Photo of Melissa Acosta

Melissa Acosta

AVON PARK, Fla. – Feb. 28, 2017 – SFSC students Melissa Acosta of Highlands County and Angelina Avila of DeSoto County today were named 2017 Siemens Technical Scholars by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program (CEP) and the Siemens Foundation.

Acosta and Avila were among 51 exceptional state and community college students selected from some of the nation’s strongest state and community college programs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), which provide outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and information technology.

Acosta graduated from SFSC’s Associate in Science Degree in Nursing program (ADN) in 2016 and works in Tampa as a Registered Nurse in a hospital emergency room.

“Melissa displays excellent leadership skills, a passion for nursing, and dedication to lifelong learning,” said Dr. Michele Heston, SFSC dean of Health Sciences. “She was a model student and will continue to shine in any career path she chooses.”

Photo of Angelina Avila

Angelina Avila

Avila is a student in SFSC’s ADN program and will graduate in June.

“In a word, Angelina is awesome,” Dr. Heston said. “She will be an asset to the healthcare workforce in our service district. Angelina plans to continue her employment at DeSoto Memorial Hospital as a Registered Nurse.”

As Siemens Technical Scholars, Acosta and Avila will each receive scholarships of $3,500 to continue their education. Acosta plans to use her scholarship award to repay student loans. Because of the Siemens scholarship, she is able to pursue an advanced degree sooner and without debt. She has already applied to the University of South Florida’s Family Nurse Practitioner program.

Avila will use her scholarship to pay for her final term tuition, books, and licensing examination fees and said, “I can now apply for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing program at SFSC sooner than I thought.”

The Siemens Technical Scholars selection committee identified exemplary state and community college STEM programs, like SFSC’s Nursing program, that deliver exceptional training for technical STEM jobs in areas ranging from healthcare to power plan technology.

“The ultimate outcome of the Associate Degree Nursing program at SFSC is to prepare graduates for contemporary practice,” Dr. Heston said. “Program graduates hold a variety of positions in the community, such as nursing directors of long-term care facilities, clinical education directors, nurse managers at a variety of facilities, corrections nurses, hospice nurses, and nursing faculty.”

Overall, jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are projected to grow at almost double the rate of non-STEM occupations. State and community colleges like SFSC are playing a huge role in meeting this demand. More than half of all STEM jobs across the United States require no more than an associate degree and pay wages that average more than $50,000 annually. And people with a postsecondary education earn 74 percent more than those with just a high school diploma.

“The best community college programs are providing top-notch preparation for the jobs employers are clamoring to fill,” said David Etzwiler, CEO of Siemens Foundation. “We need to change the mind-set about community colleges and make sure that students, parents, and college guidance counselors see these exceptional STEM programs as strong pathways to opportunity, whether that means heading right into a great paying job or getting a more advanced degree.”

Dr. Heston said, “Grounded in the Seven C’s of Caring, nursing education maintains the health of our community, guided by a collective vision: ‘Transforming lives by empowering individuals to maximize their potential as competent and compassionate healthcare practitioners in a relationship-centered, caring environment.’”

SFSC offers four Nursing programs: the one-year Practical Nursing occupational certificate, the one-year Transition: LPN to RN Associate in Science Degree in Nursing (ADN), the two-year Generic: RN Associate in Science Degree in Nursing (ADN), and the two-year Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN). For more information about SFSC’s application process, admission criteria, nursing program applications, and application deadlines, visit or call 863-784-7027.