September 2018

PALM BEACH GARDENS — A new associate dean at Palm Beach State College boasts a resume that’s taken her around the world and back — and prepared her to equip a diverse student body here.

She got another promotion this year when she was offered the job as associate dean of academic affairs at Palm Beach State College’s Gardens campus. She’ll be leading faculty from seven departments as they guide students through their programs of study.

“I love it here, because it’s diverse,” Lebile said.

Across the college’s five campuses, black and Hispanic students and students of other ethnic backgrounds make up 62 percent of the student population, according to the most recent enrollment figures. Ten years ago, 51 percent of the college’s enrollment was white, according to figures provided by the college.

Lebile has a bachelor’s degree in business education from Norfolk State University, a master’s in counseling/sociology from Prairie View A&M University and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Before Qatar, Lebile was a sociology professor in Texas with the Lone Star College System. She also spent five years in Africa teaching college-level English as a second language to nationals, students, business professionals and American Embassy officials for the American Cultural Center in Chad and Niger.

The Houston Community College system hired her in 2012 to teach in Qatar at a college established through a five-year partnership between the system and the Qatar Foundation under the oversight of the Qatar government.

The difference in education during her two stints abroad was stark, she said. In Qatar, a very wealthy country, the government values education. Most people are fairly well-off, and if they’re not, you can’t tell, she said.

In Chad in the mid-1990s, she said, teachers routinely went on strike because they weren’t being paid. Lebile would see children playing outside while she was driving her children to their private school.

“The poverty affected the kids, affected the families, and it was very sad for me to see that,” she said.

Her teaching career came full circle when she was lecturing about civil wars in Texas after her stint in Africa, and one of her students chimed in that he was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. She still remembers the feeling she got when he spoke up and her disbelief at what he had experienced.

Thirty years ago, about 20,000 boys, mostly between 7 and 17 years old, were separated from their families during a civil war in Sudan. The boys fled through the wilderness to escape, and some died before reaching refugee camps in Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Nearly 4,000 boys ended up coming to the United States as part of a refugee resettlement effort.

Including the one in Lebile’s class.

“His goal is to go back and help rebuild his community,” she said. “A lot of times when we’re hit by tragedy … we want to just go forward and live the good life.”

Wherever she went, the people were the same: loving and kind, she said. That adage you’re taught in childhood about treating other people the way that you want to be treated? It works.

“You accept people where you are. You don’t judge them according to your yardstick,” she said. “People want to be understood and valued and respected.

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