What better way to observe Women’s History Month than by celebrating women in the community who are making a difference.
And Santa Fe College has been doing that each year through its Women of Distinction and Women of Promise honors.
“Women of Distinction” have enriched the community through their contributions to the arts, business, education, social services, government, wellness or other philanthropic ventures in Alachua or Bradford counties.
“Women of Promise” are young women in the community who are following in the footsteps of women before them. They are involved in community activities and working toward a college degree to advance their professional aspirations.
According to a news release from SF College, the honorees are:
Patricia “Patsy” Blount: “A Woman of Distinction,” she volunteers with Kibble Cart, a Haile’s Angels Pet Rescue program that provides pet food to people on the Meals on Wheels program. The Junior League of Gainesville, Haven Hospice Attic, American Heart Association, Girl Scouts, PACE Center for Girls, and SF College are just a few of the organizations that have benefited from her volunteer work.
Blount and her husband, the late Charley Blount, for whom the SF College Blount Center at 401 NW Sixth St. is named, have been involved with SF College for many years.
Blount mentions the college’s expansion from a two-year to a four-year school as one of the biggest changes she has noticed.
“What hasn’t changed is Santa Fe College’s impact as the community’s college,” she said.
Beverly Hardy: “A Woman of Distinction,” who, in 2019, will become president of Altrusa International Inc., a service club that grew out of the women’s suffrage movement in 1917. Altrusa focuses on developing leadership skills of its members and improving the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world.
In Starke, the relatively young Altrusa Club has created more than $100,000 of endowed scholarships to SF College, enabling non-traditional students to attend classes at the Andrews Center in Starke.
“These scholarships and Santa Fe College change people’s lives,” Hardy said, “because they enable people who couldn’t attend college otherwise to get an education. Maybe they’re single moms or maybe they’re married with kids in school, but they’re people who couldn’t commute to attend college farther away.”
Carol “Brandi” Noegel: “A Woman of Distinction,” she operates Noegel’s Auto Sales in Starke and is heavily involved in fundraising and community service.
In 2008, she honored her late husband, Larry Noegel — who served on the board of the SF College Foundation — by establishing a scholarship in his name. Along with the Altrusa Club of Starke and the Rotary Club of Starke, Noegel has raised funds for additional scholarships.
She serves on the boards of Supporters of Sheltered Animals of Starke and the SF College Foundation.
Noegel was instrumental in bringing Teen Court, a program designed for youth who are first-time misdemeanor offenders, to Bradford County.
“It took a lot of effort to get Teen Court established, but when you know you are doing the right thing, you will fight for it,” said Noegel. “Two judges helped by encouraging us and we were eventually successful.”
Stacy Scott: “A Woman of Distinction,” she has an undergraduate degree in anthropology and a law degree, both from the University of Florida. She currently serves as a public defender in the state of Florida Eighth Judicial Circuit, the first woman elected to that position.
Scott’s community service efforts include mentoring a high school student, coaching the UF Law School trial practice team, helping homeless residents and helping veterans find answers to their legal questions.
A member of the Gainesville Rotary, she exemplifies the Rotarians’ commitment to “service above self.” Scott serves on the board of directors of PACE Center for Girls and is a member of United Church of Gainesville.
Grace Johns: “A Woman of Promise,” she has an impressive list of awards, leadership and volunteer activities. She has been class president in her sophomore, junior and senior years at Bradford High School and also a member of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) for four years; Girls with Pearls, a community service organization; the Educational Talent Search and the National Honor Society.
In 2017, Johns was chosen to address the Bradford County Legislative Delegation about SWAT and the dangers of tobacco use.
“We try to send a message that using tobacco isn’t good for you,” Johns said. “We also talk about the dangers of e-cigarettes.”
Johns, who has been dually enrolled at SF College since her freshman year, takes classes at the Andrews Center in Starke. Her future plans include graduating from SF College and pursuing a political science degree and a law degree, both at UF.
Victoria Maggard: “A Woman of Promise,” she is a strong and determined young woman with goals that include earning a college education at SF College, pursuing a degree in radiology at UF, and getting custody of her brothers and sisters, who are now in foster care.
Maggard grew up in foster homes throughout Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
“My primary motivation is to help my brothers and sisters, (and) to be a role model to show that whatever happens to you, you can be a bigger person,” said Maggard.
Her advice to young women who may be facing tough challenges is to volunteer, get involved, and “Don’t be selfish — you have to care about other people, too.”