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FSW is Mentoring the Next Generation of the Glades Through Higher Education

Updated: May 26, 2022

This Year, 56 Dual Enrollment Students from the Glades Earned Their AA Degrees

Hard-working. Intelligent. Supportive. Resilient.

When asked to describe the students of Florida SouthWestern State College's (FSW) Collegiate Program, these are the words that come to Amanda Lehrian’s mind.

A resident of Hendry County, Lehrian is dedicated to removing barriers to education in the Glades region. As the Director of Hendry Glades Curtis Center, she oversees the FSW college center in LaBelle as well as the two offsite locations in Moore Haven and Clewiston.

The FSW Collegiate Program in the Glades region offers students access to a dual enrollment program. The program allows 11th and 12th graders the opportunity to enroll in college courses fulfilling high school requirements while also attaining an Associate in Arts (AA).

“We decided to meet students where they are,” explained Lehrian. “Many students [in the Glades] ride the bus 40 minutes to an hour to get to high school. They do not have time to get to our center to participate in the program. There is no public transport and many students do not have cars.”

To overcome the economic and geographic challenges of access to education, FSW partnered with the superintendents of Hendry and Glades Counties to establish two offsite locations in Moore Haven and Clewiston.

Both locations are unique, offering “a school within a school” model that allows students to take college courses at their current high school. FSW faculty travel to teach college courses to students.

The program also offers a liaison, hired by the high school, to help students with their courses by offering tutoring, access to technology and other resources.

Through collaborative and coordinated efforts between the superintendents of Hendry and Glades Counties, the faculty/staff of FSW, and Lehrian the program has expanded rapidly since its inception in 2017.

The hard work of Lehrian, the faculty/staff, and most importantly – the students - has paid off. This year, 56 dual enrollment students from the Glades earned their AA degrees.

Lehrian praises the faculty for their willingness to drive to educate students in the program and credits the students for standing tall and being dedicated to advancing their education.

When Lehrian first started the program in 2017, she did not know how many would sign up. “We enrolled 47 students in our first year. I call them my fearless 47.”

These 47 students were the first to graduate from the program. They were also the first to be offered guaranteed acceptance with a three-year scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University, a program that is still offered to students today.

In 2019, the program won the Florida College System Chancellor’s Best Practice/Promising Practice Award for its Collegiate Institute at Clewiston High School (CI).

The top three Clewiston High School graduates from left to right: Salutatorian Chris’shariea Hardy, Valedictorian Zanaya Tulloch and Chassity Stinson, who ranked third in the graduating class.

The program has also enabled students to break records in Clewiston and make history this year. For the first time ever at Clewiston High School, the top three in the graduating class are African American, female students who were all enrolled in the collegiate.

The growth of FSW in the Glades continues to expand. In the last six years, the LaBelle location has tripled in size and grown its full-time faculty from five to 17 members. As Lehrian looks to the future, she hopes the growth of the Hendry/Glades Curtis Center will have a ripple effect in Clewiston and Moore Haven for dual enrollment and traditional first-time college students.

“I really believe education is the one true way to have autonomy and control over your circumstances,” said Lehrian, “Whatever barrier that is between these students and higher education, it’s up to us to figure out how to remove it.”

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