Charlie Kerwood was recently honored at The 5th Annual Night of Champions event for being a community leader in making life-changing learning experiences for students. I caught up with Charlie after the event and asked him a few questions about the organization and his passion for volunteering. Charlie became involved with Champions for Learning because the focus is on children and education.
Charlie is involved through the Planned Giving Council and reviews student applications for the College and Career Preparation Program. He helps students with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). He views his giving as an investment in tomorrow’s leaders.
Tell me more about how you got involved with Champions for Learning?
I first learned of Champions for Learning through our founder, Larry Waller, and a client of ours here in Naples. This led me to meet Susan McManus, the president and CEO, who shared with me their mission and the impact the organization has on the students and our community as a whole. After that, I was inspired to help with their mission.
What was your reaction when you found out you were to be honored at the Night of Champions event?
I was both humbled and honored, especially to join the ranks of others for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration.
There are various ways to get involved, but what are some of the ways you contribute to Champions for Learning?
I participate by reading through applications for the College and Career Preparation Program and guiding students through the FAFSA process. I also participate in their planned giving committee with several other professionals in our community. There are also mentoring programs available that I’d like to be a part of at some point in the future.
What is your inspiration in working with children and educators?
I have attended the Night of Champions and the Golden Apple Events in the past. At both events, students have an opportunity to speak to a crowd of 600 people. I am so impressed by their professionalism and polish, that I am inspired to work with them and be a part of that development. At the Golden Apple event, teachers are celebrated for their inspiration to students and parents and share best practices with peers. These experiences compel one to be a part of such a wonderful experience.
Was there an educator or mentor who helped influence you?
I have had many mentors in my life, all who have helped me throughout my formative years and professional career. However, there is one educator in particular that I can recall, Mrs. Denman. She was my eighth-grade English teacher. She made us diagram sentences and memorize a lot of poetry in her class. Because of her efforts, I feel that I have a very strong grasp of the English language. She helped me appreciate poetry, and we kept in touch many years after my graduation from high school. I can still recite many of the poems today that I learned in her class 35 years ago.
Has there been a pleasant surprise through your volunteer work which you didn’t anticipate?
I have been very impressed with the positive attitudes and the strong work ethic of the students. They are also very respectful and are extremely appreciative of any help they receive.
What lessons have you learned or been reminded through working with the mentees?
As I have gotten older and more experienced, I sometimes take for granted all the things the world and our society really has to offer. Working with students takes me back to the time when things were new and fresh, and when you first realize there is unlimited potential for those who strive for it.
What would you say to those who are interested in getting involved with Champions for Learning, but are not sure if it’s for them?
My recommendation would be to start out as I have by helping sort through applications for the various programs offered by Champions. You get to read students’ hopes and dreams and get a feel for those participating. This will give you an idea if this is a passionate pursuit for you.
Has working in the finance industry for over 25 years played a role in your philanthropic endeavors?
I would say a definite “yes.” Our founder is a great example of giving of one’s time, treasure and talent. By observing what he has done over the years, as well as what our clients have done, I was inspired at an early age in my professional career to do the same. It’s very rewarding giving away and giving back. One of my favorite quotes is by Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
What is the most satisfying part of working with children and education?
Seeing the positive impact on the students’ lives and the feeling of doing something you know is valuable to them.