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President/CEO Susan McManus Leaving Champions For Learning to Pursue Educational Goals

Champions For Learning has shared that Susan McManus, President/CEO, will be leaving her role at the end of May and will be pursuing her own educational goals.

“I am very proud of the accomplishments that our community has made over the past 32 years to support and encourage high-quality education for our children,” states McManus.  “I am a Champion for life and will continue to support the mission and vision of this organization.”

“It has been my honor to have worked with so many educators, students, parents, donors and volunteers who care so deeply about our shared vision of a community that is 100% engaged in student success,” she reflected.

McManus served on the founding board of the organization in 1990  and became the staff executive leader of Champions For Learning (The Education Foundation of Collier County) in 1993.   Through her leadership, Champions For Learning and its impact for students, families and educators has grown exponentially.

McManus has been inspired by late entrepreneur, Frank Daveler, as she looks ahead to her next chapter.  “Frank helped me see the importance of keeping an entrepreneurial mindset both personally and in my work,” she shared.  “I am eager to pursue my own educational goals.”

The Board of Directors has hired Dr. Terrie Mitev as Acting CEO, a well-respected and accomplished former educator, principal and administrator in Collier County. This interim role will steward Champions during the search process for permanent executive leadership.

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Champions For Learning Unveils New Volunteer Award

During the recent Countdown to Cap & Gown celebration, Champions For Learning unveiled a new volunteer recognition award, the Karen Harman Excellence in Volunteering Award.

Karen Harman was a long-time volunteer at Champions For Learning. For over 10 years she dedicated her time to helping students and teachers alike. “Her passion was volunteering in education, and you would never see a brighter smile than Karen’s when she was volunteering with us” said Susan McManus, CEO of Champions For Learning.

Inspired by his late wife, her husband Ray Harman chose to honor her memory through a legacy gift that will forever fund volunteer recognition. The first recipients of this award included volunteers Dottie and John Whipple. Over the last six years, Dottie and John have served in 126 volunteer roles at Champions For Learning. They have also dedicated their time to mentoring 10 students. The time and talent Dottie and John give to Champions For Learning is invaluable.

“Being a mentor and being involved with Champions For Learning has been a wonderful experience for John and me,” said Dottie. “Working with mentees and helping them navigate through high school and beyond has brought us so much joy and inspiration. John and I are so proud and honored to be the first recipients of this award.”

Five students were also recognized for the time they have donated to Champions For Learning success. They each completed over 200 hours of service. Liset H., Grace S., Yanet H., Prisca P., and Daniel C. each received the $500 Karen Harman Excellence in Volunteering Award scholarship.

Congratulations to our inaugural recipients and we look forward to awarding this meaningful recognition for years to come.

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Champions For Learning Celebrates the Class of 2022

Champions For Learning celebrated the Class of 2022 at the Countdown to Cap & Gown event on Wednesday May, 4th at Artis Naples and presented by BMO Wealth Management.

The eighty-three graduates completed two years of College and Career Prep and many will be receiving scholarships through Champions For Learning’s Take Stock In Children Program, In-Demand Career Scholars and Project STARS Program. The graduating class of 2022 has faced numerous challenges over the last two years that they have had to navigate. As Michael Rubenstein, Vice President and Senior Fiduciary Advisor at BMO Wealth Management told the students, “The skills you have learned through these challenges will help you as you continue your education and enter the workforce.”

Collectively, the 83 Champions For Learning graduates have thus far accomplished the following:

  • 479 applications for college or technical programs
  • Received 245 college acceptances
  • Earned 52 industry certificates

Graduate Brianna Barrantes made remarks on behalf of the class. She credited Champions For Learning with teaching her how to go through the college application process, make a resume, apply for a job and apply for financial aid. All of which she wouldn’t have known how to do without the guidance of Champions For Learning as her family never went through the process themselves. “Being a first-generation student was difficult enough but figuring out everything I needed to know to prepare for college seemed impossible without the Champions For Learning Community.”

Champions For Learning is so proud of how hard the Class of 2022 has worked over the last two years and their dedication to their education. Countdown to Cap & Gown was a wonderful evening celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2022!

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Mentor Becomes ‘Golden Ticket’ for One Champions For Learning Student

Nine years ago, Watson Marcelin was paired with his mentor Shepard M. Scheinberg through Champions For Learning’s Take Stock In Children program. Since Marcelin’s eighth grade induction into the program in 2013, Scheinberg has been one of Marcelin’s biggest cheerleaders, providing him with support and advice.

