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.
Alumni Inspirations - October 2019
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.
Alumni Inspirations - August 2019
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!”