AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 22, 2021 – Many of today’s employers report having difficulty finding suitable candidates for positions within their companies or organizations because prospective employees lack intra- and interpersonal skills. These needed soft skills include teamwork, communication, mental agility, flexibility, strong analytical and critical thinking, and innovation.

Through the Florida Department of Education, South Florida State College (SFSC) has been awarded a $47,000 grant to address these concerns. With these grant funds, an Entrepreneurship Education and Training (EET) program will be developed through a partnership between SFSC, the School Board of Highlands County (SBHC), CareerSource Heartland, Alpha Umi, Inc., and the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida (USF).

The EET will take a three-pronged approach to offering pathways for high school and college students that develop entrepreneurship and small business leadership skills and provide tools needed to excel in the workplace.

In one part of the EET program, foundational entrepreneurial skills will be embedded directly into Career Technical Education (CTE) curriculum starting fall 2021 to assist high school students in developing labor market-relevant employability skills and inspire them to continue their training in postsecondary programs of study. Upon successful completion, high school students will be awarded the 5G™ Edge industry certification and a corresponding digital badge though Alpha Umi, Inc. If they subsequently enroll in a program at SFSC, these students may convert the certification, via experiential learning credit, to two college elective credits for completing the requirements of SFSC’s course, Five Generations at Work (SLS 1351).

“The SBHC is excited to partner with SFSC throughout different CTE programs,” said Rebekah Wills, career and technical education resource teacher, School Board of Highlands County.   “Through the Entrepreneurship Education and Training Grant, students will begin to receive the foundational soft skills development and will have the opportunity to earn a nationally recognized certification. The foundational entrepreneurial skills will be embedded throughout different CTE courses in all three of our district’s high schools in the 2021-2022 school year. These skills will assist students in obtaining and keeping high-skill and high-wage jobs in our community.”

“We are super excited about the opportunity to partner with the School Board of Highlands County to offer soft skills training and certification for high school CTE instructors who, in turn, will integrate this directly into their curriculum,” said Erik Christensen, SFSC dean of applied science and technologies. “Employers consistently tell us that the number one issue they have in hiring new employees is a lack of soft skills. Our goal, after the grant ends, is to extend this initiative to the other school districts in our service district—DeSoto and Hardee counties.”

A three-hour Soft Skills Essential Boot Camp will be developed for SFSC students from components of Alpha Umi’s 5G™ Power Skills curriculum. CTE students will be required to complete this mini-course prior to interviewing for, or participating in, an internship or co-operative learning experience program with a local business or industry as part of their program study. The boot camp focuses on demonstrating knowledge and understanding of essential soft skills. Equipped with these skills, students will be ready for their initial job interview and their internship experience, with an eye toward landing a full-time job in their chosen career path. Implementation of the Soft Skills Essential Boot Camp will begin in summer or fall 2021.

“We are confident that the soft skills boot camp will help our students make a better first impression when participating in internships in our various CTE programs,” Christensen said. “This is so important because many students end up working for the companies that they intern for while at the College.”

Suitable for any CTE student and business or non-business major, SFSC will offer a new course at SFSC, Introduction to Entrepreneurship (GEB 2112), in the fall 2021 term to build upon a solid foundation of soft skills and equip students with a thorough understanding of the general theories, principles, concepts, and practices of entrepreneurship. The course will require no prerequisites and provide hands-on skills to assist students in succeeding as entrepreneurs and help prepare them to pass the Certiport Entrepreneurship and Small Business (ESB) Certification, an industry-recognized certification.

“We hope that the new course, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, will be useful for students and people in our community, not just business majors, who are interested in starting their own business and becoming an entrepreneur,” Christensen said. 

“We are excited to be in this partnership and look forward to the positive outcomes it provides for our students,” Wills said.

For more information about the EET program, contact Christensen at Erik.Christensen@southflorida.edu or call 863-784-7424.

