Indian River CC
In the 13 years Florida Leader has sponsored the “Best of Florida Schools,” this year we got the largest and strongest pool of nominees ever, top-to-bottom. Calling a winner was tough, but the ones here are most worthy of note, with the rest of our nominees to be featured on our web site (www.floridaleader.com) because of their strengths.
A trend at community colleges and universities is a dedication to leadership—a conscious decision or outright program to instill leadership skills in Student Government leaders and others. They’re taking SG beyond a student activities role and helping it foster relationships to work alongside college administration instead of against it.
At colleges both large and small, on one campus or many, SG administrations are stepping up to the plate and serving their constituency. We commend that kind of leadership and look forward to seeing the leaders featured here excel at the next level.
CCG consists of the seven-member e-board, a senator from each campus, and one or more representative from each of the 44 clubs. It provides the kind of environment for communication that works well across multiple locations, letting CCG lead students and bring them to events in numbers that other schools envy.
“This year, we have a group of students who have been tenacious in their goals as a team,” says Dr. David L. Anderson, vice president of student affairs. “What started out as a very competitive situation with a close race has turned into an extremely cohesive executive board.” Offices are filled by the percentage of votes a candidate receives, so even though CCG Vice President Rick McKenna ran for president, CCG President Erin MacPherson—who was last year’s treasurer—got enough votes to bump him down, which means others moved down even further.
What contributes to the ongoing strength of CCG is IRCC’s commitment to leadership. “Working with this year’s SGA drives the point home that other factors, such as leadership development, activities for social behavior, and soft skills, must be integrated into a student-development program to enhance the ability of students to succeed,” says Lori La Civita, student leadership development coordinator and CCG advisor. “This year’s SGA stands out in their effort to apply the information learned regarding leadership development, motivation, and teamwork. These students have actively worked on themselves initially, taking an inside-out approach to leadership by learning how to first lead themselves before they attempted to motivate and lead others. Their efforts resulted in exemplary programs and practices that surpassed the efforts and outcomes of our previous student government groups.”
“The two thoughts that come to mind when I compare this year's CCG to previous years are ‘dedication’ and ‘diversity,’” says Mary Holmgren, student activities director and CCG co-advisor. “The events that occurred on 9/11 impacted our CCG's objectives and goals for the entire year. The students really wanted to make a difference. Their focus was to make sure that the needs of the student body were met. They felt that there was a need for students and staff to come together.”
Response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was “exceptional,” says Michelle Abaldo, director of institutional advancement. “[CCG and student leaders] provided crisis response workshops and a ribbon campaign. What stands out in my mind is the moving [Day of Remembrance Ceremony] for students, faculty, and administrators, conducted completely by the student leaders. They each addressed how the event affected them with poetry, a personal memory, inspirational remarks, or patriotic song.”
Meanwhile, CCG continued its hallmark “Leadership Keys” and “Leadership Link” programs which help students grow and trains clubs in developing those students. Moreover, CCG added the “Volunteer Opportunity Directory,” “a special initiative introduced this year that helps to organize the volunteer efforts of all the student clubs and is another example of why IRCC's Campus Coalition Government is the best in the state,” Abaldo says. The directory provides information about community-service agencies and non-profit organizations that have agreed to assist IRCC students with opportunities, according to La Civita.
“We decided we needed to find a way to make it more accessible, more tailored to the people of IRCC,” MacPherson says. The directory helps students from pursuing places that don’t really want their help, which can be discouraging. “So you look through the book, and you’re like, these people want you: They know who you are, they want you, they’re ready for you—this is what they need,” she says.
CCG did its own part by gathering more than 300 individual, personalized letters to send to state legislative leaders who were considering the importance of community colleges and the state’s budget cuts last year. “Each individual student told their own personal story regarding why they chose IRCC and how the college has helped them reach their goals and improve their lives,” La Civita says. The state FJCCSGA (Florida Junior/Community College Student Government Association) conference recognized IRCC’s CCG for being one of the few community colleges to write and for the number of letters sent. “IRCC…just did an outstanding job on our legislative letter writing campaign, IRCC alone sending in 312 letters,” says Kelly Warren, FJCSSGA state advisor.
