Community committed to the betterment of East Gainesville

Members of the East Gainesville Initiative sign in before the start of the meeting.

BRAD MCCLENNY/Special to Guardian
Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 3:32 p.m.

Santa Fe College president Dr. Jackson Sasser, other college officials, and faith-based and community leaders gathered at an Annual Community Forum to reaffirm a commitment to the betterment of east Gainesville, and to review accomplishments made during the past year by the Santa Fe College Community Outreach and The East Gainesville Initiative.

Nearly 125 people gathered last Thursday at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church to hear an accountability report that included a review of accomplishments made by the East Gainsville Initiative during the past year, and the progress made on its 2005-2010, five-year strategic plan. Developed with input from the community, and SFC faculty, staff and students, the strategic plan guides community efforts and describes outreach goals.

Karen Cole-Smith, director for SFC Community Outreach and the East Gainesville Initiative, or EGI, said the goal is to provide educational empowerment and training opportunities to residents of east Gainesville, and Alachua and Bradford Counties. She said the annual community forum delivers on promises made to provide a yearly accountability report.

"We want to keep our promise that every year we would have an annual community forum for an accountability report," Cole-Smith said.

In his opening remarks, Sasser said when he came to Gainesville in 2001, he found a city divided into two communities with unequal access to educational and job opportunities.

"I'm not fine with not having equal opportunities and access," said Sasser, who went on establish the SFC Community Outreach and The East Gainesville Initiative in order to provide equal opportunities and equal access to educational and job training programs.

Accomplishments highlighted in the annual accountability report included:

Providing educational summer camps for middle-school students in east Gainesville that focus on math, science, life skills, and financial literacy.

Donating and installing more than 288 computers at educational sites, churches, after school programs, and community organizations including computer and software at St. Francis House to assist homeless persons and families to acquire computer skills and find jobs.

Offering the "Dollar and Sense Campaign" to provide free tax services to students and low income residents through a partnership with the East Gainesville Development.

Providing educational support and mentoring for young males through a partnership with the Reichert House; 110 youth were impacted.

Providing GED programs at the SFC Blount Center, Village Green Apartments, Sunrise Apartments of St. Francis House and The Arbor House.

Establishing "My Brother's Keepers," a mentoring program to help black males succeed in college.

Providing space for 100 community-based meetings at the SFC Downtown Blount Center.

Establishing a partnership with HIPPY or Home Instruction for the Parents of Pre-school Youngsters, to prepare pre-school age children for school.

Adopting Rawlings Elementary School to provide mentoring, tutoring, parent/teacher support and educational resources

Cole-Smith recognized 18 faith-based partners for being a major part of the success of the East Gainesville Initiative. "They really value education empowerment," Cole-Smith said. "They've done a fabulous job."

Community partners in the audience expressed their support for the work being done by Santa Fe College.

Vivian Filer, retired nurse educator and community activist, commended Cole-Smith for her efforts. "Here we are living the plan," said Filer. "It takes a Karen Cole-Smith at the helm quietly moving us on."

In the next few months, Cole-Smith said, she will be calling on community members to take part in planning for the East Gainesville Initiative 2011-16 strategic plan.

For more information, call (352) 395-5767.

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