Madeline Charles (right), student speaker, with Dr. Mark Bukowski, dean of student services

AVON PARK, Fla. — Dec. 17, 2021 — For the South Florida State College (SFSC) graduates who gathered in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Dec. 16, the 2021 Commencement ceremony was a time to celebrate.

Student Commencement speaker Madeline J. Charles, who received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), spoke to her fellow classmates. She recounted her mother’s personal challenge: In spite of having Lupus, she went on to earn a degree in Criminal Justice. Charles overcame her own life challenge: She became a teenage parent. With self-determination and support from the community, she completed high school and followed her dream to become a nurse. Charles urged the graduates to celebrate their accomplishments of today, “so that tomorrow you can walk through a new door. The friends and resources you have gained during this chapter of your life will hold you up through life’s difficulties. Even when the corridor to your next door seems dark, have faith that God has what is best in store for you. A wise man once told me, ‘When a door is opened in your life, that means God is working in your life.’ Walk confidently through that door. I hope I have left you with courage for the next chapter in your lives.”

Early in the program, Tami Cullens, chair of the SFSC Board of Trustees addressed the graduates: “From all the terms used to describe graduates, the one that should receive top billing is ‘winner.’ Each of you is a winner. You have demonstrated through hard work, dependability, and conscientiousness that you have what it takes to continue in your life, no matter what that may be. As you leave this theater … hold your head high and smile with joy in your heart, because you are a winner.”

The graduates received congratulations and further words of wisdom from Dr. Thomas Leitzel, SFSC president. “You have a name that we will remember as you leave us and move on to your next opportunity. I ask you to also remember our name, since we may serve as a reference for you, but also remember South Florida State College, a name that many recognize for excellence and a name that along with yours will propel you to success in your future endeavors. And for that, I simply wish you the very best.”

During the ceremony, Dr. Leitzel gave special recognition to Erik Christensen, dean of applied sciences and technologies, who retires from SFSC on Dec. 17 after having served the College for over 17 years. He also honored Helen Shoemaker, professor of nursing, who retires from SFSC on Jan. 14 after having taught at the College for 27 years.

Approximately 346 students met the SFSC requirements by fall Commencement. Of these, 26 received their Bachelor of Science in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM), four received their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), one received their Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSEE), 108 received their Associate in Arts, 51 received their Associate in Science, 45 received their State of Florida High School diplomas, and 111 received career certificates or college credit certificates. Students participating in the Commencement ceremony totaled 125.

Mace bearer and chief marshal for Commencement was Thomas Bush, and marshals were Joan Briand, Kathleen Capo, Jennifer Groves, Robert Hampton, Dr. Theresa James, Cindy Kinser, Garrett Lee, Michelle Macbeth, Ricardo Pantoja, Dr. Mintoo Patel, Andrew Polk, and Tina Stetson.