AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 16, 2016 – South Florida State College is closed for winter break, Dec. 17-Jan. 1. The college will reopen on Jan. 2. During this time, new students can apply for spring term 2017 classes, and returning students can register for classes online at Panther Central. Tickets for SFSC Cultural Program performances can be ordered at the online box office.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 16, 2016 – South Florida State College celebrated the academic achievements of its students with its fall term Commencement, Dec. 15, in the Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the Highlands Campus, Avon Park.

Gus Ramirez received his bachelor's degree diploma from SFSC trustee Derren Bryan.

Gus Ramirez received his bachelor’s degree diploma from SFSC trustee Derren Bryan.

The evening ceremony saw 75 graduates of SFSC’s academic and occupational programs cross the stage to receive their diplomas. Each graduate wore academic regalia adorned with variously colored cords signifying their academic achievements.

In 2014, SFSC started honoring its graduates with a December Commencement in addition to a customary ceremony held in May.

“Tonight we celebrate great things,” said Derren J. Bryan, the chair of SFSC’s District Board of Trustees, who delivered the welcome remarks to family and friends of the graduates filling the Wildstein Center’s seats. “For most of you, especially your parents, tonight may be a dream come true.”

Focusing his attention squarely on the students, Bryan said, “For you students, it is an accumulation of long hours, sacrifices both personal and family. It’s about setting a path, setting out on that path, making adjustments when needed, but enduring forward into our world.”

Before the students mounted the stage to receive their diplomas, Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC’s fourth president, noted the commencement marked a historic moment. “We have three new public school leaders in the three counties served by SFSC, and they are all here tonight to show their support and to extend their best wishes to our graduates.”

Seated on the stage were the newly elected school superintendents, Adrian Cline, Bob Shayman, and Brenda Longshore, of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties respectively.

“I look forward to establishing new relationships and new initiatives that allow us to implement and support our collective missions that make learning a kindergarten-to-college integrated system that will culminate in events like this,” Dr. Leitzel said.

Audra F. Weeks, a Hardee County resident who has been a dual enrollment student at SFSC since her sophomore year in high school, delivered the student address.

“For the sake of full disclosure, I profess that I have no profound words of wisdom to offer you this evening,” Weeks told her classmates. “Instead, I want to share with you my biggest fear best summed up by Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Weeks went on, “The problem with “settling” is that it is so easy to do. But this monotonous way of life leaves you with potential not fulfilled, passion never pursued, and God-given talent never put to use. You see, my fear is not of what will happen when I try to pursue my dreams; my fear is what will happen—or not happen— if I do not pursue them wholeheartedly.”

Weeks, who earned her Associate in Arts degree from SFSC at the same time she graduated early from high school this month, encouraged her classmates to cast aside fear and complacency, and “to strive for greatness and remain determined to pursue your dreams.”

After Weeks delivered her remarks, each graduate was called up to the stage with SFSC’s trustees alternating in handing them their diplomas.

Some 207 students had met the SFSC graduation requirements for the December Commencement. Of these, ten students earned their Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in Supervision and Management, 103 their associate degrees, 83 their vocational certificates or college credit certificates, and 11 graduated of SFSC’s Adult Education program.

Family and friends who could not attend the ceremony were able to go online to watch a live stream of the speakers and the students crossing the stage. Graduates and friends followed the ceremony on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #SFSCGrad2016.

Thomas Bush, chair of Technical-Industrial and Agricultural Education, served as the mace bearer and chief marshal for this year’s ceremony. Assisting as marshals were Beth Andrews, Davida Austin, Brian Bohlman, Kathleen Cappo, Robert Hampton, Melanie Jackson, Lorrie Jaques, Dr. Theresa James, Cindy Kinser, Kristina Lewis, Michelle Macbeth, Adam Martin, Claire Miller, Ricardo Pantoja, Lena Phelps, and Bobby Sconyers.

In addition to Bryan, other members of the SFSC District Board of Trustees in attendance were, vice chair Timothy D. Backer, Tami Cullens, Dr. Louis H. Kirschner, Kenneth A. Lambert, Lana C. Puckorius, Patrick “Joe” Wright, and Kris Rider.

After the ceremony, the graduates joined their families for a reception on campus, posing for pictures, with many heading off to dinner to celebrate their achievement.


SFSC EMT graduates assemble before the ceremony.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 15, 2016 – South Florida State College graduated 13 emergency medical technicians during an evening ceremony on Dec. 14 in the SFSC University Center Auditorium, Highlands Campus, Avon Park.

