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Connect Now is the community engagement initiative of Champions For Learning that began in 2008 and continues to this day through the very mission of the organization in bringing the community together around constructive and aspirational conversations and interactions that bring diverse perspectives around issues of importance in education in our community.
In 2008, the initiative began when an eroding relationship between the Collier County School Board and administration had shaken public confidence in the system. This situation was exacerbated by an underlying and pre-existing condition: substantial segments of our community did not and do not feel connected to our schools.
The Education Foundation of Collier County, aware of this frayed school-community connection, set out to discover the community’s shared priorities for education and improving community life. In early 2008, the organization embarked on a 16 month community engagement process lead by an independent, non-partisan steering committee. The question was, do we, Collier County citizens, share enough educational values and expectations to lift and empower us and, in turn, the school system to be the best it can be?
The participants were asked – many of them for the first time—about their hopes and expectations for our community and our schools. Additional conversations were held with teachers, school administrators and students. Hundreds participated in a total of 54 conversations over seven months, from August 2008 – February 2009, ensuring that the wide range of perspectives in our community were included. In March 2009, forty-six demographically and geographically diverse “representatives” from most of those conversations formed a Congress to write this Connect Now Statement in working sessions based on the sifted and sorted notes documenting thousands of observations made by conversation participants. Click here to read the Connect Now Community Statement which was also published in the Naples Daily News in April of 2009.
The process resulted not only in a Community Statement that has become a platform to promote collaboration countywide around common aspirations for students and our community, but it also became the basis of the Collier County Public Schools’ Strategic Plan (date).
Perhaps most importantly, the process of engaging our wide-ranging community in conversation that leads to involvement and engagement around how we all create an environment for student learning in Collier County, continues in force. This work has continued until present day through community-wide roundtables, the Champions Challenge, and strategic alliances. Visit our events page to view current community engagement opportunities—we all have a role to play—please get involved.