Reza

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 15, 2021 – Reza is recognized as one of today’s most sought after entertainers in the touring illusion industry, delivering innovative, engaging, and spectacular performances worldwide. Reza, who will perform on Sunday, Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at South Florida State College (SFSC) in Avon Park, has taken the art of illusion to a new level, performing his rock-concert style magic show to audiences across the globe. Young and fresh, Reza’s new show, “Edge of Illusion,” has earned various awards including “Magician of the Year.”

“This is an ideal performance for families,” said Cindy Garren, SFSC director of cultural programs. “Reza isn’t just a magician. He’s a captivating entertainer.” 

Reza’s recent tour and television appearances have astounded over 30 million viewers from across the world on networks such as MTV, A&E, The CW, PBS, and Telemundo as well as live venues including the Alamodome (San Antonio), Philips Arena (Atlanta), Villanova Pavilion (Philadelphia), and Mundo Imperial Forum (Acapulco), to name a few. Reza’s new show, “Edge of Illusion,” is a ground-breaking grand scale production which Reza simultaneously designed to connect with the audience.

Reza began making his presence felt in the world of illusion at a young age. His focus in the art began at the age of 7 after being inspired by a magic show in his hometown of Brookings, S.D. By the age of 14, he was performing for resorts and large corporations across the Midwest. Today, he is one of the fastest rising stars in the industry today, with his mind set on changing the world’s perception of magic. Over the last decade, Reza has garnered a worldwide buzz and loyal fan base with his passion for creating signature grand-scale illusions.

Reza’s unique brand of entertainment has landed him on popular reality shows across 31 countries, including recent U.S. TV appearances on A&E’s Duck Dynasty and The CW’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us. More than a magic show, he infuses state-of-the-art production elements, masterful comedic timing, and numerous interactive and inspirational moments, allowing the audience to experience the magic firsthand.

Tickets are only $10 for children and students. Adult admission is $22, $25, and $32. Due to social distancing in the venue, seats are grouped in pairs, three, four, and more. Pairs of tickets are available online at sfscARTS.org. For groups of three, four, or more, contact the SFSC Box Office at 863-784-7178. Face masks are required to enter the venue and during the performance. The performance runs 75 to 90 minutes without an intermission. The concession is closed at this time. Plastic bottles of water can be brought into the theater.

Nursing graduates recite the Nightingale Pledge.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 12, 2021 – South Florida State College (SFSC) honored 12 Associate in Science in Nursing (ADN) students from its evening and weekend program in a traditional pinning ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 7 in the Alan J. Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at SFSC on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park. During this year’s ceremony, graduates, faculty, and members of the audience adhered to the COVID-19 safety protocols by donning masks and maintaining social distancing.

The graduates are Angelica Alicea, Viridiana Correa-Mariano, Vanessa Davidson, Samantha Gilliard, Johanny Gonzalez, Ashton Hunt, Ngoc Le, Madison Marple, Scott Milliken, Sara Smith, Nashley Terron, and Julia Van Fleet.

Wayne Estes, president and general manager of Sebring International Raceway was the guest speaker. When he addressed the graduates, he said: “Your time at SFSC has given you a foundation for real life situations. This is not the kind of job where you clock in and accidentally make a difference in someone’s life. This is a calling for someone who is passionate about serving patients, families, and friends of those patients and serving your medical teammates. Your passion and caring for patients will take you much further than ambition, knowledge, or office politics. It will lead you to paychecks much greater than those you will deposit in the bank. Your paycheck will come when a patient says that if it had not been for you, he or she may have given up. Your paycheck will come when you help an injured patient walk for the first time after a near-fatal auto accident. Your paycheck will come when you take the wrapped up baby to its mother to hold for the first time. Your paycheck will come when you receive a smile or squeeze of the hand from a person who is about to pass into another life. Not just anyone can do what you do. I cannot do what you do, but I’m so grateful that you do it.”

Each year, Nursing graduates award the Golden D.U.C.K. to someone who has served as a mentor to the students in the program. The D.U.C.K. acronym represents the foundational elements of the mentoring arrangement: Developing, Understanding, Compassion, and Knowledge.

