AVON PARK, Fla. – March 3, 2017 – On Feb. 26, five South Florida State College students had a chance to attend two statewide conferences that recognized students for academic achievement. Fortunately, for the students, both conferences were held in the same city, giving them an opportunity to take in both meetings at the same time.

The SFSC students were in Jacksonville for the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) regional conference. PTK, an international society of student scholars, recognizes its members for academic achievement, providing opportunities for them to grow as scholars and leaders.

At the same time, the Florida Collegiate Honors Conference held its annual statewide meeting for students and faculty from the state’s collegiate Honors Programs.

“SFSC students enrolled in the Honors Program typically also belong to PTK,” said Dr. Sonji Nicholas, the advisor for SFSC’s PTK chapter. “So, the five students were able to present their research at both conferences and pick up their awards at the PTK conference.”

Students from the SFSC Honors Program’s freshman research writing class, taught by Dr. Charlotte Pressler, presented the results of their scholarly work at the Honors Conference.

Rodrigo Gracia discussed his narrative that delved into the 1967 Apollo I fire. One of the early setbacks to overtake the United States’ space program, it took the lives of three astronauts. But, in the long run, it strengthened the safety and success of NASA’s Apollo program.

Michael Grey described the importance of Florida’s “Cow Cavalry” to the outcome Civil War. As the Confederate forces faced a steady onslaught from the Union armies, Florida’s cattlemen herded cattle north in a desperate bid to keep Confederate soldiers supplied with beef.

Dr. Pressler, who heads up the SFSC Honors Program, organized a roundtable for her fellow program directors from two-year colleges. Roundtable participants discussed the barriers and opportunities Honors Program students face when transferring to four-year colleges.

At the PTK conference, students from a fall term honors seminar taught by Dr. Nicholas presented their research. The three students researched issues centering on marriage and family across cultures. 

Dr. Nicholas said they researched the demographic characteristics of Highlands County immigrant groups. Their aim was to aid Healthy Families Highlands, a parenting support program, to better reach immigrant families.

Kelsey Peña and Krystal Santos presented research describing the demographics of immigrant families from Mexico, and Melissa Garcia delivered a similar talk on Haitian immigrant families.

SFSC’s PTK chapter received recognition as the Most Improved Chapter at the society’s conference. Students participate in a Five Star Chapter Plan, with chapters vying to earn a star representing completion of the society’s goals of scholarship, leadership, and service. 

SFSC’s chapter, known as the Tau Epsilon Chapter, received recognition for its scholarly work on the conference’s annual theme: “How the World Works.”  The students from Dr. Nicholas’s seminar crafted “Global Pen Pal Projects.” They researched Senegalese family life and made contact with university students from the Universite Assane Seck, in Zinguinchor, Senegal, with a view toward learning about family life in a distant culture.

“The research and collaboration the students completed aligned perfectly with one PTK’s themes of individualism and collectivism,” Dr. Nicholas said. “Their work was certainly instrumental in the chapter’s selection for the award.”