AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 15, 2017 – For the SFSC graduates who gathered in the Alan Jay Wildstein Theatre for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Dec. 14, the 2017 Commencement ceremony was a time to celebrate.
Student Commencement speaker Angelo Russo, who received his Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management, congratulated his fellow classmates on persevering through their studies to graduation. He offered advice from lessons learned through his own life and college experience: “If you only focus on your career or the money, you more than likely will not be happy,” he said. “Being a computer nerd, I chased the money during the dot com bubble of the late 1990s. While I was doing that, I lost focus on the rest of my life—family, friends, even my health.”
Russo urged the graduates to learn to be team players. “In the real world, every job, especially today, requires some sort of team interaction, and you will be expected to participate. Your job may be dependent on the team being successful.”
Finally, Russo encouraged the graduates to make time for themselves. “Life can be hectic if you let it. Make sure you find time for yourself amidst the daily grind of work, family, and deadlines. I visit Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales on occasion to, literally, stop and smell the roses.”
Later in the evening, Russo was joined on stage when his wife, Coren, also accepted her Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management.
Russo earned an Associate in Science degree in computer information systems from SFSC in fall 2014. Originally from Hollywood, Fla., he began programming computers at age 7. In his senior year in high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a communications and computer systems operator. Over the years, he developed websites for several businesses and individuals. Currently, he works for the Avon Park Correction Institution in its Information Technology Department. He plans to work toward a master’s degree.
Early in the program, the graduates received congratulations and words of wisdom from Dr. Thomas Leitzel, SFSC president. “My charge to you is to go forth, find your corner of the sky, and do amazing things,” he said.
Over 356 students met SFSC December graduation requirements by Commencement. Of these, 23 received their Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management 122 received their Associate in Arts degree, 32 received their Associate in Science degree, 19 received their State of Florida High School diploma, and 160 received occupational certificates, college credit certificates, or advanced technical diplomas. Participating in commencement were 107 students.
Speaking on behalf of the SFSC District Board of Trustees, chair Tim Backer, addressed the new graduates: “As you go forward on life’s pathway, you need a clean windshield. You need to keep looking forward and never stop learning. If you have a clean windshield, you will be able to make a good clear choice on your path.”
Mace bearer and chief marshal for this year’s ceremony was Michelle Macbeth, Faculty Council president. Faculty and staff selected to serve as marshals were Elizabeth Andrews, Davida Austin, Brian Bohlman, Thomas Bush, Robert Hampton, Melanie Jackson, Lorri Jaques, Dr. Theresa James, Cynthia Kinser, Dr. Kristina Lewis, Claire Miller, Ricardo Pantoja, and Lena Phelps.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 14, 2017 – Sixteen graduates of the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program at South Florida State College (SFSC) accepted advanced technical diplomas during a ceremony held Wednesday, Dec. 13 in the SFSC University Center Auditorium, Highlands Campus.
Keegan Albritton, Erika Bowman, Samuel Cook, Erving Cruz, Donovan Day, Paul Ellis, Brook Green, Dillon Hathaway, Scott Milliken, Louis Rodriguez, Dalton Sloan, Jacob Smith, Loren Sneider, William Taylor, Clayton Waldron, and Richard Wiggins completed 16 weeks of training, or 300 contact hours, in the program.
Cruz received special awards for “Highest GPA for Lecture” and for “Most Heart” for his passion and determination, and for possessing those intangibles that make you a better public servant, according to Richard S. Shepard, program instructor. Richard Wiggins was recognized for “Highest GPA in Lab.”
Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to apply to take the Florida EMT State Board Exam.
EMTs function as part of an emergency rescue and transportation team by responding to emergency calls through a dispatch system, operating emergency vehicles safely, assessing scenes of accidents or illnesses, setting priorities for treating patients based on their degrees of illness or injury, providing pre-hospital emergency care to treat trauma, shock, wounds, and other medical issues.
