NEWS

Super Mom: How Community Programs Helped Mother of Six Start Her Own Business

Super Mom: How Community Programs Helped Mother of Six Start Her Own Business

by Kelsey Pena, 2016 Florida Fellow, Southwest Florida Community Foundation

On Tuesday afternoons, while the Florida sun is beating down and the cicadas are chirping in their never-ending symphony, Diane Nghi can be found in the Pine Manor community garden picking Malabar spinach for her homemade meatball and mixed greens soup.

Though Nghi is now a familiar face at the community center, her story at Pine Manor actually begins at the Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise Institute.

The month-long program designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs become self-sufficient, is where Nghi found herself when she realized that she wanted to start her own catering business.

“Even though you love how to cook, you still have to know the business end of it and the legal parts,” Nghi says, “It’s very good. It’s very intensive.”

It was during this time that Dorothy Browning, community education manager at Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, told Nghi about a one-week culinary program that was offered at the Pine Manor Community Center.

Nghi, who was in the process of starting her catering business, was immediately interested.

In fact, she enjoyed the experience so much that after completing the class, she decided to take the three-week version with her 17-year-old son a few months later and even enrolled two of her other children in the teen program.

Nghi, a mother of six, believes that the culinary skills acquired in the classes will be invaluable to her children in the future.

“When they grow up, whether they have money or not, they will not be hungry,” Nghi says, “They will know how to make things … and eat.”

However, Nghi’s children are not the only ones who have picked up valuable skills from the classes. Nghi herself has learned techniques and tips that she implements in her catering business.

Nghi began her business, The Thuy House, as a way to empower busy moms.

“I wanted to provide meals ready … to be picked up at the end of the day,” Nghi says, “… when they [parents] get home they can just serve healthy, home-cooked meals, so they can have more time to spend around the table with their kids and having more meaningful conversations.”

From spring rolls to empanadas, Nghi’s healthy, delicious meals are filled with fresh vegetables and herbs, some of which even come from the Pine Manor community garden.

Nghi, who was raised in Vietnam, grew up eating the fresh produce from her family’s garden. For Nghi and her husband, the vegetables from the community garden help to continue the tradition of healthy, nutritious eating with their own children.

On Saturdays, Nghi and her daughter have started joining fellow Pine Manor gardeners at the Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket where she has been selling her homemade creations.

Although she has only been attending the market for a few weeks, she already has returning customers and has sold out of favorites like her Asian noodle salad.

“Sometimes when you make something good and fresh and flavorful the food speaks for itself,” Nghi says, “I’m very proud of the food that I produce.

Soon, Nghi would also like to start providing cooking classes to mothers and daughters, friends, and couples. Nghi hopes that through these classes she can not only provide participants with basic culinary skills, but also inspire people to enjoy the freedom that comes with cooking.

“Don’t be afraid to go in the kitchen and just experiment,” Nghi says, “…cooking something, producing something … take pride in that.”

Kelsey is a rising junior at the University of Florida. In its second year, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is partnering with University of Florida’s public interest communication program with the 2016 Florida Fellows.  Funded by a donor who is supporting the paid summer fellowships for PR students, the Community Foundation embedded these students into nonprofit organizations the foundation has funded with a grant this past year in a continued effort to support the nonprofit, to provide the organization with resources and greater assistance in developing the organization’s messaging and storytelling.

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

Nghi and Arlo Simonds, Pine Manor garden manager, pick Malabar spinachNghi sells Asian Noodle salad at the Alliance for the Arts GreenMarketNghi, center, helps her daughter slice tomatoes at the Pine Manor teen culinary class

CAUSE & EFFECT: August / September

CAUSE & EFFECT: August / September

Aug/Sept 2016 issue

Back to It!

At this time of “Back to School,” we are hearing from our 2016 scholarship recipients who are taking big steps toward career paths, and we have recently bid our farewell to our 2016 Florida Fellows, communications interns from the University of Florida. Our nonprofit grantees hosted 3 burgeoning professionals this summer.  (Read more on this below).

We imagine the places that these young men and women will go, the things they will discover and learn and the leaders they will become.  

