As part of Saint Leo's commitment to reaching and educating committed learners, a group from Saint Leo took part in the 2018 Black, Brown & College Bound summit held in Tampa in late March, and organized by Hillsborough Community College. University President William J. Lennox Jr. spoke on a presidential panel and 10 young men from the student body took part, as well.
The annual convention brings students, college administrators, and other interested parties together for detailed discussions about improving access to college for young men of color and success rates for the students once they arrive. Black and Latino men attend and graduate from college in smaller proportions than the general American population, and other population groups, such as women. That imperils the young mens' chances for economic success and mobility, so community advocates, students, and college administrators have been meeting at the annual summit to exchange ideas and inspiration. The wide-ranging discussion (and the summit) focuses on what students need and want in both academic and social support, as well ways that institutions and administrators can respond. Federal and state government policies are also in the mix.
Dr. Lennox spoke on a panel with other college presidents—peers from three Florida community colleges—about ways to improve funding to allow more students to attend college. Although some states are discussing ways to make community college tuition free to students—which could require that taxpayers invest in costly campus expansions in the two-year schools—Dr. Lennox pointed out a way private nonprofit institutions like Saint Leo can help. If federal tuition assistance assigned directly to students is expanded, he said, students who wish can choose a campus environment like Saint Leo where classroom space and resources are already available with room to admit more young people. That is a strategy that makes use of infrastructure that already exists in most states, and so is a cost-effective use of taxpayers' money, Dr. Lennox suggested, and it allow students more choices for college.
The panel also included the president of Hillsborough State College, Dr. Ken Atwater; the president of Pasco-Hernando State College, Dr. Timothy Beard; and the president of Palm Beach State College, Dr. Ava Parker.
Saint Leo is also adopting a faculty-student mentoring program that has been successful at an institution in another state, Dr. Lennox noted.
Dr. Lennox noted Saint Leo also likes the idea of programs that allow families to visit campuses so that children and parents can better envision the possibilities of having a child in college. Saint Leo also works with two groups that nourish Latino students sti
ll in high school and that prepare young people for success in college.
In addition to Dr. Lennox, 10 Saint Leo students attended the conference, accompanied by Edson O'Neale, director of student activities. They young men had the chance to attend panels relevant to their needs as young people, and to hear a well-received motivational keynote address from Michael Strahan, the former professional football player and current ABC network television personality.
From the faculty, Dr. Phillip Neely also attended the conference, and Dr. Heather Parker worked as conference liaison from Saint Leo. Jorge Braham (shown with Dr. Lennox) represented Saint Leo from the Undergraduate Admissions Office to talk to community college students interested in transferring to Saint Leo.