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!
Recruitment is now underway for our local businesses to participate in the Collier County Public Schools Internship program for NAF Academy students.
Internships are work-based learning opportunities that allow students to gain industry specific experience based upon their chosen field of study while enthusiastically supporting company needs and goals.
NAF (National Academy Foundation) Academies are small learning communities within current school structures focused on preparing students for college and career success. NAF Academy students participate in career awareness, career exploration and career preparation activities which allows them to apply their knowledge in the workplace in order to benefit you and your organization.
This year the Leadership Collier Foundation will be placing students from the following career pathways:
An Internship includes:
· The program provides liability insurance for all interns through CCPS Accident insurance policy
· Students will be 16 years or older
To see if your business is a good fit for this program, please contact Alex Breault at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (239) 403.2912.
For more information about Collier County Public School NAF Academies, click here.
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.
Senator Garrett Richter (LC '93)
“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example,” said John Wooden, head basketball coach at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Garrett Richter, former state legislator and President Pro Tempore of the Florida Senate from 2012 to 2016, brings this powerful tool to the table every day as he exemplifies leadership in our community. Richter has used his own personal example to great effect throughout his careers in banking and politics—and that example has had a profound ripple impact here in Southwest Florida, setting a model for others to follow.
Twenty Six years after graduating from Leadership Collier, Richter remains an active leader within the organization, speaking with each of our leadership programs and sharing his wisdom through LCF alumni opportunities like the Leadership Lunch Series and Campaign for Leadership. Richter is an alumnus and past Board of Regents member for Leadership Florida and past chairman of Leadership Collier. He is also a board member of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
Richter says “the building of long-lasting, value-driven relationships” was his favorite part of the program back in ‘93.
“Those relationships that I established in Leadership Collier years ago are still a very meaningful part of my life,” Richter said. “I was able to make friends with people, and while we might not agree on public policy issues, we agree on our mutual respect of each other.”
Richter continues to model that mutual respect as the chairman of the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee, where he expertly guides a group of community leaders to address some of the most significant issues—including infrastructure, mental health care, workforce development and affordable housing—facing Southwest Florida.
“For some of the biggest issues, we crossed a starting line with the passing of the 1% sales tax,” Richter said. Beyond members of the Public Policy Committee, Richter sees opportunity in these challenges for all LCF alumni to make a difference.
“Affordable housing and workforce development have numerous solutions, and there is always room at the table for leaders to develop those solutions.”
For Richter, Leadership Collier contributed to another important part of his leadership development—something he calls “Learn, Earn, and Return.”
“Leadership Collier enabled me to accomplish two of those ingredients: learning and returning,” Richter said. “I learned more about our community, about the policy, what drives our policy.”
The experience created a “foundation of awareness and convinced me to run for public office after Dudley Goodlette termed out of the legislature.”
Richter often shares this key advice to anyone who is thinking about running for public office. In his experience, there are two reasons most people run: Because they want to be something or because they want to do something.
“Thanks to Leadership Collier, I had a better ability to decide that I wanted to do something,” Richter said.
Now, the Vietnam veteran is helping others to do something, too.
“We live in a dynamic age, things are always changing, the demographics of our population are always changing. As people slow down in their service, we need the younger demographic to come in and take the reins and get involved,” Richter said. “Our community is such a vibrant community, and the only way to get fresh ideas is to have fresh people at the table.”
Senator Richter, thank you for using your own personal example to create a strong leadership model, based on a foundation of impeccable integrity, for us to follow. We are grateful for your service to LCF, our community, and the state of Florida.
April Donahue (GAIN '13, LC '17)
Sometimes, we think of graduation as an ending. The completion of a goal. The culmination of an achievement. The finale of your LCF program.
For April Donahue, her GAIN graduation in 2013 was truly commencement—a beginning.
Immediately following graduation, April began giving back to the Leadership Collier Foundation and making a stronger impact on our community.
“My GAIN and Leadership Collier experiences were instrumental in driving home the importance of community awareness and the need to seek more information on our community’s strengths and weaknesses,” April said. “I came out of each program with an increased sense of belonging to this area I call home, new friends and colleagues, and a renewed desire to contribute.”
