Alina Donahue, a 2018 Associate Leadership Collier (ALC) graduate, recently wrote an essay on the most valuable experience she's encountered to date. You guessed it—She wrote all about her ALC program experience. Check it out below:
"I have been fortunate enough to be a part and experience some amazing opportunities within our community. The experience I value the most has to be my time with Associate Leadership Collier (formerly known as GAIN).
When I first contemplated the idea about applying for Associate Leadership Collier (ALC), I didn't think I was ready. I heard about ALC and immediately thought, there is no way I will get accepted. It was very competitive to say the least.
Several weeks after applying, I received the best email ever, "Congratulations! You have been selected to participate in the Associate Leadership Collier, Class of 2018!" I was 27 years old and had just received my first position as a Director of a local hotel. I was extremely nervous. Every single person in my ALC class had one thing that I didn't have, a college degree. In a sense, I was secretly embarrassed about that, though I never showed it.
I'll never forget the first day of session. The meet and greet was scheduled inside the Naples Chamber building, there were about 40 of us. In alphabetical order, we all had to stand up and give a short introduction of ourselves with a fun fact. At the time, my last name was Perez and I was relieved because I had time to think about what I was going to say.
One by one, everyone stood up and did their introductions. You can tell some had done this before. In my class we had directors, lawyers, police officers and soon to be executives! I was petrified. When Amanda said my name, I stood up and I could feel my hands shaking. As I felt the blood rush to my face from nerves I introduced myself as "Alina Perez, Director of Sales for the Bayfront Inn 5th Avenue. I am currently the youngest Director of Sales in SWFL. And a fun fact about me is that I have a strong passion for Human Trafficking and have since joined one of The Shelter's NEXT GEN committee to help with this cause." When I finished those 3 sentences, I felt so relieved. And in that moment, I knew that I would fit right in.
During ALC, I learned so much about our community. Not only did I feel lucky but I also felt privileged to have this opportunity. Every single session was my favorite session. I never took the sessions for granted. Every week I went in with an open mind, ready to learn about our community and how I could help make Naples become that much stronger. I gained a confidence that I had yet to experience before. I became confident in my abilities as a professional and was no longer timid to take a seat at the table with our future community leaders, who also became friends.
I would say that Associate Leadership Collier was the starting line within my professional journey. Whether it's making a new partnership, asking local community leaders for guidance or giving back to our community, I can honestly say that I wouldn't have been able to do this without my experience in ALC."
For more information on ALC, click here.
Tony McClure (LC ‘15)
Tony McClure, a partner in the litigation department at the law firm of Porter Wright, hales from Ohio. When he relocated with his family to Naples in 2012, not only was he looking to make his mark professionally in his new hometown, he was also searching for opportunities to have an impact and connect with like-minded people.
Leadership Collier was the perfect fit for his pursuits, and the friendships and opportunities that followed have fulfilled him in ways he never imagined were possible when he started the program in 2015.
For Tony, Leadership Collier IS community. He shares, “It’s a group of people from all types of industries and backgrounds coming together to learn more about Collier County and to learn more about each other. That’s what community is all about.”
Tony was hooked from the very first session, and the rewards just kept coming. He said, “The entire day was aimed at allowing us to get to know each other better. By the end of the day, I already had the beginning of so many good friendships – which I still have to this day.”
Tony, whose son has special needs, quickly found a home to apply his leadership skills, passion for community and love for his son, when he joined the Board of Directors for Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC) in 2015. His son benefits from their therapeutic horseback riding lessons.
Tony is also finding ways to give back to the next generation and the LCF Alumni Association through the Leadership Collier Mentor Program, which pairs Youth Leadership Collier participants with GAIN and Leadership Collier alumni working in an industry where the mentee has an interest. He also serves on the Public Policy Committee of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Pro Bono Committee for the 20th Judicial District of Florida.
Tony’s advice to fellow alumni, “Use those friendships you’ve made and build on them. These are people with whom you’ve shared countless memories. Accept this gift and continue to build those great relationships. Your life will be richer for it.”
