My Transformational Journey In Leadership Collier by Michelle Avola-Brown, Ex Director, NPC

The mission of the Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF) of the Greater Naples Chamber is to activate the potential of leaders to build a stronger Collier County. The LCF builds a broad-based network of community leaders who enhance their leadership abilities and skills through continuing education, shared perspectives, and community involvement to enable them to work toward solutions in the public interest.

When I applied for Leadership Collier (LC) last spring, I knew many equally qualified candidates would do so as well, and I wondered at my chances. I was thrilled and humbled when I was selected for the LC Class of 2022! Knowing numerous successful, influential business leaders who have graduated from the program, I feel honored to become part of this illustrious group. The program is designed for experienced leaders who want to significantly increase their organization and community. It is a transformational community leadership experience for both participants and the organizations they lead. Through hands-on experiences and exclusive behind-the-scenes sessions, participants fully explore local government, education, economic development, the arts, and more. Class members also hear from experienced area leaders who deal with our community’s most impactful opportunities and challenges. With the benefit of new perspectives and connections, participants are prepared to take their places as effective community leaders for a better future.

LC Class of 2022 kicked off in September with an evening reception where we met our classmates and alumni. Next, we were immersed in a full-day retreat learning more about the program, getting to know everyone in our class, and hearing from prestigious heads of business. The third day of the kick-off was Human Services Day, the first of ten program days.

We received a broad overview of how local human service agencies collaborate to serve the growing needs of Collier County effectively and how they impact our community overall. Specific sections included Human Service Needs and Programs, Housing and Homelessness, Basic Needs (Food, Housing, Financial Assistance), Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, and Child Abuse, and Hunger and Food Insecurity.

It was an emotional and eye-opening day as we heard from or toured 28 local non-profit organizations. We gained a better understanding of the range of needed services provided in our community and numerous devoted non-profits, many that work in partnership to care for those in need.

Two weeks later, it was Education Day. We learned about the triumphs and challenges happening in early childhood education; the incredible opportunities students in elementary, middle, and high schools now have through the visionary leadership of Collier County Public Schools District Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton; and the exceptional college and career training available at Lorenzo Walker Technical College, Florida SouthWestern State College, and Florida Gulf Coast University.

Our third program day was all about the wonderful Arts we enjoy in Naples. We started at Gulfshore Playhouse at the Norris Center, then visited Paul Arsenault’s Artistic Compound, Artis-Naples, the Collective, and wrapped up at The Naples Players. We discovered that the Arts are a vital segment of the United States and local economy during economic highs and lows. There are far more theater, opera, museums, and other cultural venues in the Naples area than many realize!

I am looking forward to delving into Commerce, Government, Growth Management, Environment, Agriculture, Law Enforcement, and Healthcare in the next several months. In my brief tenure with the program so far, I am already gaining a broader and deeper perspective of Collier County and the role of my organization, Naples Pathways Coalition, within this community. Collier County is exceptionally diverse, with people of varying economic status, countries of origin, professional affiliations, strengths, and needs. I am encouraged by the high level of collaboration that I have already seen through this program. The experience enhances my understanding of the multi-faceted
challenges so many in our community face and equips me to become a better leader of the Naples Pathways Coalition.

We live in an incredible community. Whether you are here for a few months a year or this is home year-round, I encourage you to get involved. Visit and to learn more about the businesses and non-profits that help us thrive. There are many opportunities to volunteer, mentor, serve on boards, and give back to this beautiful town. Your community needs you, and I guarantee you’ll be enriched by the experience too.

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