Right away, she started sharing this message with others as a volunteer with the Leadership Collier Foundation Marketing Committee. Five years later, after serving as Vice Chair and Chair of the Marketing Committee, April remains a key contributor to the LCF messages you receive on social and in your inbox.
But, once again, this committee work was only the beginning.
April went on to complete Leadership Collier in 2017.
Utilizing her knowledge of the community and key issues, she advocated professionally and personally over the last year for One Collier, a successful initiative to differentiate funding sources in Collier County to address critical infrastructure needs and community priorities
“In addition to my roles as an LCF volunteer, I try to walk the walk and talk the talk during my daily life – I want to communicate with others how beneficial LCF is to the community and to the individuals who participate,” April said.
April is certainly walking the walk when it comes to work-based learning programs. Not only does she encourage business leaders in our community to work with LCF to provide such opportunities—she has also hosted multiple interns at the Collier County Medical Society.
“LCF is important to me for my own development as a professional, and hopefully, as a contributing member of society. Through my LCF classmates, the LCF alumni network, and the LCF programs, I continue to learn, grow, and discover new ways of giving.”
April continues to give to the next generation of leaders by planning the Healthcare/Human Services session for Youth Leadership Collier. As April looks to the future of LCF, she sees continued growth.
“I think LCF is a premier leadership program, no doubt one of the best (if not THE best) in the nation. Through alumni involvement, partnering with the stellar LCF staff, we can strive for continuous improvement, innovation, and engagement to stay at the top and cultivate the most qualified, dedicated community leaders to help steer us in the right directions.”
If you’ve had to take time away from community commitments or have lost touch with classmates, here’s April’s fast tip for getting back in touch:
“I highly recommend attending Wine Down Wednesdays for easy, casual socializing with the alumni network.”
(Take the advice of our 2018 LCF Alumni Volunteer of the Year and SIGN UP for Wine Down Wednesday today!)
It is our honor to recognize April Donahue as the 2018 LCF Alumni Volunteer of the Year. According to Amanda Beights, April says “Yes!” to nearly every LCF volunteer opportunity. April, we are incredibly grateful for your dedicated service and unwavering commitment to our programs.
Alyssa Haney (GAIN '18)
By day, Alyssa Haney is a talented Marketing Specialist for First Florida Integrity Bank. On weekends and evenings, she generously dedicates her free time to charitable causes in Collier County. The time she invests in volunteering is her biggest gift to our community. She has dedicated more than 3,000 hours to volunteering with the Naples Players, all while serving on several boards, including the United Arts Council. Most recently, she co-organized the Emerging Leadership Council's Season Kick-off event and accompanied one of our nation's heroes aboard an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. This month, Alyssa humbly accepted the Chamber's Excellence in Industry Award for Young Professional of the Year. Watch the video!
How does it feel to have won the Chamber's YP of the Year Award?
I feel so fortunate to reside in Collier County. The combination of affluence and philanthropy which is such an important part of our culture, coupled with the generous role models with which I have had the pleasure of working, have all contributed to my journey as a young professional. In a world where the word "millennial" can have such a negative connotation, it feels great to be recognized for the work that I do for the causes that inspire me. I also feel that with this award comes with a responsibility to be an inspiration to other young professionals.
The Arts are very important to you. As LCF alumni, how can we help support the Arts in Collier County?
Naples is saturated with accessible art! The United Arts Council of Collier County's "Best Bets for the Weekend," is a weekly e-blast that has really great options to enjoy on the weekends when most of us have a bit more free time.
What makes First Florida Integrity Bank such a great place for young professionals to work?
As a young professional, I am so thankful to work for a company where I feel valued for my community contributions. First Florida Integrity Bank follows The Golden Rule, and I am so proud to be a part of an organization where that is encouraged both in the workplace and within the community.
What was your favorite part of the GAIN experience?
My favorite part of the GAIN experience was receiving an in-depth look at how the organizations in our community work together toward greater goals. In addition, connecting with young professionals through Chamber involvement has inspired me to create opportunities to improve my community by working with my peers-turned-friends to plan a handful of new, local fundraisers.
What are your words of wisdom for advice for a young professional in Naples?
Find a cause that inspires you and a mentor to guide you! Always ask yourself if the steps you are taking today are counting toward your goals for tomorrow.