In addition to these fulfilling leadership opportunities that have come his way as a result of his LC experience, Tony shares that some of his best friends are LCF alumni – two of whom recently married and now have a child. Talk about a richer life?!
Now President of the NTRC Board, this month Tony was invited to share his leadership expertise on board development at the LCF Get Involved Collier Volunteer Expo. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to connect his LCF friends and his passion for special needs, Tony invites alumni to join him in support of NTRC’s signature fundraiser, The Bootstrap Boogie Barn Dance, on November 9th.
Nikkie Dvorchak (GAIN '17)
As Vice President of Events and Development for the Greater Naples Chamber, Nikkie Dvorchak manages all the monthly and annual Chamber events and giving for the organization. Her work with the Chamber has given her the wonderful opportunity to work with a variety of businesses, community leaders, and talent every day. “When I see the efforts of so many people in Collier and what they do to help each other out, to do good for those in need, to take time to participate on committees, boards, and to volunteer, it truly is a place unlike any other. I am so fortunate to be able to be a part of it,” Nikkie said.
In 2011, Nikkie and her husband made the big decision to move to Naples from Pittsburgh, Penn. “Pittsburgh will always be a huge part of who I am and I love going back to visit, but I love that I can now call Naples home,” Nikkie said. “I had been visiting the area with my family for many years. It was always a dream of mine [to live here]. I decided I didn’t want to wait until I retired but wanted to live my dream now. The people are by far the best part…but of course the beauty, quality of life and endless opportunity are what make Naples really special.”
Nikkie has planted her roots firmly into the Naples community and her commitment to supporting our local area extends well beyond her important work in the Chamber’s offices. She is also a co-chair of the Zoobilee event at the Naples Zoo, where she works to help raise awareness and bring in needed funds for environmental education programs and for conservation initiatives to save threatened and endangered species. Nikkie’s dedication to our local zoo has earned her a position on the Naples Zoo’s Board of Directors beginning in October 2019. She is also a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, serving on the organization’s National Philanthropy Planning Committee. As a GAIN graduate, she also serves on the LCF Alumni Association Events & Outings Committee.
Nikkie’s favorite Chamber event is the Naples Children’s Business Fair, which will be held on January 11, 2020. Nikkie says, “This event gives young entrepreneurs ages 6-17 the opportunity to showcase their product or service to the public. We had amazing participation our first year, and I can’t wait to see it continue to grow this year.” Please support her efforts by attending and participating in the exciting upcoming Chamber events she has worked so hard to plan.
Amy Cooper (LC '12)
GOAL: Amy Cooper is on a mission to match LCF Alumni like you to the non-profit volunteer, board, and mentoring opportunities that best utilize your skills and abilities.
Supporting local non-profit organizations is an integral part of the Leadership Collier Foundation’s mission. Sometimes as alumni, we know we have talents, time, and specialized knowledge to pitch in and make a difference for local non-profits but aren’t sure where those talents could be best utilized. That’s where Amy Cooper and the Matching Needs Committee come in! Amy Cooper, a Certified Public Accountant and Principal of Non-Profit at CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, has been serving as Chair of the Matching Needs Committee for the last six years.
Amy sums up the committee’s mission like this, “The Matching Needs Committee advocates community trusteeship through volunteerism and mentorship. The committee supports the mission of LCF by being a source for alumni for volunteer opportunities.”
As volunteer and mentor opportunities arise, the committee plays a kind of matchmaker, helping non-profits solve complex challenges by finding a highly qualified LCF member to pitch in. LCF’s alumni have such diverse backgrounds, experience, and skills, they are oftentimes ideally situated to help non-profits perform their best. The committee’s matching service helps utilize the talents and expertise of LCF alumni so members can give back to their community in the most meaningful and impactful ways.