“This year's team has been extremely involved with support of community colleges and the funding to support the community college mission,” Abaldo says. “The 300 letters the students sent told wonderful stories of how their community college education was vital for their future success both at the university and in the workforce. Often letters to legislators are simply a form letter that is signed by the individual. That wasn’t the case at IRCC—each student took the time to compose a personal letter.”
CCG members lead fellow students because of their great training. “All of our CCG Executive Board participates in our Student Leadership Program, which was initiated this year,” La Civita says. “This program was designed to assist students to align their goals with their values and interests in order to gain a sense of satisfaction as they work toward and accomplish their academic and career objectives. The students have all embraced the goal to take the skills they learn into the community as effective leaders.” It’s required for the e-board , yet many club representatives signed up as well, putting the first-year total at 75 participants in spite of the fact that it requires 15 hours of volunteer service.
That leadership training has translated into a cohesive e-board that works well together and supports each other even when someone takes on too big of a load. The thing that stands out for CCG Vice President Rick McKenna is “the way that we all work with each other even we have different aspects of what we believe in and what we think needs to get done. But if something needs to get done, we’re all there to make sure something gets done.”
“We’ve also been trained to see how differences can be a benefit,” CCG President MacPherson says. “Everybody on the e-board is, I think, very diverse in what they’re good at, their talents. Some people are really calm, so in situations where everything is really tense, they’ll even everything out…Basically, I’ve found that in working together we’ve really learned to really respect each other, so that way we’ve bonded and had a fun time and have been very successful.”
This attention to leadership training and community service—both on- and off-campus—is the makeup of an effective SG. One way it maintains its effectiveness from year to year is by transferring ideas, wisdom, and knowledge from one administration to the next. “[This year’s administration] tried to get everything we could from the people on [last year’s], because we had very experienced people on it last year, and we were newbies,” MacPherson says. “So we asked all kinds of questions.”
This year’s e-board plans to improve the process even more, she says. “We’re going to try to have a situation that once the e-board is finished, and the new electees are nominated, we’re going to try to have a little retreat or get-together to have them bond and see if they have any questions. We’re going to try to create a new program and make the transition smoother.”
As Dr. Anderson says, “All the CCG Executive Board members have demonstrated exemplary skills in governing our student body and positively representing the college in matters involving students, administration, and local and state legislative representatives. They’ve far exceeded my expectations and carried out their respective responsibilities while exhibiting very commendable leadership skills. If one of their team gets delayed in reaching an event, they’ve picked up the ball and delivered a smooth and seamless program.”
These student leaders have learned, applied, grown, evaluated, and grown some more, even sharing with others what they knowledge and experience. For example, when CCG Vice President McKenna learned about parliamentary procedure as District II Parliamentarian, he shared that with District members and the CCG e-board. In turn, the e-board “worked extensively with each of the student club representatives to make sure that the correct procedures were being utilized,” La Civita says.
“Our student leaders not only learned how to apply leadership/organizational skills to themselves but also to their respective clubs and organizations that make up our Campus Coalition Government,” she says. “Their contribution to our college environment, and in turn to our respective communities, has made this group the best that I have had the opportunity to observe and work with over the last 18 years.”
“As a former FJCCSGA officer some 30 years ago, I’m very high on SGAs and what they add to community colleges and student leadership ability,” says Dr. E. Ann McGee, president. “I’m proud to say that this year's SGA officers have been the best that I’ve ever seen. They have displayed tenacity, creativity, and ingenuity in getting projects accomplished on campus that I didn't think were possible.
“Case in point is our new student lounge area. The students worked with a committee of students and designed their ‘ideal’ lounge area. They then proceeded to get it funded and installed,” she says. “They’re now moving on to other projects like child care.”
“As an advisor, I can tell you that this year's SGA has been very successful in working together with college administrators to solve some of the most important issues on campus,” says Mauricio E. Garcia, coordinator of student activities and SGA advisor. “SGA’s relationship with the SCC administrators has always been a close one, but this year, the level of collaboration and communication has yielded very successful results.”
