Mayra Hernandez receives the Joseph E. Johnston and Bette L. McDearman Student Services Award from Dr. Sidney Valentine, vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Services.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 28, 2017 – South Florida State College students were honored for academic excellence and community service during the college’s annual Awards Day ceremony in the SFSC University Center Auditorium on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park. Each year, faculty honor students who display talent and qualities that go beyond academic standards.

SFSC student Mayra Hernandez was honored with the Joseph E. Johnston and Bette L. McDearman Student Services Award for exceptional academic achievement and outstanding involvement in professional, social, and cultural activities and programs.

According to Dr. Sidney Valentine, vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Services, the faculty who nominated Hernandez for the award cited her exceptional student engagement, helpfulness to her peers, and dedication to the SFSC.

Students presented 2016-17 Outstanding Instructor Awards to Stacy Sharp, Arts and Sciences, full time; James Houseknecht, Arts and Sciences, part time; Susan Taecker, Applied Sciences and Technologies, full time; Beverly Grinis, Applied Sciences and Technologies, part time.

Students who received special honors for participation in the following academic programs are:

Melissa Barton, Anatomy and Physiology I 
Jace Augustus Masong, Anatomy and Physiology I and II
Savannah Walter, Anatomy and Physiology I and II
Kolby Lipe, Anatomy and Physiology II
Andrea Silva, Anatomy and Physiology II
Priscilla Bowes, Bachelor of Science Elementary Education
Jordon Kinsey, Bachelor of Science Elementary Education
Quentin Davis, Calculus II
Rachel Boyd, College Algebra and Trigonometry
Clayton Smith, Commercial Truck Driving Class
Saun Ratliff, Computer Network Security & Selected Topics in Computer Networking
Stephen Wynn, Computer Science
Abigail Zelvallos, Fine Arts
Lizbeth Macedo, Fundamentals of Speech Communications
Danny Sustaita, General Biology I
Genesis Castillo, General Biology II
Kristopher Coffey, HVAC
Desiree Andujar, Introducing Biology
Kalani Dubberly, Introducing Biology
Thomas Gilliard II, Introduction to Biology
Kristina McKinney, Introduction to Biology
Abigail Zevallos, Introduction to Biology
Savannah Walter, Introduction to Leadership
Samantha Iglesias, Introduction to Phycology
Naudia Tucker, Introduction to Supply Chain Management
Brandon Rosenbaum, Liberal Arts Math II
Jamicia Gilmore, Marriage and the Family and General Sociology
Mayra Hernandez, Microbiology
Matthew Daniel, Most Valuable Player – Brain Bowl – Academic Competition Team
Tevin Bullard, Selected Topics in Biology
Scarlett O ‘Berry, Selected Topics in Biology
Kelsey Pena, Selected Topics in Biology
Erika Weaver-Coleman, Speech Communications
Juan Gonzalez Jr, Strategic Planning and Human Resource Management

Honors Program

Melissa Garcia-Rodriguez, 2017 Florida Collegiate Honors Conference Presenter
Rodrigo Gracia Hernandez, 2017 Florida Collegiate Honors Conference Presenter
Michael Grey, 2017 Florida Collegiate Honors Conference Presenter
Kelsey Pena, 2017 Florida Collegiate Honors Conference Presenter
Krystal Santos, 2017 Florida Collegiate Honors Conference Presenter

Margaret Dunn, May 2017 Honors Program Graduate
Johnathan Hernandez, May 2017 Honors Program Graduate
Kelsey Pena, May 2017 Honors Program Graduate
Summer Xiong, May 2017 Honors Program Graduate

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK)

Margaret Dunn, PTK All Florida Academic Team Recognition
Kelsey Pena, PTK All Florida Academic Team Recognition
Abigail Wiggins, PTK All Florida Academic Team Recognition
Summer Xiong, PTK All Florida Academic Team Recognition

Margaret Dunn, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Melissa Garcia-Rodriguez, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Jonathan Mondragon, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Kelsey Pena, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Joshua Roe, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Krystal Santos, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Abigail Wiggins, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition
Summer Xiong, PTK Enhanced Membership Recognition

Melissa Garcia-Rodriguez, PTK Outstanding Service Recognition
Krystal Santos, PTK Outstanding Service Recognition
Abigail Wiggins, PTK Outstanding Service Recognition

Dr. Joanne Duffy delivers the keynote address at SFSC’s Conference on Caring.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 28, 2017 – On April 27, more than 150 nurses, some new, other not so new, and some aspiring ones too, got a lesson in caring at South Florida State College.

