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I am fortunate to have inherited a college that is valued and appreciated by its communities and respected among its peers. I have personally heard the compelling testimonies of students who have enrolled at our College and prospered because of its academic opportunities.

Nonetheless, if there was one thing I could change, it would be the way this institution is perceived by a growing number of high school students. In today's society, image is everything. It is a force that controls many decisions among today's youth. While St. Johns River State College has provided countless degrees and training opportunities for the local workforce, it is for some, still perceived as the college of last resort.

With high school seniors eager to leave home, the mindset has become: "If you can't get accepted into a major university, you can always turn to a community college." This concept is not only a local perception; it is a nationwide stigma.

What are the factors that influence students to prefer one college over another? While the concept of leaving the nest may be enticing for many, it is those same distractions that often lead to failure. Many students cannot comprehend the challenges and obstacles they may face at larger institutions until it is too late.

Attending a college like SJR State, where the instructors know their students' names and are available to devote individual attention to students, is an advantage many take for granted. Each year, the College sees many students leave for larger institutions, only to return a year later to an environment that is more nurturing, allowing time for them to mature into scholars and adults. These students later enroll at SJR State in an effort to salvage their grade point average and undergo grade forgiveness. While some students do excel as freshmen at universities, that academic atmosphere is not for everyone.

As President, one of my goals is to change this perception into one where SJR State is the college of "First Choice."

Whether you are a potential student or the parent of a potential student, I ask you to consider remaining closer to home during the first two years of college and enrolling in an institution where the instructors are able to call students by name and where students experience the caring and supportive environment and individualized attention for which SJR State has always been known.

Remember, you are and have always been number one with us.

Joe H. Pickens, J.D.
SJR State President