The “results” include an impressive list of accomplishments: final completion of the Student Center Game Room which encouraged students to stick around and spend quality time with fellow students and at the same time find out about other things going on campus such as SGA, Leadership Retreats, community service, and the WOW! (Wind-down On Wednesdays) entertainment series.
SGA increased the level of developmental assistance to clubs and organizations. Through monthly meetings of the Raiders Officers Council (ROC) meetings, formally the Club President’s Council, SGA worked to provide the leaders of SCC clubs and organizations with information and assistance aimed toward increasing visibility and all-around effectiveness. These meetings also serve as brainstorming sessions where club leaders can compare and contrast ideas ranging from fundraising and recruitment to leadership development.
SGA tackled the long-standing issue of day care at SCC. Since the cost of "on- campus" day care was prohibitive, SGA leaders decided to provide an alternative by pricing day care providers around the Sanford/Lake Mary area to offer SCC students a list of providers and costs. In the process, they got discounts as high as 15% and got some providers to waive typically high registration fees.
SGA also secured affordable transportation to and from campus through discounted Lynx bus tickets. They did this by comparing what other schools around the Central Florida area had and then submitted their findings to the administration.
Other projects include starting “Café-4-SGA,” a weekly study hall where students can enjoy refreshments, coffee, and cookies and learn about what is going on with SGA and the college; promoting school spirit by sponsoring “SCC Athlete Appreciation Day;” organizing a canned food drive called “Share Your Christmas” that was featured on Channel 2 News; and promoting two “Bowl Down Cancer” events to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
SGA’s list of accomplishments “reflects a lot of effort and time commitment on the part of the SGA executive board, the SGA members, and the college administration,” Garcia says. “Our SGA is very fortunate to be able to work with very receptive and helpful administrators and staff. They’re a great bunch of young people, and they are already winners in our eyes.”
“This year's SGA, under the leadership of President Anthony Lewis, has done an exceptional job of persistently networking with college administrators to address issues that concern our student population,” says Randy Pawlowski, director of student life. “In fact, their lobbying efforts have produced more effective results than any other SCC SGA that I’ve observed.”
Furthermore, as Pawlowski says, “Lewis and other members of his e-board have attended all of this year's FJCCSGA Presidents' Assemblies, the FJCCSGA District II leadership retreat, and the FJCCSGA State Convention in support of FJCCSGA's mission to address legislative issues affecting community college students and improve the leadership skills of its members.”
The training for this kind of leadership and service comes through initiatives such as SCC’s Student Leadership Institute, in which Dr. McGee participates so she can stay connected to what SGA is doing. “Yes, I’m really pleased with what these students have accomplished.
“This crew gets my hardiest recommendation. They have exercised leadership, teamwork, and a stick-to-itiveness that has gotten the job done. Plus, they have had fun with it,” McGee says. “You won't find a finer and more dedicated group!”
“This particular group certainly is at the top of the list [of 30 years of SGA’s at PJC] based on their clarity of purpose, campus involvement, leadership, campus and community accomplishments, unwavering support of each other, and willingness to give the best of themselves to every endeavor they become involved in,” says Peter Wilkin, director of student life. “I’ve truly been impressed with the number of hours that they donate to making a positive, constructive difference on the campus and in the community. They do this while holding down jobs and taking full loads of classes.”
“This group's strength comes from its diversity,” says Dennis Reynolds, coordinator of student leadership and activities and SGA advisor. “When I say diversity, it’s the combination of backgrounds, age, cultures, and experiences. These students have come together to create a group that when they put their minds to something, they’re able to get it done. They’ve been able to put together events and pull them off when others would have floundered.”
For instance, they came together in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by organizing a candlelight vigil and advertising it to get over 200 members from the community and PJC to attend. “It was well received, and this early success cemented the group together,” Reynolds says.
