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Turning a dark experience into a drive for the future

Two years ago, Yuzellie Garcia decided to return to school to become the person she needed when she was a child.

I graduated in 2012 and spent a few years not knowing what I wanted to do,” said Ms. Garcia.

But when it finally came time to decide what to do, Ms. Garcia sought purpose and meaning from her childhood experiences. Her upbringing wasn’t easy. She grew up in a single parent household with three siblings. Her mom worked three jobs and struggled to make ends meet. She also experienced sexual and emotional abuse.

I’m studying what I’m studying because of the sexual and emotional abuse I endured. Things like being locked in a dark closet all day and growing up with shame, self-blame and guilt. Thinking it was my fault, and not having anyone there to show me that what was going on wasn’t OK, and it wasn’t my fault,” Ms. Garcia said.

She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice; she will be attending Florida State University this summer to study criminology and criminal justice and hopes to use her education to work in the human trafficking field. Her journey has led her to find a very clear purpose — to help children who are struggling with abuse. Children in low-income homes, who may be at risk. Children who may need a mentor like herself.

Ms. Garcia is on the path to fulfilling her goal thanks to the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation Earn to Learn FL Program. Earn to Learn FL helps low-to-moderate income students earn a higher education with little or no student debt. It’s a simple formula that combines mandatory student savings with financial aid, required financial literacy training and success coaching. Through the program, Ms. Garcia has been able to secure $9,000 to fund her education. She has saved $1,000 of her funds and received an $8,000 match supported by the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation and local partners like the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.


“The Earn to Learn experience has been amazing; it’s so easy. The application was very fast. The lengthiest thing was the financial literacy course, but that was helpful. It wasn’t something that you would dread to do. The Women’s Foundation worked with me and my circumstances,” said Ms. Garcia.

For students like Ms. Garcia, education is much more than a simple degree. It’s a way to serve and fulfill their purpose. To pay it forward so that future generations have the opportunity to thrive.

Click HERE To support our Earn to Learn Program

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Peter Simmons Is Named Development Director of Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

Peter SIMMONS IS NAMED DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WOMEN'S FOUNDATION

Peter Simmons, Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation Development Director

Bonita Springs, FL – May 14, 2018 –  The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation announced today that Peter Simmons has been named Development Director.

“We are thrilled that Peter has joined the Foundation’s team to increase our capacity to serve Southwest Florida and the state of Florida while helping us build upon and increase our development and outreach, which we have worked on diligently since 2011,” says CEO Brenda Tate.

Peter understands the complexities of different organizations, project development, raising capital, staff management and working successfully with others to make a project come together. Over the past 20 years, Peter has raised millions of dollars for non-profits and political causes.

Peter was elected to the Bonita Springs City Council in 2012, and elected Mayor in 2016. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Florida League of Mayors and is a member of the United States Conference of Mayors.

In September 2018, he appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, FOX, CNN, CNBC and was quoted in The New York Times and The Miami Herald, providing ground coverage of Hurricane Irma.

He was a Division 1 athlete on the University of New Hampshire crew team and is an “honorary deputy” with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. He is a native of the New Hampshire Seacoast, and lives with his wife, SueZahn, and two children, Elizabeth and Peter, in Bonita Springs.

“We are long-time supporters of the outstanding work of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation”, says Tommye Fleming and Patrick Arnall. “Peter will play a central role in helping the Foundation increase its endowment to $5 million by 2020, along with securing grants and donations to underwrite the expansion of programs such as Earn to Learn FL and Business Building Blocks (B3) for Women.”

For additional information, contact:  Brenda Tate at (239) 908-0301 or Brenda@fundwomenfl.org

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Kiva Borrowers Survey

Kiva Borrowers Survey

Kiva Survey

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