 
And if you didn’t know it by now, I am a Future Maker.  I am so proud of the work that this regional coalition is doing to improve the workforce in the Southwest Florida by working with hundreds of other FutureMakers in a collective impact initiative from “cradle to career” pathways. This month we will host the coalition’s annual FutureMakers Champions meeting where we get together with area CEOs, educators, municipal, business and community leaders, and more. We all have one goal in mind, to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications from 27 to 40% by 2025. Click here to learn more about being a FutureMaker too.  
Thank you for reading.
In Gratitude,
P.S. For those interested in applying for 2017-18 scholarships, you will want to be sure to SUBMIT EARLIER for FAFSA.  This year applications will be accepted starting October 1, 2016!  Please watch our website and the FutureMakers website for more information

Sustainability Plan Goes Regional

As leaders for regional change, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is addressing the quality of life for those who live, learn, work, and play in our region.

In 2015, Lee County Board of County Commissioners transferred the CompleteLee Sustainability Plan to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. We understand this plan to be a road map for driving continuous improvement. Our goal is to use the plan’s framework to measure the collective impact of regional initiatives that indicate the strength of our community.  

Our plan is a regional one.  So we will use this direction laid by Lee County to establish similar tools for the region.  We can’t wait to see what’s next!  For more information, please visit the plan on our website by clicking here.

Special Note:  This community-driven sustainability work is part of a regional effort to promote sustainability in Southwest Florida.  It is not affiliated with the for profit entity SWFL Sustainability LLC, SWFL Sustainability Summit or the SWFL Sustainability Digital newsletter.  Our efforts are supported by volunteer participation and generous donors dedicated to a sustainable Southwest Florida.  We do not solicit advertising or sponsorships for this initiative.

Announcing New Board Members

Mike Jung, Gail Markham, Dale Reiss and Jonathan Romine are newest Foundation trustees
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently elected four new members to its board of trustees.

We extend a warm welcome to Mike Jung, Gail Markham, Dale Reiss and Jonathan Romine. They have each joined the board for a three-year term.

To read more about our dedicated trustees,please click here.

Tessa LeSage, MPA, LEED AP BD+C
the Foundation’s director of social innovation and sustainability

Tessa LeSage is Apex Laureate

Tessa LeSage was chosen as an Apex Laureate by Women in Business. She was selected among women in Lee County who make a difference in their occupations and in the community. She joins our president and CEO Sarah Owen, a 2009 recipient, in the Apex Circle, an esteemed group of the Women in Business, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.  

Among her responsibilities at the Foundation, Tessa provides the backbone structure for the FutureMakers Coalition, oversees the grants processes and guides the Foundation’s regional sustainability plan.

“I am truly honored. I strive to make an impact every day, not with the goal of winning an award, but in the hopes of making the community a better place,” LeSage says. “This is very special.”

She will be honored at a black tie dinner-dance Saturday, Sept. 24, along with the Women in Business scholarship recipients.

To learn more or to attend the Apex Awards, click here.
Faces of Philanthropy Photo Exhibit to Close October 11.

It’s almost a wrap! 

This is your last chance to see the exhibit that celebrates outstanding philanthropy from the region and honors those passionate about our community and who give back.

With 65 photos of nearly 100 people, many of our visitors have found the exhibit to be a great study in portraiture.  We welcome art groups and anyone interested in the work.  The exhibit features faces from all walks of life and individuals as young as 8 years of age up to 90, photographed as a gift to the foundation by Photographer Brian Tietz.

The exhibit is open to the public weekdays through October 11 during regular Community Foundation hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some photos are located in meeting rooms so those interested in seeing the exhibit are asked to call 239-274-5900 before arriving to make sure all areas are accessible.
Prima Donors Discuss Affordable Housing
 
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted more than 20 of its Women’s Legacy Fund’s Prima Donors for a dinner at the Foundation’s Community Hub.

The evening featured dinner conversation exploring housing, homelessness and affordable housing for women. This is group that explores issues affecting women and girls in our region.

Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the Women’s Legacy Fund endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.
The WLF also offers a contributor-giving level at $250 a year. The Fund was established in 2007 by the Community Foundation to enable women in Southwest Florida to direct their giving in focused, strategic ways. Its mission is to engage women in affecting change in our community through collective philanthropy.  If you are interested in becoming a Prima Donor or becoming part of our Women’s Legacy Fund, click here.

Please save the date and plan to join us!
Fall Women’s Legacy Fund Luncheon

The Fall Women’s Legacy Fund will be held on Thursday, October 20th at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club. We will hear from the WISE Women program at Happahatchee Center, our 2015 grantee, and learn more about this year’s cause area “Career Exploration for women and girls” and award our annual WLF grant!  It’s always a good time to catch up on what’s happening with women and girls in our region.

