schools celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week amid COVID year

by Rachel Fradette, Naples Daily News

Poinciana Elementary School teacher Judy Ramirez and her second-graders know what it takes to earn a Golden Apple Award.

Ramirez, who took home her award in 2013, gives out her own brand of golden apples when her students go above and beyond with their behavior and learning gains.

One of her students, 8-year-old Jordan Heady, said he’s taken home an apple more than 10 times.

“It’s been a really positive thing for our class,” Ramirez said.

It’s something, she said, that was important to continue, especially this school year amid COVID-19.

“It’s been tough, but man, after this year I think we all feel like we can get through anything,” Ramirez said.

From catered lunch to unique themed days, 58 schools in Collier County are celebrating their teachers, like Ramirez, following a year of ups and downs.

Second-grade teacher Judy Ramirez, center, takes part in a Teacher Appreciation Week presentation with her students, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at Poinciana Elementary in Naples.

Champions For Learning, the county’s education foundation, and sponsors provided funds to schools in lieu of the annual Golden Apple event and awards, which honor teachers for their work.

Every school received $2,000 through Golden Apple sponsors to salute teachers during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

In a year where Golden Apples will be absent, Poinciana Elementary School Principal Jessica Davis said she sees it as just the opposite.

“I think for this particular year it was definitely an additional importance to celebrate Golden Apple as every teacher receives a Golden Apple,” Davis said.

Davis and her staff were recognized on more than one occasion for their work this year and last year. Amity Wyss was named assistant principal of the year in Collier County.

Also at the school, media specialist Kristi Humberger and media assistant Celine Johnson, are Collier schools 2021 nominees for Florida Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the year.

Davis said the school’s staff is remarkable. Wyss said teachers have remained positive while being student-focused.

Poinciana Elementary second-grader Alex Olmos holds a Golden Apple during a Teacher Appreciation Week ceremony, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at Poinciana Elementary in Naples.

Surprises in store for teachers this week

This week at Poinciana is centered around the Olympics. Every day this week will zero in on a continent with prizes and activities sticking to the theme, including scones on Europe Day and synchronized swimming outside the pool.

“We wanted to tap into that it takes a team that collectively wins,” Davis said.

Gulfview Middle School students wrote letters to their teachers that are being delivered as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.

“They’re just the sweetest sentiments that kids need to be here, and they need teachers,” Elizabeth Brown said.

Brown, a reading coach at the school, said the start of the school year was scary, but teachers quickly adjusted to where they are meant to be — the classroom.

“Sometimes showing up each day is a celebration because I spoke a lot to our kids and the emotions and the difficulties that they have to grapple with, but the truth of it is our teachers are going through the same thing,” Brown said.

Other surprises for educators include breakfast, lunches, and treats, according to the school.

Gulf Coast Charter Academy South is matching funding to make this week special for its teachers.

Teachers at the charter school will have breakfast and lunch catered all week, and they will also take home gift cards.

“We’ve definitely seen a large morale ebb and flow as the year goes on,” Will Staros, principal of Gulf Cost Charter Academy South, said. “And as we get into a state testing time and evaluation time this week, in particular, is really strong for us to be able to push for the next four weeks until we get to summer.”

Bruce Mousa, right, board member at Champions For Learning, talks with Gulf Coast Charter Academy South students and staff during Teacher Appreciation Week, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at the school in Naples.

The kindergarten team worked hard to keep their spirits up throughout this school year, teacher Aishia Buford said.

“I think we cope by uplifting each other, reaching out to each other, texting each other, funny memes, dancing in the hallways from a distance with each other, so we’ve been trying to uplift each other,” Buford said.

Kindergarten teacher Beth Staros said teachers have not complained this year because of how much they love their profession, but that did not make it easy.

“If you’re out in the community and you see a teacher, thank a teacher,” Staros said.

The Naples Daily News is a 2021 Golden Apple major sponsor.

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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Celebrating Our Educators: The Heartbeat of Our Community

This year, the 31st Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers television special honored all educators across Collier County for the extraordinary work they have done in ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward. The program, presented by Suncoast Credit Union and broadcast on NBC-2 on Sunday, April 25th, 2021 and is now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cSqCPmMW0g.

To continue the celebration, and with the generous support of our sponsors, funding of $2,000 has been provided to 58 Collier County schools to help each school community celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3 – 7). Each of the schools have been so creative in how they will be using the funding this week—from food truck lunches to special decorations to flower arrangements—this is another amazing opportunity to thank our educators for an extraordinary year.

