Russell receives Anchor Award from Best Foot Forward

Dr. Bernadette Russell, second from right, with Frank Barbieri, Jr., chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board and Best Foot Forward board member with co-founders Donna Biase and Debbie Ellman. Photo credit: Gina Fontana

Dr. Bernadette Russell, Palm Beach State College’s vice president of e-learning and instructional technology and Boca Raton campus provost, has received the inaugural Anchor Award from Best Foot Forward.

The Boca Raton-based nonprofit organization, which provides academic support and advocacy for about 200 foster care students from kindergarten to college each year, tapped Russell for the award because of her strong support since its founding nearly 10 years ago. The award was presented during Best Foot Forward’s first-ever Sole Mate Luncheon held Oct. 22 at Boca Grove Country Club. It was presented by Frank Barbieri, Jr. who is a founding board member of Best Foot Forward and also chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board. Also honored were David Sarris, a PBSC alumnus who is now pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Florida State University, and Twiler Smith, a foster parent.

Donna Biase and Debbie Ellman, who co-founded the organization in January 2010, said that without the support of Russell and PBSC they would not be able to achieve their goal of helping students obtain an education. They said nationally, the high school graduation rate for foster youth is 46% and the college graduation rate is 3%. However, locally they have seen many successes. Twelve of their students have completed a college education. The majority of them attended Palm Beach State.

“When we enroll students, they come with a lot of different challenges. It requires a strong partnership of working together to be able to work through all the obstacles and barriers,’’ Ellman said. “Dr. Russell is the one that makes that happen. She sets the tone for that partnership. She is like our liaison to the whole College.”

“Whatever it is that our needs are, she and her counterparts and staff are right there making sure we get to the right sources that can solve our issues,’’ Biase said. “Nothing is too small or too big of a problem.”

Russell said she is pleased to help the vital program, especially given that most of the students attend PBSC. “For this reason, it is a special community partnership that provides access to education and success to individuals who otherwise would not have received an education.”

Russell joined the PBSC administration in September 2017. Prior to coming to PBSC, she served as dean of the School of Continuing Education at Marywood University for six years. Russell has extensive experience with community colleges and has spent much of her career in administrative positions with Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y.   She taught economics for 10 years before beginning her administrative career in 1989 as the director of institutional research and planning at Onondaga. She later served as Onondaga’s dean of arts and sciences and vice president for academic affairs. She also has served as dean of the division of humanities and social sciences at Middlesex County College in Edison, N.J.

A native of the Philippines, Russell came to the United States in 1975 as an international student at Syracuse University, where she earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and a Ph.D. in social sciences with a focus on economics and planning. She also holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in economics from the Philippines. Before coming to the U.S., she worked as an economist for the United Nations Development Programme in the Philippines.


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7 comments on “Russell receives Anchor Award from Best Foot Forward”

  1. Congratulations, Bernadette! I didn’t realize you were even involved with this program. How wonderful!

  2. Congratulations and best regards on the award,,, now on to “C”anvas! next step forward!
    C 2021

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