For more information about SFSC’s EMT program and other Emergency Medical Services programs, visit the SFSC website or call 784-7272.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 12, 2017 – Angelo and Coren Russo have been married for five years and are a testament to teamwork in every sense. Over those five years, they’ve been working on degrees at South Florida State College (SFSC). During SFSC’s Commencement on Thursday, Dec. 14, the Russos will earn their Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM). In fact, Angelo is the college’s student Commencement speaker.
“I always wanted to have a degree,” Coren said. “I had children first, and then I wanted to accomplish something else. I wanted an associate degree, but then I thought, ‘Let’s keep this going.’ Now that I have my bachelor’s degree, I’m feeling like ‘Let’s keep this going.’ I’ve been tossing around the idea of database administration. I want a master’s degree in something just to say I could.”
“Coren started college to better herself, so she encouraged me to go as well so that we were each other’s rocks in this effort,” Angelo said. In fall 2014, he received an Associate in Science degree in computer information systems, and Coren earned her Associate in Arts degree from SFSC.
For many students, college, work, and family become a balancing act. “We missed out on family and friend get-togethers and some holidays,” Angelo said. “We both took three courses while working full time. You have to give up some of your life when you go to college. It requires a sacrifice in some areas of your life, but it’s worth it in the long run.”
As a previous non-traditional student, Dr. Tina Adams, lead instructor for the BAS-SM program, understands the challenges students face as they attempt to balance academics, work, and family. “This couple did an excellent job supporting each other and making sacrifices when necessary to ensure that they successfully finished the program,” she said.
The support for each other throughout their academic careers was invaluable. “Coren and I would quiz each other on the way to the campus,” Angelo said. “We bounced ideas off of each other for some of our class projects.”
“We wouldn’t let the other one procrastinate,” Coren said. “If one of us wanted to watch TV or go out to dinner, Angelo or I would finish writing our assignment for class first. We held each other accountable.”
Coren indicated that she and Angelo had a particular BAS-SM class together in which Dr. Adams separated them because, “Apparently, Angelo and I are both strong leaders. We’re both Type A.”
“There were times I wanted to quit,” Coren said. “But not because of school.” Coren’s father passed away a few years ago, she lost one of her best friends, and her best friend lost her father. “I needed to focus on something, so I took the semester off. Dr. Adams was definitely a positive influence. She told me that I could take some time off, but that I must come back to finish the program.”
Although Angelo could have graduated in May 2017, he held off and waited to graduate with Coren. The final course in the BAS-SM program, the capstone course, was coming up and they wanted to take the class together. “We heard that people were stressing out about it, that the projects are crazy hard,” Angelo said. “But it’s not. It’s just that the structure of the class is different from others. We had to create a strategic profile of a company—what problems they’re having, pick a problem, do research, surveys, and make recommendations on how to fix the problem. Every class we’ve had throughout this program, everything we’ve learned is rolled up in the capstone course. It helped me develop leadership skills and to work with groups and teams to find a solution to a problem.”
Although Angelo’s final GPA in college classes is 3.94 and Coren’s is 3.65, they never considered each other academic rivals. “We wanted to show our son, Ronnie, the importance of good grades because he had a problem with grades when he was younger,” Coren said. “We wanted him to have something to be proud of, something that he accomplished, with a little nudge from us.”
Apparently, the Russos inspired their son. Currently, Ronnie takes honors classes and college classes at Atlantic Technical College and High School in Broward County. He has a 4.14 GPA.
After graduation, Angelo will continue to work in the Information Technology Department at the Avon Park Correctional Institution, and Coren recently accepted a position as a project manager with a company in Fort Myers, Fla. For the time being, she and Angelo simply want to enjoy life. “I want to read books that I choose, not assigned reading, and play my video games,” she said.
But Coren takes great pride in her educational accomplishments and believes, “People can take your house, your money, but no one can take your education. It’s yours and yours alone.”
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 11, 2017 – Thirteen graduates of the SFSC Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) Academy, Class 254 were recognized at a ceremony on Friday, Dec. 8, in the SFSC University Center Auditorium, Highlands Campus, Avon Park.
