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Champions For Learning Receives Post-Ian Relief Funding For Collier County Educators

Governor Ron DeSantis has awarded Champions For Learning a $350,000 gift to assist Collier County educators affected by Hurricane Ian. A total of $2 million was awarded through the Florida Disaster Fund to the local education foundations in the six hardest hit counties and is intended to help teachers get back on their feet.

As the Education Foundation of Collier County, Champions For Learning is uniquely positioned to articulate the needs of our educators. In the wake of Hurricane Ian, Collier County educators are facing serious challenges with housing and transportation.

“Teachers have shown up time and time again to educate our community’s next generation of leaders,” said Barbara Evans, President & CEO, Champions For Learning. “We are proud to be able to receive this incredible generosity from Governor and First Lady DeSantis to support that effort.”

This press conference brought together educators, district leaders, and representatives from each county impacted from the destruction. DeSantis shared, “There are a whole host of things that need to be done, so this will provide some help in that regard. We look forward to being able to do more things for our educators in the days and weeks to come.”

The damage caused by Hurricane Ian has brought a heightened awareness to the lack of housing for educators in Southwest Florida. Some teachers are unsure where they’ll live, their homes either leveled by Ian’s 150 mph winds or uninhabitable due to the storm surge that flooded large portions of Southwest Florida. Yet despite having lost their homes, their cars, their belongings, teachers have not lost hope. Educators and school staff in Collier County went back to school within days after the storm, welcoming students with compassion and care.

“These funds will directly assist our educators who are admirably teaching and supporting students while trying to rebuild their own lives,” said Dr. Kamela Patton, Superintendent of Collier County Public Schools. “We are grateful to partner with our Education Foundation of Collier County, Champions For Learning, to directly support staff who need this assistance the most.”

Looking ahead, Champions For Learning will continue to assess the needs of our community’s educators and will provide updates on how these funds will be allocated. Be sure to follow our social media accounts for up-to-date news and information.

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FAFSA Now Open, Champions For Learning Here to Help through Completion Event

Current high school seniors can now apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to help provide financial assistance for attending college. However, in the wake of a devastating hurricane, applying for FAFSA may be more difficult for some students, especially for those who may have lost documents needed during the storm. Champions For Learning is committed to ensuring Collier County students have the resources necessary to apply for and receive financial aid.

A completed FAFSA form opens the door for need and merit aid to be award from the Federal, State, and Institutional level. In fact, over 90% of all private scholarships require the FAFSA to be completed. That is why Champions For Learning will be hosting a FAFSA Completion Event, Saturday, October 22nd from 9am to 12pm at Lorenzo Walker Technical High. There, trained staff and volunteers will be available to assist students and parents in completing their online FAFSA form. Florida SouthWestern State College, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Lorenzo Walker Technical College admissions will be in attendance providing admission application waivers along with some providing instant admission and decisions. The Collier Community Foundation will also be on site sharing scholarship opportunities.

“FAFSA should be included in the first steps in planning for education after high school. The great thing is, you don’t even have to apply or have been accepted into college yet. Students who complete the FAFSA may qualify for aid to be used at a technical college, state college or university,” said Jessica Manchette, Chief Programs Officer, Champions For Learning. “Aid from completing the FAFSA opens the door for not only a high-quality degree or credential, but also the potential for a career in a in-demand industry in our community. The sooner students apply, the more funding is available. Champions For Learning is dedicated to helping students and families across southwest Florida complete this milestone as their first step into post-high school education.”

Applying for FAFSA requires certain documents such as a social security number (student only), previously filed tax returns (for 2021). For students who lost everything in Hurricane Ian, providing these documents could be extremely difficult. Champions For Learning has gathered resources on how to obtain these documents as well as how the storm may have impacted the student’s financial situation if the student is now homeless or if the student is receiving special aid related to Hurricane Ian. Resources can be found here. 

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Champions For Learning Awards Record-Breaking Number of Grants to Collier Teachers

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

During the course of the day, Champions For Learning awarded a record-breaking 280 grant checks that totaled $166,288 to 55 schools in Collier County. The checks will provide teachers with the funds needed to implement creative and innovative learning experiences for their 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. This online grant program began in 2003 to enable the community to directly support teachers.

“We’re thrilled to be delivering more grant checks than we ever have, a 63% increase in funding,” said Barbara Evans, President & CEO, Champions For Learning. “That says a lot about how much our community supports and appreciates our Collier County teachers, especially while we’re all still recovering from the storm.”