On Tuesday, May 4th, the entire community is encouraged to show their gratitude for our schools and educators. Champions For Learning has also organized a list of teacher appreciation ideas which can be found at https://championsforlearning.org/appreciation.

Each school will be visited by Champions For Learning volunteers and sponsors on May 4th to thank our educators and deliver a token of appreciation from the community. Champions For Learning has also partnered with CCPS Nutrition Services to provide an apple for every student and teacher at each of the 58 schools on Tuesday, May 4th. Apples will be on the lunch menu for students, and bushel baskets of apples will be available for teachers.

The Golden Apple program is presented by Suncoast Credit Union and supported by major sponsors Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, Naples Illustrated, NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and Stock Development. Attached please find the complete list of Golden Apple sponsors that have made this funding possible for our schools.

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Golden Apples: Foundation, sponsors to fund Teacher Appreciation Week in lieu of yearly awards

Rachel Fradette, Naples Daily News

Golden Apple day in Collier County, with all of its surprises and tearful excitement, is transforming this year to celebrate educators in a new way amid the pandemic.

In lieu of the annual awards and dinner, Champions For Learning announced that 58 Collier County schools will receive funds to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week how they see fit.

Every school through Golden Apple sponsors will receive $2,000 to salute teachers May 3 to May 7 with a special emphasis on May 4 when community appreciation is encouraged.

The county’s education foundation said the pandemic led to a different opportunity and they ran with it.

“We’ve always done well when we’ve listened,” Susan McManus, president of Champions For Learning, said. “I think that was what came across this year.”

McManus said the foundation could not just proceed with their typical program this year; they needed to hear from educators like in every other year.

Foundation staff spoke to Collier school leaders about what teachers were feeling about the unprecedented year and how they might celebrate innovation and hard work in classrooms, McManus said.

“The principals and the selection committee taking the time to be on the phone and talk through all this, you know, it’s inspired us. It’s encouraged us,” McManus said. “I’m so glad we did it. I can’t even imagine right now trying to go through the motions of that, that same process or celebration.”

From coordination with their parent-teacher organizations to creative themes, schools are in the process of developing how their communities will salute their educators, Lisa Church, chief community impact officer for the foundation, said.

“I was just so impressed so far with what I’m seeing around how the principals are engaging so many people in the celebration plan,” Church said.

Church said she hopes to see Collier as a community reflect on what it has meant to have schools open this year and think about ways to say thanks you to teachers and school staff.

Last year, Collier schools hosted the foundation’s annual surprises mere weeks before the shutdown in Florida.

The results of school closings led to the cancellation of the foundation’s annual dinner, which celebrates awardees and other educators.

The coronavirus pandemic also prevented community volunteers from being able to visit classrooms as part of the selection process for the awards, McManus said.

“We did come to that understanding with them that we would make a commitment to helping the community really understand what it’s been like this year, maybe not by picking just teachers of distinction individually but by our organization really committing to putting a whole different process in place,” McManus said.

Lee County’s annual celebration sponsored by The Foundation for Lee County Schools moved forward with safety precautions and measures in place. Six Lee County teachers took home their Golden Apples last month.

In addition to the Teacher Appreciation Week celebration, Collier’s Champions For Learning is honoring educators through a TV special on April 25 that will focus on teaching and learning through the year.

This year’s program is dedicated to Lavern ‘Lal’ Gaynor, a prominent Naples philanthropist who often involved herself with the organization. She died this week at age 97.

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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2021 Golden Apple Celebrating this Extraordinary Year of Teaching and Learning

This year, more than ever, it is so important for us, as a community, to appreciate and honor teachers and principals across Collier County for the extraordinary work they have done in ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward.  While the pandemic has prevented Champions For Learning from sending community volunteers into schools to identify individual Golden Apple recipients, it also provides an opportunity to tell a larger story about teaching and learning over the course of this extraordinary year.

Join in the celebration by watching the 31st Annual Golden Apple program presented by Suncoast Credit Union and broadcast on NBC-2 on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, at 7 pm.   This is a story of exemplary leadership, courage, resilience, creativity, and collaboration of our Collier schools and educators, which has allowed our community to move forward in ways other communities have not.  Our educators are the heartbeat of every community.

In lieu of the annual dinner and with the support of our generous sponsors, funding of $2,000 will be provided to 58 schools to help each school community celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3 – 7). On Tuesday, May 4th, the entire community is encouraged to show their gratitude for our schools and educators.  Champions For Learning has organized a list of appreciation ideas which can be found at https://championsforlearning.org/appreciation.

The Golden Apple program is presented by Suncoast Credit Union and supported by major sponsors Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and Stock Development.

