One thing plenty of Collier County influencers have in common? Leadership Collier Foundation‘s GAIN program on their resumes. More formally known as Growing Associates in Naples, the program associated with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce has held a pivotal role in Collier County since 1989. The focus: building great friendships, connections and, of course, roots in the community among Naples’ young professional set. Here, Amanda Beights, vice president of LCF, shares what you need to know about getting involved. —Mykala Fowler
What interested you about the Leadership Collier Foundation?
I’m somebody who personally is motivated by work that makes my heart happy. The fact that I get to come to work everyday and work with over 1,000 alumni that are making a difference outside of their jobs and with the foundation everyday is very inspiring. I’m more or less inspired on a daily basis by the people I get to work with, which is pretty fantastic.
What does the GAIN program entail?
The GAIN program starts mid-February and runs through early April. It is held on Tuesdays for eight consecutive weeks from approximately 3-5:30 p.m. The first session is geared towards getting the class connected and focusing on bonding activities, and the rest of the sessions are focused on community education. They are going out into the community and learning about our school system, healthcare system, the environment, law enforcement and government structures. We’re going to the venues—we are not in a classroom—and we hope that we are placing our young professionals in areas in which they have never been before and probably would never go had it not been for the GAIN program.
What is the application process for GAIN?
Applications are available online until Nov. 30. We typically receive 80-plus applications for a class of about 40. Part of the selection process I always like people to be aware of is that the selection committee, which has no involvement with staff, is striving to make a very diverse class.
Who can apply?
Anyone between ages of 21 and 40; hopefully, they are living and working in Collier County. Overall, we are looking for people who want to do the program more for how they can get involved in the community and how the community can benefit and less of how they can benefit.
How are participants selected?
There is a selection committee comprised of community leaders, GAIN graduates and board members who go through all of the applications and try to create a diverse class of applicants who demonstrate that they sincerely want to make a difference in the community, and part of that is shown with the current work they are doing. Most of our applicants are already involved and trying to make differences in the community. The GAIN program is just an opportunity to further that desire.
How do individuals benefit from the GAIN program?
Be engaged; be informed; be the difference—this is the ultimate goal for a candidate who goes through any of the programs. Graduates from multiple classes have echoed that “This program has changed my life.” They have made connections they would have never made out of their professional opportunities. Great friendships, community connections and roots are made in our programs, no matter if you are new to the community or have grown up here.
What are some standout connections or opportunities GAIN graduates have had as a result of their participation?
People have been connected to joining the Naples Chamber’s Public Policy Committee; there have been young professionals who have been inspired to run for an elected position; and many other connections have been made. Classes have done community work as individuals—and an engagement even happened from the GAIN program! This is a collection of like-minded individuals who connect in many ways.
To apply: napleschamber.org (Deadline: Nov. 30)