Momentum behind Florida’s college access movement is fueled by many partners, including statewide influencer, the Florida College Access Network (FCAN). Laurie Meggesin, former Executive Director of FCAN, led the organization from 2013 until August 2020.
Under Ms. Meggesin’s leadership, FCAN launched its first strategic plan and expanded Florida’s college access movement to include 17 local college access networks representing 82 percent of the state’s population. Earlier this year, Ms. Meggesin announced her departure from FCAN and shared reflections from her time leading the college access organization.
1) What do you consider the greatest achievement during your time at FCAN?
What’s been most exciting to me is how the college access movement has grown and deepened in Florida over the past few years. I am incredibly grateful to community partners throughout the state who champion the 17 local college access networks that collectively represent over 700 organizations and institutions and about 82% of Florida’s population. I am equally grateful to the state-level organizations—including Helios! —that are so deeply committed to removing the systemic barriers that stand between students and postsecondary success. Supporting this movement, helping it take wing and grow, has personally been one of the most rewarding highlights of my career.
2) What do you hope for FCAN in the future?
There is a great deal of energy and synergy in the Florida college access movement, and I hope that it continues to create the sort of impact that will finally end the systemic barriers that hold inequities in education in place. With new executive director Charleita Richardson’s leadership, I am very optimistic about what the movement will achieve in the years ahead.
3) What do you see as the greatest opportunity to increase college access in Florida?
We need to end--once and for all--the systemic inequities that for too long have limited opportunities for Black and Latino Floridians from completing college degrees that put them and their families on the path to economic mobility. Certainly, the events of this summer have cast a harsh light the systemic racism in our society that continues to harm and hold back people of color. We need to have the collective will to constructively examine and change policies and practices that perpetuate systemic inequities in higher education. With Florida’s working-age population projected to be majority-minority just a decade from now, we can’t afford not to if we want Florida as a whole to prosper in the future.
4) If you had one piece of advice for an incoming college student, what would it be?
You can do this! Stay the course, in spite of any road bumps you may encounter on your journey toward your degree. If you are struggling, or feel overwhelmed, or worried about family issues at home, or face a financial crisis, seek help from your professors, your advisers, the health services center, the financial aid office. Don’t give up! I almost withdrew from college my freshman year because of a crisis at home, but an adviser helped me get through it. Support is available to you if you seek it out. Your college is committed to your success, so if you need help, ask!
5) What message do you have for FCAN partners?
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I often say that at FCAN I’ve been fortunate to get to work with some of the most passionate, committed and caring professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure to call colleagues. I am so grateful to you for everything you do for Florida students.
6) Any further reflections on your time at FCAN?
I am so thankful to Helios for your belief in FCAN all these years. This movement would not have been possible without Helios’ early leadership and long-term partnership, and I will always be grateful to Helios for it.