Let us know if you’d like an invitation by emailing Sydney Roberts

TOGETHER Fort Myers Fund
More than $20,000 raised for families of victims

Thanks to the generosity of some very special people and local businesses, the TOGETHER Fort Myers Fund is helping the families of the victims pay for expenses related to the tragedy at Club Blu.  


In partnership with the City of Fort Myers and the United Way, the TOGETHER Fund has proven that we are all here and ready to help one another together with our kind and generous supporters, residents and news media.  Funds are still being collected if you’d like to give online, click here.
Foundation’s Florida Fellows Share Summer with Nonprofits
Kelsey Pena, Taylor Tringali, Karly Marcy are Foundation’s 2016 Florida Fellows
The Community Foundation’s Florida Fellows were each assigned to work for 8 weeks with one of the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s annual community impact grants. 
The fellows assisted the nonprofit leadership to develop messaging and stories of those who are benefiting from the grant. This year’s nonprofit fellowship partners were Gulf Coast Humane Society for their spay and neuter program, the Alliance for the Arts for the arts economic impact study and Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida for the Neighborhood Improvement Association community farming programs.
“Through this fellowship and other work with the nonprofit leaders throughout the year in our 2016 Grantee Tribe, we hope to support, strengthen and leverage the important work of the nonprofits in our region and provide a network for nonprofit leaders to connect and share ideas,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. 
Now in its second year, the fellowship was made possible through a donation from the Al and Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation. The project is a partnership with the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.  We say a very special thank you and a hearty “Go Gators” to our Fellows and our supportive Fellowship donors.
Southwest Florida Community Foundation elects board members 

Southwest Florida Community Foundation elects board members 

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2016) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently elected four new members to its board of trustees.

Mike Jung, Gail Markham, Dale Reiss and Jonathan Romine have each joined the nonprofit’s board for a three-year term.

Jung was named president of the News-Press Media Group in August 2015. Prior to joining the News-Press, he held the same position with the Idaho Statesman, a McClatchy newspaper. Before joining the Statesman, Jung was the publisher at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. His newspaper career includes stints in the Bay Area, Akron, southern California and Florida with notable companies like Knight Ridder, McClatchy, Gannett and Media News. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and was awarded with a McCormick Fellowship. He is active in the community serving as the immediate past board chair for United Way and previously served on the board of directors for the Boise Metro Chamber, Idaho Business for Education, Idaho Shakespeare Festival and the Idaho Food Bank.

Markham is the founding partner of Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company, a public accounting and consulting firm. Among her many designations, she is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Civil Mediator, Certified Financial Planner™, Certified Fraud Examiner and is certified in financial forensics. She is the founder of the Lee County PACE Center for Girls, and was named a WGCU Maker for her contributions in Southwest Florida by WGCU and PBS in 2013, the 2011 Woman of the Year and 2010 Philanthropist of the Year by Gulfshore Life Magazine, and she was the recipient of the Fort Myers Chamber APEX Award in 2008.

Reiss brings insights gained in her more than 40 years of experience in organizational, financial, planning and management strategies and has advised public and private companies, corporations and financial institutions in all aspects of development, investment and finance. She has experience serving on public, private and nonprofit boards and in a wide variety of industry leadership roles. Reiss has expertise in global strategic, financial, investment and governance issues. Her industry exposure includes real estate, construction, retail, hospitality, restaurant, gaming, banking and financial services, professional services, transportation and infrastructure. She was Ernst & Young’s global and Americas director of real estate, hospitality and construction until her retirement in 2008 and continued to consult to the firm until 2011.  She managed the firm’s real estate, REIT, homebuilding, construction, engineering, hospitality, gaming and restaurant practices with global revenues of more than $2 billion and more than 5000 personnel, and developed an integrated global practice with emphasis on India, Asia and the Middle East. She’s currently the managing director of Artemis Advisors, LLC, a real estate restructuring and consulting firm, and also serves clients in the position of senior managing director of Brock Capital Group, LLC, a boutique investment bank. Reiss serves as a director, chair of the audit committee and member of the investment committee of iStar Financial, Inc. (NYSE: STAR), a real estate finance and investment firm, as a director of Tutor Perini Corporation (NYSE: TPC) where she is chair of the audit committee, as a director of Care Capital Properties, Inc. where she is chair of the compensation committee, and as a director of CYS Investment, Inc. (NYSE: CYS) where she is a member of the audit, nominating and governance committees. She is a governor of the Urban Land Institute and its foundation, where she has been a past trustee, treasurer and chair of the audit committee, and is a board member of The Guttmacher Institute and of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She also serves on the board of Educational Housing Services, Inc., a nonprofit student housing organization, and contributes to her local community as a trustee of the Police Pension Board on Sanibel Island. Reiss has a bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting from the Illinois Institute of Technology, an MBA in finance and statistics from the University of Chicago and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Romine is co-owner of EnSite, Inc., a leading Florida-based design firm specializing in planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering, urban design, sustainability and graphic design. His passion is making a positive impact on the community in which he lives, works, learns and plays, and he has spent more than a decade serving the Southwest Florida community. He has served as a board member and various other capacities for The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Fort Myers South, FutureMakers Coalition, HealthyLee Steering Committee and currently serves as president of the board of directors of the Imaginarium Science Center.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Founded in 1976, it connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

