The Fire Science Graduates

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 30, 2019 – South Florida State College (SFSC) graduated 12 students from its Firefighter Minimum Standards program during the Monday, April 29 ceremony at the Highlands Campus in Avon Park.  

Receiving their certificates were James Bialkoski, Jennifer Bodden-Evans, Adele Cassista, Abigail Castillo, Timothy Christensen, Erving Cruz, Christopher Dunfield, Deanna Ferris, Steven Lawless, Gary McDaniel, Justin Newman, and Alexis Taylor-Randall. 

Five students were recognized for special achievement. They were Bialkoski for Leadership, Newman for Most Heart, Cassista for Most Prepared, Dunfield for Humility, and Bodden-Evans for Class Comedian.  

In his address to the graduates, Paul Shannon, fire science coordinator and a member of the Polk County Fire Rescue, said, “If you get that call and you get that structure fire, it’s the 30 minutes or hour of the hardest work that you’ll ever have to perform in your entire life. And it can happen back to back. Not only is this the most physically taxing job in the world, but it’s also the anxiety and the stress that’s associated with it. Now, you have other people’s lives in your hands.  

Shannon went on to praise the graduates. “This is a challenging profession, and we hold our students to a standard that enables us to get the cream of the crop people who are ready, willing, and able to do this job. And that’s what you see in front of you. These were hard working, dedicated students who took time from their families to be able to do this job and do it well.” 

The Firefighter Minimum Standards occupational certificate program is for applicants who want to pursue a career in fire service but have limited fire training and experience. A cohort of cadets enroll in the Firefighter I course, often with the expectation of continuing through to Firefighter II training. Minimum Standards training is required for volunteer firefighters. Firefighter II training is required for those who wish to be employed as professional firefighters in Florida. 

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