ogram offers a challenging course load that requires a considerable number of hands-on clinical hours. The Polk State College graduates on the Lakeland Regional Heal am exhibit strong work ethics and extensive knowledge of best practices pertaining to the care of patients with coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease.” | aduated with my Associate in Science in Nursing from Polk State College in 2014, and will graduate with by Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2016. Polk State offers a hig uality program. The instructors are knowledgeable and friendly. The program is convenient and affordable. Most important, I know that it is preparing me to be the best th an be. After I graduate from Polk State, I plan on pursuing my master’s degree, and I am confident that, having met the high standards Polk State requires, I will be successfu “Polk State’s Early Childhood Education and Management Program does an outstanding job of preparing early-childhood teachers and future center directors. I am oduct of the program, and I can say that what I learned at Polk State set me up for my success. I have been in business since 1998, and currently have 12 employees. Everyo ho works at my center also attended Polk State. When I hire a Polk State graduate, I know he or she is going to come right in, prepared to be effective in the classroom an ell-versed in state regulations. When I hire Polk State graduates, I know what I’m getting — excellence.” | “We depend on the Polk State Kenneth C. Thompson Institute ublic Safety to provide quality and cutting-edge education and training to law enforcement and detention candidates. The curriculum is highly professional and innovativ hile also providing real-world training to improve officer and citizen training. And it’s been exciting to watch as the program moves to the next level with the construction e state-of-the-art Polk State Center for Public Safety, located right next door to the Sheriff’s Operation Center on Jim Keene Boulevard in Winter Haven. By partnering wi olk State College, we are ensured all candidates will meet and exceed our requirements and expectations — and we know we will be interacting with the highest qualifi ndidates in the state.” | “Employing graduates who have successfully completed Polk State College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management with ealthcare Administration concentration has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for Lakeland Regional Health. These new team members come prepared to ser ur patients and their families as dedicated and highly skilled health services managers, able to plan, supervise and engage others. They demonstrate thorough knowledge constantly changing industry, including the latest in technology, legislation and finances.” | “I am the first member of my family to go to college. There was no money s ide for my education, because no one in my family had ever gone to college. When I looked at universities, even with scholarships, I couldn’t have afforded to go there f en one year. If Polk State were not here for me, I would have had to go to work, and work for a long time, before I would have been able to afford to go to college. Instead, I aduated with my Associate in Science in Business Administration with no student-loan debt. I am now continuing at Polk State to earn my Bachelor of Applied Science upervision and Management.” | “Polk State College’s Nursing Program graduates are an important part of the Lakeland Regional Health nursing team. Polk State has a lon adition of producing outstanding nurses who have the right combination of expertise and caring. In fact, we are proud to have several team members boast two generatio their family as graduates of Polk State’s nursing program. Nursing graduates from Polk State College are compassionate care providers and exhibit an interest in lifelon arning, becoming an active part of Lakeland Regional Health’s culture of relationships and caring.” | “Polk State has changed my entire life. In 2014, I graduated with m ssociate in Science in Computer Systems and Business Analysis. Immediately after graduating, I started my own business. I am a software programmer and I build database 2016, I will graduate with my Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management with a concentration in Business Information Technology. I am a veteran and ngle mother, and thanks to Polk State, I was able to get my education without going into any debt. I love Polk State. The opportunities it has to offer are overwhelming.” he Educator Preparation Institute (EPI) at Polk State College prepares classroom teachers by providing countless opportunities to explore data-driven research on progressi ducational trends that result in student achievement. The nucleus of the program’s success are the professors, who serve as partners and investors in the educational proce PI’s curriculum includes meaningful dialogue and reflective assignments to encompass a student-led learning experience. This unique relationship is further developed e expert instruction on the pedagogy and best practices that embrace the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices. EPI is an engaging and innovative educational institutio at produces highly qualified teachers and future instructional leaders. By