Amy is most proud of her work on the Volunteer Expo. “It was started several years ago and has become a sought after event for the alumni and public to get to know the non-profits in the area that are looking for volunteers and board members,” Amy said. Supporting LCF by chairing the Matching Needs Committee is important to Amy. "It is a good way to give back to the community. The LCF program was one of the best experiences that I’ve had and volunteering through this committee has been rewarding.”
If you are looking for a way to get more involved with LCF through the Matching Needs Committee, Amy invites you to contact Amanda Beights. Amy says, “We are always looking for people who want to contribute!”
Stacey L. Herring (LC ’13)
Stacey L. Herring, Vice President of Private Banking with Morgan Stanley Private Bank, is no stranger to leadership, hard work and service to others. Born and raised in Southwest Florida, Herring has devoted her life to making a difference in the lives of those she encounters both professionally and personally – something she attributes to the lessons her aunt taught her growing up.
Herring shares, “I was exposed at a very young age to children who didn’t have the same life and opportunities that I had. It really had an impact on me and made me realize how blessed I was.”
Now she’s putting that passion to work for the LCF Alumni Association serving on the Board as the Leadership Lunch Chair and former Vice Chair.
Throughout her 25-year career in the financial industry, Herring has achieved great professional success. She has applied that experience and her passion for helping children to her community involvement, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. In addition to winning awards as a top producer professionally, Herring was named a 2007 Gulfshore Business 40 Under 40, 2013 Champions for Learning Glass Slipper Award winner, and 2014 Community Foundation Women of Initiative.
Since getting involved with Leadership Collier, Herring has channeled the vast knowledge she gained and the profound connections she made along the way to make a meaningful impact in her community endeavors. During the LC sessions, she never missed a chance to meet each presenter and followed up with them afterwards knowing that one day she may need to call upon them. By being engaged, asking questions, staying involved and taking action, Herring has gotten the most out of her LC experience and our community is better for it.
As a self-proclaimed social person and constant learner, Herring enjoys her work with the LCF Alumni Association because of the opportunities it provides to spend time with other like-minded people committed to the greater good, to deepen relationships and stay connected with fellow alumni as well as stay up to date on topics that are valuable to making and keeping our area the best place to work and play. Something she takes back to her service work.
Herring said, “When choosing opportunities to give back, I prefer a leadership position or to serve as chair. I have a strong vision for the task at hand and bring passion and heart to my service work.”
The long list of her leadership roles for local charities includes Chair and Vice Chair of the Women of Initiative; Chair and Vice Chair of Junior Achievement of SWFL Business Hall of Fame; Chair of the Youth Haven Annual Lunch; Chair of the NCH Hospital Ball Gala; and Chair, Co-chair and Auction Chair for C’Mon Dream Gala.
Herring adds, “I believe that one person can make a difference, but a collective spirit can change the world. Leadership is what ties us together. Whether it’s a class project, serving on a board or chairing an event, Leadership Collier gives those of us who care a chance to come together and make a real impact by exposing us to the challenges that impact us as a community every day.”
Matin A. Nestares (GAIN ‘17)
Born in Argentina and raised in Maryland, attorney Martín Nestares has made Collier County his home for just over four years and he is already making a significant impact. Martín is a Founding Partner of ABN Law, Vice-Chair of Collier Child Care Resources, a board member of the Council of Hispanic Business Professionals, a member of the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee, and is involved with the Collier County Bar Association. He is also raising a family here – he and wife Kennedy have a 15-month-old son, Francisco – and he is a graduate of Growing Associates in Naples (GAIN) 2017.
Martín’s favorite part of his GAIN experience was “making lasting professional and personal relationships while gaining a deeper understanding of the community around me” and seeing the areas in his community where he might be able to give back. He cites these as some of the reasons Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF) programs are so important for Collier County.
“The challenge with community involvement is that it sometimes may feel that you are on your own,” explains Martín. “GAIN allowed me to develop a stronger network of professionals who are willing to be engaged in their community and work together in order to make Collier County a great place to work and live.”