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 License for Learning License Plate Fund, Florida Power & Light (FPL), Harry Debes Family Foundation, Lipman Family Farms, Lucie Jenny MacCarthy Music Fund of the Collier Community Foundation, Naples Luxury Builders, Judith Palay, Perna-Rose Foundation for Hope, Publix Supermarkets Inc, Women In Naples Giving Support (WINGS). This is in addition to numerous contributions from individuals in the community who view and fund grants for which they have an interest.

The community still has an opportunity to provide life-changing learning experiences to students! There are over 100 grants remaining to be funded. Teachers still have an opportunity to submit new grant requests to be considered by the public. Especially now in the wake of Hurricane Ian, teachers may have new post-storm needs.

Click here to fund a Classroom Grant today!

You can also help fund Classroom Grants through the License to Learn Fund (Florida Education Tag). When Collier County residents purchase or renew the Support Education tag, $20 of the annual fee is donated to Champions For Learning and 100% of the funds directly support classroom grants.

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Champions For Learning helps provide nearly 200 backpacks full of school supplies following Hurricane Ian

As Collier County recovers from the impacts of Hurricane Ian, there are some students within our county facing a difficult reality. With some losing everything they own in the storm, students are returning to school with no supplies. In response, the community donated enough school supplies and backpacks for around 200 students.

Leaning on the community for support during these trying times, our community did what they do best and supported our students. Within 72 hours, our community responded with more supplies than Champions For Learning thought possible during the wake of a disaster.

St. Monica’s Episcopal Church offered their space for the backpacks and supplies to be dropped off and then packed. Sunday afternoon, community member, alumni and staff of Champions For Learning gathered to stuff the nearly 200 backpacks with school supplies. Within an hour, all the backpacks were ready to be delivered to Collier County students.

The donation of supplies does not stop there! Fenstersheib Law Group, a law firm in Hallandale, Florida, more than 100 miles away, learned of the need of school supplies in our community. The law firm is now donating 400 backpacks already filled with school supplies. With the help from our Collier County community and Fenstersheib Law Group, 600 students will be provided with a backpack full of school supplies.

Supplies that are not used within Collier County will be donated to students in Lee County, the community most significantly impacted by Hurricane Ian.

The outpouring of support from our community at a time like this is a testament to the amazing people within Collier County who truly are 100% in support of student success.




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Collier County Students in Need of School Supplies Following Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian has devastated Collier County, many lost everything. With school resuming on October 6th, Collier County’s students and families are in need of school supplies as well as basic supplies. Champions For Learning has created a list of supplies that our Collier students need to ensure their academic success post-storm. We are asking our community to bring newly purchased supplies to St. Monica’s Episcopal Church (7070 Immokalee Rd, Naples, FL 34119), who will be collecting and sorting supplies. The need is great, but we know that our Collier County community will rise to the challenge.

For Elementary School students:

250 backpacks

250 packs of colored pencils

250 packs of dry erase markers

250 scissors

750 glue sticks

500 composition notebooks

250 packs of lined filler paper

250 boxes of tissue

250 sets of markers

1000 packs of pencils

250 packs of disinfectant wipes

1000 pocket folders

School Uniforms:
150 khaki shorts/pants (various sizes)

150 solid polo shirts (various sizes)

For Middle and High School students:

250 backpacks

250 3-ring binders

250 notebooks

750 folders

750 composition books

1000 pens/pencils

Hygiene kits for students and their families:

500 deodorant

500 soap

250 feminine supplies

500 shampoo/conditioner

500 razors/shaving cream

St. Monica’s is located on the corner of Immokalee Rd. and Logan Blvd., a mile east of I-75, and will be open to receive supplies Thursday 10/6 9am – 3pm and Friday 10/7 9am – 4pm.

Any additional supplies received beyond what is needed in Collier County will be donated to Lee County Public Schools.

Champions For Learning is committed to doing everything in our power to support our schools, educators, and students. We are committed to ensuring that our students’ basic needs are met first while being ever so cognizant of their educational needs. If you are inclined to support our general relief efforts, please make a gift at www.ChampionsForLearning.org.

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Frequently Asked Questions following Hurricane Ian

As we navigate through this difficult time following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, Champions For Learning is here to help our students and their families, teachers, donors, and volunteers. Below are some frequently asked questions as well as resources being provided by Champions For Learning and our community.