 

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Introduction to Innovation

For 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 January, allowing the lab space to be reimagined, moving the new Center into the future.

Frank & Ellen Innovation Center Classroom | Champions for Learning   Frank & Ellen Innovation Center Classroom | Champions for Learning   Frank & Ellen Innovation Center Classroom with People | Champions for Learning

Scheduled for completion in June 2021, the new Center will expand the capacity and opportunities for Champions For Learning to support collaboration and innovation with teachers, students, parents, volunteers and community partners. As you look at the renderings of the reimagined Center, you will see that the strongest theme is collaboration. 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.

We are excited about the opportunity to engage teachers, students, parents and the community through the Center for Innovation and know that you are excited to move into the future with us!

Champions For Learning is in need of funding for furniture and materials for student modular workstations and conference rooms for the Frank & Ellen Daveler Center For Innovation. Contributions to the Innovation Center will be matched dollar for dollar.

Join in. Your gift to Champions For Learning inspires our community to continue to work together. No gift is too small–your gift can be combined with others to support life-changing learning experiences.

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

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Educators Are The Heartbeat Of Every Community!

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grant program allows teachers to make grant requests that are funded directly by the community to create innovative learning experiences for their students. One-hundred percent of these contributions go directly into classrooms for teachers to put to use immediately with students.

Tommie Barfield Elementary demonstrates the outstanding creativity and innovation shown by teachers, especially during this incredibly challenging year, offering us the opportunity to understand the incredible daily effort put forth by our educators — they truly are the heartbeat of every community!

The Health and P.E. educators at Tommie Barfield Elementary School could not wait to get students’ hearts pumping when they returned to school last fall, but they knew that doing so during the pandemic — where new protocols were in place around safe distancing and not using equipment — was going to be a challenge.

Fitness Activity Circuit Stencils, obtained through a classroom grant requested by P.E. teacher Deana Richett and funded by Ray Harman, in honor of Karen Harman, made it easy to transform the sidewalks and hardcourts at Tommie Barfield into safe environments to play and be physically active. The stencils are perfect for creating fun and engaging sensory, fitness, and socialization opportunities for students of all ages.

During recess, students can run through the circuit at their leisure. During physical education classes, the teachers use the circuits with more structure, building on daily lessons. Given all the changes and restrictions put on students this school year, it is important for their social and emotional well-being to have safe opportunities to play. All 500 Tommie Barfield students are now able to improve their motor development, flexibility, strength, and coordination through the different activities available while still following safety guidelines.

This year, more than ever, it is so important for us, as a community, to appreciate and honor teachers across Collier County for the extraordinary work they have done in ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward. 

The Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers continues to be an opportunity to highlight teaching and learning in Collier County. Although the pandemic has prevented us from sending community volunteers into schools for a Golden Apple selection process, it has created an opportunity for Champions For Learning and all Collier County Public Schools to tell a larger story about teaching and learning over the course of this extraordinary year.

Presented by Suncoast Credit Union, the Golden Apple television program will air on Sunday, April 25th at 7:00 pm on NBC-2. Leading up to and following the program, there will also be social media highlighting each of our schools, and this will serve as a bridge to Teacher Appreciation Week in early May. Champions For Learning will also lead a community-wide initiative to thank educators on Tuesday, May 4th.

Join in. Your gift to Champions For Learning inspires our community to continue to work together. No gift is too small–your gift can be combined with others to support life-changing learning experiences.

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

Save The Date

 

 

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Top Five Reasons for Becoming a Mentor

Have you ever considered being a mentor but uncertain about getting involved?

Champions For Learning offers Collier County community members the chance to mentor high-achieving, low-income public school students who show the potential to go to college. Upon successful completion of the program, each student mentee earns a two-year state college scholarship from Champions For Learning.

Here are five reasons why we ask you to look beyond the obstacles that may have held you back in the past and to take the next steps in becoming a mentor for a local student today:

Reason #1: Mentors change lives. 

Just think about the impact you can have on a young person’s life!

Do you remember a teacher, a coach or a friend who said or did something that changed the trajectory of your life?  This is your chance to do that for someone else.  Not every mentoring partnership is life changing but every mentor has the potential to instigate change.

You may not think that you have much to offer but engaging with someone who has had an entirely different background can be immensely rewarding for both of you.

Many young people in our community don’t see attending college as a possibility, but you can help change this. Give a new generation the encouragement and support that will help them make the most of their potential.

Seeing a student developing their life skills firsthand and, knowing that you have played a part in this, can be incredibly satisfying.