“Who would’ve known a relationship that I started with a complete stranger in the 8th grade would’ve come to fruition how it has today,” said Marcelin. “Shep is more than just a mentor to me. We met almost every week for about 6 years. He is a direct correlation to the success I’ve had.”

Throughout Marcelin’s high school career, Scheinberg pushed Marcelin to be the best version of himself he could be. From lessons on saving money to accepting people from different backgrounds, Scheinberg used his platform as a mentor to help prepare Marcelin for the future.

“You know, I always tried to build confidence in Watson and I would always tell him, ‘You can be anything in the world. You can be President of the United States. You can be a senator; you can do anything’. I tell him that today as well because he has this potential. That’s what mentoring is all about. To try to draw out that potential and build on it,” said Scheinberg.

Marcelin says having Scheinberg for a mentor who was there every step of the way was his “golden ticket”.

“I was just very lucky to have him as a mentor.” said Marcelin. “Lucky in so many ways. Little things, like when I was in high school, he would come to every single lacrosse game or football game I had. Little things like that went a long way.”

After Marcelin graduated from Champions For Learning and Lely High, he and Scheinberg continued to stay in touch as Marcelin attended the University of Florida and double majored in Anthropology and Economics with two minors in Entrepreneurial studies and Statistics. Marcelin now lives in Naples and works remotely from home as a Sales Development Representative in the tech sales sector.

Today, Scheinberg is still invested in Marcelin’s success and continues to find ways to connect and network him with other people. Marcelin says he believes Scheinberg thinks his job as a mentor is not yet finished.

“It’s the influence I was able to have on Watson that has been so rewarding. I think I got more out of it then Watson,” said Scheinberg.

Saturday, April 9th, Marcelin and Scheinberg had the opportunity to catch up in the same place they met nine years ago; Champions For Learning’s 8th Grade Induction. There, Marcelin got to speak on his time in the Champions For Learning program, crediting his success in life to his mentor, Shepard Scheinberg.

At the induction, Champions For Learning welcomed 47 new students into its Take Stock In Children (TSIC) program.

These 47 students are current eighth-graders from nine Collier County middle schools that will be partnered with a mentor who will help support and guide them throughout their high school years and help prepare them for college and/or a career.

The Take Stock In Children program through Champions For Learning offers students a caring volunteer mentor, a professional College Success Coach, College Readiness support. Upon successful completion and participation in the TSIC program, students earn a two-year state college scholarship.

Including Marcelin, more than 500 students are alumni of this program, with more than 200 high school students active each year.

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Champions For Learning Celebrates Lely High for FAFSA Completion

As the cost of college continues to increase, financial aid becomes ever more important. While many factors are involved in the decision to attend college, a strong correlation exists between FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, completion and college enrollment. 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.

This year, Champions For Learning received funding from the Florida Lottery through the “Lighting the Way to A Bright Future” program which funds standout projects that support students and families in understanding and taking the next steps to successful postsecondary education. Champions used this extra funding to promote FAFSA completion, including a district-wide competition. After keeping a close eye on FAFSA completion rates by high school, Lely High was deemed the winner, having increased FAFSA completion over 11% from last year.

To celebrate, Champions For Learning will be providing all 140 Lely High seniors who have completed the FAFSA with a pizza party and trophy on Thursday, May 5th at 1:00pm in the Lely High cafeteria. “This is a huge accomplishment and such a testament to the dedication of the school counseling team’s dedication to helping students prepare for life after high school”, said Jessica Manchette, Chief Information Officer of Champions For Learning.

Many of these students are currently eligible to receive a Jump Start scholarship this year through Champions For Learning.

“The Jump Start scholarship will provide over 100 eligible students with 30 credit hours, enabling them to enroll in a Florida technical program, state college or state university for one year,” said Susan McManus, President & CEO of Champions For Learning, “helping them obtain the credentials and degrees they need to enter our workforce.”

The Jump Start application is now open. Students and families can learn more and begin the application process by visiting the Jump Start webpage.

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Champions For Learning’s Mentoring Program Impacts Two Families in a Unique Way

“Definitely the greatest mentor I’ll ever have in my life”.

That is how Tyler Knight, a graduate from the Champions For Learning Take Stock In Children program, describes his mentor to this day – a mentor that he was partnered with nearly eight years ago.

