Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Saturday, March 02, 2024
NEWS  |  SFC

Santa Fe College aims to eliminate local equity gaps in education with a variety of initiatives

The college held its 21st annual East Gainesville Initiative Community Forum Thursday

Community members, Santa Fe College faculty and students listen to SF President Paul Broadie II deliver the opening address of the East Gainesville Initiative Community Forum at the SF Charles L. Blount Center Oct. 5.
Community members, Santa Fe College faculty and students listen to SF President Paul Broadie II deliver the opening address of the East Gainesville Initiative Community Forum at the SF Charles L. Blount Center Oct. 5.

Dozens of community members and Santa Fe College students and faculty were present at the SF Charles L. Blount Center in downtown Gainesville Thursday night, sharing plans and progress made toward closing equity gaps in education.

SF hosted its 21st annual East Gainesville Initiative Community Forum, which focused on SF programs designed to increase education accessibility options, as well as initiatives for local high school mentorship and scholarship programs.

More than a dozen speakers from SF were present to discuss the college’s initiatives.

SF President Paul Broadie II delivered the forum’s opening address.

“I’m very committed to ensuring that everyone knows that we are not a one-dimensional institution,” he said.

Broadie commended SF for ranking high in student success outcomes and serving veterans.

“Those number ones don’t come from us chasing number ones,” he said. “They come from the commitment of our faculty and staff every day, looking at students and saying, ‘You can do it, you can be more, you can break that cycle of poverty.’”

He also mentioned the future Ralph W. Cellon Jr. Institute for Skilled Trades and Advanced Manufacturing, which was officially dedicated in a ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 11. 

Speakers went on to introduce some of the current SF projects. One recently established initiative is a virtual health service known as TimelyCare.

Naima Brown, vice president of student affairs at SF, said the resource provides students with 24/7 access to mental and physical health services at no cost, she said.

“We are removing mental health and physical health as a barrier,” she said.

SF already has initiatives in place to give local high school students access to support and educational mentorship, including Career Technical Education programs at high schools in Alachua and Broward Counties.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

SF Vice Provost Jodi Long described a medical skills program that was one of two programs established at Eastside High School in 2017. Unlike the previously established health professions magnet program at Gainesville High School, the newer program is only available to students zoned for EHS, she said.

The first cohort of graduates from the program  — who started as freshmen — graduated this past spring, she said. 

The program is also partnered with UF Health and offers a different array of internships than the program at GHS, Long said. 

“Eastside students were able to rotate through a series of areas at UF Health in order to figure out exactly what they wanted to do,” Long said. “They were able to select a shorter-term internship during their senior year to do a couple of different internships.”

The hope is that more students from around Gainesville will have access to programs and internships, she said.

“It’s all about partnerships when it comes to the trades and to the health sciences and a lot of technology areas,” Long said.

SF Achieve, a program that gives high school students career and educational mentorship, was also highlighted at the forum.

Quinten Eyman, director of recruitment and SF Achieve, described the program as “an extraordinary partnership between the college and our local high schools.”

The initiative provides one-on-one mentorship opportunities for students of all grades, starting as early as middle school, and gives them access to full-tuition scholarships, he said.

Dan Rodkin, associate vice president of student affairs at SF, said there were 729 Alachua County Public Schools graduates enrolled at SF for the Fall 2023 semester, which is 28% higher than before the SF Achieve program was in place. 

Ninety five of these graduates were from EHS, which is 30% higher, proving that East Gainesville residents particularly benefit from the initiative, he said.

Another initiative SF offers is the Free to Learn program. Jason Frank, an instructional designer at SF, said the initiative is designed to help incarcerated individuals get an education and break associated stigmas.

“Our ultimate goal is for our students to feel like they have a place in this community,” he said. “They all have something to give.”

Lex Shelton, a former SF student who serves as the chair of Increasing African American Recruitment and Retention, said African American enrollment initiatives should focus on retaining students rather than just increasing enrollment.

“You don’t just keep adding ingredients without tasting it,” Shelton said. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh yeah, let’s get all these people and this’ll be great, this’ll be amazing.’ But what happens when they leave? Do they enjoy their time here?”

Making students feel as if they have a community at SF is important, he said. Organizations like My Brother’s Keeper, which provides both academic support and social activities for African American students, can help provide that feeling, he said.

SF programs for nontraditional students were additionally featured, with the goal being that age or ability won’t prevent people from getting an education.

JoAnn Wilkes directs the Displaced Homemaker Program, which aims to aid people who previously worked in the home in finding employment.

Wilkes herself was able to get back on her feet through the program, she said.

“My husband died. I had no structure, I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “That’s why the Displaced Homemaker was a lifesaver for me, getting structure, direction and hope.”

The program is especially helpful to the large number of older adults who come to SF to finish their education, Wilkes said.

“We help them with resumes and we help them get directions,” she said. “We have lots of workshops.”

Another initiative mentioned at the forum is the lesser-known Project SAINT, which stands for Student Access and INclusion Together.

Linda Mussillo, a program administrator of the initiative, said the program “allows students with intellectual disabilities to have a modified, supportive, intensive college experience.”

The initiative gives students with disabilities the opportunity to get involved in adult education classes, internships and student organizations, she said.

“They are doing everything that the other college students are doing, with basic support,” Mussillo said.

SF also has initiatives in place to help with entrepreneurship. The SF Center for Innovation and Economic Development is one resource.

Trenton Hightower, SF director of workforce development, said many businesses fail due to cash flow problems or a lack of resources. The SF CIED provides business incubation services to help local businesses get started, he said.

“We provide the services that help entrepreneurs with resources,” he said. “We’re an economic engine for Gainesville.” 

Contact Bailey Diem at bdiem@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @BaileyDiem.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Bailey Diem

Bailey Diem is a first-year journalism major and a metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. When not reporting, Bailey can be found playing guitar or getting lost in a book.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.