SFCC to focus on area homeless

Santa Fe Community College president Dr. Jackson Sasser shares a laugh with Thomas Cronk, who was formerly homeless, during the SFCC spring convocation on Friday. Cronk helped draft the 10-year plan to end homelessness in Alachua County.

Aaron Daye/ The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Reaffirming his school's commitment to eliminating homelessness in Alachua County, Santa Fe Community College President Jackson Sasser issued a "call to arms" to the college's employees at spring convocation Friday.
While making it clear that "Santa Fe is not a social service agency," Sasser urged about 200 faculty and staff who attended to help SFCC provide assistance to the homeless in Alachua and Bradford counties, which house the college's campuses.
"There are far too many very poor people in the two counties with little direction and very little hope," Sasser said.
Traditionally, convocations have been an opportunity for the college president to inform the faculty and staff of the college's plans for the next semester. But Sasser used the event to open up dialogue with his employees on the best approaches the school should take, actively soliciting their advice.
Gainesville city commissioners have for years looked at SFCC as a tool for economic development and poverty reduction, taking particular interest in the school's ability to train employees to work for high-tech and medical firms courted by the city.
Though recommendations offered Friday included job training as a means of providing higher-paying jobs, the recommendations also covered a wide range of less traditional suggestions.
Ideas offered by college employees included providing life skills training to low-income residents, requiring students to volunteer with nonprofit organizations as part of the degree requirements, making it easier for homeless and low-income residents to access SFCC courses and providing additional resources for them.
Sasser's speech was punctuated by two presentations: the screening of a movie produced by SFCC students about Alachua County's nearly 1,000 homeless residents, and a first-hand account of the struggle to get off the streets by Thomas Cronk.
Bringing in institutions like SFCC is vital to solving the problem of homelessness in Alachua County, said Bob Freeman, one of several homeless advocates who attended Friday's ceremony.
"They're an enormous resource and they seem to have the will to follow through with it," Freeman said.
The convocation also included a tribute to former SFCC President Alan J. Robertson, who died of bone cancer last year. Robertson was SFCC's second president and held the school's top position for 19 years. He is credited with helping expand and modernize the college.
He also was responsible for the opening of the school's downtown Gainesville campus, which has since become a centerpiece of the East Gainesville Initiative, an economic development program.
"He taught us the pursuit of excellence was built on dignity and grace," said SFCC Vice President of Student Affairs Portia Taylor, who considered Robertson her mentor.
"He was the jewel in the crown of Santa Fe Community College," Taylor said.
Jeff Adelson can be reached at 352-374-5095 or adelsoj@gvillesun.com

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