He believes that LCF alumni can make a difference in the key issues facing Collier County. “One of the biggest challenges for our community is how do we continue to grow while at the same time protecting our natural resources which attract so many of our visitors and new residents,” explains Martín, who enjoys spending time outdoors. He also cites lack of civility and listening to other points of view as another challenge, saying “we may not always agree on everything, but we should have an open mind and listen to the ideas of others.”
Martín encourages LCF graduates and other professionals “to become just a little more involved in their local government,” such as attending a County Commissioners meeting to voice their opinions, and to help foster that open dialogue that is so important for our society.
Tim Philbrick (LC '06)
Tim Philbrick (LC ’06) is on a mission to help Youth Leadership Collier participants “realize their potential and give back to the community they live in.” He would love the help of LCF Alumni like you to provide internships, mentoring, and learning experiences to maximize the impact of the YLC program.
Longtime Youth Leadership Collier facilitator and Sales and Marketing Consultant Tim Philbrick hopes the YLC program will continue to “provide opportunities and open doors to the graduates” of the program. He is eager to inspire more Leadership Collier graduates to get involved and support the program with their time. According to Philbrick, when LCF Alumni invest in the Youth Leadership Collier program by providing mentoring, internships, and opportunities, “This helps us guarantee that YLC graduates will continue to come back and give back to our community.”
“There is nothing better than having LCF Alumni take an inspired student and give them a chance to live and grow right here in Collier County,” Philbrick said. “We have heard so many times that the students did not know about all there is in Collier County and what they can do to live and work here, until YLC.”
Philbrick has been dedicated to supporting the Chamber in meaningful ways for over a decade. He says working with the Chamber is one of the “most inspiring things” he’s done and that “the inspiration continues year after year.”
“It is an absolute joy to now be seeing YLC grads becoming such contributing members in our community and to know that our group of facilitators helped stoke that fire,” Philbrick said.
Apart from his generous support of Youth Leadership Collier, Philbrick serves on the Small Business Council and is a sort of “Chair Emeritus” of the golf committee, having helped organize this signature Chamber event for 15 years. He has since handed off chairing the committee to Buddy Hornbeck (GAIN '12, LC '17) and Nikkie Dvorchak (GAIN ’17) who he says, “have taken the event to great places.” No stranger to jumping in to help others, Philbrick has been awarded two Volunteer of the Year Awards from the Chamber and three American Red Cross Good Neighbor Awards for his dedicated public service.
With 25 years of marketing experience for companies including Cannon and Xerox and having owned his own print and copy centers around Southwest Florida for 13 years, Philbrick is now a Sales and Marketing Consultant with Business Dynamix Solutions, LLC. He trains and consults businesses on marketing strategies, sales, customer service, and human resources.
When it comes to business, Philbrick offers up this piece of advice from St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists: Be who you are, and be that well.
Philbrick notes that Collier County has “such a special customer base that is unique to anywhere else in our nation and world.” He wants business owners to understand that our local customers “look forvbusinesses to be masters of their craft and to have an understanding of their customer’s needs.” He says to be a successful business in Collier County your business should “only do what you can do well, keep your ears open, and let your customers bring out the best in you.”
Thank you for inspiring all of us, including the next generation of leaders here in Collier County, Tim!
Dr. Kamela Patton (LC '12)
When it was time to honor a Leadership Collier Foundation alumnus with this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award, our winner, Collier County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton, stood out for her commitment to the entire Collier County community and her dedication to ensuring its future is bright thanks to its future residents, employees and leaders.
The award is presented each year to an individual who fulfills the mission of the Leadership Collier Foundation through his or her continued education and work toward community solutions in the public interest. Dr. Patton fit the bill perfectly, according to Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michael Dalby.
“We’re looking for those who have led significant, impactful efforts, embodying the LCF tagline: Be Informed, Be Engaged and Be the Difference,” Dalby says. “This year, in light of Dr. Patton’s game-changing leadership in public education and CCPS’s annual participation in our LCF programs, we felt Kam was most deserving of this recognition.”
