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Friday, June 21, 2024

Santa Fe President continues strides for equity, despite COVID-19 slowdowns

With SFC students back on campus, President Broadie’s efforts to combat lack of diversity is more important than ever.

When Santa Fe President Paul Broadie came into office in Feb. 2020, he promised for his first 100 days he would do nothing but listen.

He walked around campus meeting with faculty and staff, asking about the challenges, the real issues, the ugly. At Broadie’s inauguration, he promised to shatter equity gaps, enhance workforce development initiatives and help as many people as possible get a college education. He used these goals to guide his initial conversations with the SFC community.

But when COVID-19 shut down the college in the middle of March, Broadie’s initial goals took back seat to pandemic problems, Broadie said.

“You come in with all these, with goals, and you have to stay focused on those goals,” he said. “But at the same time, as a president, you have to be able to pivot.”

Two years later, the diversity at SFC remains almost identical to what it was when he arrived 一 with a Black population hovering at about 12%. With SFC in-person again, the issues Broadie once aimed to tackle have resurfaced.

Tianna Harris, a 19-year-old Black Student Union senator at SFC, said as a Black student, she is constantly reminded she’s a minority.

“There are some days when I will walk on campus, and I don’t even see one person of color,” Harris said. “Even when going into a building like, student affairs or something, the faculty … is not really diverse.” 

But it could be worse, Broadie said. Many institutions saw a decrease in Black enrollment over the past two years, and SFC maintained a steady percentage.

“To say that we've continued to retain our African American students, despite the African American population being hit very hard by the pandemic, is a testament to the work that our faculty and staff have done,” Broadie said.

SFC’s ability to listen to the immediate needs of its students was what kept its Black enrollment numbers from dropping, he said.

Broadie focused on food insecurity, transportation issues and increasing the college’s emergency fund that provides financial assistance to low-income students when faced with challenges hindering their ability to focus on their education.

“We were very intentional in our efforts to listen to what the needs of our community and our students were,” Broadie said.

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Yet, SFC’s Black Student Union adviser Javan Brown said much of what the college is doing is being missed by the community because SFC’s intentions aren’t clear enough.

“As for Santa Fe College and what it’s doing, I think we need to be more deliberate, and I mean absolutely deliberate, in calling out in support to help Black students in the Black community,” Brown said.

While Broadie was keen on listening to the immediate needs of SFC’s students during the pandemic, he created several long-term programs during the past two years to circle back to his initial promises. These programs are part of three pillars he established to accomplish his goals.

The first pillar is creating a college-going culture throughout Alachua and Bradford County, Broadie said, which will be done through SF Achieve.

SF Achieve is a pre-college prep program launched in November 2021 where specialists work with all students in participating Gainesville high schools to guide them through the college process. 

Students that graduate as SF Achieve scholars and choose to attend SFC will receive a faculty member as their mentor and a book voucher for up to five semesters at SFC. Low-income students are also eligible to receive a scholarship that covers whatever financial aid does not.

David Durkee, SF Achieve specialist, was a first generation college student who didn’t know how to navigate the college process. Lack of resources can be a barrier to entry for some students, he said. 

“The students that we're really looking for are those students that may not have made that jump to college due to a lack of resources or a lack of belief,” Durkee said. “Those are the ones we’re really excited to help.”

Broadie’s second area of focus is student success 一 a sector driven by scholarships.

During the 2021-22 academic year, the Santa Fe College Foundation approved 670 scholarship awards valued at about $1,627,000.

SFC has recently seen that a significant portion of its low-income students are attending school part-time because they often can’t afford a greater course load, Broadie said. Almost 60% of students at Santa Fe are part-time.

Increasing scholarship opportunities will hopefully increase the number of full-time students at SFC, Broadie said.

Broadie’s last pillar is social and economic mobility. He has used the Achieve, Conquer and Believe Excel Program to work toward that goal, Broadie said.

The ACB Excel Program is a seven-month, two-generation program designed for unemployed or underemployed individuals who have young children in the local school district, ACB Excel Coordinator Jen Homard said. 

Children and their parents gather two nights a week, one Saturday a month at Loften High School to enjoy a no-cost family style meal. After dinner, the adults work toward a career certificate program, while their children receive childcare from program supervisors. 

“We are breaking that cycle of any sort of poverty, whatever that level may have been for that family,” she said.

After completing the program, students can enter the workforce with the help of SF’s local business partners or stay at SFC and do a certificate or apprenticeship program.

Aaliyah “Chulo” Cheech, a 26-year-old ACB Excel student, plans to do a plumbing apprenticeship after she graduates. 

“The teachers that I have right now —I know for a fact they’re pushing me to be great and they’re pushing everybody else,” Cheech said. 

ACB Excel Coordinator Homard doesn’t expect to see returns on the project immediately.

“We will actually never really know the true impact of this program because we are essentially affecting generation after generation,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean President Broadies’s efforts are going unnoticed, SFC’s BSU adviser Brown said.

Brown compares Broadie to a farmer, tilling the land for his first two years, ensuring it’s going to be fertile. Once the seeds are planted, they will grow, Brown said.

“A lot of the work that's going on, that you might not see, that you cannot hold as tangible,” he said, “that’s where the work really needs to be done in order for that seed to take root.”

Contact Lily Kino at Follow her on Twitter @lily_kino

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Lily Kino

Lily is a third-year journalism major with a concentration in environmental science covering criminal justice for The Alligator. Last semester, she served as the Santa Fe reporter. When she's not writing, you can find Lily on a nature walk, eating Domino's Pizza or spending time with her friends.

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