Being a First-Generation Student and Leader at Florida Southern College is Elementary for Josephine Blackford

Dec 5, 2022

by FSC Staff

Elementary Education major Josephine Blackford ’23 was born in Lakeland, moved south as a child, but returned to Lakeland to attend Florida Southern College. In doing so, she has found a renewed sense of being home.

Receiving then Giving Support

Blackford became involved in the FSC Scholars Experience from its inception in the Spring of 2021, originally as a member, then as a peer mentor. The Scholars Experience provides a support network for FSC students who are either First-Generation or Pell Grant eligible or both. As the organization developed and transformed into ELEVATE in the Fall of 2022, Blackford was right there to offer her support.

Blackford said joining FSC Scholars Experience and becoming a peer mentor under the program helped her to get more involved on campus and find her community. She wanted to give back to her campus community in a greater way than just peer mentoring, so when ELEVATE was formed, she asked to be a part of the executive board and accepted the position of president.

“It is my hope to build a strong foundation for this organization during my senior year here, along with my fellow executive board members, so that it can continue to grow and prosper,” Blackford said. As president, she helps coordinate with the organization’s supervisor and other executive board members to plan community building campus-wide events and workshops designed for first-generation and grant-eligible students.

She feels being a part of FSC Scholars Experience and ELEVATE has provided her with opportunities to grow personally and professionally. She has gotten more involved on campus and found a community of peers and professionals. Thanks to FSC Scholars Experience, Blackford has been able to become certified in peer mentoring and has gained leadership skills, which will benefit her in her future career as an educator.

In addition to ELEVATE, Blackford is also a peer mentor for the Mocs and Mentors Program and the membership chair for FSC’s Kappa Delta Pi chapter, an international honor society for Education.

Blackford at Disney

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Elementary education students at Florida Southern gain classroom experience through FSC's partnership with the local school systems. Blackford took advantage of a unique opportunity during her internship with the Polk Museum of Art.

Many elementary schools within the community provide fourth grade classes the chance to take a docent-led tour of the galleries in the PMoA. Blackford saw this as an opportunity to integrate art with English and language arts studies. She redesigned the pre-tour curriculum to tie standards and competencies together, helping both teachers prepare their students for the visit and enhancing students' experience at the museum.

“The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College, along with the art world in general, is an amazing venue for professional and academic growth for students across all fields,” said H. Alexander Rich, Ph.D., Executive Director of the PMoA and Chair of the Department of Art History and Museum Studies at FSC. “Josephine has proven that point with her incredible work, culminating in her insightful gallery talks.”

The experience creating an integrated curriculum will serve Blackford well as she earns her undergraduate degree in May.

“My hope is to stay in Lakeland after graduating this spring to begin my career in teaching,” Blackford said. “Ideally, I would love to teach either third or fourth grade at a local elementary school.”