They had filled the seats of the SFSC University Center Auditorium to hear from Dr. Joanne Duffy, a nurse scholar widely known in health care circles for her work on quality care.

Dr. Duffy gave the keynote talk at SFSC’s first Conference on Caring, a daylong series of talks and panel discussions delving into the role nurses play providing quality care to their patients.

The conference had its roots nine years ago, said Dr. Michele Heston, dean of SFSC’s Health Sciences programs. “In 2008, a small group of SFSC nursing faculty got together to craft a shared vision for the college’s nursing program,” Dr. Heston said. “The concept of caring entered into every single conversation.”

From that discussion, Dr. Heston said, grew a relationship with Dr. Duffy, whose research on the nexus between nursing and quality care has found a place in collegiate nurse education programs and adapted into the day-to-day operations of hospitals and health systems across the country.

“Caring enters into everything a nurse does,” Dr. Duffy told the audience. “No wonder that nursing is one of the most trusted professions according to polling data.”

Racing through a PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Duffy tried to distill for the students and nurses years of research that led to her “Quality-Caring Model,” a theory-based approach that focuses on the part nursing has in the provision of quality care. Duffy’s theory centers on values, attitudes, and behaviors that guide the caring nurse’s interaction with patients and their families.

“Delivering high quality health care depends on caring relationships,” Dr. Duffy said. “Nurses are the largest group of health professionals who interact with patients 24/7, and they are the key to quality caring.”

Tapping into her theoretical work, but also drawing on her experience as a floor nurse, Dr. Duffy peppered her talk with stories driving home her point that a caring relationship is what makes nursing what it is.

“As a new nurse, I found myself caring for a woman who was dying from cancer, even as her two daughters where waiting outside her room,” Dr. Duffy recalled. “I wasn’t trained to deal with that situation, but my just being there for her as a caregiver and listening to her created a caring relationship.”

Dr. Duffy remembered the patient as composed, accepting her fate, and, in her death, teaching her something about nursing. “One of the joys in being a nurse is learning about life,” she said.

Shea Young, an SFSC nursing student and president of the college’s Student Nursing Association, came away from Dr. Duffy’s presentation with a sharper sense of what lies ahead of him.

“Nursing is so much more than a career or just a job, it’s really a lifestyle when you think about it,” Young said. “At its core, you have an ever present sense of caring for patients and their families.”

Young was one of dozens of SFSC nursing students from the college’s varied nursing education programs who turned out for the caring conference. Students have the option to pursue careers in nursing at SFSC through several routes: Bachelor in Nursing Science (BSN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), practical nursing, and practical nursing to registered nursing programs. Joining the students were nurses from health care facilities in Highlands, Hardee, and Polk counties.

Conference goers also heard how Duffy’s caring model can be adapted across an entire health system. A team from Lakeland Regional Health System (LRHS) shared their experience in weaving the model into the Polk County-based health care network’s day-to-day operations.

“We adopted the caring model and, as a result, have seen outcomes improve, with our system winning numerous awards,” said Dr. Janet Fansler, a nurse and executive vice president for LRHS.

Later in the day, Sharmin Jones, a nurse and patient experience manager at Florida Hospital in Sebring, joined two of her colleagues on a panel introducing the concept of “creation health,” an approach to caring that aims to touch upon all aspects of patient care— mind, body and spirit. Jones, earned her BSN at SFSC in 2016 and delivered the student Commencement address at that year’s graduation ceremony.

On May 4, SFSC will graduate 61 students from its BSN, ADN, and practical nursing programs at the spring Commencement ceremony. At the end of her talk, Dr. Duffy had a message for the graduates and for the students still in the classroom.

“As you go out into your careers, hold what’s true about nursing close to your heart,” Dr. Duffy said. “Caring nurses put what is true about nursing at the center of their work lives.”

The conference was sponsored by Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center and the SFSC Foundation.

