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.
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.
The Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF), in coordination with The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, congratulates the 2019 graduating classes of Leadership Collier and Growing Associates in Naples. The graduation reception was held Thursday, April 18 at Artis—Naples. Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office was the featured speaker and Collier County Public Schools superintendent Kamela Patton was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Each year, graduates of Leadership Collier Foundation programs are exposed to local issues and are encouraged to use their leadership skills and knowledge to support the community.
The LCF Board of Directors congratulates the following Leadership Collier 2019 Class members:
CHAIR: James French, Collier County Government
VICE-CHAIR: Chief Tabatha Butcher, Collier County Emergency Medical Services
VICE-CHAIR: Trista Meister, Mindful Marketing Florida
Bryce Alexander, The Naples Players
Carlos Artime, Collier County Public Schools
Sarah Baeckler Davis, Humane Society Naples
Athan Barkoukis, Friends of Rookery Bay
Christina Blake, Iberia Bank
Katina Bouza, Collier County Sheriff’s Office
Laura Burns, United Arts Council of Collier County
Kelly Clark, Berkshire Hathaway
Thaddeus Cohen, Collier County
Shannon Dilworth, Hilton Naples
Lisa Drescher, FineMark National Bank & Trust
Julie Franklin, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children
Ryan Frost, Naples Airport Authority
Jill Gaffoli, Physicians Regional Healthcare System
Daniel Hartley, Peninsula Engineering
Thomas Iandimarino, National Park Service
Robin King, Collier Mosquito Control District
Lisa Kozlowski, Community Health Partners
Jennifer Laderer, Chico’s FAS
Melissa Lamont, Naples Therapeutic Riding Center
Cindy Learned, Naples Botanical Garden
Richard LeBer, Harry Chapin Food Bank
J. Christopher Lombardo, Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A.
Casey Lucius, Moorings Park
Daniel McDermott, Naples Daily News
Douglas Meschko, Land Solutions Inc.
Ashley Mirakian, Artis-Naples
Christopher Mitchell, J.R. Evans Engineering, P.A.
Meredith Nassif Doupé, Florida Southwestern State College Foundation
Michael Nichols, Naples Fire-Rescue Department
Renee Porter-Medley, Key Private Bank
Patricia Rambosk, City of Naples
Bill Rice, Florida Gulf Coast University
Bethany Sawyer, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce
Asif Syed, 21 Spices By Chef Asif
Heather Tice, First Florida Integrity Bank
Michael Traficante, Grant Fridkin Pearson, P.A.
Mindy Truitt, Arthrex
Jacob Winge, Sandalwood Village
Scott Woodcock, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Larisa Zadorecky, Moorings Park
The LCF Board of Directors congratulates the following GAIN 2019 Class members:
CHAIR: Meredith McLean, Humane Society Naples
CO-CHAIR: Andres Paz, Univision SWFL
VICE CHAIR: Allison Durian, Naples Children & Education Foundation
Kate Albers, Arthrex
John Brown, Moran Edwards Asset Management Group
Kelsey Browne, Brown & Brown of Southwest Florida
Matthew Catoe, Collier County Board of County Commissioners
Courtney Chaipel Pugh, Quarles & Brady LLP
Leroy Christiansen, Gulfshore Insurance Agency
Lauren Cox, Waterside Shops
Jessica Dang, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County
Jason Ensor, Naples Community Hospital
Peter Falisi, Two Guys Kitchen & Catering
Rafael J. Feliciano, Food Idea Group Inc.
Leonardo Gianfranco Fiorini, ACI Worldwide
Amanda Goebel, Halstatt, LLC
Christopher Goldhorn, Collier County Sheriff’s Office
Tahnee Guite, Physicians Regional Medical Center
Jeffrey Haut, Vernon Litigation Group
Hasan Kajtezovic, Arthrex, Inc
Keira Lucas, Collier Mosquito Control District
Matt Meyers, William Raveis Real Estate, Matt Meyers, LLC
Chrissie Missal, Grace Place for Children and Families
Alina Mizerniuc, CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP
Charlotte O’Bryon,City of Naples
Kristin Peras, Champions For Learning
Monica Perez, Hope for Haiti
Lemay Perez, Collier County
Paulina Perez, Barron Collier Companies
Sara Perkins, Naples Global Advisors
Deanna Elizabeth Peterson, Guadalupe Center
Maria Plata, The Immokalee Foundation
Parker Poage, NewsBank
Michael Rubenstein, BNY Mellon Wealth Management
Jonathan Saunders, J.P. Morgan Private Bank
Emily Schaefer, Collier County Public Schools
Jessica Siefer, David Lawrence Center
Michael Sneeringer, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
Rachel Stone, Artis-Naples
Lindsey Thoman, Avow Hospice and Palliative Care
Jordan Tompkins, Merrill Lynch
Renee Waller, Naples Botanical Garden
Naomi Weathers, United Way of Collier County
Denise Williams, HBKS Wealth Advisors
Brandon Yarusi, Collier Enterprises
To learn more about the Leadership Collier Foundation contact firstname.lastname@example.org
When moving to Naples in my early twenties, one of my first thoughts was how I would make a difference in my new community; but making a difference as a single person is a lot to take on individually.
Currently, I work in the public section as a local government employee and feel that I need to give back to the community that has given me so much. Thanks to Growing Associates in Naples™ (GAIN™), I can make a difference and give back! Throughout the 9 weekly sessions the program offered, I met some of the best, smartest, and determined group of young professionals who share my passion to make Naples the best it’s ever been. Through this program, I was given the opportunity to see the behind the scenes “gears” that make our community turn like the Collier County Sheriffs office, who work night and day, selflessly to keep our community safe; Arthex, who is the masterminds behind the medical advancements and making great achievement; and my personal favorite, the Supervisor of Elections team, who work tirelessly during the election seasons to ensure our votes are counted.
GAIN also gifted me to opportunity to utilize the friendships I have made through this program and incorporate them into my day to day life. My classmates and I have been involved of various fundraisers and events, which have helped various communities in Collier County. Due to these friendships, we have been able to establish a support system as well, supporting one another, both in our careers and our personal life. Thanks to my involvement in GAIN, I was recently introduced to another young professionals’ group, Naples Humane Society after hearing the good they offer our community, lead me to adopting three wonderful pets.
GAIN is one of the best opportunities I have been gifted by my employer to be a part of and the lasting impression of each session will continue to drive me to be a valuable member to not only Collier County but to society as a whole. My commitment to my job and the continual participating in the wonderful events that support the individuals and organizations, makes up Naples, Florida, my forever home.
I would strongly recommend all young professionals in Collier County to apply. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or just moved to Naples recently, the program will leave a lasting impression and you’ll leave with lifelong connections.
GAIN applications for the class of 2019 are due October 26, 2018. Apply today!
Patty is the Zoning Plans Examiner for the City of Naples Planning Department, she is a 2018 GAIN graduate.