No longer cadets of the academy, the BLE graduates who received occupational certificates were Christopher Bandy, Michael R. Barry, Jeira Colon, Dustin L. Edwards, Beth Gainous, LaToya Henley, Estella Islas, Cierra L. Johnson, Wesley Jones, John Layport, Meghan Nielsen, David Shoopman, and Brittany Whittington.
Guest speaker for the ceremony was Chief John Eason of the Wauchula Police Department, who addressed the graduates. He explained that Sir Robert Peele, who established the London metropolitan police department in 1829, stressed the importance of earning public support.
“Winning public approval requires vigorous work to build reputations, enforcing laws impartially, hiring officers who represent and understand the community, and using force only as a last resort,” Eason said. “This still rings true today. Each of you have worked tirelessly to make it to this point. Do not throw it away by forgetting your oath and canon of ethics. Each of your classmates, your family, your instructors, your agency, and most importantly, your community demands only the absolute best you have to offer.”
Eason went on to thank the family and friends of the graduates: “On behalf of the instructors of the SFSC Basic Law Enforcement Academy, I want to thank the graduates’ friends and family members. You helped get your loved ones to this point today. You have each faced the challenges and adversities throughout this course but you’ve risen to the challenge. Continue to support your law enforcement officer.”
During the ceremony, special awards were presented to Wesley Jones as class leader and for top academic scores in the class and Dustin Edwards for top firearms score.
SFSC’s BLE occupational certificate program trains cadets 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 programs runs 770 contact hours or approximately five months full time or approximately 10 months part time.
For more information about the BLE Academy, visit southflorida.edu or call SFSC’s Criminal Justice Academy at 863-784-7285.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 8, 2017 – Over the past eight years, five local Take Stock in Children scholars have won prestigious Leaders 4 Life scholarships, and on Dec. 7 Shauna Norwood became the sixth.
The $40,000 scholarship will pay for Norwood’s living accommodations, textbooks, and other needs while she pursues her bachelor’s degree in medical technology at the University of South Florida.
The daughter of Shawn Norwood and Susan Eells, Norwood is dually enrolled in Hardee Senior High School and South Florida State College’s Collegiate High School. She is currently ranked 13th in her high school class of 284 students with a weighted GPA of 4.22. She graduates from high school this month and will receive her Associate in Arts degree from SFSC in May.
Once she completes her bachelor’s degree, she plans to earn a certificate in cytotechnology from Piedmont College in Athens, Ga. Norwood’s ultimate goal is to become a laboratory technician who specializes in examining cells for cancer. She was inspired to embark on this career after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Norwood learned she received the scholarship at the SFSC Foundation’s annual luncheon. While she was expressing her gratitude for her experiences with Take Stock in Children, Santa Claus delivered the good news with the help of SFSC Foundation Executive Director Jamie Bateman.
Irene Castanon, the local Take Stock coordinator, was gratified to see the scholarship go to a student she personally mentored. “Shauna is truly a devoted, confident and studious student,” Caston said. “She has a great work ethic and volunteers whenever there is a need. More importantly, her family is her rock, and that is the reason she is a very genuine person.”
Take Stock in Children, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides high-achieving, low-income students with mentors who coach them from middle school through their transition to college. Students who complete the program receive a scholarship that covers the first two years of college or additional vocational training. The SFSC Foundation is the lead agency for Take Stock in DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties. For more information about becoming a Take Stock mentor or making a donation, call the Foundation at 863-453-3133.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 8, 2017 – Students studying for careers in the health sciences at South Florida State College (SFSC) received more than $21,000 in scholarships during the December meeting of SFSC’s District Board of Trustees.
Florida Blue Nursing and Allied Health Scholarships were awarded to SFSC students in nursing, dental education, and radiography programs. The students may use the scholarships for tuition, textbooks, lab fees, and childcare.
