Penn's First-Generation, Low-Income Center has hired its first full-time employee — Program Coordinator Toyce Holmes.
The FGLI Center has been led by a part-time coordinator since it was formed in 2016. Since the launch, students have called for a full-time coordinator, noting that the position demands more than can be accomplished in a part-time role. While the center could not initially fund a full-time position, it began searching for a full-time FGLI coordinator in May.
Holmes will work under the Greenfield Intercultural Center and alongside student groups to manage initiatives for FGLI students. The new role will include coordinating with students involved with Penn First, Questbridge Scholars, and FGLIQ to support initiatives and start new ones, GIC Director Valerie De Cruz said.
Before coming to Penn, Holmes spent 10 years as a child protective services investigator and worked for the school district in Dallas, Texas. She has been at Penn for the past two years as a counselor for the Upward Bound Program, working with high school students in West Philadelphia. Holmes said since the FGLI coordinator position is newly full-time, she is still trying to work out how she can best serve the programs, groups, and students.
“I have not met all the FGLI groups yet, but I have been meeting with other partners and have arranged meetings for after school begins to really understand how everything works, what students need, what the student groups want, and the best ways that we can provide resources for them,” Holmes said.
Holmes was a low-income college student herself — she received her bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington and her master's degree in education with a concentration in counseling from Louisiana State University.
In her new role, Holmes said she is most excited to work closely with FGLI students.
“The job is really about the students and understanding what it is that they need,” she said. “I am a people person, I love working with people, and I think … the best way to solve things is getting to know each other.”
“The work done through the FGLI program is too much to be done by one part-time staff member. It really needs a whole staff,” College senior Daniel Gonzalez said. Gonzalez, who is the internal outreach chair for Penn First and who does work-study at GIC, added that FGLI Program tasks often fall on GIC work-study students because of the staff shortage.
De Cruz said the University is supportive of the FGLI Center and was not hesitant to create the full-time position.
“Everybody understood that in addition to a robust scholarship package, there are all different kinds of ways in which our students need support,” De Cruz said. “I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have so many partners and to have support for the position.”
As a board member of Penn First, Gonzalez will have regular meetings with Holmes.
“I think Toyce Holmes is a great fit for the FGLI Program because she has a welcoming personality and seems invested in supporting students," Gonzalez said. "I think she has the potential to help a lot of students and possibly reform how some FGLI Program services are run."