Featured Events

Community & Membership Meeting: Proton Therapy for Cancer

Learn about why Proton Therapy can provide an important alternative to traditional radiation treatment. This form of treatment which was only available in other parts of the USA now means that residents will have this form of treatment on their doorstep.

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Estero Park & Recreation Center, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd
Estero, FL 33928 United States
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Village of Estero Meetings

01 May
9:30 am
14 May
15 May
9:30 am
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Safety Council

Engage Estero Safety Council is made of volunteers serving as a voice for the citizens of greater Estero on safety and transportation priorities and issues. We advocate for related solutions to Village, County, and State Government organizations.

Latest news…
Road Safety in Greater Estero

Road Safety in Greater Estero

Road Safety in Greater Estero By Contributing Author, Mark Novitski, and Engage Estero Consultant.  Everyone has their definition of what determines road safety or, conversely, what makes our roads unsafe. In writing extensively about Corkscrew Road, I have...

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Sign-Up for Property Fraud Alerts

Sign-Up for Property Fraud Alerts

Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comprtroller Kevin Karnes is now offering an alert notification system for Lee County property owners to reduce fraud. When you sign-up, if a deed, mortgage, or other non-Court official record is recorded in your name, you will be...

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Environment Council

Engage Estero Environment Council is a volunteer group focusing on improving water and air quality and mitigating and eliminating the effects of climate warming in greater Estero.

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Health Council

Engage Estero Community Health Council comprises health* and safety-minded volunteers who think about community health comprehensively with a common desire to improve the overall health of the citizens of greater Estero.

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Let’s Make Estero A HeartSafe Community!

Let’s Make Estero A HeartSafe Community!

The facts Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 300,000 lives annually. Approximately 95 percent of SCA victims die before they reach a hospital or receive medical attention. How Can We Help Reduce This...

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Education Council

Engage Estero mobilizes volunteers in our schools, sponsors scholarships, and promotes the involvement of the community through announcements and public forums.

Latest news…
Estero High Cambridge Students Recognized

Estero High Cambridge Students Recognized

By Mike Wasson, Director, Engage Estero The Village of Estero Council issued a Proclamation its Meeting on Wednesday, March 6th honoring 39 Estero High School Students who were presented the Cambridge Outstanding Learners Awards. In his remarks, Jon McLain, Village of...

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Updates on Issues of Impact

Engage Estero believes the best way to get a community involved is to make sure they are aware of the issues impacting their future, and know how to impact those decisions before they are made. We conduct and publish original research and articles aimed at getting residents Engaged.

Greater Estero Area

Education Newsletter

Brought to you by the Engage Estero Education Council

Leslie Gunderson Retires after 11 Years as Pinewoods Elementary School Principal

2023 Estero Essay Scholarships – Three $1000 awards for High School seniors.

Estero High School Seniors Complete JA Personal Finance Program

Three Oaks Middle School attends JA Inspire Day at FGCU.


Leslie Gunderson Retires after 11 Years as Pinewoods Elementary School Principal //

“She is all about the kids.” “A dream principal.” “Kindness, compassion, and strict discipline.” “A wonderful boss…clear about her expectations – provides solid constructive feedback.” “open-door policy made her very, very accessible.” “A welcoming presence.”

According to her friends and colleagues, Leslie Gunderson is all these things. After 11 years as Principal at Pinewoods Elementary School, she is retiring on June 30, 2023. She will be missed. Congratulations to her for her tremendous impact on greater Estero students and families.

Talk to her, and it is obvious she loves the job, and most of all, she loves working with the kids. And the kids love and respect her. Ms. Gunderson believes understanding students is essential, and she always makes decisions based on the best interests of the students. She asks herself, “If these were my children, what would I decide?”

School Board member Chris Patricca recalls when she met Leslie 11 years ago, “I walked onto the Pinewoods campus for the first time with my children. We were new to Florida, Lee County Schools, and Pinewoods. Leslie greeted us at the door and introduced herself to my 3rd-grade daughter by sharing that they were both “the new girls. We immediately felt at ease because of Leslie’s welcoming presence at the front gate.”.

Principal Leslie Gunderson in her office at Pinewoods Elementary School behind a table full of paper flowers students made to celebrate her retirement.

Treating people with grace” is how Leslie Gunderson puts it, but you still have expectations for them. Pinewoods Elementary School is known for its high achievement rates. Ms. Gunderson contributes that result to a “Great team at the school; without them, it could not have been done.”   She says she will miss all the trusting relationships she has made at the school.

After 34 years working in the School District of Lee County and discussions with her husband, Tom, a local attorney, she decided the end of this school year was the right time. They bought a house in Wild Blue three years ago, and her husband has slowed down a little bit, but he is still working full-time, so they plan to stay in the area.

She has a granddaughter, soon to be three, and two daughters working in the medical field in Florida. She hopes to spend more time with her family and take a break from responsibilities. She and her husband are also planning a bicycle trip through Vermont and up to Montreal, Canada. She is excited and wants to continue her downhill winter skiing out west.