Earning their EMT certificates after four months of training were (pictured here): Back row, from left: Josiah Berry, Jarvis Carper, Jordan Whatley, Clay Sapp, Stephen Young, and Cody Ouverson. Front row, from left: Bradley Batz II, Kelly Gibson, Katelynne Wigton, Jonathan, Bash Travis Anderson, Desarea Newcomb, and Crystal Parker.

“The purpose of education is to give you the tools to adapt to a changing world,” Erik Christensen, dean of Applied Sciences and Technologies, told the graduates, with family and friends looking on from the auditorium’s seats.

“In other words, our goal is to ensure you can solve the problems we did not give you with the tools we did give you,” he said.

Christensen then went on to laud the graduates, telling the audience the students’ instructors had reported back that the class had excelled by exceeding all expectations.

Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the Florida EMT State Board examination.

EMTs function as part of an emergency rescue and transportation team by responding to emergency calls, assessing scenes of accidents, setting priorities for treating patients, and providing prehospital emergency care.

Before handed the students their diplomas, Richard Shepard, EMT instructor, told the audience the class opened a new chapter in EMT education at SFSC. He said they were the first class to graduate under a new state rule requiring 300 hours of instruction. Before the new rule, the EMT curriculum required students to complete only 250 hours of training.

Shepard singled out three graduates for special awards. He handed Crystal Parker a certificate for “Highest GPA for Lecture.” Clay Sapp and Travis Anderson received a certificate for “Highest GPA for Lab.” Shepard presented Wigton with the “Most Heart” award for her passion and determination in completing the course.

For more information about SFSC’s Emergency Medical Technician program and SFSC’s other Emergency Medical Services programs, call the SFSC Advising and Counseling Center at 863-784-7131 or visit www.southflorida.edu.

SFSC Basic Law Enforcement Class 250

SFSC Basic Law Enforcement Class 250

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 14, 2016 – South Florida State College graduated a class of 12 law enforcement officers on Dec 13.  SFSC officials handed the graduates their diplomas, challenge coins, and advice, with some already having landed a job, even as they were handed their diplomas on stage. 

The 12 cadets of Basic Law Enforcement Class 250 filed into the SFSC University Center Auditorium on the Highlands Campus for the 6 p.m. ceremony and stood at attention while a color guard presented the Stars and Stripes. The auditorium’s seats were filled families, well-wishers, and law enforcement officers from surrounding counties.

Before picking up their diplomas, the cadets heard a send-off speech from Christopher Gunter, a sergeant in charge of training for the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. Gunter also serves as an adjunct instructor at SFSC, helping to teach the cadets during the 770 hours of state-mandated training.

“You’ve decided to travel on one of the most amazing career paths available to you,” Gunther told the graduates. “You will be looked to by the public to serve and to protect—it’s a career that will bring you a sense of accomplishment, excitement, and the most prideful moments in your life.”

Still, he sounded a note of caution in his remarks delivered from a stage on which he was flanked by area sheriffs and police officers. He told the cadets they will be “resented” by some simply for what they stand for by wearing the uniform of a law enforcement officer.

“You’ll find yourself in situations where you are the only person standing between law and order and total chaos,” Gunter said. “But have no apprehension because you will be able to perform your duties after the training you have received here.”

Michael Huften, SFSC’s coordinator of criminal justice training, then called up the 12 graduates to the stage to hand them their challenge coins, specially minted medallions that signify their achievement and bond as future law enforcement officers.

Beaming with a smile, Huften announced two graduates, Brandon A. Griesemer and Kaleigh Anderson had already passed their state certification examinations and landed jobs. Griesemer with the Okeechobee and Anderson with the Melbourne Police Departments.

Erik Christensen, dean of Applied Sciences and Technologies, then presented a diploma to each cadet, congratulating them on their achievement. Seconds after cadet Kevin Howell shook hands with Christensen, he walked passed David Hardin, the sheriff-elect of Glades County, one of the dignitaries on stage.

“Cadet Howell has a job with the Glades County Sheriff’s Office,” Hardin bellowed out, bringing the audience to applause.

Graduating that night and pictured above were: Back row, from left: Blair Tomlin, Anthony D. Ray, Brandon A. Griesemer, Tristen Lanier, Dennis Pipal, and Kevin Howell. Front row, from left: Mary Pinon, Tomas Cruz, Kaleigh Anderson, Ann R. Ledford, Ediberto Soto and Kyanna Matta..

Huften singled out two cadets for their achievements during the nearly six-month course. Blair Tomlin earned top honors for academic excellence. Griesemer scored the firearms award for his work on the shooting range.