partnering in this effort, we are preparing tomorrow’s classrooms with highly effective teache at are equipped to increase student achievement for all students in Polk County and beyond.” | “I am a graduate of Polk State’s Fire Science program, having attended wh e institution was still known as Polk Community College. I received my associate’s degree in Fire Science in 1984, and as a result my career path benefited exponentially. M egree, in part, led me to other achievements, which eventually led to my role today as chief of the Lakeland Fire Department and president of the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Associatio ncourage our current firefighters to attend their local state college, like Polk State, much like I did. The degree programs at Polk State can provide opportunities for up-an ming firefighters to advance in their careers, much like it did for me.” | “Polk State College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management (BAS) curriculum eared towards providing students with practical and relatable experience that will undoubtedly facilitate their transition into the business sector. The courses offered a verse and all-encompassing, equipping students with the necessary tools to be successful, by challenging them academically, as well as professionally. This institutio nderstands the importance behind fusing practical experience and academic experiences for the purposes of creating a well-rounded graduate. The academic prowe splayed by Polk State College students is immeasurable, and their passion for success sets them apart from other graduates from other local and national institutions. Wh ou hire a Polk State College graduate you can expect to obtain someone that will produce tangible results for your company or your agency. In the business world, we look f lid investments, and I can assure you that investing your capital on hiring a Polk State College graduate will undoubtedly be one of the best investments your company ganization can make.” | “I chose Polk State College because, after looking at other colleges and universities, I realized that Polk State would offer me the same high-quali ducation, but at a much lower price. Thanks to Polk State, I’ve made an affordable start on my higher education. I am pursuing my associate’s degree in Criminal Justi chnology, and plan to stay at Polk State for my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Ultimately, I want to get my master’s degree by the time I’m 26 years old. Saving mon y starting at Polk State will help me reach that goal.” | “It is always a plus for us to see Polk State College on an application. The EMS education team at Polk State Colle nsistently trains quality students. They are not only prepared with the skills needed to deliver quality care, but for the physical and stressful nature of the job. When someo aduates from this program, we know hands down they will perform above expectations.” | “I was robbed at gunpoint in 2008. I want to be a detective because I want to he ake people understand that police officers are there to help them, and I want to help keep my community safe. I will graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justi 2016. Polk State’s program is affordable. I wanted to go to a state university, but decided on Polk State because I can take two classes for what it costs to take one class at niversity. Also, the professors at Polk State worked in the field. They know the job. That makes a big difference for students.” | “Lake Wales High School reached a milesto st spring when more than 80 percent of the 2015 graduating class entered a college or university after completing their senior year. This was a significant milestone; in 201 e percentage of graduating seniors entering colleges and universities was approximately 30 percent. We know that this significant increase in college admission is due in pa the affordable opportunity provided by Polk State College, a great community resource for higher education.” | “Polk State, both in terms of its Criminal Justice degr ograms and its Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety, is a well-respected institution. Polk State produces quality individuals who have the knowledge, training, an mmitment that protecting our communities requires.” | “The affordability of Polk State College is helping my family. I have two other siblings, including a sister who is ju year younger. My mom is putting us through college. Polk State is helping us financially, and it’s taken away a lot of the stress of paying for college, too.” | “The Occupation herapy Assistant Program at Polk State College prepares its students both professionally and academically in regards to the practice of occupational therapy. Students a oroughly prepared, with all the tools they need to be successful in the field. I find that Polk State College graduates are both creative and professional. Polk State O eldwork students stand out from other students in the way they handle their professional behaviors, fieldwork assignments and interactions with other disciplines. I a
2015 REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY
OF THOSE WE SERVE
POLK STATE COLLEGE | PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE
WE COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER OURSELVES. . .
