Hawthorne Middle/High School will offer a higher education course next year and is considering ways to bring other classes to the school, too.
Hawthorne city officials, Alachua County school board members, Santa Fe College and University of Florida representatives are just some of the partners who have joined the discussion.
Officials held the first forum in August about how to bring higher education to Hawthorne. Santa Fe College has since proposed providing community and continuing education courses at the school.
This January, Santa Fe College will begin offering a non-credit computer course at Hawthorne Middle/High School.
But Hawthorne isn’t the first school to consider offering these types of courses. Santa Fe College provides continuing education classes at Gainesville High School.
Veita Jackson-Carter, principal of Hawthorne Middle/High School, said it’s important to have more post-secondary options available in Hawthorne.
“It’s exciting to know that there will be classes not only for our high school kids, but for the community to become involved in as well and take courses,” Jackson-Carter said.
Within the next couple of weeks, the forum will begin working on a feasibility study and survey to gauge the community’s interest in having higher education in Hawthorne.
Forum organizer Heather Surrency, sister of mayor Matt Surrency, said the survey will help the forum meet the community’s educational needs.
“We want to find out what are the needs and wants of the community and see who would be willing to participate,” Surrency said.
Forum members plan to eventually look into having dual-enrollment classes on the Hawthorne Middle/High School campus.
Hawthorne students who want to dual enroll must sometimes drive more than 50 minutes to the Santa Fe College main campus to take a college course.
To ease the transportation issue in the short term, the forum discussed possibly providing a shuttle or a car pool service for Hawthorne residents to get to Santa Fe College’s main campus or the Watson Center near the Keystone Heights-Lake Region area.
Dug Jones, Santa Fe College associate vice president for economic development, said if there is enough demand, the college will offer classes counted for credit at the Hawthorne School.
“We know reaching students in the outlying areas, particularly those in the east, is especially challenging,” Jones said.
The forum also suggested ways to use higher education to prepare Hawthorne residents for the city’s future job market.
Hawthorne City Manager Ellen Vause said the property on the corner of State Road 20 and U.S. 301 could be developed into an industrial park in the near future.
“The more trained we are, the more readily available we are to be employed,” Vause said. “We have a greater population of unemployed in this area. We’re trying to take care of immediate needs and go forward into the future.”
Providing vocational courses to Hawthorne residents for job skill training was also discussed. Surrency said FloridaWorks, which is dedicated to growing the workforce in Alachua and Bradford counties, has been contributing to the higher education forums. The organization is looking into offering resume building and interviewing skills at Hawthorne Middle/High School.
“We’re trying to align our educational aspects to whatever jobs will be coming our way,” Surrency said.
Surrency, who was born and raised in Hawthorne, said she started the higher education forums for her two kids.
“I want them to have just as good of an opportunity as everyone else,” she said. “I want them to go to school and find a job here instead of moving off.”
A third education forum will be held on Nov. 7 to improve plans for higher education.