After that, the group continued its focus on community service. Their annual Halloween Party raised over $200 to buy meals for less fortunate families during Thanksgiving. SGA then worked to create PJC’s second annual homecoming where Mr. and Ms. PJC were crowned. Beyond their borders, they worked on a statewide FJCCSGA clothing drive, collecting over 100 bags of clothes and many pairs of shoes. Their annual car show is their greatest undertaking, according to Reynolds, which last year raised $1,100 for the March of Dimes. A bigger and better sequel is planned for this spring.
For students, SGA kicked into gear when it found out that the game room was being redone and everything removed for a new career center. SGA realized that it was important to the center, but they also were able to show the importance of having an area where students can convene and play a game or two. Working with the administration, a compromise was made and both groups came away pleased.
“They’re a true asset to the college and community as a whole and have earned the respect of the upper administration and numerous community leaders,” Wilkin says.
“Their selfless commitment to PJC and the community shows what true leadership is about,” Reynolds says. “I’ve never been prouder of a group of students.”
“I can only add,” says Dr. Isaac Brigham, vice president of student affairs, “that the leadership these SG leaders provided was stronger than any group during my 10-year tenure at PJC.”
“SGA performs and produces at a high level of excellence on an extremely tight budget,” says Lisa Hagen, coordinator of student activities. “The success of OWCC’s SGA can be attributed to the students’ active and proactive participation at the local, district, and state levels.”
Filling all allocated SGA senatorial seats has provided a sense of community to the other students at the college, boasting participation in student activities and organizations. SGA has encouraged students to support co-curricular activities such as the athletic, fine and performing arts, forensics, and brain bowl programs. Most notably, these students transition between activities to provide support for the other programs if needed.
Due to the high attendance rate at all meetings and active volunteerism from most of its members, SGA’s most important accomplishments can be witnessed in the areas of student motivation and community service. Community service projects include the “Red Cross Blood Drives,” the “Back-to-School Supplies Drive,” the “Clothing and Shoes Drives,” the “Thanksgiving Food Drives,” the “Voter Registration Drives,” the “Gift Exchange for the Elderly” conducted in unison with the University of West Florida, and the “Children’s Christmas Celebration” at the local hospital.
“This SGA administration is the strongest ever experienced at OWCC to my limited knowledge,” Hagen says. “We have had more activity, involvement, participation, interest, and commitment from the student senate this year than in the past three years I've worked as student activities coordinator.”
Part of their success can be attributed to a strong leader in SGA President Tony Chandler, who recently won the Bob Graham award at the SGA state conference, with most of the SGA members contributing to the service of this award.
“One thing that sets OWCC's SGA apart from others in the state is the fact that they travel to other schools to share ideas and offer support,” Hagen says. “I understand that the SGAs at Lake City Community College and North Florida Community College have benefited greatly from this endeavor. District IV is stronger and more unified as a direct result from these trips.
“The metamorphosis of OWCC’s SGA these past two years has created an environment conducive to a more fully developed collegiate experience,” she says. “To enhance an already strong educational foundation, these students have chosen to commit themselves to community, district, and state issues, thus providing them with a solid educational experience upon which they can depend for any future endeavors.”
“I think that the major difference of this year's SG from last year's is a complete understanding that they are to serve the students of the campus first and foremost,” says Claire Jordan, student activities advisor for Plant City and SGA advisor. “I think that the students—who are on the whole more mature—are able to see the big picture without allowing petty issues to side track them.
“Also, they view their fiscal responsible to the students at a higher level,” she says. “The SGA is dealing with financial matters in an equitable manner, insuring that all segments of the student population are accessing the activities and events that are funded by the SGA.”
This year, SGA has boosted student participation in its organization and sponsored “programs for self-growth which involve risk-taking,” such as white-water rafting on the Oconee River in Tennessee and snorkeling with marine life in the Florida Keys. Next stop? London, England, if they get administration approval. Back at home, they’re offsetting the cost of textbooks and subsidizing concert tickets. And they organized the signing of a 50-by-5 “United We Stand” banner in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Not bad for this group lead by a grandmother, Kathy Loetscher.
“I was a Director of Student Life earlier in my career, so I feel comfortable assessing our SGA,” says John W. McCaughey, dean of student services at Plant City. “They may easily be the most representative group—our president is a 47-year-old grandmother, we have age ranges form 18 to early 50s, all ethnicities represented and a broad range of degree programs. They work well together and care for both the campus and the community.