2 4 6 8 10
Health Sciences Education Business, Engineering, Technology Public Safety Corporate College In the Words of Those We Serve: Students
12 14 16 18 20
Accessibility Baccalaureate Programs High Schools Internships and Career Services
Polk State College Foundation
Polk State College Athletics The Final Word
Polk State District Board of Trustees
Polk State’s volleyball team makes second consecutive national championship bid.
Offices of Equity and Diversity, Disability Services
Polk State’s affordable, accessible programs are putting higher education within reach for students across Polk County.
In the Words of Those We Serve: Special Sections
Eileen Holden, Ed.D. President
In the Words of Those We Serve: Employers
From child care centers to technology companies, Polk State College graduates are putting their education to work for local employers.
At Polk State College, not a day goes by that we don’t marvel at the power this institution has to transform both individual lives and entire communities. Because of Polk State, students turn their college dreams into college degrees. Because of Polk State, tens of thousands of alumni have gone on to study at the university level and launch successful careers. Because of Polk State, those alumni have provided brighter futures for their families. Because of Polk State, our local employers have the workforce they need to compete and create jobs for future generations. This institution makes a positive impact, every day and in so many ways, and we have never been shy about saying so. This year, for our annual Report to the Community, however, we’ve decided to let others do the talking. The pages that follow are full of testimonials from employers, alumni, and students. They use words like “excellence,” “quality,” and even “Cadillac” to describe our programs. They credit Polk State College with helping them to get ahead, gain lifelong credentials, and grow their businesses. No one can speak better to the difference this institution makes — because they live that difference every day. On behalf of Polk State’s District Board of Trustees, and our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and generous supporters, I am proud to offer this report as a firsthand look at the results this College achieves for its stakeholders. We have changed lives and entire enterprises, and … We are Polk.
2/3 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
POLK COUNTY’S EMPLOYERS “Winter Haven Hospital maintains a strong, collaborative relationship with Polk State College’s Nursing Program. Winter Haven Hospital is fortunate to serve as a clinical site for many Polk State nursing students during their education and as their employer upon graduation. Polk State continues to develop RNs with excellent critical thinking skills and sound patient care values. We are grateful for the associate-to-baccalaureate nursing program offering local advancement to our nurses. Winter Haven Hospital values the partnership of Polk State College and the Nursing Program. We look forward to future opportunities to improve healthcare in Polk County.” STEVE NIERMAN
WINTER HAVEN HOSPITAL PRESIDENT
“Polk State College’s Nursing Program graduates are an important part of the Lakeland Regional Health nursing team. Polk State has a long tradition of producing outstanding nurses who have the right combination of expertise and caring. In fact, we are proud to have several team members who have had two generations of their families graduate from Polk State’s Nursing Program. Nursing graduates from Polk State College are compassionate care providers who exhibit an interest in lifelong learning; they play an active part in Lakeland Regional Health’s culture of relationships and caring.” JANET FANSLER
DNP, RN, CENP | LAKELAND REGIONAL HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, AND LAKELAND REGIONAL HEALTH CHIEF NURSE EXECUTIVE
Leading Edge Physical Therapy owner Mike Ryan has hired several Polk State Physical Therapist Assistant Program graduates, including Evelyn Black.