During the ceremony, graduate Carlos Vega presented the 2021 Golden D.U.C.K. Award to Evelyn Cruz, SFSC Nursing instructor. “Her patience was shown every day in her soft-spoken voice as she provided positive feedback and encouragement to build our confidence as students and future nurses,” he said. “Our time together with Ms. Cruz will always be treasured and remembered by all as one of the best parts of being a nursing student.”

The practice of pinning new graduates has been a nursing school tradition in the United States since 1916 and, symbolically, welcomes each graduate into the nursing profession. The pin is worn prominently on a nurse’s uniform throughout her or his career. One story of the ceremony’s beginning goes back to 1883, when Queen Victoria awarded Florence Nightingale the Royal Red Cross on St. George’s Day for her service to the sick and injured during the Crimean War. In turn, Nightingale later extended the honor to her outstanding nursing students by presenting them with a medal of excellence.

Graduates of the two-year Associate in Science in Nursing (ADN) program become registered nurses by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam. SFSC nursing graduates are usually fully employed in nursing within a few months of graduation.

SFSC offers an Associate in Science degree in Nursing (ADN) program for students interested in becoming registered nurses: a two-year Generic-RN program and a one-year Transition-LPN to RN program. The College also offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. For program entry requirements, consult the SFSC College Catalog online at southflorida.edu, call 863-784-7225, or email healthsciences@southflorida.edu.

Manuel Calderon (right) with his mother, Maria Barragan

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 8, 2021 – During the Dec. 9, 2020 South Florida State College (SFSC) Basic Law Enforcement Academy and Crossover Academy graduation, one cadet was honored in absentia. His name was Manuel (“Manny”) Gerardo Calderon and he had a lifelong dream to become a police officer.

“A young cadet, very promising in this profession, locally grown, had his life cut short far too soon,” said Michael Huften, coordinator, SFSC Criminal Justice Academy, at the ceremony. “During the presentation of these [Career] Certificates, you will hear his name called. I will ask his family to rise at that time so they can be recognized as we hold a moment of silence.” Later in the ceremony, a class flag was presented to Calderon’s family members who attended the ceremony.

Calderon had enrolled in the SFSC Law Enforcement career certificate program that started in July 2020. By the end of August, he had passed away after his car hit a tree on a rainy evening.

Calderon was one of four siblings to attend SFSC. Sister Maria earned her Associate in Arts from SFSC in 2008 and went on to earn her Associate in Science in dental hygiene in 2010. Sister Lourdes earned her Career Certificate in dental assisting in 2013 and her Associate in Science in Dental Hygiene in 2017. Maria and Lourdes now work for a dentist in Sebring, Fla. Sister Yesenia is a staff attorney working in the Children’s Department of the non-profit organization, Americans for Immigrant Justice, in its West Palm Beach office. Yesenia graduated from SFSC with her Associate in Arts in 2012, earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Legal Studies from the University of Central Florida in 2014, and graduated with her Juris Doctor from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law.

The Calderon siblings chose to attend SFSC because it was relatively inexpensive and it was close to home. “We’ve always been so family oriented,” Yesenia said. “It was about staying close to home, having meals at home, and not having to spend money on an apartment in a city. My mom would cook for us and we’d take our lunch to college. Fortunately, both of my sisters were able to finish their academic programs at SFSC. At the time I was going to college, SFSC wasn’t offering a bachelor’s degree. If it had, I would have gotten it there.”

Calderon’s parents, Maria Barragan and Gerardo Calderon, immigrated to the United States from Mexico and were seasonal farm workers. “We were migrating back and forth from North Carolina to Florida following the harvest season,” Yesenia said. “In North Carolina, it was potatoes, cucumbers, and tobacco. Once that was done, we traveled to Lake Placid, Fla., where it was citrus.”

Yesenia explained that the girls were moving from school to school twice a year, which made it difficult to finish high school. “We would get held back,” she said. “In fact, I got held back in school twice.”

Eventually, their father obtained a permanent job in Lake Placid, where the family settled. “My siblings and I were excited that we were finally able to stay in one school and make friends.” At that time, their parents decided to have another child. “My two sisters and I wanted a little brother so badly,” Yesenia said. That child was Manny.