BSN candidate Erica Apolinar explains how her dog Simba became a pet therapist for residents at the Hardee Manor Health Care Center.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 28, 2017  – Before graduating from South Florida State College’s Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) program, seniors complete capstone projects that demonstrate their ability to apply the knowledge they have acquired to real-life situations. On April 27, 13 BSN candidates presented their capstone projects to other nursing professionals during the Conference on Caring at the SFSC University Center. In each project, students identified a health-related need, explained the actions they took to address it, and documented the results.

BSN candidate Erica Apolinar, a self-professed animal lover, focused her capstone project on improving patient well-being through pet therapy  by observing how 19 elderly patients responded when she brought her Pomeranian dog Simba to Wauchula’s Hardee Manor Health Care Center. Patients who were withdrawn and uncommunicative became more relaxed when they interacted with Simba. “Sometimes, they talked to Simba when they wouldn’t talk to me,” Apolinar said. Though her project has ended, she and Simba continue to visit with patients.

Kosha Nicholson-Kirlew sought avenues for educating African Americans about diabetes.

Nicholson-Kirlew’s research found that while 4.9 million African Americans have the disease, many in Highlands County were not being diagnosed until they ended up in emergency rooms. They were also largely unaware that they could receive education and care through the Highlands County Health Department and other support groups. She advocated for bringing education to this community by forming partnerships with health care professionals and churches.

Other capstone project topics ranged from establishing the value of a 24-hour pharmacy, recognizing the health issues that are caused by poor hydration in older adults, improving health care through local projects and policy initiatives, and educating parents about preventing obesity in their children.

BSN candidates outlined their findings on display boards. BSN instructors evaluated their oral presentation, creativity, and academic references.

SFSC’s BSN Class of 2017 will graduate at spring Commencement on Thursday, May 4, in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts, Highlands Campus.

Steven Cullipher on the SFSC Highlands Campus.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 25, 2017 – On May 4, Steven Cullipher will graduate from South Florida State College with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM) degree nearly 30 years after he finished high school.

Cullipher will talk about what brought him to SFSC and why he opted for a business degree when he delivers the student Commencement address at the first of two SFSC graduation ceremonies on May 4, at 4:45 p.m., in the Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

“One thing that bothered me throughout my working years was that I never finished college,” Cullipher said. “I was doing well in my career but I knew in the end I could only go so far.”

For Cullipher, that career was theater and TV lighting. “Right out of high school, I enrolled in a collegiate arts school in North Carolina,” Cullipher, himself a Tar Heel native, said. “I picked up a knack for stage lighting and that evolved into the only line of work I did throughout my entire career.”

Cullipher moved to the metropolitan area of northern Virginia and Washington D.C., where, over the years, he mastered the art and technique of crafting expert stage lighting for sets in the entertainment business, hospitality industry, and special events, including those for presidents.

“I worked on a lot of cool projects, and it was good work,” Cullipher said. “And it did a good job of paying the bills.”

His career took him to New York City, where he advanced to lighting systems integration, helping to fashion the sets for the MSNBC network. Cullipher came to realize, though, that not having a degree was holding him back from promotion to a management-level position.

“I saw others inch up the career ladder,” Cullipher said. “They had degrees, and I didn’t.”

A temporary assignment to work on the Universal CityWalk theme park in Orlando brought Cullipher to the Sunshine State. He took a liking to central Florida, convincing his employer to let him set up a branch office in the area. But with two children making their way through elementary and middle school and no chance of making his way into management, Cullipher and his wife elected to move to a more tranquil setting where they could concentrate on raising their children.

In 2014, the Culliphers moved to Highlands County, which meant giving up lighting work, but freeing him to pick up where he left off years ago. “Going back to college was always at the top of my bucket list,” Cullipher said. “I went immediately to SFSC to enroll in classes with an initial goal of earning my associate degree, then a bachelor’s in business.”

Cullipher described his first semester as something of a “whirlwind.” “I was taking a full load of courses and playing the full-time dad role, which proved to be challenging,” Cullipher said. “But it was manageable and without a doubt worthwhile.”

  After wrapping up his associate degree, Cullipher segued right into the BAS-SM program. He said it was a natural fit for him, given his many years in the lighting business.

SFSC launched its BAS-SM program in 2012, giving associate-degree holders an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree without traveling to Lakeland, Tampa, or Orlando.