Students receiving the scholarships are studying within three health science disciplines:
- Nursing: Palavi Agarwal, Erica DeLoera, Sonya Fowler, Jessica Garza, Yesenia Losano, Susan Mathis, Dennis Mejia, Crystal Oliveros, Crystal Parker, Faustina Ramirez, Hector Ramirez, Savannah Taylor, Monike Thomas, and Rodine Walker.
- Dental Education: Soraya Castillo, Diela Darceus, Carmen Mitchell, Lisset Paulino, Naseana Sullivan, and Anna Wiley.
- Radiography: Alicia Hayles, Melissa Hernandez, Rosela LaPointe, and Christian Pena.
The scholarships are the result of a partnership between the Florida College System (FCS) Foundation and Florida Blue. The Florida Blue Nursing and Allied Health Scholarship was created to sustain a source of funding for student scholarships at Florida’s colleges to meet the growing need for skilled nurses and allied health professionals who serve the state’s diverse population. The SFSC Foundation, Inc. provided a 50 percent match of the original $10,696 provided by the FCS Foundation and Florida Blue, as the funds must be matched dollar for dollar by private donors at the local level.
“For some students, the scholarship from the FCS Foundation and Florida Blue may be the only financial assistance they receive,” said Jamie Bateman, SFSC’s executive director of Institutional Advancement. “Because of these two organizations, our students can continue their studies with the long-term goal of providing exceptional health care throughout our communities.”
The FCS Foundation, based in Tallahassee, is a nonprofit organization that 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, previously known as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, provides individual and group health insurance to millions of Floridians.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 5, 2017 – SFSC celebrates Commencement on Thursday, Dec. 14, 6:45 p.m., in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts, Highlands Campus, Avon Park.
The Commencement student speaker will be Angelo Russo who will receive his Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management. In fall 2014, he earned his Associate in Science degree in computer information systems from SFSC. Originally from Hollywood, Fla., he began programming computers at age 7. Currently, he works for Avon Park Correctional Institution in its Information Technology Department. He plans to work on a master’s degree in business through Lynn University.
By Commencement, 356 students will have met the SFSC requirements for December graduation. Of these, 23 receive their Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management, 122 receive their Associate in Arts degree, 32 receive their Associate in Science degree, 19 receive their State of Florida High School diplomas, and 160 receive occupational certificates, college credit certificates, or advanced technical diplomas. Participating in the Commencement ceremony will be 107 students.
A reception will be held in the Catherine P. Cornelius Students Services and Classroom Complex (Building B) immediately following the Commencement ceremony.
Live online streaming, accessed by clicking a website banner at southflorida.edu, will allow friends and relatives to see everything from the processional to the last graduate crossing the stage. The stream begins on Dec. 14, at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Mace bearer and chief marshal for this year’s ceremony is Michelle Macbeth, and marshals are Elizabeth Andrews, Davida Austin, Brian Bohlman, Thomas Bush, Robert Hampton, Melanie Jackson, Lorri Jaques, Dr. Theresa James, Cynthia Kinser, Dr. Kristina Lewis, Claire Miller, Ricardo Pantoja, and Lena Phelps.
The Commencement rehearsal takes place Thursday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m., in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 5, 2017 – SFSC has partnered with the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to secure a $150,102 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop grant to research and grow olive trees.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the “From Orange Juice to Olive Oil” project will bring olive trees from Tunisia and additional low-chill varieties from other regions to Florida’s Heartland, where climate and soil composition present a great potential for growth.
“We are thrilled to receive our newest grant from the USDA to research and grow olive trees in Hardee County,” said Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, president of SFSC. “With the introduction of olive trees to our region, we are opening the door to further diversifying our regional agricultural market to include not only olive fruit crops, but also secondary crops such as alternative biofuels and olive leaf extract.”
