Black Student Success Project continues informative workshops

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

In its seventh year, the Parkland College Black Student Success Project aims to provide a sense of community and help build new skills for all students. It also happens to be the most popular workshop series at Parkland.

“I really want to make this a place for personal, academic, and social development. It’s definitely grown over the years and is still the most attended workshop on campus,” said Donna Tanner-Harold, director of the Black Student Success Project.

Tanner-Harold started the Black Student Success Project back in 2008. She started at Parkland seven years before that.

One of her main goals when hired was to create certain programs for black males. Along with her associate professor and counselor duties she wrote up a proposal for the project and ended up receiving grant funding.

The college deemed the workshop a success and thus the Black Student Success Project was born.

“I based a lot of the foundation of the project on the work of Dr. Vincent Tinto. He’s worked extensively with college retention rates,” Tanner-Harold said. “I want to do away with the idea that many deem community college as just a place to go to school.”

Tanner-Harold hopes that by offering a place for students to go, they can begin building ties. Once these ties and connections are made then a sense of community can be achieved. There is also an incentive of free pizza that helps usher in students looking to gain some new information during their lunch hour.

To handle the setup of the workshops Tanner-Harold receives assistance from various staff members. Those include Julie Shumate-Meece from counseling and advising as well as Jan Thom and Tanino Minneci from the Center for Academic Success.

Minneci is a student development advocate in the Center for Academic Success. He’s been working with the Black Student Success Project since he started five years ago.

“I’ve always felt that BSSP has played an important role in the development of students at Parkland. The truth is that many of the students show up for a presentation because of the promise of free pizza at the end. But by the time the food is served, students are actively engaging in conversations about real issues and sharing experiences that can give them new perspectives,” Minneci said.

He also said each session or workshop holds information that students may not be getting in other places. They can then use that information to overcome certain obstacles pertaining to their educational goals.

The most recent session was on Sep. 30. It was titled “Your Parkland Library” and Martez Miller was in attendance.

Miller is a general studies major but has plans to switch to psychology. He’s been attending the Black Student Success Project workshops for the last two years.

“I feel like I gain a lot of new skills and just ways to become successful. I’m also able to build these connections. That’s with faculty, staff, and students as well,” Miller stated.

Miller reiterated that while the project is geared towards black males it’s still beneficial for everyone. It provides a safe place for people to share ideas and learn new information.

Miller said he learned a lot from the previous workshop on the library. He learned how pivotal the library resources really are. These are just a few new insights he’s gained from attending the Black Student Success Project workshops over the years.

Miller also brought up the point that these workshops and sessions are totally free.

“It’s really for anyone,” Miller said. “It’s free but the knowledge you gain is very beneficial.”

Tanner-Harold wanted to emphasize there is no joining process required for the project. Students aren’t even required to regularly attend.

She did point out that many students do end up coming back and becoming regular attendees. By doing so they’re able to create that sense of community.

“Surprisingly, this has really become a place for out of district students. Many local area students know where to go and have places to hang out,” Tanner-Harold said. “It can really be a place for those out of district students to come and build a sense of community they’re missing out on. It’s ultimately a connecting factor.”

There have been many different speakers for these workshops throughout the years including members of Parkland’s own faculty and stuff. Others are outside speakers that come to give insight into career and transfer opportunities.

One of the most popular workshops was “You and the Law.” Students engaged in open discussion with Parkland’s police department. Both sides got good feedback and Tanner-Harold believed it was a huge success. She plans on working with Parkland Police Chief Bill Colbrook to reschedule more workshops like it.

Tanner-Harold urges all students to come out and see what the project is about. The workshops are free and pizza will be provided. The remaining workshops are as follows: Oct. 14- “Gen Eds: What are they?”; Oct. 28- “Emotional Intelligence”; Nov. 11- “Parenting From a Distance”; and Nov. 18- “Are you Interested or Committed to Success?”.

For further information about the project, contact Donna Tanner-Harold at dtanner@parkland.edu or stop by counseling and advising located in the Student Union.