Griesemer, who was tapped as class leader and will soon start patrolling Okeechobee County, had his badge pinned to his uniform by his fiancé Rebecca Priest whle on stage. He stepped up to the lectern to single out each of his fellow cadets with a compliment before thanking all the families and friends who had supported the class during the course.

From his fellow cadet who kept all on their toes to the one who helped others with study questions to the cadet who served as class clown, Griesemer acknowledged their graduation was a team effort.

For more information about the SFSC Criminal Justice Academy, which includes a program that prepares students for a career as a corrections officer, call the SFSC Advising and Counseling Center at 863-784-7313 or visit www.southflorida.edu.

Four wildflower ornaments; M. Doctrow, T. Webb, M. Simpson, and A. Abbott

Four wildflower ornaments; M. Doctrow, T. Webb, M. Simpson, and A. Abbott

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 13, 2016 – Ornaments by local Florida artists dazzle President’s Park at the White House in Washington, D.C. as part of the 94th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting display. Mollie Doctrow and art students from South Florida State College–Ann-Louise Abbott, Missy Simpson, Leighton Skipper, and Taylor Webb–designed ornaments that showcase Florida native wildflowers. The hand-crafted ornaments adorn one of 56 trees representing each U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia through Jan. 1, 2017 as part of the America Celebrates display. The National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony took place on Dec. 1.

“It is an honor to decorate my home state tree and help the nation celebrate the holidays in one of our most recognizable national parks,” said Mollie Doctrow, artist/printmaker and Curator Emerita of SFSC’s Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC). “We are excited to be a part of the America Celebrates display because we have an opportunity to highlight the beauty of Florida native wildflowers.”

Inspired by the variety and diversity of Florida wildflowers the artists created drawings from original photographs. The drawings were carved into clay tiles, kiln fired and glazed. Flowers represented on the ceramic tile ornaments include Sky Blue Lupine, Spiderwort, Prickly Pear, Fetterbush, Pine Lily, Ashe’s Wild Savory, Scrub Mint, and Honeycomb-head.

“The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs called me and asked if I was interested in designing the ornament,” said Doctrow. “Each year, a Florida artist is invited to design the ornament. Sometimes the artist works as an individual artist or they can choose to work with a group. This year the National Christmas Tree ornaments from the states was coordinated by the National Parks. Because of my work with the parks and the Wayside Shrine Trail, FDCA thought of me. I selected the Florida native wildflower theme and everyone liked the idea.”

“The students and I started working on the ornaments at the beginning of the semester, at the end of August,” she said. “We finished the project in mid-October. We spent about 120 hours on the project.”

Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, the National Christmas Tree Lighting is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions. The first National Christmas Tree lighting took place 94 years ago on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse. Since 1923, each succeeding president has carried on the tradition.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 13, 2016 – South Florida State College graduated its second class of Fire Science Program students at an evening ceremony on Dec. 12.

The graduates on the stage of the SFSC University Center Auditorium after receiving their diplomas.

The graduates on the stage of the SFSC University Center Auditorium after receiving their diplomas.

The graduates are now eligible to join the ranks of career firefighters working in county and municipal fire departments, with three already serving with county volunteer fire units.

Family members of the graduates, SFSC officials, and fire firefighters were on hand to watch the newly minted first responders mount the stage in the SFSC University Center Auditorium to receive their diplomas.

“You folks made the cut after 16 weeks of focused, intense training,” said Paul Shannon, SFSC Fire Science program coordinator, told the graduates. “You’ve proven yourself, and now you’re ready to be firefighters,” he said, wearing the dark blue uniform of his full-time job with Polk County Polk County Fire Rescue.

Receiving their diplomas were Efrain Herrera, Joshua Mink, Ralph Meeks, Barry Smith, Brandon Hutson, Noel Reynoso, Maria Albarran, Max Damour, Kody Littles, and John Herrera (pictured above from left to right).

The 10 students represented a range of backgrounds. Some were recent graduates of SFSC’s Emergency Medical Technician program, who aim to move directly into firefighting. Others, like Damour and Efrain Herrera, volunteer with Station 36 in Lake Placid. A third graduate, Reynoso, serves with the Sun ‘N Lake Station 41 volunteer unit.

Recently retired Polk County Fire Chief David Cash, one of the region’s most experienced fire officers, was on hand to address the graduates and share what he has learned in his 42 years as a firefighter, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, and chief of a 700-member department.

