Despite already serving about 60,000 students annually, incoming Broward College President Gregory Adam Haile, J.D. sought to emphasize the importance of giving everyone in the college’s own backyard greater access to educational opportunities when he took the helm in 2018.

That same year, the college introduced Broward UP, which offers free workforce education training and career readiness support services both online and directly in neighborhoods most affected by economic immobility.

“We looked at the zip codes with disproportionately high unemployment rates and low education attainment,” said Isabel Gonzalez, Broward College’s Chief of Staff and VP of Communications and Community Relations. “We saw that there was underrepresentation from those zip codes at Broward College.”

The six zip codes currently served by Broward UP — “UP” stands for “unlimited potential” — had 2018 unemployment rates ranging from 9% to 15%, which significantly trailed Broward’s overall 2.8% unemployment rate that same year. Meanwhile, only 27% of residents ages 25-64 in those same zip codes had an associate degree or above, which is considerably below the county’s 44% attainment rate.

Broward UP serves both traditional and non-traditional students by creating an alternative route to a postsecondary certificate and degree attainment through a “continuing education (CE) to degree” pathway.

“This is not a program, this is a re-design of our college’s business model,” said Jodi Brown-Lindo, Broward College’s Associate VP of Public Relations and Communications.

All Broward UP participants are connected with career pathway navigators, who assess the students before helping them enroll in and complete programs that align with their career and education goals.

Broward UP supports adult learners without a high school diploma who would like to earn a general education diploma (GED) while also pursuing a trade. Meanwhile, students who already have a high school diploma or GED can access free workforce training courses through Broward UP. Both offerings lead to skills and credentials needed for in-demand careers.

Students experiencing hardships outside the classroom can also fill out a Broward UP emergency assistance application to help address any barriers to academic and career success.

That includes transportation barriers, which is why Broward UP was always designed to venture off campus and into those zip codes where the students they were targeting live.

“We went to our existing and trusted partners to ask for any free or underutilized space for workshops and classes,” Gonzalez said. Those partners include the Urban League of Broward County, as well as YMCA and Boys & Girls Club locations within the zip codes. They learn from us (Broward College), but they do so right in their own neighborhood and in locations that are more familiar and convenient to them.”

Bridge 2 Life, Broward’s LCAN (local college access network), under the auspices of its backbone organization Broward Education Foundation, is also a Broward UP resource partner, through which Broward College aligns its services for public high school students within the designated zip codes.

Since its inception, Broward UP has served more than 3,300 residents and awarded more than 2,100 workforce-ready credentials. Meanwhile, Broward College has seen a 12% increase in non-credit enrollment from Broward UP communities, despite COVID-19.

(from left) Dr. Mildred Coyne and Kareen Torres of Broward College shared information about Broward UP during a session at the 2022 Talent Strong Florida Summit in May.

Broward UP was also made possible by more than 150 Broward College employee volunteers, who tackled everything from resource development to community engagement and social support services.

“We had no money when we started Broward UP, but we had 150 people who volunteered their time and who continue to help guide our strategy,” Brown-Lindo said.

Broward UP received a significant jolt in funding last year when the U.S. Department of Education announced that Broward College would receive a $30 million grant over the subsequent five years as part of its Promise Neighborhoods program.

The grant will be used to support Broward UP as it continues to expand its reach by providing cradle-to-college-to-career support for residents. Broward UP has already expanded to include an additional five zip codes, further addressing areas in need in existing partner cities.

“Our mission at Broward College is access and completion,” Gonzalez said. “With Broward UP, which is a model driven by partnerships, we are just changing how we help fill those gaps.”


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