“The BAS-SM program has been an incredible experience for me, one that has led to some measure of self-discovery,” Cullipher said. “I learned a lot about things I hadn’t done well in my professional work and a lot about things I had excelled at—experience gives context to what you learn in the classroom.”

In an odd way, Cullipher sees some benefit to having started his college studies with years of work behind him. “In the BAS-SM program, the instructors bring actual business experience into the classroom, and that made a big difference for me,” Cullipher observed. “Real-world experience was something I could relate to.”

Cullipher heaped praise on BAS-SM faculty. “The instructors at SFSC, professors like Dr. Tina Cardenas, have that real-world experience they shape into case studies, team projects, and role-playing exercises,” he said.

Cullipher credits Dr. Cardenas with nudging him to go after the student Commencement speaker role. “Some of my classmates tried to egg me on but I was hesitant. It was Dr. Cardenas who gave me a look that said ‘you should do this,’” he said.

“I’m going to talk about my story because I think a lot of folks will relate to being in a position where you’ve reached an impasse and have nowhere to go in your career, “ Cullipher said. “Folks can come up with so many reasons not to go back to college, but they’re almost always wrong.”

When he isn’t in class or watching over his children, Cullipher works for the Highlands County School Board as paraprofessional, providing in-class tutoring to elementary schoolchildren. With his degree in hand, he plans to continue working in education. His next step is to secure his teaching certificate. He has his an eye on earning a master’s degree as his next step in career advancement.

“I’ve become enamored with helping students learn,” Cullipher said. “Education is a field that’s really grabbed me.”

Cullipher also lends a hand to the Highlands Little Theatre, putting his decades of lighting experience to work for the acting company. He received the Gracie Award for Best Lighting Design for the theater’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “It’s nice to do theater for fun again instead it being my job” he noted.

“I suppose you can say I just like helping people,” Cullipher said. “Returning to college at SFSC has been an awesome experience for me and, with my education and real-world experience, I think I can bring a lot to the table helping others.”

South Florida State College Dental Hygiene program graduates.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 24, 2017  – South Florida State College honored nine graduates of its Dental Hygiene program in a traditional pinning ceremony in the SFSC University Center Auditorium on April 21. The graduates had just completed their Associate in Science in Dental Hygiene (AS) degree program.

Receiving their pins were Kelly Yarbrough, Frances Nichole Spradley, Amanda Rutledge, Hayat Shalabi, Stacy Hobby, Amanda Gahler, Monique Flores, Lauren Falls, and Lourdes Calderon. (Pictured from left to right.)

Keynote speaker Sofia Chong, who graduated from the SFSC Dental Hygiene program in 2016, congratulated the graduates for their commitment to academic success and offered them words of wisdom.

Chong recounted her own journey to a career in dental hygiene. Now one year into the start of her dental hygiene career, Chong said she had no idea what dental hygiene was when she first set foot on the SFSC Highlands Campus. “What I knew was that dental hygiene paid well, and I said to myself ‘I’ll take that road,’” Chong said to the laughter of the graduates.

After one year of taking prerequisite courses in the sciences, two years of rigorous dental education, and now with one year of paid clinical work behind her, Chong said she made the right choice by completing SFSC’s Dental Hygiene program.

“I know what you graduates have been through—believe me,” Chong said. “But I can say that you have received the best training possible from the instructors at SFSC.”

After Chong’s remarks, graduates were presented their dental hygiene pins by Dr. Deborah Milliken, chair of SFSC’s Dental Education program.

With a beaming smile, Dr. Milliken told the graduates’ families there was another reason for them to be proud that night: The pass rate among the graduates on their national board examinations was 100 percent.

Dr. Milliken also presented individual awards to three graduates. Flores received the Clinical Excellence Award. Yarbrough earned the Highest Grade Point Average Award. Rutledge was honored with the Leadership Award.

Rutledge, who had been selected class president, gave an emotional send-off to her fellow graduates. In remarks punctuated at times by tearfulness, Rutledge said the ceremony was a bittersweet moment after two years of intense academic work together that forged a bond among the nine graduates.

“We can now love and live what we do best, and that’s dental hygiene,” Rutledge said. “Let’s go out and make a difference in our patients’ lives.”