When Manny was 9 years old, Maria and Gerardo decided to get a divorce. “Manny was probably inspired to be a protector—as if to say, ‘You girls protected me, now it’s my turn to protect you,’” Yesenia said.

Yesenia indicated that Manny had a great love for Lake Placid. So he decided to enroll in the Law Enforcement program at SFSC and get a job after graduation. His goal was to stay in Highlands County and protect the community.

A week before Manny’s passing, the Calderon’s celebrated Yesenia’s 30th birthday in Orlando. “We did a toast,” Yesenia said. “Five days before he passed away, he thanked me for helping him with his schooling and applying to SFSC. He was like, ‘Hey, I’m really proud of you and thank you for helping me with school. You’ve always been there for me, helping me, pushing me, so I could enroll, even applying for the FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid].”

“I really wanted to see him go into the Law Enforcement program,” she said. “I knew he always wanted to be a police officer. My family attended the graduation ceremony because I know he would have wanted us to. It was sad for us because he wasn’t there, but we got to see how much his entire class admired him, loved him, and missed him. Most importantly, even though he was only in the program part of the way, he was loved by his professors and classmates. The stories they would tell us about him in school were amazing. It was a great honor that they recognized my little brother during the ceremony. Although he wasn’t there physically, I know for a fact that he was there with us.”

Heartland Senior Games 2020 competitors

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 6, 2021 – South Florida State College (SFSC) has hosted the Heartland Senior Games in Highlands County every year since 2000. However, they are being postponed in 2021.

“The decision to postpone the games was made due to the safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tina Gottus, director, Corporate and Community Education. “Please let everyone know that we look forward to returning and seeing our typical 500 or more participants when it is safe to return. Nothing has been planned in place of the Heartland Senior Games because we do not want a large gathering of this vulnerable population while the virus is still a threat. We hope everyone stays safe and we look forward to seeing them when it is safe.”

The Heartland Senior Games are open to men and women 50 years and older to compete against others of the same gender and age group. Some of the activities available to local competitors are bowling, pickle ball, tennis, swimming, golf, cycling, table tennis, shuffleboard, Mah Jong, Euchre, and Bridge. Events in 2020 began in late January. The Games are sanctioned by the Florida Sports Foundation and serve as qualifying events for the Florida Senior Games for residents of DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, and surrounding counties. The Heartland Senior Games promote physical fitness, good health, and a competitive spirit among those seniors who live active lifestyles and inspire those who may not.

For more information about Heartland Senior Games, visit Heartland Senior Games or call the SFSC Corporate and Community Education Department at 863-784-7032.

The Modern Gentlemen perform on Jan. 22.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 5, 2021 – The Modern Gentlemen quartet shared the stage with Frankie Valli for a decade as the Four Seasons. During their tenure with Valli, they developed their own signature sound and incredible precision dancing. They now tour the world performing hits of the 60s and 70s with four-part tight harmonies in styles ranging from pop and rock to jazz and doo-wop, and they make one appearance in Florida on Friday, Jan. 22. Two performances are scheduled at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at South Florida State College (SFSC) in Avon Park.

“This is a must-see concert for anyone who loves doo wop,” said Cindy Garren, director of cultural arts at SFSC. “Their harmonies are awesome, and they’ve developed their own signature sound that blends classic hits with their own awesome style.”

The Modern Gentlemen were recently featured on the PBS special, “Doo Wop Generations” which aired across the country and have appeared as headliners in Las Vegas and their own residency in Atlantic City, N.J. With Valli, they’ve performed to sold-out concerts around the globe. In 2014, the gentlemen were featured on, “A Capitol Fourth” in Washington D.C. with Michael McDonald, Patti LaBelle, John Williams, and others, as well as two separate engagements on the Broadway stage. They’ve toured the United Kingdom, Asia, Israel, Canada, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand as The Modern Gentlemen.

“Due to social distancing, we’ve reduced seating capacity to 440 seats,” Garren said. “So, the Gentlemen agreed to perform two 75-minute shows without an intermission. This reduces movement in the theater.”