Board new 2016

Four things this Fellow learned about life in a non-profit

Four things this Fellow learned about life in a non-profit

by Taylor Tringali, 2016 Florida Fellow, Southwest Florida Community Foundation

 

In the eight short weeks of my fellowship with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, I have been immersed into the world of non-profits and the people who work so hard to positively impact their local communities. Working with the Alliance for the Arts has taught me how the work they do fits into the larger picture of the community. This list is only limited to four things, but it could really go on and on. Though most of my knowledge is through the Alliance, I have a feeling all non-profits will relate.

  • Non-profit workers are passionate, and I mean genuinely-love-what-they-do kind of passion. I’ve learned that it takes a special person with an extraordinary passion in life to work at a non-profit. These people understand that the work they do isn’t just about them, and that it’s much bigger than that. They see the bigger picture, a better community, and they strive toward that bigger picture every day.
  • No one is the same. In my first week at the Alliance, I met with each team member to learn a little about them. We discussed what their job entailed and how they came to the Alliance, and it’s kind of incredible how diverse each of their paths were leading there. Their lives varied from artist, to radio host, to teacher, to campaign fundraiser before they landed at the Alliance. That’s what makes non-profits so unique; employees and volunteers come from all different places in their lives and they use their own perspective to make a lasting impact.
  • Non-profits make every penny count. The Economic Impact Study, funded by a grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, was one of my tasks as a fellow and it required the Alliance to complete a Cultural Data Profile. It was an extremely long and tedious survey with lots of numbers and references to our Profit and Loss and balance sheets. Not only did I learn what a Profit and Loss statement was, I also learned that non-profits learn to do a lot with a little. While faced with funding challenges, they continue to expand and keep up with the demands of their evolving communities, which is impressive.
  • No impact is too small. This is one of the more prominent things that have been brought to my attention about the non-profit world. The small day-to-day interactions between staff and their patrons are sometimes seemingly insignificant but the lasting effect is so important. Seeing a kid laugh and create while he paints stage props at summer camp influences the community just as much as hosting a political forum for a local organization.

In the context of a chaotic world, people genuinely love their jobs and what they do for people. Doing something good in struggling communities no matter the issue at hand fuels them to do better. Now I understand through first-hand experience how vital non-profits are to us and how our communities would lack resources, vitality, and positivity if it weren’t for these organizations.

Taylor is a rising senior at the University of Florida. In its second year, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is partnering with University of Florida’s public interest communication program with the 2016 Florida Fellows.  Funded by a donor who is supporting the paid summer fellowships for PR students, the Community Foundation embedded these students into nonprofit organizations the foundation has funded this past year in a continued effort to support the nonprofit, to provide the organization with resources and greater assistance in developing the organization’s messaging and storytelling.

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

Southwest Florida Community Foundation Prima Donors Summer Gathering

Southwest Florida Community Foundation Prima Donors Summer Gathering

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted more than 20 of its Women’s Legacy Fund’s Prima Donors for a dinner at its Community Hub.

The evening featured dinner conversations exploring housing, homelessness and affordable housing for women.

Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the Women’s Legacy Fund endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.