From left, Best in Show winner Ann-Louise Abbot with Megan Stepe.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 21, 2017 – South Florida State College’s Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC) honored the winners of its annual juried student art exhibition during a reception on April 20.

The awards ceremony recognized drawings, paintings, sculpture, and a range of other artwork students created during their studies in SFSC’s Art Department. The students’ art is on display in MOFAC’s gallery through May 4.

“We’ve had an amazing number of great pieces up for consideration this year,” said Megan Stepe, the museum’s curator. “This year saw 32 students submit 81 works for consideration by the jury.”

Ann-Louise Abbott walked away with the Max Gooding Best in Show Purchase Award for her set of ceramic figures titled “Elephant to Heart Series.” She received $400 for the four-piece set depicting the transformation of an elephant to a human heart.

Max Gooding, an alumnus of SFSC’s art department, sponsors this top prize and other awards. Gooding, who went on to earn a degree in landscape architecture at the University of Florida, owns a landscape architecture consultancy, the Max Gooding Company, in Naples, Fla.

This year, two students, Alex Rodriguez and Meagan Smith, won the Max Gooding Award of Excellence for their artwork. The honor comes with a $100 check for each student.

Six students received the Best of Media Award, with each awardee receiving $75. The winners were Taylor Webb, two-dimensional mixed media; Whitney Williams for three-dimensional media; Alexis Conner, pottery; Ray Espidol, drawing, Abigail Zevallos, painting; Lindsey Mangrum, photography.

Awards of Merit were presented to Destinee Ellis, Ann-Louise Abbott, Meagan Smith, Lyla Gill, Jasmine Santana, Magdalena Rodriguez, Lizbeth Silva, and Kalani Dubberly.

This year’s ceremony included the addition of new award category: People’s Choice award. Stepe said the winner was chosen by a vote of the students’ colleagues. Kelsey Pena’s drawing titled “This Took Forever: Morgan Antush” came out on top as the people’s choice.

Also new this year, was the President’s Award. SFSC president Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel selected one piece that garnered a $100 award. Josie Wilson’s photograph titled “The Pale Lady” was the president’s choice.

Members of the Tanglewood Art League were on hand to present their sixth annual scholarship award. This year the league tapped two students to share the award. Abigail Zevallos and Kalani Dubberly each took home $300 for their submissions.

The show was juried by Joey Sacco, a local artist, former SFSC adjunct art instructor, and a member of MOFAC’s Advisory Committee.

The 2017 Student Art Exhibit sponsors were the SFSC Alumni Association, SFSC Art Club, Mary Coats, Max Gooding, Terri McLaren, Karla Respress, Anne and Charles Reynolds, Tanglewood Art League, and Linda Zimolzak.

The exhibition will be on view at MOFAC through May 4. The museum is open to the public on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 12:30 – 4:30 p.m., or by appointment for group tours. Patrons of the Wildstein Center may visit the museum one hour prior to matinee and evening performances. For more information, call Stepe at 863-784-7240.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 19, 2017 – Emily Swenson likes South Florida State College so much, she wants to come back after she earns her bachelor’s degree.

Emily Swenson

“I cry when I think about leaving SFSC when I graduate in May,” Swenson said. “There’s something special about the college that got me telling the dean of Student Services, Dr. Wise, I wanted to come back here to work.”

But Swenson is unlikely to act on that whim. She has her sights set on a career in broadcast journalism, one she hopes will see her on TV in a major metropolitan market.

Swenson will tell of her love for SFSC, who at the college spurred her to excel, and her plans for the future when she delivers the student Commencement address at SFSC’s graduation ceremony on May 4, 7:45 p.m., in the Wildstein Center on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

It was volleyball that brought Swenson to SFSC. As a young girl, she took up the game through the YMCA and, under the tutelage of the same coach, continued playing through to her years at Middleburg High School, a short drive from her family’s home in Orange Park, Fla.

“SFSC was the first to offer me a volleyball scholarship, so I accepted straightaway,” Swenson said. “My dad drove me down and, as the landscape grew increasingly more rural, I said ‘Am I going to like this place?’”

As Swenson tells it, her worries were soon put to rest. She fell in easily with her volleyball teammates. Swenson, at 5 feet 11 inches, plays right side hitter for the Lady Panthers. Her team spirit and easy going personality led to her selection as the team’s co-captain.