“They have sponsored many beautification projects on campus including an outdoor amphitheatre, three rock gardens with waterfalls, a new flagpole, upgrading of our student weight room, purchasing new benches and tables for the students, and are planning a complete refurbishment of the Student Center as a gift for those who follow.”
SGA also participated in city parades and community events and sponsored self-improvement programs such as Weight Watchers and karate to make them free for students and staff.
What’s left to accomplish at one campus, one wonders. “You can see my pride in them," says McCaughty.
Contact Loetscher at (813) 757-2107 or email@example.com or Jordan at (813) 757-2107 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or McCaughty at (813) 757-2107 or email@example.com or visit www.hcc.cc.fl.us/plantcity/clubs.htm.
“What sets this SGA apart from other SGAs is their tenacity on any project they work on,” says Minerva "Minnie" Vasquez, SGA advisor. “This group is passionate about what they do. Their attitude can be seen in all their endeavors. They involve every member, and every member knows that they must do their fair share for their project to succeed.”
Their laundry list of projects includes “Class Talks” where SGA members talk to freshman about SGA and student life and “Student Surveys” to encourage students to inform SGA on issues that they might have concerning their education and the facility. SGA members also show their school support by sitting on several college-wide committees, attending all campus activities, participating in various programs, and even traveling to other campuses of M-DCC. “They hope that their involvement in these activities motivates other students in becoming active in the many activities that the campuses have to offer its students,” Vasquez says.
In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, SGA members participated in a memorial ceremony held on all six of the M-DCC campuses called “Circle of Unity.”
Additionally, they helped with United Way fund-raising events and their own service activities including "Grooving up the Grove" where students went to a designated house and to improve it; a middle school spelling bee where they assisted as judges and guides; and helping through a volunteer day at Camillus House, a shelter for the homeless.
In response to a need that hit close to home, the group helped the Bass family, whose house had burned down, forcing them live in two separate homes. SGA members collected money among themselves to supply the destitute family, with four children ranging in age from five to 16, with gift certificates from various merchants. “The mother is a M-DCC employee who has helped with paperwork for their travels,” Vasquez says. “They are doing this in appreciation for all she has done for them.”
Beyond campus and community service, three SGA members were elected to the 2002-2003 Florida Junior/Community College Student Government Association (FJCCSGA) District I Executive Board. In addition, some SGA members won the BOB (Best Of the Best) Award in that same district. This award is given to the top four SGAs (one from each district) that can document all their activities for the year.
“This year's SGA Executive Board possesses a unique group dynamic. Each one has a special and different perspective on issues,” says Ana Marie DeMahy, student life director and SGA co-advisor along with Delia Lopez. “They pull together through their differences to work as a strong unified team, maintaining harmony. Each individual is extraordinary; they are motivated, resourceful, astute and committed to serving the student body. They have ambitious goals, not only in their personal and academic life, but also as student leaders.”
SGA offered opportunities for night students to get involved by opening the Coffee House during the evenings in the Student Life building and holding other events such as “United We Be Clubbin’” and a Valentine Ball. SGA is also working on getting the Wolfson Café and cafeteria open past their current 2 p.m. closing time.
“This group from the beginning has been very together. I think it's one of the reasons that they stand out,” says Madeline Pumariega, dean of students. “They’re all committed not only to serving the campus but also the community. They have regular meetings with the campus president and always bring up issues that are going to enhance the campus community and not just one group on campus. They’ve been instrumental in improving tutoring and bringing a sense of community to an urban campus.”
One example of this is their response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wherein SGA members participated in a memorial ceremony held on all six of the M-DCC campuses called “Circle of Unity.”
Back at home, SGA was instrumental in getting the math lab expanded and staffed with more experienced tutors to meet student demand. They are also requesting that a newly empty outdoor area be converted into tennis and basketball courts, along with a track field, to provide students of “the only urban campus in Miami” some outdoor activities and sports opportunities.