The WLF also offers a contributor-giving level at $250 a year. The Fund was established in 2007 by the Community Foundation to enable women in Southwest Florida to direct their giving in focused, strategic ways. Its mission is to engage women in affecting change in our community through collective philanthropy.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Founded in 1976, it connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

 

Female Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support

Female Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support

by Lisa Milne, Vice President of Programs

Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter

 

Right now, in the United States of America, there are over 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease.  According to The Shriver Report, sixty percent of caregivers for persons with Alzheimer’s disease are women and many of them say they had no choice in becoming a caregiver.  Caregiving takes an enormous toll on a caregiver’s emotional, physical and financial well-being so it’s not surprising that nearly half of all women caregivers report high emotional and physical stress. However, research shows that with supportive services, like those provided by the Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, caregivers can learn better ways of coping with stressors and therefore be healthier and experience less stress through their caregiving journey. In 2016, our Chapter was awarded funding from the Community Foundation of Southwest Florida to help Female Alzheimer Caregiver’s learn about and engage in the supportive services provided by the Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter. Here is just one example of the success of the program:

Joan* is a caregiver for her mother who has been living with Alzheimer’s disease for 6 years. Joan called our 24/7 helpline to talk to our staff about a recent wandering episode her mother had experienced.  Joan could not understand the wandering behavior and why her mother felt she had to leave the house.  Our Program Specialist explained to Joan that wandering occurs with nearly sixty percent of those living with Alzheimer’s disease.  She also mailed a packet of materials to Joan to explain different ways to redirect the wandering behavior Additionally; she met with Joan in her home to discuss ways to keep her mother from wandering. Joan was directed to a Caregiver Support Group where she continues to learn new ideas to help her in her caregiving journey and she feels she is helping others better care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Our Chapter delivers caregiver training classes to caregivers on a variety of subjects and also provides Emergency Respite Care to caregivers who need a break from their caregiving responsibilities.

Joan has reported feeling relieved now that she has a network of people to talk to and learn different ideas from in regards to caring for her mother and she is just one example of the many women Alzheimer caregivers who have called our helpline, received a one-on-one care consultation, attended a support group and/or an education program or used our Emergency Respite Care program since our program began last Spring.  It has been so rewarding to see the impact our organization, with the support of the Community Foundation of Southwest Florida, is making in the community and I look forward to hearing the many powerful testimonies from women Alzheimer caregivers, like Joan!

The Alzheimer’s Association-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Programs can be accessed by calling (800) 272-3900 or www.alz.org/flgulfcoast.

*name has been changed to protect the identity of our client.

 

This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

 

Real World Learning Model Student Highlight: Darchelle Excellent

Real World Learning Model Student Highlight: Darchelle Excellent

by Jason Kurek, Champions for Learning

“If you know you have the potential to do something, then you need to do it,” says Darchelle Excellent, Champions For Learning Real World Learning Model participant and a Naples Daily News 2016 Graduate of Distinction.

Darchelle’s motivation to reach her full potential came from her parents who immigrated to the United States from Haiti. Despite searching for a better life, Darchelle and her family struggled.

“My family struggled financially. Growing up I knew I didn’t want that. I wanted to do something about my situation, so I focused on my education,” says Darchelle.

Her drive led her to attend Lorenzo Walker Technical High and in 10th grade she decided to dual enroll at Florida SouthWestern State College. Her classes have helped her get a head start on her career of becoming a nurse practitioner with a focus on neonatology. Darchelle’s love of helping her community sparked her interest in the medical field, but it was something close to home that solidified her decision.

“I always wanted to become a nurse,” says Darchelle. “But once my little sister was born premature I knew that this was the field I needed to get into.”

Despite having big plans for her future, Darchelle found herself stuck. She had a dream like everyone else, but being a first generation student, she needed extra guidance to reach her goals. In her junior year of high school, Darchelle found this help through the Real World Learning Model College and Career Prep program where she received support with filling out financial aid forms, scholarships, and college applications. Champions For Learning received multiple grants from organizations such as the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to support this program.

“The program really helped me. When I had a question about a form the Champions For Learning staff were there to help,” says Darchelle. “If I didn’t have this program I would’ve really struggled.”

Receiving support from others inspired Darchelle to pay it forward by becoming a part of a mentoring program called “The Golden Hour.” The program matches Honor Society Juniors and Seniors from Lorenzo Walker to North Naples Middle School students. This program was devised by 2015 Golden Apple recipient, Ed Laudise, through his Golden Apple grant funded by Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.

“It was such a great experience mentoring my 6th grade students,” says Darchelle. “My student had potential, but didn’t know how to use it. In 3 weeks he made a complete turnaround. He would come in with his homework done. His grades went up. I honestly saw a big change.”

Darchelle has embedded her roots deep into Collier County, but moving away to the University of Florida doesn’t shake her up.

“I’m ready to take the next step,” she says with an excited smile. “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time.”

 

This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.