“Polk State College’s Cardiovascular Technology Program produces highly experienced graduates prepared to work in high-volume catheterization labs. The Polk State College program offers a challenging course load that requires a considerable number of hands-on clinical hours. The Polk State College graduates on the Lakeland Regional Health team exhibit strong work ethics and extensive knowledge of the best practices pertaining to the care of patients with coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease.” RICKY HUGHES
REGISTERED CARDIOVASCULAR INVASIVE SPECIALIST | LAKELAND REGIONAL HEALTH
PHYSICAL THERAPY CLINIC OWNER HAS HIRED FROM POLK STATE FOR MORE THAN A DECADE In the 13 years since he opened Lakeland-based Leading Edge Physical Therapy, Mike Ryan has seen a lot of changes. His customer base has grown to 2,000 annually. He’s added a second location in Winter Haven. He’s adopted high-tech treatments like robots for massaging muscle tissue and treadmills that simulate underwater exercise. The one constant: Ryan takes every chance he gets to train — and hire — Polk State Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program students. “Polk State’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program just seems to attract higher-quality individuals,” said Ryan. “They tend to be very motivated and knowledgeable.” Working under licensed physical therapists like Ryan, physical therapist assistants deliver
a variety of therapies that relieve patients’ pain and help them to restore function. Through the years, Ryan has supervised the clinical training of more than a dozen Polk State students, and about a half-dozen of those students have become his employees. At Leading Edge, Ryan introduces Polk State PTA students to the very latest in physical therapy. In exchange, he gets an inside line to a hiring pool teeming with talent and determination. “Many times, the students who come through Polk State are working on a second career. They approach their new profession with a high level of maturity,” Ryan said. “They are motivated and trying to improve themselves. They are eager to learn.” Polk State’s PTA Program consistently has a
waiting list of students seeking admission. This is in large part because since the program began in 1994, 100 percent of graduates who have passed the national licensure exam have been hired in the field within six months. As an employer, Ryan said, the waiting list speaks volumes about Polk State’s program and graduates. “Employers need quality people. We can train people how to do things the way we want them to do them, but we need quality people to begin with. I’ve never been disappointed in the quality of students that come out of Polk State College.” Ryan added: “If I had to pick a word to describe Polk State graduates, it would be ‘quality.’ No question, it would be ‘quality.’”
“It is always a plus for us to see ‘Polk State College’ on an application. The Emergency Medical Services education team at Polk State College consistently trains quality students. Students are prepared not only to deliver quality care, but also for the physical and stressful nature of the job. When someone graduates from this program, we know, hands down, they will perform above expectations.” JOSEPH MCNULTY
HUMAN RESOURCES/SAFETY MANAGER | AMERICARE AMBULANCE
“The Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Polk State College prepares its students both professionally and academically in regard to the practice of occupational therapy. Students are thoroughly prepared with all the tools they need to be successful in the field. I find that Polk State College graduates are both creative and professional. Polk State OTA fieldwork students stand out from other students in the way they handle their professional behaviors, fieldwork assignments, and interactions with other disciplines. I am happy to take Polk State students anytime.” BRENDA BESHAI
DIRECTOR OF REHABILITATION | VALENCIA HILLS HEALTH & REHABILITATION CENTER
“Lakeland Regional Health is fortunate that Polk State College has such a high-quality respiratory program for its students. Many of our new team members are graduates of Polk State and come well prepared to work in a large, busy hospital setting and fulfill our mission of delivering the best patient outcomes and safest care. Polk State instructors and counselors make sure students know what to expect and how to meet and exceed the challenges that may arise as a professional respiratory therapist. Most notably, Polk State College’s leadership also communicates regularly with area respiratory department directors to stay apprised of updates and changes in respiratory technology and care.” RODNEY S. BEVIS
MA, CRT | LAKELAND REGIONAL HEALTH MANAGER OF RESPIRATORY CARE SERVICES
4/5 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
POLK COUNTY’S EMPLOYERS “It is a great asset to have local college programs, like Polk State’s planned baccalaureate degrees in elementary education and early childhood education, that support increases in teaching degrees. These programs will also give us an opportunity to have more education interns in our schools. We are always looking to fill teacher vacancies; many times where a student interns is where they choose to stay for their career.” KATHRYN LEROY
POLK COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT
“Lake Wales High School reached a milestone last spring when more than 80 percent of the 2015 graduates entered a college or university after completing their senior year. In 2011, the percentage of graduating seniors entering colleges and universities was approximately 30 percent. We know that this significant increase in college admission is due in part to the affordable opportunity provided by Polk State College, a great community resource for higher education.” JESSE JACKSON
LAKE WALES CHARTER SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT
Tabitha Spiker, right, owner and director of Building Blocks Academy, is a Polk State alumna who now employs nine Polk State students and graduates, including Brenda Colon, left, and Cassandra Sumner.
