The Collier County Public Schools homeless student program, known as The McKinney-Vento Program, is working to get kids off the street to give them the same opportunity to graduate.
The program works with organizations such as the Community Foundation of Collier County to provide that support. One of the program’s biggest success stories is with student Michael Elant’s. Last year, the pandemic left him and his mom homeless while he was working to finish up high school. He reached out to this program for help.
The district liaison for the program at Collier Schools recalled that very moment.“I received an email saying ‘hey, my name is Michael, I’m having a difficult time. We are experiencing homelessness.’ It broke my heart,” said Hemi Kafle.“I drove from my home to meet with him. He's a big kid, a big smile. He gives me a big hug and says ‘thank you for coming,’” Kafle explained.
The next thing Kafle remembered Michael saying was “Mr. Hemi, I am going to do well and I'm going to make you proud.”
Michael lived up to that promise. Through support from The Community Foundation of Collier County, the McKinney-Vento Program helped put him and his mom in a hotel until they were able to get back on their feet.
That support also allowed him to graduate high school, apply for scholarships for a full ride to Florida Gulf Coast University, and start a job as a cupcake decorator at Grace and Shelly's in Naples.
His mom got a new job and they were able to find a permanent place to live.“ Things have been really looking up lately,” said Michael Elant.
“Without him, we would have been homeless for weeks on end without his help. So, I'm just so grateful for what he's done for us and The Community Foundation of Collier County has done for us.” Michael made the dean's list at FGCU last semester, proving that just like the secret to any good cupcake, all he needed were the ingredients for success.
The Community Foundation of Collier County has helped fund this CCPS homeless student program for the last several years. Since last March, it's distributed more than $18,000 to it.