SJR State graduate Tangie Archer receives LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award
Single mother and domestic abuse survivor Tangie Archer knew she needed a college degree to rise above her circumstances and secure the work she desired – empowering victims of domestic violence. Archer received her Associate in Arts degree from St. Johns River State College in 2015 and was recently presented the LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award by the Association of Florida Colleges. The award was created in 1990 in honor of the former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins and his contributions to the Florida College System.
Archer, a Palatka resident employed by the Lee Conlee House as a court advocate, was honored in the Against the Odds category, which recognizes a Florida college alumnus who has achieved success despite adversity. Winners in three categories were honored during the President’s Gala at the AFC Annual Conference held November 2 at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.
SJR State President Joe Pickens, who escorted Archer to the stage to receive her award, said Archer’s academic success story is a great reflection of the College's dedicated faculty. "Tangie’s ability to succeed at a high level in spite of her challenges exemplifies our mission as the community's college to educate, serve and enrich the diverse population it serves,” he said.
SJR State math instructor, Traci Reed, Ph.D., whose teaching style was a great fit for Archer’s learning style, played a key role in her academic success. “Tangie’s an excellent student,” said Reed. “You’d want to have a bunch of her in your classroom, because she would do the homework, she would ask questions, and she would come to class prepared. She helps form part of the learning community that makes up the personality of your classroom,” she continued. “Being a community college instructor allows you to get people when they need you the most and be an important player in their lives and help them learn to be successful. And people like Tangie are now reaching out to other people in the community and helping them to be successful.”
Shandra Riffey, executive director of the Lee Conlee House, said she was delighted to hire Archer. “Tangie offers the people she works with hope -- that same hope that she had when she was going through her own personal struggles,” said Riffey. “When some people find struggles, they go to therapy. Tangie went to college.”
Tangie Archer’s story
As a single mother of five living below the poverty line, domestic abuse survivor Tangie Archer knew she needed a college degree if she stood any chance of rising above her circumstances and securing the work she deeply desired to do -- supporting and empowering victims of domestic violence.
"I always worked, working two jobs much of the time, but I lost a lot of time with my children just to be able to survive for my children," Archer explained. "When I received my degree from St. Johns River State College, I actually received my key to gain access to the type of work that I love to do.”
However, before getting her hands on this "key” that would turn her life in a new direction, Archer survived some unimaginable encounters of domestic abuse from her husband, who nearly took her life. Her injuries, which included half of her face cut open and half of her ear cut off, kept her out of work for a year and a half.
Archer has traded those horrific memories, limited employment opportunities and low pay for an invaluable SJR State experience, rewarding employment and a salary greater than what she's ever received.
The first in her family to attend college, on December 15, 2016, with a solid GPA, Archer proudly walked across the stage at SJR State and received her Associate in Arts degree. “I quickly learned that my GPA was so precious; it was so valuable; it was just like a little baby that I needed to nurture and protect,” she said.
By the end of her second semester, Archer was invited to become a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Shocked by such an offer, she explained, "I didn't know anything about an honor society, because I didn't come from a world where I was exposed to this kind of knowledge. SJR State was a whole new and exciting world for me, filled with caring people and positive experiences all the way through -- from point one, right through to the end.”
But Archer’s positive experiences didn’t stop there. Thirteen days after receiving her degree, she began working as a volunteer victim advocate for the Lee Conlee House, a domestic violence shelter for women in Palatka. Within two weeks, she was hired as a part-time employee. Continuing to thank God, in advance, for her heart's desires, Archer’s part-time status soon changed to full time, and she began leading empowerment workshops for battered women. Most recently, Archer has been promoted to court advocate with a community advocacy component added to this role.
"Without a college degree and the faculty, staff, student and community support that helped me receive my degree, I couldn't have this job at the Lee Conlee House," Archer stated. “That's what my time at SJR State did for me. It gave me the key to reach my dream of helping other victims of domestic abuse to also rise above their circumstances.”
Archer is currently earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management at SJR State.
SJR State President Joe Pickens accompanies SJR State alumna Tangie Archer as she is acknowledged as the 2018 recipient of the Association of Florida College’s LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award.
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