POLK STATE ALUMNA OWNS GROWING CHILD CARE CENTER, PREFERS TO HIRE FROM ALMA MATER When Tabitha Spiker opened Building Blocks Academy in Winter Haven five years ago, she had 20 children in her care and one employee. Today, she has more than 100 children enrolled, a waiting list four years long, and a payroll of 14. One of the major contributors to the growth of her business: Polk State College’s Early Childhood Education and Management Program. Not only did Spiker earn her child care credentials through the program, nine of her employees are either current Polk State College students or graduates. Polk State College, she said, prepared her for running a business, and now it’s her most
trusted source for new hires. “I trust Polk State because I know what kind of education it provides. I went through it myself, so I know Polk State is offering a hands-on experience and that when students ask questions, they’re going to get knowledgeable answers.” After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and briefly pursuing careers in nursing and mental health counseling, Spiker enrolled at Polk State College to earn her Florida Child Care Professional Credential and Florida Child Care and Education Program Director Credential. “Polk State definitely helped prepare me to open my own child care center. During the
process of earning my director’s credential, my classmates and I had to put together a business plan. We had to start from the bottom up, figuring out a budget, a location, where the fire extinguishers would be placed, the kind of fencing we would have around the playground,” Spiker said. “When I went into business, I had that mental checklist to guide me through the process. Polk State really gave me the tools I needed to start my own business.” Today, Building Blocks Academy serves children as young as six weeks and as old as 12 years. There is a heavy emphasis on academics; even the infants follow a curriculum that includes shapes, colors,
letters, and numbers. “This is not babysitting. We are not doing the minimum here. We are giving our children the foundation they need to be successful in school,” Spiker said. Polk State’s Early Childhood Education and Management Program graduates have the skills to carry out the Building Blocks mission. That’s why Spiker likes to hire from the program, and why she explicitly recommends the program to employees interested in furthering their education. “Polk State graduates are very knowledgeable and passionate,” she said. “Polk State’s program sets very high expectations, so if you get through the program, that says to me that you’re very serious about doing this work, and you are serious about improving yourself and your credentials.” Spiker’s favorite description of Polk State’s Early Childhood Education and Management Program graduates: “Driven.”
“Polk State’s Early Childhood Education and Management Program does an outstanding job of preparing early-childhood teachers and future center directors. I am a product of the program, and I can say that what I learned at Polk State set me up for my success. I have been in business since 1998 and currently have 12 employees. Everyone who works at my center also attended Polk State. When I hire a Polk State graduate, I know he or she is going to come right in, prepared to be effective in the classroom and well versed in state regulations. When I hire Polk State graduates, I know what I’m getting — excellence.” LATASHA EALEY
OWNER OF A HOME AWAY FROM HOME PRESCHOOL LEARNING CENTER
“The Educator Preparation Institute (EPI) at Polk State College prepares classroom teachers by providing countless opportunities to explore data-driven research on progressive educational trends that result in student achievement. The nucleus of the program’s success is the professors, who serve as partners and investors in the educational process. The EPI’s curriculum includes meaningful dialogue and reflective assignments to encompass a student-led learning experience. This unique relationship is further developed by the expert instruction on the pedagogy and best practices that embrace the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices. The EPI is an engaging and innovative educational institution that produces highly qualified teachers and future instructional leaders. By partnering in this effort, we are preparing tomorrow’s classrooms with highly effective teachers who are equipped to increase student achievement for all students in Polk County and beyond.” DEBRA WRIGHT
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL | WESTWOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL
6/7 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
TECHNOLOGY FIRM GROWING BY 20% ANNUALLY, POLK STATE GRADS HELPING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN Sam Heard started Lakeland’s Data Integrity Services in 1997, in his garage, with a payroll that consisted of just himself and his wife. Today, Data Integrity Services is a multimillion-dollar technology consulting firm that provides software and security solutions to organizations across the nation. Heard owns the North Lakeland building that houses the operation and his payroll has grown to nine. One of the reasons for Heard’s success is that he’s been able to hire highly trained Polk State graduates who have helped grow his company from their very first days on the job. “The education at Polk State, and within the Network Systems Technology Program, is very pertinent, very spot-on,” Heard said. “You can’t strike out in hiring from Polk State College.” Data Integrity Services is a one-stop shop for tech products and services. It offers data encryption, firewall, and antivirus protection services; mobile security; and hardware and wireless installation and maintenance. Heard’s clients include engineering and construction firms, physicians’ offices, school districts, and universities from coast to coast. In addition to its range of services and its diverse client base, Data Integrity Services recently marked another accomplishment: In 2014, United Kingdom-based security software and hardware company Sophos named Data Integrity Services as its Complete Security Partner of the Year.
