A group of students from Clewiston High School were among the attendees at the DREAM Summit. Photos courtesy of FutureMakers Coalition

The DREAM Summit in Southwest Florida (SWFL) encouraged the region’s high school students to speak up about the lack of motivation they feel in pursuing their college and career dreams.

The FutureMakers Coalition DREAM Summit took place last month in Fort Myers. FutureMakers Coalition is a local college access network (LCAN) serving Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties, and the SWFL Community Foundation is its backbone organization.

The event lasted two-and-a-half hours and offered students scholarship and career readiness information. The summit was highlighted by a talk from motivational speaker Bobby Petrocelli  and a student panel comprised of recent SWFL Community Foundation scholarship recipients.

Malaina Mote, Scholarship Coordinator for SWFL Community Foundation, said she was inspired to create December’s DREAM Summit after hearing feedback from the FutureMakers Coalition’s annual student summit in May.

“We heard a lot of the students saying they don’t feel encouraged or motivated to pursue their dreams,” Mote said. At the end of each academic year, FutureMakers hosts a Student Summit in order to hear directly from students and give them a voice in the LCAN’s collective impact work. Mote added that she was also motivated by some of the personal stories written by students who were applying for one of the foundation’s scholarships. “Reading those applications and knowing what our students go through is heart-wrenching.”

Students at the DREAM Summit were asked to share their answer for, “What Do You Dream To Be?”

The community foundation teamed with FutureMakers to organize the summit and recruit the 90 SWFL students in attendance, most of whom were high school juniors and seniors. The summit took place at Fort Myers’ Collaboratory, a space created by the SWFL Community Foundation.

“It’s a building designed for collective impact and it embodies the work of FutureMakers,” said Tessa Lesage, Director of Social Innovation and Sustainability for the SWFL Community Foundation.

Student survey results indicate motivational speaker Bobby Petrocelli was their favorite part of the event. In her feedback, a student named Shay said, “His words were very eye-opening. I always blame myself for everything and now I’m going to be very intentional in not blaming myself.”

Mote was pleased with the inaugural DREAM Summit and is open to bringing the event back next year, if the students’ voice calls for it.

“It’s great seeing the impact something like this (summit) can make on so many students,” Mote said. “I wish you could see the demeanor of the students when they walked in here versus when they left.”


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