Santa Fe College’s 2020 Women of Distinction and Woman of Promise To Be Honored March 30

The 2020 Women of Distinction and Promise: (seated) Joudi Ayroud (Woman of Promise), Natalya Bannister, Vicki Santello.
(standing) Florida Bridgewater-Alford, Lisa Tatum, Christine Janks.

Press release from Santa Fe College

For over 30 years, Santa Fe College (SF) has celebrated Women’s History Month by holding an annual ceremony lauding the achievements of women in Alachua and Bradford counties.  

“Women of Distinction” are women who have enriched the community through their contributions to the arts, business, education, social services, government, and other philanthropic ventures. These extraordinary women are examples for all women, balancing careers, families, and community service, while making our community a better place for everyone. 

SF also appreciates efforts of “Women of Promise,” young women in the community who are following in the footsteps of women before them, involving themselves in community activities while working toward a college degree. 

This year, five women are being recognized as Women of Distinction and one young woman as a Woman of Promise. They will be honored at a luncheon at the UF Hilton Wednesday, March 30, 2022. These incredible women were to have been honored in March of 2020, however the event was canceled due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions are being lifted, the college decided to give the women their due and honor them as the class of 2020. The college will be seeking nominations for the 2023 Women of Distinction in November of this year.  

About the 2020 Women of Distinction 

Natalya Bannister was studying at the University of Florida and volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club when a young girl told Natalya, “Brown people don’t go to college.”  

The concept that a woman like Natalya was currently enrolled in college was so foreign to that girl. After talking for a while, that young girl began to realize there was more out there for her than she had experienced. That conversation made Natalya follow her passion of helping kids in need.   

Now the Executive Director at the Pace Center for Girls, Natalya says she sees a part of herself in each of the girls at the center and wants to show the girls that there are opportunities. “Education has saved my life. If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith, I wouldn’t be able to help these girls. Santa Fe is where I started college and put me on this path. Now, I can pass that on to the girls at Pace.” 

Florida Bridgewater-Alford has dedicated her life to civic and community organizations across the greater Gainesville area for nearly 30 years, considering community service to be her responsibility and charge in life. 

Florida volunteers with the American Cancer Society, serving on both the local and state boards. She has helped the community with more localized civic organizations including the Gainesville Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., an organization of women with a focus on community service and servant leadership. 

She is also a dedicated proponent of education, working to decrease educational inequalities in this country. “Having the number one state college in our county is a jewel beyond our true appreciation. Santa Fe College continues to be innovative about educational outreach strategies.”   

Christine Janks left the horse show business for thoroughbred horse racing because results mattered. Despite being the only female trainer at the time, she knew that once her horses won, being a woman wasn’t going to keep her from being successful.  

That determination led Christine to her current passion, running the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation in northeast Gainesville, home to more than 32 species of animals. There, she challenges her staff to think critically about their career choices and goals, thinking beyond the general term of “conservation.” 

Christine says she hopes that she can inspire people to think about the environment but also to look for education in every part of their life, to never stop learning, and to realize how much we can learn from life’s experiences. 

Vicki Santello has always been a trailblazer. She worked on Wall Street at a time when doors were closed to women who wanted to manage financial portfolios. 

After a successful career in New York, she moved to Gainesville, where she became the Investment Advisor for the Santa Fe College Endowment Fund. Under her management, the fund outperformed the S&P benchmark and grew to provide scholarships for approximately 11,000 students. 

“Education changes everything,” Santello said. “When an individual is educated, new doors open that they may not have known even existed. And that makes that person’s whole paradigm shift.” 

Now retired, Vicki spends her time as a wildlife photographer, capturing people, places, and creatures to inspire the interest of future generations in exploration and conservation.  

Lisa Tatum, an Interior Designer, volunteers her time giving young women in Bradford County both educational and cultural experiences.  

She was behind an organization called G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South), teaching girls manners, table settings, sewing, volunteering, and more. Girls in the program gain confidence and develop leadership skills. 

Lisa created Miss Bradford Fest, a Santa Fe College scholarship pageant. Young women are eligible for scholarships based on their academic, social, and communications skills. 

She has also spent more than a decade as a Guardian Ad Litem, looking out for the best interest of children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. 

Lisa believes there are many things that people can do to benefit their community and use their skills to help others.  

The 2020 Woman of Promise 

Joudi Ayroud, originally from Aleppo, Syria, was interested in getting her college degree at Santa Fe College after an uncle graduated from SF in the 1990s.  She calls education “an absolute privilege. Even though almost every female in my family has attended college, as an Arab woman, I am one of the most fortunate ones to be attending one of the best colleges in the nation.” 

After earning her A.A. in Political Science, Joudi graduated from SF with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management in the spring of 2021. Her dream job would be to work in the United Nations, advocating for people in need.