“The training you received here at SFSC is light years ahead of what I got when I was in the academy in the ‘70s,” Cash said. “Still, you’re just getting started in your education as a firefighter and you’ve got a lot more to learn once you get hired on with a department.”

Cash encouraged the nine men and one woman seated before him to keep one piece of his advice in mind always: “Be nice to the people you serve.”

“One day, you may very well respond to someone lying in the gutter, maybe with no place to call home,” he said. “But you’ll be in the uniform of your department, representing your community, and that person is someone who deserves to be treated well–he or she is someone’s loved one.”

SFSC graduated its first class of 11 students from the Fire Science program in April. The program was a project 10 years in the making, taking final form after State Senator Denise Grimsley shepherded a $2.6 million grant through the 2014 Florida Legislature. The funding went toward refitting existing classroom space, erecting a water and fire towers, and acquiring training equipment, including two fire engines.

Shannon, the program coordinator, praised the work a cadre of assistant instructors–all seasoned firefirefighters– put into moving the class through the 16 weeks of training at the new facilities on SFSC’s Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

SFSC counts itself among 42 state-approved training centers across the state training firefighters, including 15 of Florida’s publicly-financed state colleges.

Entry into the SFSC Fire Science Program requires a candidate to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, undergo a background check, and pass a physical examination.

For more information about the SFSC Fire Science Program, contact the SFSC Advising and Counseling Center at 863-784-7131.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 9, 2016 – Dozens turned out for the annual SFSC Foundation Holiday Luncheon at the Hotel Jacaranda. In addition to a meal prepared by the hotel’s executive chef, the event featured a raffle that raised money for scholarships and South Florida State College’s capital campaign, the Partnership Project.

Before the start of the luncheon, guests mingled amid the Christmas decorations adorning the hotel’s lobby, an annual labor of love of former trustee Joan Hartt.

Panther baseball players were on hand to sell raffle tickets to the guests, who won a range of holiday-themed prizes.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 8, 2016 – The Bronx Wanderers are on tap to perform Jan. 12, 7 p.m., Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at South Florida State College, Avon Park.

Now headlining at Bally’s in Las Vegas, the Bronx Wanderers will bring their celebrated combination of authentic vocals and youthful energy that includes covers of the popular classics and romantic ballads from the Four Seasons to Dion to the Belmonts.

“Their show is part Partridge Family and part Jersey Shore,” said Cindy Garren, director of Cultural Programs at SFSC. “It’s a toe-tapping, hand-clapping performance of hits from the past and today with a dose of Italian ‘famiglia.’”

Tickets are $24, $27, and $30, with a 50 percent discount for children and students. Groups of 12 or more receive a 15 percent discount plus one free ticket for the group leader.

The Bronx Wanderers, with just a slight New Jersey twist, perform rousing interpretations of contemporary hits and classic oldies like “Sherry,” “Runaway,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Teenager in Love,” “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” and more.

Initially, a father-and-son Dion tribute band, the Bronx Wanderers expanded to five performers, reinterpreting the ‘60s with a contemporary sound, bringing the good old days to the modern music scene, Garren said.

Original members Yo’ Vinny and his sons, Vinny the Kid and Nicky Stix, are now joined by guitarist Jimmy Fracassi and guitarist and saxophonist John Tutino. The Bronx Wanderers have performed in major venues across the country, proving themselves to be one of the most sought after entertainment groups in the country.

Aside from their interpretations of Dion’s classics, The Bronx Wanderers perform from a repertoire of hits from nearly every decade of the past 60 years. This includes popular hits from KC & the Sunshine Band, the Bee Gees, and Bob Seger. Their high energy performance of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” is a particular crowd favorite.

“The Bronx Wanderers have been an audience favorite here at the Wildstein Center,” added Garren. “We are so lucky to book them during their short break from Bally’s in Las Vegas, so I’m looking forward to dancing in the aisles.”

Tickets are available online at www.sfscarts.org or at 863-784-7178. Tickets are also available at the Box Office at the Wildstein Center on the SFSC Highlands Campus, 600 W. College Dr., Avon Park. The Wildstein Box Office is open Monday – Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

SFSC Cultural Programs are funded by the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs. Upcoming performances include: “So Good for the Soul: A Tribute to Motown,” Jan. 28; ArtRAGEous, a family experience of dance, music and art, Jan. 21; Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan: The Grits and Glamour Tour, Feb. 8; and the top selling Christian contemporary group Point of Grace, March 9.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 8, 2016 – The Goodtime Tuesdays Matinee Series kicks off its season at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at South Florida State College with The Flying Horse Big Band, Jan. 10, 1:30 p.m.

