Schoolteachers often encourage their students to try new things, but Amanda Beights needed some encouragement of her own when, in 2013, a fellow FGCU alumna told her about a job opening at the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
Kaitlan Benedict (’06, Legal Studies), then the Chamber’s executive assistant, wanted Beights to set aside a decade of teaching and apply to become vice president of the Chamber’s nonprofit arm: the Leadership Collier Foundation.
“At first, she thought she wasn’t qualified,” Benedict said. “I said, ‘It’s just another aspect of teaching.’”
Beights, who earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at FGCU and is now more than four years into the VP position, agrees with that assessment. In her role, she manages three leadership programs: Leadership Collier, Growing Associates in Naples and Youth Leadership. Beights leads groups of about 30 to 40 students on educational daytrips.
Each program has different time frames and audiences, but they share a mission.
“They’re all focused on civic engagement for rising or established leaders,” Beights said.
Leadership Collier helps locals learn more about the community through trips to non-profits, educational facilities and more. Graduates of the program often complete service projects as a team.
Beights said one class was shocked to learn, during a tour of a Title I school, that many students there had never visited the beach.
“That struck a chord with several of them,” Beights said. “They felt that is something they could change.”
The class planned a beach trip for nearly 50 third graders.
“The kids had so much fun and they left with goodie bags full of books,” Beights said. “That’s the power of a group like this.”
As the only full-time staff member of the Foundation, Beights relies largely on volunteers. She rolls graduates of Leadership Collier into planning positions for future classes.
“That’s really what makes our program so dynamic, is that it’s not being planned by me,” Beights said.
Leadership Collier students come from a variety of industries, from law enforcement to healthcare. These different backgrounds help them create unique, behind-the-scenes sessions.
Through the Chamber, Beights helps members of the younger-focused GAIN and Youth Leadership build business relationships.
“We very easily connect students in both high school and college to opportunities,” Beights said.
Outside of work, Beights and her husband, Andrew, are proud volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.
Her advice for FGCU students is to find a volunteer role they enjoy, with both “like-minded and not-like-minded people. Get outside of their dorm room, get outside of their campus, and get involved with the community.”
The Foundation programs help develop Collier County’s workforce. And, although no longer in a classroom setting, Beights is still doing what she loves: teaching.