By Christine Ross, BONITA SPRINGS AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
“We do a Leadership Bonita program that is geared for the business community. The Junior Leadership program was established and is led by Dr. Steve McIntosh and his wife Connie. Dr. Steve is a sitting Bonita Springs City Councilman. The program is for seniors at Estero High School and is modeled after our Leadership Bonita Program. Every year I participate during Government Day and Tourism Day to help connect what goes on in Government with the business community to their lives and to showcase how important the tourism economy is to our state.
As a leader in education advocacy, the Chamber has worked to challenge the business community to become part of the Lee County School Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program. In 2013, I threw down the gauntlet and specifically challenged the members of my Chamber of become mentors at a local high school. I started two years ago with my own awesome Estero High School Junior, Sarah Van Kirk, and recently checked and found that 25 other members of the business community had done the same.
Our Young Professionals are developing their own programming focused on Mentoring Up and Down. If you take a look at the seasons of one’s career, the Up and Down idea works beautifully. Our YP’s will seek to create relationships with mentors who are further along in their careers, while they simultaneously look backward to see how they can help college seniors network and gain internships that will provide them with the skills they need to smoothly enter the workforce. The goal beyond that is to have these same college seniors pay it forward by looking backward again to high school students. As you can see, the possibility to reverse engineer these acts of social responsibility are endless.
We are also actively pursuing high school interns at the Chamber to work in the Visitor Center and back office operations. In that, we touch all facets of commerce: education, community and business – Chambers of Commerce need to demystify what we are and do. By inviting more people behind the curtain, we think we can become a hub for incremental sustainable change.
Our Regionalism Committee heard from Tessa (LeSage) a week or so ago and are putting the call out through the Chamber’s communications channels to attend the next regional event.
Lastly, my husband Robert has been running a Title One Intervention program at Bonita Springs Elementary for student’s whose native language is not English. It has been very illuminating as it relates to the early stages of the education continuum.”