“I believe what separates them from the rest is their willingness to work hard by volunteering and encouraging others to get involved as well,” Pumariega says. “Their ability to recognize a need and make a difference makes them the very best. I see them accomplish this as a team and as individual students taking the time out to help others.”
“This group of vigorous young ladies take on the responsibilities as student leaders very seriously,” DeMahy says. “They have matured while in office, and they have captivated the student body, faculty and staff, by being sensitive, responsive, and innovative.”
This SGA is “very well probably one of the most committed groups I have worked with. They are very dedicated to the service of others,” says Mike Bosley, director of student development collegewide. “They work very hard, and they are very committed to each other and their goals. They have a commitment to service and their drive to get students involved.”
One big event “driving” students to get involved was the showing of the movie The Fast and Furious along with SGA car show, of course. On a more serious note, they hosted a blood drive in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and then began a fund-raising campaign for the American Red Cross.
To get student feedback, SGA held a Town Hall Meeting. To boast school spirit the group purchased a costume in the likeness of the school mascot, the Matador, a representative of the college’s namesake, Valencia, Spain.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with this year's SGA,” says Dr. Sonya Joseph, dean of students. “This is one of the first leadership teams that I have known (in my 12 years at Valencia) to physically get out on campus and interact with students. They have been actively involved in major events on campus, especially events around 9/11.
“This group of students has worked as a cohesive team and has accomplished the goals they set when they were first elected. Many SGAs will fizzle toward the end of Term 1 and really slow down during Term 2, but the East Campus SGA has been strong throughout both terms.
“I have enjoyed working with this group and will miss their leadership and enthusiasm when they leave,” she says. “The group truly deserves this honor!”
Contact Muscadin at (407) 299-5000 x2619 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Bosley at (407) 299-5000 x2313 or email@example.com or Joseph at (407) 582-2377 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://sga-east.go.cc.
“Each SGA provides its own challenges. This team has provided very few. I have never had more confidence in a SGA than I do with this team,” says Victor M. Collazo, student development coordinator. “Thus, I have been able to take on other projects for the college because I know everything is under control and on track with SGA.”
What stands out with this SGA is “inclusion, mutual respect, trust, and confidence in each other,” he says. “I think it all started with our first ever SGA retreat in July 2001. They are everywhere: a very visible organization.” At their retreat, officers identified four areas that they needed to work on: Empowerment, Representation, Service, and Leadership. They then set goals for each which they have subsequently acheived. “This SGA has changed the campus environment at Valencia's West Campus.”
“I think the strength of this group is their persistence,” says Paul A. Kinser, provost. “They have consistently and professionally pursued several goals, which they will achieve this year. These goals are the kind that cannot be accomplished in one semester or even a year. Things like changing parking policies to benefit students, changing smoking policies to benefit us all, and using technology (installing televisions in key locations on campus for information and communications purposes-in process) will all get done because of the maturity and perseverance of this group. Each of these projects has been several years in the making.
“Our students have been able to make their case to me, as provost and to our faculty and security personnel—none is an easy group or individual to influence. Because they have presented their requests with data as evidence and with class, they have been well-received and supported,” he says. “In my opinion, this has been the best group of student leaders to work with, and more importantly, to get things done. “
“They have done so much to impact the everyday life of 'regular' students,” Collazo says. “Small things like comfort level in computer labs (they just purchased lamps for two computer labs to improve the learning environment—this has had a great response); furniture; currently researching the purchase and installation of additional bike racks. Then, they represent our students on community committees, attend local political events, create writing campaigns to legislators and on every college committee. They even go where they are not formally invited, like the faculty senate meetings, and other college-wide committees to make sure they know what is going on.
“There is absolutely no group of students that I have know in an SGA that has worked harder and had more impact on their fellow students than this SGA,” he says. “They are an incredible group of students and, what's even better, good people. They lead from their heart—true servant leaders. I have been a Student Affairs professional for 20 years, and never have I had such a positive experience with an SGA as with this one.”
Contact Walsh at (407) 582-1605 or email@example.com or Collazo at (407) 582-1607 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Kinser at (407) 299-5000 or email@example.com or visit http://sga-west.go.cc.
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