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Collier County teens working to address housing, hunger, and career readiness

Posted at 8:26 AM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 08:26:58-04

NAPLES, Fla -- A group of Collier County students recently had the chance to tackle some of the biggest issues plaguing our community, including housing gaps, food shortages, and career readiness.

The program is called the Youth Community Leadership Project. A Community Foundation of Collier County (CFCC) donor gave the inaugural group of teenagers $10,000 to allocate to local charities.

The program is a partnership between the Leadership Collier Foundation of the Greater Naples Chamber and CFCC.

It gives teens real-world experience identifying issues in their community and awarding grants to fund solutions. Two of the issues the teens helped tackle were housing and food.

According to CFCC research, nearly 58,000 households in Collier County are “housing-cost burdened.” That means they're spending 30% or more of their income on housing.

This reduces access to other essential needs like food. The annual food budget shortfall in Collier County is over $21 million.

One of the students from the inaugural program said having the opportunity to help tackle these issues was life changing.

“Out of my four years of high school, it was definitely one of the most, you know, beneficial programs I've ever been a part of,” said Alexander D’Arco, a recent graduate of Naples High School.

“I realized where our resources are going, where we need to, you know, put our awareness, and where we need to help out. And it helped teach me the value of giving back and being a community leader,” D’Arco added.

Another issue he and the other students worked to address was career readiness. That's because 30% of high school seniors in Collier County lack a plan for work or education after they graduate.

The students decided to award Grace Place for Children and Families and Pathways Early Education Center each with a $3,500 grant. They awarded $3,000 to Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida.

If you’d like to learn more about the program and how to get involved, contact Amanda Beights by emailing