The Winners Circle – March 2014

Sandra Lee BuxtonTodd Foege (pronounced FAY – GEE ) is a man that stands head and shoulders over others, literally. His 6’5” stature allows him to stand out in a crowd and his commitment to children make him a giant. The son of an administrative law judge in Washington DC, Todd’s professional path seemed predetermined: law school. While Todd studied pre-law at Florida State and was accepted into law school, his personal journey lead him in a different direction.

Todd has lived in Naples since 1995, leaving only for a short period of time to further his education. He finished his MBA at Hodges University in 2006 and then got busy with what was really mattered: making a difference. He found his calling by teaching at risk and disadvantaged high school students. He enjoyed the role of teaching while serving as a role model. Those who had been expelled from public school for unacceptable social behaviors, drugs, or gang activity grabbed his attention first. “The first time that I saw a child accept education where it had previously been resisted, I was hooked.” Todd states, “I needed the excitement that those children generated more than they needed an idealistic young teacher.”

Todd FoegeHe also noted the wide range of income levels in Collier County and was horrified with the living conditions many children endured. Fully aware that education is the only way out of poverty, he took action. In partnership with other children advocates he began writing literacy and mathematic curriculums for children in our most impoverished areas. Taking this another step, Todd has also participated with the public schools superintendent’s office on system wide changes involving healthcare and afterschool programming. Through creative brokering with community partners he has carved out a niche and does make that community difference.

The Naples Children and Educational Foundation (founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival) and his team collaborated and established satellite programs such as after school and summer academic tutoring along with remediation. No small endeavor, they were serving 550 children a day in Golden Gate Estates, Gargiuilo tomato packing plant, with two locations in East Naples and one in Immokalee. Efforts were paying off big time; they were moving children into academic achievement and out of the cycle of poverty. Pleased with the success of this investment The Naples Wine Festival recruited Todd to administer their grant programs which he has been doing since 2005.

A recognized problem solver, his ability to build consensus while avoiding duplication of services has placed Todd in the right place at the right time. His belief that all children deserve an equitable opportunity to be successful regardless of socioeconomic status, he remains passionate about leveling the playing field. When working directly with children his size has perked their curiosity to ask questions such as “can you touch the ceiling or do you play basketball”. I suspect that the answer to both is “sometimes”.

It is my opinion that there are three types of people in this world. Those that watch things happen, those that wonder what happened and those that make things happen. This Winner definitely falls into the latter category. When he isn’t working, Todd enjoys playing lacrosse and spending time with his daughter Emma Grace. Haven’t met Todd yet, then seek him out, he will add a new dimension to your own life. Give Todd a warm welcome to the March Winners Circle.

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