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.
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.