Lakeland News Posting

Lakeland collaborates with community leaders to assist minorities who want to go to college

Posted: July 23, 2021 | Updated: August 19, 2021

A collaboration of Lake County leaders who address the equity concerns of minority and low-income populations seeks to identify prospective students to receive job training and education at Lakeland Community College at no financial cost to the students.

Their goal is to identify Black and Hispanic residents from underprivileged backgrounds who have a desire to go to college, but lack financial or social support. The community leaders involved in this project represent all areas of the county and include the county prosecutor, NAACP Lake County president, judges, police chiefs, county public defender, ministers, county commissioners, school superintendents, college leaders, social services agencies and Hispanic outreach agencies.

Initially, the group came together as "Begin the Conversation" (BTC) to discuss and address race relations and justice in Lake County as racial issues began to surface nationwide in recent years.

One of the more recent projects taken on by BTC was the establishment of a scholarship for low-income minorities in Lake County who desire to continue their education beyond high school but do not believe they have the financial means, resources or support to do so. Funding for the scholarship will be administered through The Lakeland Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Lakeland Community College.

"BTC members live and work in our local communities, and we have the connections and ability to identify individuals who would benefit from this program. So, for example, our pastors are sharing the news with their congregations, which in turn spread the word in the community. School superintendents are sharing the word with those in the local school systems who can refer individuals. We are also there to encourage and support the students as they move through the program," said Vanessa Clapp, Lake County Public Defender and co-chair of BTC. Clapp has a strong affinity for Lakeland and its mission to promote student success. She earned an Associate of Arts at Lakeland, has taught paralegal courses at the college in the past, and serves on the paralegal program advisory committee.

Those who complete a college education typically have more job opportunities that can enhance their quality of living. Lake County communities, businesses and organizations will benefit from the talents and skills that these individuals bring as they graduate from college and begin their careers working in the region.

"We will do everything we can do to make them successful and see them through completion of their education," said Amy Sabath, director for government relations at Lakeland. "The applicant might know what program they are interested in but if not, we will help guide them through counseling to find the program, degree, certificate or other training that they choose."

For more information, contact Amy Sabath at

By: Jessica Novak

Media Contact:
Kerry Jonke