Leslie grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but her family moved to Captiva just as she entered her first year at Bishop Verot High School. She graduated with a degree in Elementary Education, returned to Southwest Florida, and began her teaching career at Tropic Isles Elementary in Lee County. Her first principal was Sharon Benner, a great mentor and “100% the reason” for her commitment to education.

Looking back over the last few years, Ms. Gunderson notes, “Expectations and accountability for teachers are greater than ever. Thank goodness we (at Pinewoods) have a good Parent Teacher Organization. We have lots of parent support.” She believes housing costs for teachers are a problem, and teachers need better pay, but the district is aware of that and working on it.

(In recent years, Florida has allocated approximately $2 billion to raise starting pay and bonuses for teachers throughout the state.)

Today “highly effective and committed teachers do so much more than just an 8-hour day. It is not the punch in and punch out the job that it used to be,” notes Ms. Gunderson. As a principal, she relates that every day has its unknowns.

You are dealing with Elementary School age children, and the pandemic created chaos. Online teaching does not allow this age student to develop social skills. She continues, “Starting this past school year, we thought we would have the pandemic behind us, and then Hurricane Ian hit on September 28. We did not get back to school until late October. And we lost another day with a storm in November.”

Engage Estero respects all the work teachers and administrators have done this past year. Leslie Gunderson deserves a special tribute for 11 years committed to students at Pinewoods Elementary School here in Estero. Engage Estero thanks Leslie Gunderson and wishes her the best in her retirement.

Akiya Maston, currently the Assistant Principal at Veterans Park Academy for the Arts in Lehigh Acres, is the new Principal. She has 17 years of experience in education and is a published author on Education. Her assignment technically begins July 1, 2023. However, she is already participating in some school meetings. Engage Estero looks forward to working with Akiya Maston and wishes her the best on her new assignment.


High School

2023 Estero Essay Scholarships – Three $1000 awards for High School seniors. //

Congratulations to Estero High Students

Engage Estero, the Estero Historical Society, and the Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce presented $1000 Scholarships on May 4, 2023, at the Seniors Awards Night at Estero High School Auditorium. Winners were based on student-submitted essays.

Estero History Essay

Estero High School graduated 291 Seniors on Sunday, May 21, 2023, at Suncoast Arena in Fort Myers. The photo is of Jack Calder, who received a $1000 Scholarship from the Estero Historical Society based on his essay on the Estero Area History. Making the presentation is Gail Langner from the Estero Historical Society.

Business History Essay

Emma LeLievre received A $1000 Scholarship from the Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce based on her Estero Area Business History essay. Pictured from left to right, Joni Pavich, Board Member, Sharon Van Rite, Chair of the Greater Estero Chamber Board, and recipient Emma LeLievre.

Governance Essay

Brittany Streitmatter’s essay on the History of Governance of the Village of Estero won her a $1000 Scholarship from Engage Estero.

Pictured Left to Right: From Engage Estero Steve Invidiato, Chief Financial Officer; Mike Wasson, Board Member; Dr. April Palmer, Education Council Chair and Senior Brittany Streitmatter.

High School

Estero High School Seniors Complete JA Personal Finance Program//

There were 95 Estero High School Seniors who participated in the eight (8) week Junior Achievement program on Personal Finance. The content was taught by six (6) Engage Estero volunteers with the support of two high school teachers in four separate class periods, each for eight weeks.

The program included budgeting, credit/debit card usage, debt/loan management, credit scores, insurance, risk management, and investing. Classes had videos, interactive slides, and student discussions. At the start of the 2023 / 2024 school year, high school students must complete a financial literacy course to receive a high school diploma.

The Senate Bill 1054, titled the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, signed in March of 2022, will require high school students to earn one-half credit in personal financial literacy and money management, including instruction on types of bank accounts, credit scores, taxes, and managing debt.

Engage Estero (formerly the ECCL) has worked with Junior Achievement and Estero Schools on Personal Finance programs since 2018.

Middle School

Three Oaks Middle School attends JA Inspire Day at FGCU. //

JA Inspire is a new program for Junior Achievement, and this is the first year it has been held in Southwest Florida. Junior Achievement offered the program to all the Lee County School District 8th graders.

The JA Inspire event provided over three hundred students from Three Oaks Middle School an opportunity to gain experience about the many career options after high school. The 8th-grade students participated in firsthand activities such as CPR and other medical procedures, building electrical circuits, hosting a news broadcast, making sushi, and assembling plumbing fixtures.


Engage Estero, local businesses, and other community organizations supported Three Oaks Middle School by donating a unique shirt for the event.


More 8th-grade students from Three Oaks Middle School attended the event.


Teacher Jennifer McLeod coordinated this field trip for Three Oaks Middle School on April 27, 2023.

About Us

Be Informed, Get Engaged, and Make an Impact!

Engage Estero is an all-volunteer, nonpolitical, nonprofit Community Engagement Association. We exist to inform citizens of significant community issues and encourage citizen engagement to favorably impact the quality of life in greater Estero.

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