Bill Beynon was Tyler’s mentor throughout his high school career. Today, he continues to provide support and guidance to Tyler.

During his high school years, Tyler says he did not know if college was for him and did not know what he wanted to do. Tyler says it was Bill that took him down a different direction that ended up being the best direction for him.

“I had an opportunity to really work with him through high school which was wonderful. Being involved in his life, he’s really become part of our family,” said Bill.

Becoming ‘part of the family’ has been taken to a new level when it comes to Tyler and Bill’s relationship. Tyler’s younger sister, Tiffany, is currently in the program as well. Her mentor is no other than Bill’s wife, Nena.

“Tiffany is a senior right now and we try to meet once a week, once every other week,” said Nena Beynon. “It’s kind of exciting to be together, knowing that it’s Tyler sister, and because they are family as well. It’s an exciting future. We’re having a good time.”

With Tyler’s encouragement, Tiffany applied for Champions For Learning and was accepted. When Tiffany’s original mentor had to step down due to an illness, Nena jumped right in.

“Because I already knew of Bill through him being Tyler’s mentor, it kind of felt like Nena and I already knew each other a bit. She really pushes me to do my best. She’s a really great influence. She’s helped me a lot through the college process and getting through high school,” said Tiffany.

Bill and Nena have been involved with Champions For Learning for years! The couple first became part of the organization about 17 years ago after being introduced to Champions For Learning through one of Bill’s former business partners.

Both Bill and Nena have been mentoring high school students for about 12 years. Combined, they have now mentored six students.

“I love the opportunity of getting to go into the schools and meeting new kids and working with them,” said Nena. “People always ask, ‘Is it a long process? I’m thinking about doing it. What do you think?’ Really, it’s just like an hour of your time during the week.”

Bill and Nena have been involved with Champions For Learning over the years in more ways than mentoring. Both have given their time serving on various committees as well as Bill being on the Board of Directors for four years. They have also generously given financially to Champions For Learning.

“We are so blessed and lucky to live here and have our businesses here. We feel it’s a responsibility to give back,” said Bill. “We’re very selective in the organizations that we participate in. Champions does such a good job. They’re a wonderful steward of the financial resources provided to them and the impacts that they’re providing in the work that we see and the results coming from that work are really meaningful.”

Today, Tyler works for his mentor Bill as an associate at Capital Wealth Advisors.

When asked why others should get involved with Champions For Learning, Bill responded, “It will impact you in such a positive way that you won’t even realize it. Not just the financial impact and seeing the outcomes and seeing where your dollars go but getting an opportunity to build relationships and seeing the impact you can have on others is just so rewarding.”

Watch Bill and Nena’s story here!

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Champions For Learning to be Honored with Torch Award

Champions For Learning is honored to be recognized by the Collier County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. for its outstanding service to Collier County.

Champions For Learning will be recognized at the Collier County Alumnae Chapters inaugural Torch Awards program on April 9, 2022.

“We are proud to recognize our community partners in the area of our five programmatic thrusts – Economic Development, Educational Development, International Awareness and Involvement, Physical and Mental Health, and Political Awareness and Involvement,’’ said Dena Liston, president of the Collier County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. “They represent the very best of our community and their work has changed lives for the better.”

Champions For Learning is being honored for exemplifing the sorority’s public service emphasis: to promote academic excellence; provide scholarships; provide support to the underserved; educate and stimulate participation in the establishment of positive public policy; and highlight issues and provide solutions for problems in their communities.

The Inaugural Torch Award program will take place virtually, Saturday, April 9th at 11 a.m.

The event will include entertainment by Shyann Roberts, a national recording artist and a member of the girl group June’s Diary formed by singer Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child.

Tickets are $35 each and van be purchased by clicking here.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the chapter’s programming and community service, including scholarships and mentoring.

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Teacher Appreciation Needed This Year More Than Ever

Teacher appreciation week 2022 is the first week of May. This year, more than ever, teachers deserve to be celebrated.

“Our teachers are the frontline to our students’ education. Our district’s vision is all students will complete school prepared for ongoing learning as well as community and global responsibilities. In order to do that, we must take care of our teachers,” said Jenny Knutowski, principal at Golden Gate Middle School.

After two unpredictable years, educators are still dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic while going above and beyond for their school.

Knutowski says that when people are appreciated, they do more. Much like how Golden Gate Middle School uses positive encouragement to build students up, teachers need the same.