Tickets are $22, $25, and $35. Limited pit seats are available for $45. Tickets can be purchased online at sfscARTS.org or by calling the SFSC Box Office at 863-784-7178. 

Seating is reserved by groups of two, three, and four to maintain a six-foot distance from other patrons. Face masks are required to enter the venue and during the performance. The entire venue is cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized before every performance. “We have implemented health and safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AdventHealth, and the Performing Arts Consortium,” Garren said.

Upcoming performances include country music star Jim Stafford, international recording artist Bertie Higgins (“Key Largo,” “Just Another Day in Paradise,” and “Casablanca”), Abba Mania, Canadian Brass, Celtic Angels Ireland, New Shanghai Circus, and the most popular Beach Boys tribute in the nation, Sail On.

For a complete schedule, videos, and to purchase tickets, visit sfscARTS.org.

Graduate congratulated by Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC president.

AVON PARK, Fla.  – Dec. 18, 2020 – For South Florida State College (SFSC) graduates who gathered in the Alan Jay Wildstein Theater for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Dec. 17, the 2020 Commencement ceremony was a time to celebrate, while taking precautions during the pandemic. Graduates were honored from both the spring 2020 graduating class and those graduating in December 2020.

Early in the program, Joe Wright, chair of the SFSC Board of Trustees, addressed the graduates by saying, “You are the most prepared class we have ever had.” He explained that the Class of 2020 is the class of the pandemic year. “No one can tell you exactly what to do, because we have never seen times like this. You have had to deal with emotional strain and social isolation, face financial hardship, think quickly on your feet, be creative, take risks, and be both flexible and realistic. Completing your college degree in this year’s environment has accelerated your maturity in ways you may not fully appreciate for a while. Nevertheless, you persevered. SFSC Class of 2020, you are the most prepared class we have ever had.”

The graduates received congratulations and further words of wisdom from Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC president. “Today, we stand in unity for the purpose of celebrating accomplishments. It’s a unity that we embrace collectively, for today is the culmination of what we do as we uphold the instructional mission of South Florida State College.”

Through much of Dr. Leitzel’s presentation, he emphasized one particular phrase. “You heard me say, ‘Keep moving,’” he said. “That is more than just a processional message during Commencement. I truly mean ‘keep moving.’ Move on to your next opportunity with confidence. Move toward your next academic credential. Move toward that next promotion at work. Move toward the opportunity to make a difference in the world. Just keep moving. Whatever you do, keep moving forward. Be safe. Work hard. Apply the lessons you learned in the classroom … and keep moving.”

During the ceremony, Dr. Leitzel gave special recognition to two individuals who served the College with excellence and will retire in December. Glenn Little, vice president for administrative services, retires after having served SFSC for 35 years. Dawn Pisarski, professor of nursing, retires after having served the College for 11 1/2 years.

Proud graduate

The number of students participating in the December Commencement ceremonies totaled 162.

Approximately 462 students met the SFSC requirements for spring 2020 Commencement. Of these, 21 received their Bachelor of Science in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM), 10 received their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), 13 received their Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSEE), 205 received their Associate in Arts (A.A.), 73 received their Associate in Science (A.S.), five received their State of Florida High School diplomas, and 135 received career certificates and college credit certificates.

Approximately 255 students will have met the SFSC requirements by December Commencement. Of these, 13 will receive their BAS-SM, one will receive their BSEE, 95 will receive their A.A., 33 receive their A.S., 19 will receive their State of Florida High School diplomas, and 94 will receive career certificates and college credit certificates.

The mace bearer and chief marshal for this year’s ceremony is Beth Andrews. Marshals are Tom Bohan, Kathleen Cappo, Joan Davies, Rob Hampton, Theresa James, Cindy Kinser, Ricardo Pantoja, Lena Phelps, Andy Polk, and Tina Stetson.

Jim StaffordDec. 18, 2020 – Since 1985, South Florida State College (SFSC) has presented the popular Goodtime Tuesdays Matinee Series which includes country and pop music, rock & roll tributes, and international recording artist, Bertie Higgins. Matinee performances begin Jan. 19 and run to March 23, every Tuesday.

