SPEAKING OUT

SFCC eastside initiative goal: black empowerment


Published: Monday, January 10, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 9:37 p.m.
The Sun's New Year's Day agenda's call for widespread community support for east Gainesville has a good start in Santa Fe Community College's eastside initiative, now in its third year.
College President Dr. Jackson Sasser has pledged a long-term partnership with east Gainesville for positive change in its economic, educational and social problems. Backing this commitment is an annual budget of nearly $150,000.
Six regular faculty members also chair subcommittees on education and outreach, transportation and technology, access, retention, athletics and cultural events.
The professional consultant who helps set goals for the eastside initiative is Odetta MacLeish-White, president of Springmount Legacy Consulting Co. This firm deals with community relations and strategic planning. She also chairs the board of the East Gainesville Development Corp.
"I meet with the eastside SFCC faculty, staff, students and the Black Student Union to plan for effective community actions," she said. "This is a significant step for Santa Fe. Dr. Sasser wants to include the wider community."
Heading the Initiative is Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, executive director of SFCC community outreach. She also heads the Faith-Based Partnership Committee and has enlisted 14 black churches in a drive to expand the Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters program. Parents become their children's first teachers in a successful reading-readiness program.
Cole-Smith said she has attended a Miami meeting on the federal faith-based program. "They have lots of money, but we have not yet made application for any funds."
Co-chairing the subcommittees for specific tasks are Eugene Jones, director of SFCC information technology education, and Kris Williams, SFCC assistant vice president of continuing and community education.
The ITE department has installed computers with software in 21 eastside churches and will supply training and repairs as needed, Jones said. In addition, the churches will receive new computers in three years.
"We are not here to tell people what to do," Jones said. "We give tools and help to empower them to solve their own community problems."
Getting acquainted with the community led the eastside initiative team to co-sponsor the 25th annual Fifth Avenue Arts Festival in spring 2004.
A leadership empowerment conference, co-sponsored by SFCC and east Gainesville churches, addressed community issues. A community awareness event at Eastside High School highlighted nursing, automotive and health sciences programs at the college.
A holistic examination of transportation issues affecting the east side successfully expanded bus service hours to and from the northwest campus, downtown and east Gainesville.
Team members officially became board members of the UF East Gainesville Alliance. Partnership began with the Eastside Reichert House with a commitment to support high-risk youth in this area.
The SFCC Student Builders Association logged over 200 hours working on Celebration Oaks affordable housing during the year.
A family literacy grant project provided GED classes and adult education at the Southeast Boys and Girls Clubs and the Fred Cone Center.
A cultural event brought 300 Howard Bishop Middle School students to SFCC for the Dig Nubia art exhibit and African drumming and dancing.
The 90 SFCC personnel involved in the eastside initiative need many volunteers to carry out their mission. For information on ways to volunteer, see http://cisit.sfcc.edu/%7Eegville/.
Harriet Ludwig is a retired journalist who lives in Gainesville.

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