Our Work for Students

The Education Foundation of Collier County — Champions For Learning and Gulfshore Playhouse and Inspire Future Builders

Gulfshore Playhouse welcomed Champions For Learning students to the construction of the new theatre, the Baker Theatre and Education Center, offering them insight into the various technical career paths that are directly involved with building projects. What began as an instructional lab session at Champions For Learning, where students were introduced to different job opportunities available in the construction industry, quickly turned into a hands-on experience outside of the learning lab thanks to the help and involvement of Rich Housh.

Rich Housh, an expert in energy, HVAC, and automation has been a dedicated patron of Gulfshore Playhouse alongside his wife Jenny, who also has served on the Board of Directors, since 2011. Together they made a substantial gift to the capital campaign supporting the construction of the new theatre, naming the Housh Main Entryway, the exterior staircase leading up to the new building. Rich is also actively involved with Champions For Learning. After he spoke to students in Champions For Learning Student Programs about the different technologies that are utilized during a new building project and the jobs available in Southwest Florida in the construction industry, he took his lesson a step further and set up a tour for students to see these technologies in person.

“This was a perfect display of partnering between two prominent Naples based nonprofits, Champions For Learning and Gulfshore Playhouse. Both of these great organizations are focused on educating the youth of Collier County and beyond,” said Rich Housh, owner of Smarter Building Solutions. “Students from Champions For Learning who are interested in pursuing careers in architecture, construction, and the skilled trades in general were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the soon-to-be completed Gulfshore Playhouse! Bravo to all!”

“We are so grateful for the partnership and support of Rich Housh and Gulfshore Playhouse,” said Barbara Evans, President and CEO of The Education Foundation of Collier County — Champions For Learning. “Creating opportunities for our students to not only visit an active constructive site, but to see the technological systems and equipment that wouldn’t be easily accessible once construction is complete is an exciting gift. This tour makes career exploration more tangible while showcasing the opportunities that are available right here in Naples. Investing in our students through unique experiences like this supports our belief that education is everything.”

Gulfshore Playhouse is in the process of completing the Baker Theatre and Education Center, a more than 40,000 square foot space that will serve as a hub for professional theatre, education, and community engagement. During the tour, students learned and saw how this professional theatre will use sound and lighting technologies in the same way Broadway theatres do. Visiting this state-of-the-art facility allowed students to gain a first-hand educational experience about the intricate and often unnoticed details of the construction field.

“By inviting students from Champions For Learning to tour our construction site, we had the opportunity to expose them to a variety of careers in the construction industry,” said Kristen Coury, the Founder, CEO and Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse. “I hope we’ve inspired the next generation of builders, engineers, and innovators, but also hope this experience ignites in them a passion for dreaming big.”

Champions For Learning and Gulfshore Playhouse both share a passion for education and equipping future generations with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the workforce. Opportunities such as touring a theatre under construction provide students with an opportunity to envision their future careers.

“Touring this building excites me about continuing to pursue my passion of architecture and design even more,” said Megan M., Champions For Learning student. “The complex process of bringing this whole theatre to life is very cool to me since I’ve never thought about how a building comes together and all the construction work that goes into it. I was amazed.”

This joint opportunity to tour the Baker Theatre and Education Center was recently highlighted in the online publication of Broadway World, a digital theatre news outlet with reach world-wide.