With social distancing and reduced capacity of only 440 seats, two shows are available for most performances with 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. shows. All performances will take place at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at 600 West College Drive in Avon Park. Parking is free. Tickets for the Matinee Series of performances range from $15 to $32. Because of limited seating, group discounts and subscriptions are not available.

Following CDC guidelines and recommendations from the Event Safety Alliance, there are new protocols for health and safety. Face masks are required, including during the performance. All performances run 75–90 minutes without an intermission. Concessions are not available and patrons may bring a plastic bottle of water into the theater. All areas of the Wildstein Center are sanitized and disinfected before every show. 

“Audiences love coming to spend the afternoon in Highlands County,” said Cindy Garren, director of cultural programs at SFSC. “Do a little golfing on our Citrus Trail, visit the historic Hotel Jacaranda for a delightful lunch, shop, and see a top-notch show. Plus you get home before dark!” 

The Music of John Denver with Ted Vigil kicks off the popular series on Jan. 19 with a performance of Denver’s inspiring and memorable music like “Rocky Mountain High” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Tickets are $17, $22, and $28.

Comedian, musician and songwriter Jim Stafford had several hits in the 70s including “My Girl Bill,” “Swamp Witch,” and the gold record “Spiders and Snakes.” His award-winning Branson show has been selling out since 1993. Performances are Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $22, $26, and $32.

Shades of Bublé, a three-man tribute to Michael Buble delivers swinging standards, Billboard hits, and big band standards in a high energy concert. Two performances will take place on Feb. 2. Tickets are $15, $20, and $28.

Rhinestone Cowboy Memories stars Jeff Dayton, who was Glen Campbell’s band leader and right hand man for 15 years in a heartwarming performance of Campbell’s biggest hits and the stories behind them. Two matinee shows take place on Feb. 9. Tickets are $15, $20, and $25.

“Key Largo,” “Casablanca,” “Just Another Day in Paradise,” and “Son of a Beach” were international hits for Florida native and a member of the Florida Artist Hall of Fame, Bertie Higgins. Two performances are on Feb. 16. Tickets are $22, $26, and $32.

Turnstiles, starring Tony Monaco, is a passionate and energetic tribute to Billy Joel. “The audience loved them when Turnstiles performed on our stage a few years ago,” added Garren, “And people kept asking to bring them back.” Two performances are scheduled for Feb. 23. Tickets are $22, $26, and $32.

With selections from the Great American Songbook, classic Broadway and pop tunes from the 40s and 50s, America’s Sweethearts, celebrate America’s history with crystal clear harmonies and colorful costumes. Two performances are on March 2. Tickets are $15, $20, and $25.

Nashville-based Sail On performs all the classic hits of the Beach Boys plus a few brilliant extended songs from the Beach Boys catalog. Faithfully recreating the timeless music of surfing, cruising, and dreaming, two performances take place on March 9. Tickets are $22, $26, and $32.

Chi-Town Transit is a seven-member ensemble that exclusively plays the music of Chicago. You will be wowed with their renditions from the famed “rock band with horns.” Two performances are on March 23. Tickets are $22, $26, and $32.

All programs, artists, dates and times are subject to change and/or cancellation. In the event of a cancellation, refunds will be issued to ticketholders.

Videos and information are available online at sfscARTS.org. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 863-784-7178, or visiting the box office located at 600 West College Drive in Avon Park. The SFSC Box Office will be closed for winter break, Dec. 19 – Jan. 3, reopening Jan. 4 at 11:30 a.m.