Throughout this two-year project, SFSC faculty member, Dr. Cate Cover, will collaborate with the Hardee County IDA to engage SFSC students in research, education and extension activities designed to expand olive production in Central Florida. The research team will evaluate success of new low-chill olive varieties, develop agronomic practices and pest management recommendations for commercial olive production, evaluate irrigation practices to reduce ambient grove temperature and increase chill hours, and develop education and support programming for local growers to expand into olive production. By the end of the two-year project, the team will have identified ideal olive varieties for both flatwoods and ridge growing environments, published a series of grower support materials, and engaged 200 growers and producers in olive cultivation activities.
“Hardee County IDA is excited to be partnering with SFSC on this opportunity to further develop a potential alternative agricultural crop,” said Bill Lambert, director of Hardee County Economic Development. “It is anticipated that alternative crops such as olives will allow our economy to maintain its agriculture roots, while diversifying from the dependency upon one ‘mono-culture,’ such as citrus. We have a strong commitment through this grant to gain knowledge, understanding and to gather important data necessary to potentially develop this new sector of our economy. Having the ability to work in conjunction with SFSC on this endeavor is a wonderful opportunity, and we are anxious to get started.”
By evaluating a number of new specialty crops to replace lost citrus production, Hardee County IDA has found that olives present the most promising near-term specialty crop. However, additional research and data are needed to develop a viable commercial olive production road map for the region, which the USDA grant funds will provide. Currently, Hardee County IDA has a test plot of 19 different low-chill olive cultivars, including major varieties for production of olive oil, black mission olives and specialty whole fruit olives, as well as olive leaf extract.
“This grant is the result of a truly wonderful partnership with Hardee County IDA to further regional agriculture economic development efforts,” said Dr. Lindsay Lynch, director of grants development and federal relations at SFSC. “These funds will support the applied research activities needed to establish olives as an emerging alternative crop for Florida’s Heartland.”
There are more than 500 olive varieties, each with its own unique recipe of environmental and agronomic conditions needed to reach commercial production. The funds from this USDA grant will provide Hardee County producers interested in launching their own olive-growing operations, with much needed guidance on the best cultivars for the region, successful agronomic practices, strategies to increase chill hours, and integrated pest management protocol.
UPDATE (8/7/2019): For more information about “From Orange Juice to Olive Oil” or to schedule a grove tour, email Kendall Carson or call 863-784-7230.
AVON PARK, Fla. – Dec. 1, 2017 – Seven graduates of South Florida State College’s Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) Academy, Class 253 and four graduates of the Cross-over Academy, Class 351, were recognized at a ceremony on Nov. 29 in the SFSC University Center auditorium, Highlands Campus, Avon Park.
BLE graduates who received occupational certificates were Odalys Del Rio (class leader), Michael O’Malley (squad leader), Dustin Coots, Michael Medina, Blaine Molitor, Jose Noriega, and Marco A. Robles. Cross-over graduates receiving their occupational certificates were Travis Dunn (squad leader), LaKisha M. Collins, Carlton H. Elliott, and William E. Hodge.
Guest speaker for the ceremony was Detective Gregory A. Bubb of the Division of Investigative and Financial Services, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, who opened by commenting upon how blending the two groups of cadets helped to enhance the classroom dynamic and the learning environment for both students and instructors. He also thanked the families and friends who supported the cadets and shared wisdom from his own experiences and encouraged the cadets to maintain integrity, fortitude, courage, and loyalty in their personal and professional lives.
“Go to work for your community, and don’t go to work for yourselves,” Bubb said. “You’re trained first responders and public servants. When you take an oath as a law enforcement officer, you become a public servant. You go to work for the people that need you even though they don’t know that they need you or recognize that they need you. You’ll encounter situations that will test your integrity, strength, attitude, and pride. First responders are faced with these challenges both personally and professionally. We have to maintain high ethical standards and an unsurpassed commitment. It’s not something we take lightly. It’s something we hold very dear.”
During the ceremony, special awards were presented to Blaine Molitor and Travis Dunn for top academic scores in the class, Michael Medina for top firearms score, and Odalys Del Rio as class leader.
SFSC’s Basic Law Enforcement occupational 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) occupational 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, call SFSC’s Criminal Justice Academy at 863-784-7285.