“We’ve been going gangbusters,” Heard said. “We’re experiencing about 20 percent growth annually.” Helping Heard grow his operation are three Polk State Network Systems Technology Program graduates. Throughout the years, Heard said, he has had the opportunity to interview graduates of other colleges and universities, but it’s the Polk State grads who consistently stand out. “Polk State mixes education with practical training. I’ve interviewed people who have known the terminology and all the ‘book’ stuff, but they didn’t have any real-world experience,” he said. “When I hire from Polk State, I know that I’m getting people who have a solid foundation in technology concepts and all of the nuts and bolts of the job. I don’t have to teach them; they can go right to work.” Heard added that Polk State graduates stand out in another way too: “They have good people skills. Everyone I’ve brought on from Polk State has been able to communicate effectively and work with people. That’s critical in this business. One of my newest employees, a Polk State graduate, recently represented the company in front of one of our most important clients. I didn’t worry about him at all because I knew he had the skill set to do what he needed to do.” Heard credited the College’s leadership, as well as its collaboration with local technology companies, for creating a high-quality technology workforce pipeline.
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
POLK COUNTY’S EMPLOYERS “Employing graduates who have successfully completed Polk State College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management with a Healthcare Administration concentration has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for Lakeland Regional Health. These new team members come prepared to serve our patients and their families as dedicated and highly skilled health services managers who are able to plan, supervise, and engage others. They demonstrate thorough knowledge of a constantly changing industry, including the latest in technology, legislation, and finance.” ADIL KHAN
MHA, HIA | LAKELAND REGIONAL HEALTH VICE PRESIDENT OF AMBULATORY SERVICES
“Polk State College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management curriculum is geared towards providing students with practical and relatable experience that will undoubtedly facilitate their transition into the business sector. The courses offered are diverse and all-encompassing, equipping students with the necessary tools to be successful by challenging them academically, as well as professionally. This institution understands the importance behind fusing practical and academic experiences for the purpose of creating a well-rounded graduate. The academic prowess displayed by Polk State College students is immeasurable, and their passion for success sets them apart from other graduates from other local and national institutions. When you hire a Polk State College graduate you can expect to obtain someone that will produce tangible results for your company or your agency. In the business world, we look for solid investments, and I can assure you that investing your capital on hiring a Polk State College graduate will undoubtedly be one of the best investments your company or organization can make.” JONATHAN E. EVANS
MPA, MBA, ICMA-CM | CITY MANAGER OF HAINES CITY
“Polk State helps to create a pipeline of more highly trained workers, which attracts new businesses to the area. At the same time, having a quality, affordable higher-education institution right here at home goes a long way in retaining talent in Polk County. Polk State is an invaluable resource in the economic development of our county.” STEVE SCRUGGS
LAKELAND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Sam Heard, second from left, owns Lakeland-based Data Integrity Services, a multimillion-dollar technology consulting firm. Among the Polk State graduates who have contributed to his firm’s growth are, from left, Damon Cone, Melissa Desmarais, and Robert Rasher.