The performing arts program at South Florida State College is funded in part by the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs and by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Class 264 and Class 361 graduates

AVON PARK, Fla. — Dec. 14, 2020 —South Florida State College’s (SFSC) Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) Academy BLE Class 264 and the Crossover Academy Class 361 graduated 22 cadets during a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 9 in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the SFSC Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

BLE Class 264 and Crossover Class 361 graduates who received career certificates were Christopher Wingate (class leader), Estefani Galarza (executive officer), Skylar Casian (first squadron leader), Mckenzie Bostick, Joseph Martin, Triston Ragoodial, Raphael Scott, Karon Paulk (second squad leader), Alejandro Gamez, Garrett Green, Jewell Lagunas, Samuel Jacobs (third squad leader), Gloriangeli Calero, Michael Dean, Samuel Jacobs, Johnathan Knight, Matthew Willis, Brady Rogers (fourth squad leader), Ramiro Doval, William Holliday, Horace Nicholson, and Karen Woodham.

Guest speaker for the graduation was Sgt. Wayne Gunn of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Department and adjunct faculty for the SFSC Criminal Justice Academy. Addressing the graduates, he said, “It is important to remember that wearing a badge on your chest gives you authority, but it does not give you respect. Respect is not automatically given but it is earned, especially in the streets.”

Gunn spoke about courage. “Although we have trained and tested you mentally and physically, there is one thing we cannot teach: We cannot teach courage. It takes courage to confront a suspect who has committed a serious crime and you’re about to take away their freedom. It takes courage to refrain ourselves in using only the amount of force necessary to control a dangerous situation. It takes courage to protect those who spew hatred toward you, but you still conduct yourself in a respectful way. It takes courage to run toward gunfire when everyone else is running away.

“My hope for you all is that you spend your career protecting the safety of others, that you’re able to make a difference in our community in meaningful ways. Remember to also take care of yourself and your family. Take care of yourself on the streets, watch over one another, and make sure that we all go home to our families at the end of the shift. Serve your community with honor, respect, integrity, and courage.”

During the ceremony, special awards were presented to three of the cadets: Christopher Wingate as class leader, Estefani Galarza for top academics, and Samuel Jacobs for top firearms scores. One cadet who passed away before his graduation was Manuel Calderon. He was given a special tribute and his family was honored with a duplicate of the class flag created by his graduating class.

SFSC’s Basic Law Enforcement career certificate program trains students to become law enforcement officers in Florida. By successfully completing the program, they are eligible to take the state certification examination to become certified law enforcement officers. The program runs 770 contact hours or approximately five months full time or approximately 10 months part time.

The Correction to Law Enforcement (Crossover) career certificate program trains currently employed corrections officers to become law enforcement officers in Florida. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the state certification examination to become certified law enforcement officers. The program runs 515 contact hours or approximately 10 months part time.

For more information about either of these programs, visit southflorida.edu or call SFSC’s Criminal Justice Academy at 863-784-7285.

[Not pictured: Amy Hines]

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 11, 2020 – The Forty and Eight Voiture 899, based in Highlands County, presented scholarships for the fall academic term and commemorative nurses’ training Forty and Eight emblem lapel pins to four South Florida State College (SFSC) nursing students.

Amy Hines, a student who is working toward her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), received a $375 scholarship; Whitney Wood, a student working toward her BSN, received a $250 scholarship; Giselle Mendez, who is working toward her Associate in Science in Nursing (ADN), received a $500 scholarship; and Shanice Lewis, a student working toward her Practical Nursing (PN) career certificate, received a $500 scholarship. The scholarship money may be used to help offset the cost of tuition, books, or any other needs associated with their studies.

The Forty and Eight scholarship was established through the SFSC Foundation. Criteria for the scholarship are that the student must be enrolled in one of SFSC’s nursing programs and must be enrolled at least half time in their respective program.

“It’s important to support nursing students because nursing is vital to keeping a community healthy,” said Scottie-Ann Murphy, past Chef de Gare of the Voiture 899. “Anyone in the medical field is needed, especially during this pandemic. These people work endlessly.”

The Forty and Eight is a national organization of war veterans and a longtime sponsor of nurses’ training. As of July 2020, the Forty and Eight across the United States has expended over $34,400,000 toward scholarships and assisted 52,186 nurses in obtaining their nursing degrees.

SFSC offers an online BSN program, a two-year ADN program, an 11-month PN career certificate program, and a 13-month Transition Nursing (Licensed Practical Nursing to Registered Nurse) program. For more information, visit southflorida.edu.