General Questions:

Q: Is Champions For Learning open?
A: Yes! The Champions for Learning office is located in a CAT-5 rated building with a generator. We opened our offices the day after the storm for our Collier County nonprofit partners to use as a communication center as we are aware that many cannot use their own space at this time. Thus far, three nonprofits are borrowing our space. If your organization is in need of space, please reach out to info@championsforlearning.org.

Q: Is Champions For Learning giving away supplies?
A: Champions For Learning is working to connect schools, teachers and students with resources. We are also working with St. Monica’s Episcopal Church to collect supplies for Collier County students. You can view a list of supplies needed and how to donate by clicking here.
Click here to for a list of what Collier County Public Schools are doing for the community.

Q: What resources is Champions For Learning offering?
A: There is space here at Champions For Learning for you to use as a hospitality center. We have power, internet, laptops, hot coffee, and people who care and want to help.

Q: Are there any other resources available?
A: Collier County has resources in place to assist you with immediate needs.  You can download the Collier Cares app (colliercares.org) or call 311 for non-emergency assistance.

Q: What do I do if I need assistance with mental health during this time?
A: Champions For Learning can provide you with mental health support. Please feel free to email kcarolan@championsforlearning.org  if you are in need of this resource. Your inquiry will be kept confidential.

Q: Are events at Champions For Learning still happening this month?
A: Champions For Learning will not be hosting any social events in October, including the Meet the CEO event on Thursday, October 6th and the Glass Slipper reception on Tuesday, October 11th.  We will keep you posted as these events are rescheduled.

Questions teachers might have:

Q: Is the classroom grant portal still open?
A: Yes, the classroom grant portal is still open. We recognize that you may have new needs due to the storm. Please continue to post requests via the portal. Surprise delivery day will be happening soon.

Questions our students might have:

Q: What can Champions For Learning do for me during this time?
Students and families are welcome to come to the office Oct 4th 2-7:30, Oct 5th 1-5pm, Oct 6th 3-5pm to use any of our resources (internet, laptops, hot coffee, and friendly staff that care about you and your family).

Q: When can I meet with my mentor?
A: Champions For Learning mentoring zoom sessions have resumed. Sessions will be offered virtually at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82301363525
Mentor sessions by zoom are canceled October 13th, but will be Monday and Thursday weekly starting on the 17th.  The zoom sessions are available 3pm-6pm, with the last option to join at 5:30pm.

Q: Can I meet with my mentor in person?
A: You are welcome to meet with your mentor at the Champions For Learning Office Monday-Friday 8:30am-5:00pm. Please notify us in advance if you would like to meet with your mentor.

Q: When is the 9th and 10th grade Goal Setting Workshop?
A: This workshop will now take place on Oct 20th at 5pm and again at 6pm.

Questions our high school seniors might have:

Q: When will there be lab for 12th graders?
A: We have open “drop-in” times at our office to complete your FAFSA or work on college and scholarship applications.  Please plan to join us during ONE of the following options:
Oct 4th 2-7:30, Oct 5th 1-5pm, Oct 6th 3-5pm, and Oct 10th 3-5pm.
Please bring your parents’ 2021 taxes & FASFA ID. You do not need to be here for the full session. These are open options to best meet the needs of our students during this time.

Q: How can I complete my FASFA during this time?
A: We will be holding open labs for students to complete FAFSA, College Applications, or use WIFI/technology. Open Labs this week: Tuesday, October 4th,  2-7pm, Wednesday, October 5th, 1-5pm, Thursday, October 6th,  3-5pm. You can also view a step-by-step video of how to complete the FASFA: https://youtu.be/zLDE-SAde0c (With Spanish subtitles: https://youtu.be/hylZEv7oVdY)

Questions volunteers and mentors might have:

Q: What can I do to help?
A: We are currently in the process of assessing the needs of our students, teachers, and schools, and will share that needs assessment with the community as soon as possible.

Q: When can I meet with my mentee?
A:  Mentor/Mentee Zoom Sessions will be offered Thursday 10/6, 4-6:00 pm. The link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82301363525
There will be no zoom sessions hosted on 10/13.

Q: Can I visit my mentee at school?
A: Please wait for in-person school visits through next week while the schools re-open. The Champions For Learning office is available 8:30am-5pm for sessions if needed.

Q: When is the next mentor learning session?
A: The next mentor learning session will be Tuesday, October 4th at 1:00pm. This optional learning session for mentors is about SAT/ACT, AP vs. Dual Enrollment, Bright Futures, TSIC App

The link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88447115874  (The session will be recorded if you are unable to attend).


