Elizabeth Strong moved to Naples from the northeast three years ago. Newly retired from a fulfilling career in business, she was eager to learn more about Collier County and discover possibilities with both nonprofit and civic organizations that would allow her to meaningfully contribute to her newly adopted home.
She found that opportunity with Greater Naples Leadership (GNL), a nonprofit organization formed in 1999 to provide proven leaders with a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about Collier County’s challenges and to encourage the use of their skills individually and collectively in helping to better the community.
The GNL Masters Program educates highly accomplished men and women regarding issues in Collier County through a series of nine in-depth sessions covering all major aspects of community life. Each year, GNL accepts a class of 40 to 50 individuals and exposes them to sessions focusing on history, culture, health care, education, the environment, growth and economic development, human services, government, and more.
Participation in the GNL program is a two-year commitment. The first year is educational, and in the second year, small teams of class members, under the guidance of a class leadership team, prepare one of the nine educational sessions for the following year’s class.
“The GNL Masters Class far exceeded my expectations,” says Strong, who was a graduate of the twenty-fifth class. The in-class sessions provided her with a wealth of information, while field trips, from touring the town of Immokalee, to visiting county schools and cultural venues, offered eye-opening, first-hand experiences. “When I completed the class, I felt like I had a PhD in Collier County,” she adds.
Voluntary community service is the mission of the organization, and most of the graduates begin volunteering their time immediately upon graduation—sponsoring food drives, mentoring students, and joining committees on nonprofit boards. Strong found her niche evaluating scholarship applications for the Collier Community Foundation and committee work with GNL.
Through continuing education programs and social events, GNL members develop a broad network and often form lasting friendships. Strong is now sponsoring members of the current class—Master Class XXVI.