Teacher appreciation week provides another opportunity for students, parents, and the community to express their support for schools.

That is why this year, much like last year, Champions For Learning is striving to raise to funds to provide Collier County schools with funding to celebrate teachers at the school level.

100% of all contributions will go to schools for their teacher appreciation week activities.

Last year, some of these activities included food trucks, spirit days, t-shirts and much more.

If you or your organization would like to donate, you can do so by clicking here.

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Champions For Learning Recognized for Program Excellence

Champions For Learning Recognized for Program Excellence by Take Stock in Children

Champions For Learning has received the Luminary Award from the Take Stock in Children (TSIC) state office by earning a Gold rating and meeting or exceeding 100% of key performance indicator goals.

Champions For Learning is an affiliate organization for the Take Stock in Children program which promotes mentoring, college success and college scholarships in the state of Florida. Students who begin the program in the eighth grade are provided a caring volunteer mentor, college and career readiness resources and, upon graduation from high school, a two-year scholarship which can be used toward any Florida public college or university, or to a vocational/trade school.

To support the students during the pandemic, Champions For Learning created new programs for mentors and students and ensured the pairs were able to meet in person and virtually. Despite these challenges, they managed to continue, and even increase, their mentoring program with local volunteers and students.

“These awards recognize the hard work of our staff to provide local Collier County students with high quality mentoring and support so they can be successful in a post-secondary education of their choosing,” said Susan McManus, President & CEO of Champions For Learning, “I’m beyond proud of their tireless dedication.”

This is the third time Champions For Learning has earned a perfect score and is being recognized with the Luminary Award.

Jillian Hasner, President and CEO of Take Stock in Children said, “Daily, our affiliate staff continues their amazing work transforming the lives of deserving students throughout the state.”

Each student in the program is matched with a volunteer adult mentor, and Champions For Learning is currently recruiting mentors for the upcoming year. Mentors traditionally meet with their student mentees at least fifteen times per year on the school campus.

To learn more about how you can join in, please visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org or call (239) 643-4755.

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Mentorship to Friendship: Mentor and Mentee form Life-Long Bond

From Naples, Florida to Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 2,400 miles won’t get in the way of Fernando Orellana and Chuck Carlsen.

Orellana is an alumnus of Champions For Learning and is currently in his last semester at Florida Gulf Coast University studying software engineering. Two weeks after graduation, Orellana plans to move across the country to begin a job as an Engineering Analyst in the Global Markets Division at Goldman Sachs.

With a full-time job lined up before receiving a college diploma, Orellana says he did not always know what he wanted to pursue after high school. He credits his recent accomplishments to his family, Champions For Learning and his mentor, Chuck Carlsen.

“Chuck has done a lot in my life and a lot of the things I have accomplished are thanks to him,” said Orellana.

Carlsen was Orellana’s mentor for four years while he attended Lorenzo Walker Technical High School.

“It was a terrific experience. I had more fun engaging and talking with him about certain skills in life and seeing him develop into the person he is today. It was very rewarding,” said Carlsen.

During a time when Orellana did not know what his future held for him, Carlsen was there to provide support and options.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to major in when I was in high school, so I would just talk to Chuck about how I want to be an FBI agent, or I want to be an OR surgeon,” said Orellana. “He would bring in people that actually worked in those fields just so I could talk to them and see what their jobs are and see if I would like it. He just made everything possible, and he was always there for me.”

Orellana says talking with multiple people from different professions gave him a better understanding of what to expect later in life.

“He had different interests. So, I brought different friends of mine in to meet and to talk to him about whatever his interests were, or to give him some life skill ideas of what he could do in his life,” said Carlsen. “He had a real good understanding when they left about what things happen in life and how things go together.”

Orellana says he has always liked math and computers. After researching careers and working with Carlsen, he decided to pursue software engineering.

Carlsen’s mentorship did not stop when Orellana graduated from the Champions For Learning program. The two have stayed in touch throughout Orellana’s time in college.

“We stay in touch by meeting frequently for lunch. I don’t know how it’s going to work when he goes to Salt Lake City, but we’ll figure it out,” said Carlsen.

While Carlsen and Orellana may not know how staying in touch will look when they live states away, it is certain they will remain part of each other’s lives for years to come.

“Chuck will always be in my heart. He will always be my friend, no matter what happens,” said Orellana.

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