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Collier County schools: Where to Get Supplies and Where to Donate

Collier County Public Schools are stepping up to help during these uncertain times. Below is a list of schools that are collecting supplies and schools who are offering help. Check to see what your school is doing!
If your school is collecting supplies, make sure you take your donations to that school.

Elementary Schools

Avalon Elementary: Distributing basic supplies. Food, water, paper towels, toilet paper. Done on 10/2 and 10/3.

Corkscrew Elementary: Collected items on 10/4 to support those in need in our community.

Lake Park Elementary: If you are part of the Lake Park family and in need of supplies, fill out a form by clicking the following link. bit.ly/LPEIan22

Manatee Elementary: Collecting toiletries, cleaning products, grocery/gas gift cards and non-perishable foods.

Naples Park Elementary: Collected items on 10/4 to give to our staff and families in need. Looking for: Gift cards, Large plastic bins with covers, Cleaning supplies, Paper towels, All Hygiene items, Diapers, Sheets, Towels, and Paper supplies. Thanks!

Pelican Marsh Elementary: Collected donations on 10/4 for local families in need.

Pinecrest Elementary: Collecting toiletries, cleaning products, grocery/gas gift cards and non-perishable foods.

Poinciana Elementary: Poinciana Pelican Families! We are here to help! Please fill out the form below with your needs. https://forms.office.com/r/yPEX3jYXqd

Sea Gate Elementary: Seahorse families, we are here to support you!  Please fill out the form below with your needs! forms.office.com/r/cH4eVwepKM

Shadowlawn Elementary: An Amazon Wishlist has been created for items needed: https://amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/36XO6Q0S22CBZ?ref_=wl_share

Tommie Barfield Elementary: Collected items on 10/4.

Veterans Memorial Elementary: If your family is in need of anything please email Ms. Vieira directly with the specific need(s), vieiraje@collierschools.com. We understand many of you may not know what you need just yet as you are in the process of post-hurricane clean up but as you do please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly! This information for both student families and staff families will remain anonymous with only administration knowing whom donations are needed for. Please know your VME family is here to support you if you are in need of anything!

Middle Schools

Cypress Palm Middle: Collected supplies on 10/4. Asking for non-perishable food, water, clothing, shoes, toilet paper, toiletries, cleaning products, garbage bags, towels.

East Naples: Donate or Pick Up: Thursday and Friday from 9am til 4pm!

Manatee Middle: Stated on Twitter, “Please let us know what you need”.

Oakridge Middle: Collecting items to distribute to local schools with the greatest needs. Collected items on 10/4. Asking for bread, peanut butter, jelly, Ramen Noodles, Pasta, rice, pinto beans, fresh fruit, dry milk, water, Gatorade, juice, canned goods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and baby items.

Pine Ridge Middle: Taking a collection of clothes, toiletries, shoes, undergarments, towels and diapers! Please help by dropping off items to our MPR on 10/5 and 10/6 from 8 am-11am.

High Schools

Barron Collier High: Taking donations Wednesday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. They are looking for clothing, blankets, non-perishable food and cleaning supplies. If you are in need of supplies, please email dawesro@collierschools.com  

If you do not see your school on the list above, that means we do not have any information if they are collecting or distributing supplies. Please reach out to us at info@championsforlearning.com to add what your school is doing to help!

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Champions Update: Our Role As “Second Responders”

The vision of Champions For Learning is a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success. We have been actively assessing how we can best respond as “second responders.” We are learning that many of our students and teachers have lost everything, including several members of our team. We are working with Collier County Public Schools to compile a list of most needed items. Once we have this list, we will share it with you. We are committed to doing everything in our power to support our educators.

The Champions for Learning office is structurally sound, watertight, and operational thanks to a generator. We have opened our offices to Collier County nonprofit partners to use a communication center as we are keenly aware that many cannot use their own office space.

We are committed to ensuring that our students’ basic needs are met first while being ever so cognizant of their educational needs. Sadly, we have canceled our first FAFSA completion event. We have created a step-by-step online tutorial that can be accessed anytime. We anticipate doing more online tutorials to keep our students on track as much as possible. As we learn more about our students’ needs, we will provide the necessary resources to ensure their academic success.

We are grateful for the many calls, text messages, and emails offering support. If you are inclined to support our relief efforts, please make a gift HERE.

Thank you for being a Champion For Learning! Together, we will make a difference for our educators and students.

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