NFCC Announces Shirley A. Washington as the 2016 Jenyethel Merritt Award for Civic Service Award Recipient

Dr. Walter L. Smith, Merritt Family Among Honored Guests at Celebration Ceremony

MADISON, FL – As North Florida Community College celebrates the 50th anniversary of its historic merger with Suwannee River Junior College this year, it is proud to announce Shirley A. Washington as the 2016 Jenyethel Merritt Award for Civic Service Award Recipient. Washington is an educator with more than 40 years of service in both Jefferson and Madison counties and her contributions and dedication to education are making a positive difference in Jefferson County and the NFCC district.

“I’m so thrilled and so happy,” said Washington. “Mrs. Merritt was president of the College [Suwannee River Junior College] when I went there. She was a very strong lady, a very strong educator who strived to educate all the students at Suwannee River Junior College. I consider this a blessing.”

NFCC honored seven outstanding award nominees June 25 during the Jenyethel Merritt Award for Civic Service Award and Celebration Ceremony at Van H. Priest Auditorium and following Award and Scholarship Banquet in the NFCC Student Center. Nominees recognized for their dedication, service and contributions to the NFCC community include Sarah Higginbotham, Dr. Rosalie "Rose" A. Hill, Keysha Horn, Deloris M. Jones, Elesta Pritchett, Flora Woodfaulk and award winner Shirley A. Washington.

The award, which honors an African-American woman who has made significant contributions within NFCC’s six-county district, is named in honor of the late Jenyethel Merritt who served as president of SRJC and was the first female president to lead a public Florida community college.

“Her role in our community went well beyond her role as president of Suwannee River Junior College,” said NFCC President John Grosskopf. She was a noted educator, a devoted mother and wife, a role model and friend to many, especially those in need. Jenyethel Merritt played a major role in our College’s history. As the current president of North Florida Community College, I can’t think of a better way to honor her memory and contributions than to recognize these seven outstanding nominees for NFCC’s 2016 Jenyethel Merritt Award for Civic Service.”

Former FAMU President Dr. Walter L. Smith, author of The "Magnificent Twelve: Florida's Black Junior Colleges", was the guest speaker at the Award and Scholarship Banquet and Dr. Eugene L. White, retired educator and former SRJC band director, provided music for the event.

“The recognition of president Jenyethel Merritt is outstanding,” said Smith. “I’m proud to be here. It’s important that we understand who we are, where we came from and where we are going. Look at who went to SRJC and everyone that you can find, hook them into an alumni association that can become a part of the North Florida Community College operation. Make a difference and strengthen NFCC and the impact of Suwannee River Junior College will be seen from a positive point of view and that is what is important because after a merger there should be strength. That strength comes from you and makes a difference. Remember to take what you have and make what you want.”

SRJC alumni and former faculty and staff members, as well as members of the Jenyethel Merritt family, were in attendance at the celebration and banquet. Community members who serve on the SRJC Committee and helped plan the celebration event are Cheryl B. Clemons, VeEtta Hagan, Elesta Pritchett, Alyce Cole Watkins and Mae Stockton Truesdell. Proceeds from the banquet will benefit student scholarships at NFCC.

“The NFCC Foundation hopes to continue this event every year so that we can recognize those candidates who exhibit the strong community leadership qualities for which Jenyethel Merritt will always be remembered,” said Dr. Cheryl James, Executive Director of Resource Development and External Affairs. “We also want to continue to recognize the Suwannee River Junior College alumni as being a strong part of North Florida Community College’s alumni family.”

A Suwannee River Junior College reunion is now being planned for Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 and the NFCC Foundation encourages SRJC alumni to share their contact information with NFCC.


Shirley Washington is an educator with 40+ years of service in both Jefferson and Madison counties and is Minister at Pine Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Jefferson County.

Washington is the fourth of eight siblings and a graduate of Jefferson County Public Schools. After graduating from Florida A & M University, she taught at Howard Academy High School in Jefferson County. She remained there for several years until her marriage required her to travel with her husband in the military. After returning to Monticello, Florida (where she was born and raised), she resumed her teaching career in Madison. Washington’s love for teaching and her quest to see young people succeed were the motivating factors for her career path.

Mrs. Washington has been a member of the Jefferson County School Board for 20+ years and this year is serving as Chairman. She established the Shirley A. Washington Academic Scholarship Fund, which provides a $250 scholarship to every graduating senior from Jefferson County High School with a 2.5 GPA and a $500 scholarship for those with a 3.0 or higher GPA. She also supports a fund that provides a free lunch to children who do not have money in their account for lunch. Mrs. Washington realizes that it truly “takes a village to raise a child” and is committed to making a difference.

Mrs. Washington previously served as the Site Director for the Tallahassee Community College 21st CCLC program at both Jefferson County Middle High and Jefferson Elementary schools. She served as Director for the Jefferson County Boys and Girls Club as well as volunteering when they were in operation, volunteering at The Jefferson County Nursing Home (Cross Landing Rehabilitation Center). She is a member of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary Post 251 serving as 1st Vice President and the District Senior Vice President (includes 4 posts). She is a founding member of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (JROTC) and donates and volunteers with the JROTC, Jefferson County High School Band and Jefferson County Athletic Department for various sports, and is a member of the Jefferson County High School Booster Club where her banner is proudly displayed at games. Mrs. Washington volunteers with the newly established Jefferson County Boys to Men (JCBM) mentoring program, is District Representative for the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee and is a member of the Jefferson County Ministerial Association.

Her contributions, commitment and dedication to education are making a positive difference in Jefferson County and beyond.