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.