“I’ve always been outgoing and enjoyed being out in front of people,” Swenson said. “Way back in elementary school, I served as the anchor for our in-school TV news program that was broadcast to the classrooms.”

Fittingly, among Swenson’s favorite classes at SFSC was Fundamentals of Speech Communications, a course required of all students and dreaded by many. “I went into this course knowing I would learn a lot I could use down the road,” she said. “The instructor, Lynn MacNeill, fulfilled my expectations. He broke down all the key concepts, giving the students the do’s and don’ts.”

With encouragement from Andy Polk, SFSC’s coordinator of Student Life, Swenson ran for election to a post in the Student Government Association (SGA) in her first year on campus. She won a spot on the SGA executive board, overseeing public relations.  At Polk’s nudging, she sought higher office in her sophomore year, gaining the support of her colleagues to become the SGA president.

During her tenure, Swenson served as the voice of the student body and as a liaison with faculty and administration, promoting educational and social student activities aimed at fostering an engaged student body.

So, it was only natural, Swenson, thought, to put herself out front one last time. She threw her hat into the ring when it came time to choose a student Commencement speaker. Her leadership and achievements on campus persuaded the organizing committee they had found their speaker.

“When I first met Emily I knew she had great leadership qualities,” Polk said. “I’ve seen her work extremely hard to bring out those leadership qualities being an outstanding leader for our student body”

For her part, Swenson lauds Polk for his support. “Andy Polk saw in me an ability, and he gave me the confidence to run. I’ve come to learn that at SFSC, with encouragement you get from the instructors, the coaches, and folks like Andy Polk, you can open door after door, each leading to something rewarding.”

What Swenson sees as ultimately rewarding is a career in broadcast journalism. She will enroll in the University of Central Florida this fall and begin working toward a degree in the university’s Nicholson School of Communication. She has a hankering to get in front of the camera, either reporting the news or anchoring a show.

First, though, she and a fellow SFSC student will make their way to Haiti this summer for an eight-day mission trip as part of a church’s outreach to help residents on the impoverished Caribbean island.

With just a few weeks before she’ll take to the stage to deliver her address to the students she led as their president and their families, Swenson is putting her remarks in their final form.  “I want the speech to say who influenced me, who made my time here at SFSC so special, and leave a message for those going on to university and the younger people in the audience who will soon go to college.”

Swenson said her message to the students, those moving on and those who will take their place at SFSC, will mirror the advice she has given in her role as SGA president to new students during the college’s regular orientation sessions.

“I wouldn’t cherish my time at SFSC as much as I do now had I not gotten involved with life on campus,” Swenson said. “When you get involved, you feel invested, which makes your time here all the more rewarding.”

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 19, 2017 – SFSC will host an information session on its study abroad tour of Portugal and Spain on Thursday, April 27, 6– 7 p.m., on the SFSC Highlands Campus in Avon Park, in Building B, Room 112.

The information session will cover details about a nine-day trip to Lisbon, Seville, and Madrid in spring or early summer 2018. Anyone interested is welcome to attend. The information session will discuss costs, payment options, scholarships, the early bird discount, and college credit. Dr. Theresa James, professor of English, and Melanie Jackson, director of eLearning, will lead the information session.

The trip includes air fare, hotels, breakfasts, several dinners, and visits to many notable landmarks in Lisbon, Seville, and Madrid led by a full-time tour guide, including use of a bus.

The itinerary includes a visit to the old world Atlantic port of Lisbon, Portugal, which once launched explorers such as Vasco de Gama. Participants visit the Moorish Alfama district, 16th century palaces and churches, a medieval castle, and Lisbon’s modern neighborhoods. Next stop is Seville, Spain, home of bullfights, flamenco, and Don Juan. Guests take in the ancient walled town of Évora, navigate the twisting alleys of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, admire the thousand-year-old Alcázar Palace, and visit the grand, gothic Seville Cathedral. The tour proceeds to Madrid, where guests wander through the Puerta del Sol, the heart of the Spanish capital, and view the La Estación de Atocha and the Egyptian Templo de Debod. Optional excursions to Toledo and Barcelona, Spain, are available.