Past recipients of the LCF Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award are Michael McComas, CJ Hueston, Ted Soliday, James French, Don York, Ed McNamara, Bud Hornbeck, Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, Carlton Case, Jeff Fridkin, Alan Reynolds, Fred Thomas, Terri Douglas, Barbara Berry, Scott Salley, Tom Schneider, Russell Budd, Patrick O’Connor, Paul Marinelli, Dave Weston, Donna MacNiven, Bart Zino, George Drobinski, Jan Kantor, and Patrick Neale.
Dr. Patton is a Leadership Collier Class of 2012 graduate and has continued to give back to LCF in a variety of ways, including serving on the LCF Board of Advisors from 2012-2015, returning to speak to LCF and GAIN classes, and having the school district support one staff member to complete the LCF and GAIN programs each year.
Patton was surprised with the award recently--the same way her own Golden Apple Award-winning teachers have received their awards. She was formally honored at the Leadership Collier and Growing Associates in Naples Class of 2019 graduation ceremony on Thursday, April 18, 2019.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is far from the only honor Dr. Patton has received during her eight-year leadership of CCPS. She has been named Superintendent of the Year by several statewide education associations and received honors from diverse organizations including the NAACP, Boys & Girls Club, Salvation Army, and several Southwest Florida publications’ “who’s who” lists.
But, says Dr. Patton, the Distinguished Alumni Award “is very special because this is a special community. You’re very honored when you’re recognized by a group that has so many distinguished alumni. The LCF family is made up of so many leaders and people who are so passionate about this community.”
In fact, ensuring she joined a Leadership Collier class was one of the first things Dr. Patton did when she moved from her previous role at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “The first call I made was to get into this program,” Patton said.
Dr. Patton’s tenure has focused on connecting the community with the district and its diverse community of 48,000 students and 7,000 teachers. Many of these connections have come from Patton’s involvement with LCF and its alumni from her class and others.
“I’m grateful that Leadership Collier has directly connected me to this community,” she says. Of her status as an LCF graduate, Patton says it creates an automatic connection with more leaders in Collier County than her role as superintendent could have otherwise.
“You don’t even have to know that person to know you have a connection (due to LCF),” Patton says. “The community support is just unprecedented.”
Those LCF connections have become integral as the district begins working toward its new goal to ensure every student has a plan for “college, career, and life.”
Programs geared toward ensuring students are ready for the post-high-school world, no matter where it takes them, include a robust internship program for high school students, mentoring programs for students interested in trades, and the Future Ready Collier program.
Supported by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Future Ready Collier is a “network of organizations, businesses, schools and community members working to ensure every child is ready for kindergarten and every young person enters adulthood with a vision and plan to accomplish that vision.”
LCF even came to the rescue before and after Hurricane Irma when the school district turned into the county’s sheltering system, ultimately providing shelter for 17,000 people at 28 buildings. Alumni helped connect the district with “whatever we needed.”
Many residents would be surprised to learn some of the unique challenges the school district faces, including a population where 66 percent of students are provided free or reduced-price lunch, 103 languages and dialects are spoken, and more than 60 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged.
Despite these and other hurdles, CCPS has excelled under Dr. Patton’s leadership and is now ranked third of 67 county school districts in Florida – up from number 33 just a few years ago. The graduation rate has also increased to 92 percent, up nearly 20 percent from seven years ago.
Dr. Patton credits the strides CCPS has made with “laserlike focus on individual students,” as well as looking at each student as a whole person rather than simply a set of grades and test scores. “Academics will catch up because they know we care about them,” she says.
As part of the district’s three-year strategic plan, a new focus on social-emotional wellness includes advisory boards for students to provide district leaders their feedback on programs and new ideas; community-building events such as school movie nights and nights at the fair for CCPS employees and their families; time during the day for students to collect their thoughts and organize their days; and even “buddy benches” for students to extend an offer of friendship to someone new.
