AVON PARK, Fla. – May 8, 2024 – South Florida State College (SFSC) marked the end of the 2023-24 academic year with its spring Commencement held in two ceremonies on Tuesday, May 7 in the SFSC Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

During the 4 p.m. ceremony, SFSC honored the recipients of the Associate in Science, Career Certificate, College Credit Certificate, and State of Florida High School Diploma.

Honored during the 7:15 p.m. ceremony were students who earned their Associate in Arts, Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Teacher Education, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Opening the ceremonies, Terry Atchley, chair of the SFSC District Board of Trustees told the graduates, “Your ability and desire to participate in this evening’s ceremonies tell the world that you are ambitious, passionate, and tenacious. These qualities equip you to make a difference in changing lives and shaping our communities for the better.”

In her presentation to the graduates during the 4 p.m. ceremony, Francesca Chillemi, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Teacher Education (BSETE), recalled a foot injury sustained during an automobile accident. As a member of SFSC’s Cross Country Team, it was a devastating blow. She told the graduates how the experience of healing helped her develop character. She said to the graduates, “I understand how many of you may have felt through this journey. Sometimes, it felt like an assignment was never-ending or didn’t seem good enough even though you put your full effort into it. However, not giving up is what got us here. Each of you have overcome obstacles. Each of you has built character in your own unique way. Today, we celebrate all that we worked hard for and accomplished.”

The 7:15 p.m. ceremony featured Alegandrina Solis, who also earned her BSETE and anticipates becoming an elementary school teacher in Hardee County. “I stand before you as a proud child of an immigrant parent who dreamed of a better future for not only her family but for the generations to come,” she said to the graduates. “As a child, I remember my mother showing me her hands and saying, ‘Look, my daughter, this is what I do not want for you. You have opportunities that I didn’t have. Study, my daughter, so you do not have to be like this.’ She believed in the transformative power of knowledge. As we embark on this next chapter, we can never forget the shoulders upon which we stand, the sacrifices of those who came before us, the dreams of those who walk behind us, and the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.”

When Fred Hawkins, SFSC president, spoke to the graduates, he quoted writer and film director, Nora Ephron: “Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” He said, “I couldn’t think of a better way for you to look forward to the days, months, and years to come, using what you have learned here at South Florida State College. Graduates, soak in every bit of this moment. This is a rite of passage that you have earned.”

Approximately 492 students will have met the SFSC requirements by spring 2024 Commencement. Of these, 15 will receive their BAS-SM, five receive their BSN, 12 receive their BSETE, 120 receive their AA, 56 receive their AS, 15 receive their State of Florida High School Diploma, and 72 receive the Career and College Credit Certificates. Students participating in the Commencement ceremonies will total 298.

Mace bearer and chief marshal for this year’s ceremony is Mlisa Manning, and marshals are Kelly Fairfield Dec, Courtney Green, Robert Hampton, Garrett Lee, Dr. Maday Leon, Michelle Macbeth, Sofia Ochoa, Ricardo Pantoja, Michael Pate, Lena Phelps, Andrew Polk, Tina Stetson, and Megan Togno.