The jazz ensemble will perform music from Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and other swinging tunes from the Great American Songbook. 

“It’s a trip down memory lane,” said Cindy Garren, SFSC’s director of Cultural Programs, “Music lovers will want to take in this 17-piece big band, one of the premiere musical ensembles in the state.” 

Single tickets are $12, $14 and $18.  Groups of 12 or more receive a 50 percent discount for this performance plus one free ticket for the group leader. 

The Flying Horse Big Band is comprised of world-class students studying at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. They have appeared at the Montreux, Switzerland, and the North Sea Jazz Festivals, as well as jazz festival and concert appearances in the United States.

The group has had four recordings on the national jazz charts: “B.M.O.C,” “Into the Mystic,” “The Blues is Alright,” and “Jazz Town.” The band has the distinction as one of the few college groups to have its first two professional recordings hit the top 50 of the JazzWeek charts.

Yamaha performing jazz artist Jeff Rupert directs the band and serves as the director of jazz studies at UCF. Rupert, a saxophonist, has performed and recorded with Mel Torme, Diane Schuur, Kevin Mahogany, Maynard Ferguson and Benny Carter’s Grammy Award winning Harlem Renaissance. With a classic tenor sound, Rupert has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Kennedy Center.

“Swing in the New Year and recall those days of the Andrew Sisters, Frank Sinatra, and the Lindy Hop with the Flying Horse Big Band,” Garren said. 

Subscriptions are available for all 10 Goodtime Tuesdays Matinee series shows.  Tickets are as low as $14.50 when buying a subscription, and subscribers can reserve the same seat for all 10 shows.  

Upcoming shows in the 1:30 p.m. Goodtime Tuesdays Matinee Series are:  David Osborne Trio; “You’ll Never Walk Along” with The Brian Gurl Band; Aquila Theater’s production of the Agatha Christie mystery “Murder on the Nile”; The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Tribute Show; “What’s New, Pussycat?,” a 1960s dance and music revue; “Shake, Rattle and Laugh” with Mark and Rodi; a rock and roll extravaganza with Pauly and the Goodfellas; a Neil Diamond tribute with Neil Zirconia; and the “popera” vocalists of Bravo Amici.

Tickets are available online at www.sfscarts.org or by phone at 863-784-7178. Tickets are also available at the SFSC Box Office at the Wildstein Center on the SFSC Highlands Campus, 600 W. College Dr., Avon Park. The box office is open Monday – Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 

The Goodtime Tuesdays Matinee Series is sponsored by Agero, The Palms of Sebring, Lampe & Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, Highlands Regional Medical Center, Dr. Donald, Ruth and Kimberly Geldart, and Highlands News Sun. SFSC Cultural Programs receive support from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs.

AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 7, 2016 – Students studying for careers in the health sciences at South Florida State College received nearly $11,000 in scholarships thanks, in part, to the state’s leading health insurer. Florida Blue.

The scholarships will go to students in SFSC’s nursing, dental education, and radiography programs.

The funding for the scholarships comes from a partnership forged by the Florida College System (FCS) Foundation and Florida Blue. Together they launched the scholarships to meet the growing need for nurses and allied health professionals who serve Florida’s growing population.

“Because of Florida Blue’s support for health sciences education, SFSC can ensure students studying toward careers in radiography, nursing, and dental assisting and hygiene will have the assistance they need to complete their studies,” said Jamie Bateman, SFSC’s executive director of Institutional Advancement. “This year we will award $10,852 to students who will soon start high-wage careers in one of our region’s most important sectors of the economy.”

The students received their scholarship awards at the December meeting of SFSC’s District Board of Trustees on the college’s Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

The FCS Foundation, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit, solicits gifts and donations from corporations and individuals for distribution to Florida’s 28 community and state colleges. SFSC has received scholarships for health sciences students since 2006. Florida Blue, formerly known as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, provides individual and group health insurance to millions of Floridians. The SFSC Foundation provided a 50 percent match to draw down the funding.

Students can use the scholarship for tuition, lab fees, child care, and, textbooks. For some students, this will be the only financial assistance they receive.

Students receiving the scholarship study in three health sciences disciplines. Dental Education: Yaritza Davila, Danai Morales, Riley White, Amanda Rutledge, and Anna Wiley. Nursing: Angela Hester, Mishel Franklin, and Shea Young. Radiography: Toi Reaves, Melissa Hernandez, Derek Whitten, and Rachel Ohly.