AVON PARK, Fla. – May 6, 2024 – Alegandrina Solis will make her family proud. On Tuesday, May 7, she will be the student speaker during South Florida State College’s (SFSC) 7:15 p.m. spring Commencement ceremony at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park. At the same time, Solis will earn her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Teacher Education (BSETE).

A resident of Hardee County, Fla., Solis earned her Associate in Arts from SFSC in 2022.

“My mom had a lot to do with me wanting to continue to learn,” Solis said. “She always said that knowledge is power and education is something that can never be taken away from you. She engraved that in me and my siblings.”

“The teachers that I had throughout my life also influenced me to want to become a teacher and work with young children,” she said. “I was born in the United States, but I grew up in my grandmother’s house in Mexico. When my grandmother passed away, I was 8 years old. And I returned to the United States to live with my mother. It was a culture shock and I didn’t speak English. When I first went to school, I would go to the bathroom and just cry. Some of the teachers knew and would speak to me in little bits of Spanish or have other students translate. I don’t want other children to feel the way I did at first. In my teaching internship at an elementary school in Hardee County, we have a lot of migrant children. It’s the perfect place for me to teach. I want to be the person who can assure them that everything will be fine — things will get better over time.”

“I want to be an elementary school teacher, specifically, because teaching them at that age paves the road for the rest of their lives,” Solis said. “If they have a love for learning or if they know that somebody believes in them when they’re so young, it will carry them forward. It sets a foundation for the rest of their lives.”

Solis is a first-time-in-college student and understands how difficult it can be to know how to apply to college, register for classes, get financial assistance, find classrooms, find time for a job, and pace oneself. Solis has five children who rely on their mother as all children do. As a student, Solis had the great luck of having family and friends who could pitch in while she pursued her education.

“For my associate degree, I relied mainly on taking online courses,” she said. “But when I started the Elementary Teacher Education program, the classes were face-to-face. Luckily, I had a lot of support. I’ve had my mom, my sisters, my sister-in-law, and best friends. I would, usually, ask one of them to take two of the kids and someone else to take the other three kids while I went to work or class.”

Solis believes that her experience as a student has rubbed off on her children. “My daughter, Velicity, is only 8 years old,” she said. “For a long time, she’d say, ‘I want to be this’ or ‘I want to be that.’ Sometimes, it was off the wall stuff. But since I started the Elementary Teacher Education program, she’s heard me say that I don’t want to stop my education until I have the title ‘Doctor’ in front of my name. Now, she’s decided that she wants to become a medical doctor. She has said, ‘I’m going to save lives, Mommy.’”

Solis hasn’t truly completed her education. “Doctor” may very well become part of her name in the future. In the meantime, she plans to work toward a master’s degree in Education at Florida State University while she teaches in an elementary school. “I want to teach as long as I possibly can,” she said. “That’s what I love. I want to get my master’s degree and then work on my doctorate. My only regret … is that I didn’t go to college sooner.”