Ultimately, Dr. Patton says, the district’s efforts to prepare students should mean students feel confident coming out of school and into whatever life they choose ready to become the next generation of leaders in Collier County.
“When we shake their hands on the graduation stage and ask our kids, ‘What’s your pathway?’ they know their answer,” says Dr. Patton.
Thank you for your leadership in our community, Dr. Patton!
Andres Paz (GAIN '15)
Local Sales Manager for Media Vista Group, Vice-Chair of this year’s GAIN class, and GAIN 2015 alumnus, Andres Paz is proud to call Collier County home. Andres often expresses his appreciation for his participation in the GAIN program and is now focusing much of his volunteer efforts with LCF, working to promote the GAIN, YLC, and Leadership Collier programs through new and different media. His goal: To encourage more diverse applicants so that classes more closely resemble Collier County’s demographic makeup. He is especially excited to spark the interest of Hispanic professionals so they apply to LCF programs.
“Many Hispanics that I know of have never heard of any LCF programs,” Andres said. “I’m inspired to spread the word so that more Hispanics can go through programs like GAIN and enjoy the benefits of being an LCF alumnus.”
Elected by his GAIN classmates to represent them as graduation speaker, Andres says the program for emerging leaders had a huge impact on his life, both personally and professionally. Andres credits GAIN with providing valuable connections who have shaped his business relationships and friendships. He says, “the quality of my fellow GAIN 2015 Gold-Standards is outstanding,” crediting several of his classmates with inspiring him to “become a better person” and “opening doors” to new opportunities, organizations, and entities.
Even with a busy career, Andres finds time to give back to the community. Andres says GAIN “was a game changer for me,” connecting him to the young professionals who are working every day to make Collier County the best place to live, work, and visit. GAIN inspired him to dig in and volunteer more, surrounding him with new opportunities to give back that he never would have known existed.
Because of GAIN, you can call Andres a fairy godfather for children at Youth Haven, Southwest Florida’s only emergency and residential shelter for boys and girls ages 6-18 who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Andres has collaborated with fellow LCF alumni, including Denise Murphy (GAIN ‘15) and Danny Pate (LC ‘16), to provide unique opportunities for children at the shelter. Just this month, he took a group to the Collier County Fair for a night of fun and games. In past years, Andres organized a night out at the movie theater.
A fan of our envious weather, Andres enjoys the opportunity Naples’ climate offers for him to play soccer and ride his bicycle year-round. While some complain about traffic during season, he doesn’t mind it and is appreciative of the economic impact our snowbirds and tourists have on the local economy.
Buddy Hornbeck (GAIN '12, LC '17)
Buddy Hornbeck is an Area Vice President with Gallagher Lutgert Insurance and an Accredited Adviser in Insurance. He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Alabama. Buddy can regularly be seen supporting LCF Alumni events, as well as the Chamber where he serves as a board member and chairman of the annual golf tournament. He is also on the board of the Winged Foot Scholarship Foundation, and the Young Executive Society Board for the Naples Historical Society. Buddy and his wife Lindsey recently welcomed their first child, a son.
What was your favorite part of the LCF programs? You get a chance to learn and bond with people from many different industries and those relationships continue to grow once you graduate.
How did your experience with your class help you get ahead? I feel better prepared to look at issues in our community from multiple angles and have open discussions about how to improve our community for the generations to come.
Why do you think the LCF programs are important for the community? Leadership Collier really opens your eyes to issues that you might not have known were there. You learn to look at the bigger picture.
In what ways do you support the LCF Alumni Association? I like to attend as many LCF events as my schedule allows, including Wine Down Wednesday, LCF Behind-the-Scenes, or the LCF Holiday Party. As chair of the Naples Chamber Classic Golf Tournament, I hope my fellow alumni will come out strong and attend or sponsor the tournament! It takes place on Friday, May 3 at The Strand. It is always one of my favorite networking events of the year! Contact me or Nikkie Dvorchak (GAIN '17) for details.