Reason #2: Mentoring allows you to gain new perspectives. 

Mentoring is a unique opportunity to step outside your normal circle of friends and family to gain an intimate understanding of how the world looks through someone else’s eyes.  New perspectives lead to fresh ideas, and who knows where fresh ideas could lead you?

Mentoring gives you the chance to engage with someone younger than you, who may see things very differently than you. In a changing world, it can be very rewarding to understand how those who have come after you think, and also how they view your own generation.

Mentoring a young student also helps bridge the generation gap, as each generation can come to understand the other’s motivations, goals, and attitudes.  In fact, we’ve found that at some point during most mentoring experiences, it begins to feel like there’s no gap at all.

Reason #3: Mentoring feels good. 

We guarantee you that once you become a mentor the “feel good” factor will take hold.  There is little more rewarding than knowing you are making a difference in someone else’s life.

Mentors have the opportunity to build up someone’s skill set and confidence – and that’s a relationship not easily forgotten.  Not to mention, the idea of enlightening another person’s life will always add additional happiness to yours.

Mentoring is more than just a fancy word for supporting someone else. It is a commitment of time and effort that is incredibly rewarding, providing a sense of fulfillment that extends far beyond your mentor/mentee sessions. It is knowing that you have made an impact on your mentee while at the same time undertaking some valuable self-reflection, which can only have positive outcomes for your own life.

Reason #4: Mentors become part of the Champions For Learning family.

Champions For Learning offers a connection to our community that many often feel is missing. It’s a connection to the needs that exist in Collier County, to like-minded volunteers and mentors, to the teachers, students and families the community served through Champions For Learning, and to the Champions For Learning staff.

When you offer your time to mentor, you not only make a difference in the life of your mentee and in the future of our community, you also become a part of the Champions For Learning family. A family that is dedicated to creating life-changing learning experiences for students, but also a family that is very much dedicated to one another.

Reason #5: Mentors leave a legacy.

Most of us long for a legacy, some stake in the future that says, “I was here.” What better legacy than to be a part of shaping the future of our community?

Mentors can have a lasting impact on their mentees. This is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a mentor… just knowing the small contribution you have made to the life of a young person can be incredibly rewarding.

Remember how lost and confused you sometimes felt during high school?  By acting as a mentor, you can help make challenges and transitions easier for your mentee. And when you reflect on what you have given to your mentee, you receive a profound sense of legacy and gratification.

Q & A with Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement, Champions For Learning

Kristen Peras, Champions For Learning

What’s the purpose of the mentoring program?

The mentoring programs offered through Champions For Learning break the cycle of poverty by identifying high-achieving, low-income public school students who show the potential to go to college and providing them with holistic support. More than 200 high school students are active in the program each year.

What do students need to do to qualify for the program? And what kind of assistance do they receive?

Students entering 9th Grade with economic need, good grades, behavior and attendance in school, and a desire to achieve post-secondary goals may apply to the program. The program offers students a caring volunteer mentor, a professional College Success Coach, and College Readiness support.

What is the end goal of the program?

Upon successful completion of the program, students earn a two-year state college scholarship from Champions For Learning. To date, Champions For Learning has impacted over 32,000 students.

Do mentors need special experience or skills?

No experience is required, 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 a tutors or counselors.

How long of a commitment do mentors need to make?

Mentors are encouraged to continue to mentor the same student through his/her high school graduation to continue building the relationship with the mentee and their family.

How often do mentors meet with their mentees?

Mentors meet with mentees face-to-face or through virtual sessions during the academic year, sessions are typically held bi-weekly.

Can mentors meet with mentees virtually?

Virtual Mentoring via Zoom is offered to connect with mentees in supervised settings during lunch and after school hours. Virtual mentoring allows for seasonal mentors to be engaged all year and working mentors to have a session from the office.

Are there any requirements for mentors?

All mentors must undergo a screening process through Collier County Public Schools. Once screened, Champions For Learning matches you to a student and coordinates an introduction with your mentee.

Do mentors receive guidance from Champions for Learning?

Mentors receive a wealth of resources and training opportunities from Champions For Learning to ensure the success of the program and relationship and to help inform the focus of your meetings, including direct support from Champions For Learning staff and seasoned mentor liaisons, as well as online resources and webinars. If at any point a mentor has a concern about their mentee, they are encouraged to notify the Champions For Learning team to help resolve the issue.

What should we do if we’re ready to take the next step?

Contact me – Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement – at 239-643-4755 or KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org. Or visit our website — ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore — to join us at our next All About Mentoring informational session.

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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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