Those interested in SFSC’s study abroad program should plan to attend the information session, where they can ask questions and receive printed information.  Attendees can add their email to a mailing list to learn about future trips.

The SFSC Highlands Campus is located at 600 W. College Dr., Avon Park. For more information on SFSC’s study abroad program, contact Dr. James at 863-784-7185 or or Melanie Jackson at 863-784-7018 or

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 18, 2017 – Of the nine students who are set to graduate from South Florida State College’s Dental Hygiene program, 100 percent passed the required National Dental Hygiene Board Examination.

In fact, over the last three years, SFSC Dental Hygiene students have had a 100 percent pass rate on the national board exam.

The national board exam is an eight-hour written exam that covers every dental education course that the students took over two years.           

 “The significance is that once a student passes the national board exam, they can sit for the state board exam—the Florida State Clinic Licensure Examination—and then become licensed,” said Dr. Deborah Milliken, chair of SFSC’s Dental Education Department. The state board exam is administered by the state of Florida and is a practical exam.

“A student can graduate from a program, but if they aren’t licensed, they can’t practice as a dental hygienist anywhere in the United States.”

Dr. Milliken said that upon passing the national board exam, students will take the three components of the state board exam.

“The first portion of the state board exam is computerized, which is similar to the national exam only constructed by the state,” said Dr. Milliken. “The second component is a laws and rules exam, covering Florida law.”

According to Dr. Milliken, the third part is the most difficult portion of the exam because it covers patient treatment. To take the patient portion, students must have graduated from a Dental Hygiene program and passed the national board exam.

For the third component of the state board exam, students take a patient to a designated treatment site. The students select the portion of the patient to treat based on specific criteria from the examiners. According to Dr. Milliken, the exam at this stage is stressful because the guidelines are complex, and the exam is timed.

“Because licensure is such an important aspect of making certain that our health care providers are knowledgeable and competent, we take that whole process seriously at SFSC,” Dr. Milliken said. “We are proud that our Dental Hygiene students prove themselves every year and go on to become skilled clinicians serving our communities.”

SFSC launched its Dental Hygiene program in fall 2003. The Associate in Science degree in dental hygiene program takes approximately two years to complete. For more information about the program, call 863-784-7131.

Dr. Sonji Nicholas, Michele MacBeth, and members of the All-Florida Academic Team

From left, Dr. Sonji Nicholas, Summer Xiong, Margaret Dunn, Kelsey Pena, and Michelle MacBeth. Not pictured: Abigail Wiggins.

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 14, 2017 – The Florida College System (FCS) has named four South Florida State College students to the 2017 All-Florida Academic Team.

Each year, the FCS names an All-Florida Academic Team to honor students enrolled in Florida’s public state and community colleges for their academic achievement, leadership, and service to the community.

The four SFSC students were recognized at an awards ceremony April 7 in Tallahassee. The SFSC students earning the recognition were Margaret Dunn, Kelsey Pena, Abigail Wiggins, and Summer Xiong. They joined 127 of their peers from the 28-member FCS in being named to the academic team.

“This is the 23rd year that the Florida College System has selected an All-Florida Academic Team,” said Madeline Pumariega, the FCS chancellor, in a message to the students. “Our state relies on students like you who earn high-quality degrees and contribute to the skilled workforce fueling Florida’s economic growth.”

Students named to the All-Florida Academic Team were drawn from SFSC’s Honors Program and the college’s Tau Epsilon chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), an international academic honor society.

The students attended a luncheon where they were presented with a medallion recognizing their achievements. Dr. Sonji Nicholas, sociology instructor, and Michelle MacBeth, Spanish instructor, accompanied the students to Tallahassee. Both instructors serve as advisors to SFSC’s PTK chapter. SFSC president Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel was on hand to watch the students receive their awards.

In nominating students for the All-Florida Academic Team, colleges consider participation in academic honors programs, membership in and awards from collegiate societies, and academic enrichment gained from internships and special projects.

The All-Florida Team is honored each April. Governor Rick Scott has proclaimed April as Florida College System Month.

For more information about SFSC’s Honors Program, contact Dr. Charlotte Pressler, director, SFSC Honors Program, and professor, English and humanities, at 863-784-7247. For more information about PTK at SFSC, call Dr. Nicholas at 863-784-7286.