LAKE WORTH, Fla. – Aug. 24, 2020) Palm Beach State College has been awarded two five-year highly competitive U.S. Department of Education grants totaling over $2.78 million to continue its longstanding TRIO Student Support Services program and to launch a new one solely for veterans.
With the first $294,725 per year Student Support Services grant, PBSC will serve 175 low-income, first-generation college students or those with disabilities each year through its existing program, which was initially funded in 2001. Now entering its 20th year at the College, the program provides comprehensive services to help participants stay in school and graduate, including academic tutoring, assistance in course selection, information about financial aid and economic literacy and other support.
The new Student Support Services Veterans grant of $261,888 per year will allow PBSC to provide similar services and support for 120 student veterans who meet the same criteria as participants in the SSS program. The idea is to address and remove barriers specific to their unique needs as they transition from military to civilian and college life. The SSS Veterans program will complement numerous services the College already offers its more than 1,100 veterans and their families through its veterans resource centers at the Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Raton campuses. PBSC will be only the second higher education institution in Florida and one of only about 14 in the nation with a SSS Veterans program.
Student Support Services is one of eight federal TRIO programs, including seven designed to help individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds get on the path to higher education and finish. Every five years, grant recipients must apply for new TRIO grants in a competitive national process, but they are not guaranteed. In addition to SSS, PBSC also operates Upward Bound, Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Centers TRIO programs.
Rowina Petion, PBSC’s Student Support Services program director, said getting funded consistently for two decades validates the quality of PBSC’s program and the need for it.
“I strongly believe it is our best practices and commitment to developing our students that allow us to be successful each grant cycle,” Petion said. “We work really hard to edify the students and walk alongside them to ensure that they feel supported and empowered. We eliminate barriers, sharpen skills, and build leaders. Overall, we are intentional and that is what makes the difference.”
Edline Francois, a Delray Beach native, is among the success stories. She completed her A.A. degree at PBSC in 2014, earned a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from New College of Florida in 2017 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health from Oregon Health & Science University. She plans to go to law school and leverage her background in public health disparities research to work in either health care law or a leadership role in health management and policy.
“Student Support Services gave me the foundation that I needed to prioritize, to plan correctly and to network effectively so that I can be where I am,’’ she said. “It gave me the mentorship that I needed to weather the curveballs and storms. If I did not have that foundation, I would not be able to excel and maximize my potential.”
Kathy Karran-McCoy, dean of student development, said with the current challenges facing students today, the two grants could not have come at a better time.
“I am excited that the College was also awarded the SSS grant for veterans,” she said. “This is an excellent opportunity to foster greater achievement rates in retention and completion for our veterans. By developing and implementing specific support for veterans to facilitate postsecondary completion, the College has another opportunity to positively impact generational health and wealth.”
Serving 49,000 students annually, Palm Beach State College is the largest institution of higher education in Palm Beach County, providing bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, professional certificates, career training and lifelong learning. Established in 1933 as Florida’s first public community college, Palm Beach State offers more than 130 programs of study at locations in Lake Worth, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens, Belle Glade and Loxahatchee Groves.