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IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
high standards, Vittone cited the fact that Polk State paramedic students are required to complete 15 intubations on live patients, even though the program’s accrediting body requires only five. Additionally, the program makes heavy use of scenario-based training, requiring students to think through situations they may very well encounter in the field. “I know this program does much more scenario-based training than other schools,” said Vittone, who also works as an adjunct instructor for the Polk State EMS Program. “Students learn in different ways. They
“It’s run as an extremely tight ship that doesn’t accept excuses. It’s tough...”
POLK COUNTY’S EMPLOYERS “We depend on the Polk State Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety to provide quality and cutting-edge education and training to law enforcement and detention candidates. The curriculum is highly professional and innovative, and provides real-world training to improve officer and citizen training. And it’s been exciting to watch as the program moves to the next level with the construction of the state-of-the-art Polk State Center for Public Safety, located right next door to the Sheriff’s Operation Center on Jim Keene Boulevard in Winter Haven. By partnering with Polk State College, we are ensured all candidates will meet and exceed our requirements and expectations — and we know we will be interacting with the highest qualified candidates in the state.” GRADY JUDD
POLK COUNTY SHERIFF
“I am a graduate of Polk State’s Fire Science Program, having attended when the institution was still known as Polk Community College. I received my associate’s degree in Fire Science in 1984, and as a result, my career path benefited exponentially. My degree, in part, led me to other achievements, which eventually led to my role today as chief of the Lakeland Fire Department and president of the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association. I encourage our current firefighters to attend their local state college, like Polk State. The degree programs at Polk State can provide opportunities for up-and-coming firefighters to advance in their careers, much like it did for me.” GARY BALLARD
LAKELAND FIRE DEPARTMENT CHIEF AND FLORIDA FIRE CHIEFS’ ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
Polk County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief of Medical Services Raf Vittone speaks with paramedic Rachel Radford, an alumna of Polk State College. Vittone describes Polk State’s Emergency Medical Services Program as “a Cadillac program in the state.”
POLK STATE EMS GRADS EXCEL DURING POLK COUNTY FIRE RESCUE INTERVIEW PROCESS At Polk County Fire Rescue, the differences between paramedics who trained at Polk State College and those who trained elsewhere are obvious during the job-interview process. “Polk State College’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Program is a Cadillac program in the state,” said Raf Vittone, deputy chief of medical services. To be hired as a paramedic at Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR), candidates must pass a
battery of tests. Then comes the final hurdle: an in-person interview with the agency’s medical director. It is during that last step of the interview process that Polk State grads distinguish themselves from the other contenders. “I always see a definite difference during the in-person interview,” Vittone said. “Polk State paramedics have a better understanding of pre-hospital medicine and they present themselves more confidently.
Polk State graduates are much more successful in passing our training program.” Vittone credited the Polk State EMS Program’s no-nonsense, “paramilitary” approach with producing exceptionally well-trained paramedics. “This program demands more,” he said. “It’s run as an extremely tight ship that doesn’t accept excuses. It’s tough, but it sets students up for success.” For a specific example of the program’s
learn from the lecture, the book, and by actually performing the task. In this program, students receive all three methods. There is no way to recreate what happens in the street, but simulation training gets as close to that as possible.” Put simply, Polk State’s EMS Program is rigorous, but it gets results. And it is not just the graduates who get hired and lead successful careers who benefit. “Polk State graduates just tend to integrate into the PCFR program more seamlessly because Polk State integrates our protocols,” Vittone said. “When students graduate, they are ready to function as new paramedics, and ready to make the difference for our patients.” Asked to select a single word to describe Polk State’s EMS Program, Vittone doesn’t hesitate: “Excellence.”
“Polk State, both in terms of its Criminal Justice degree programs and its Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety, is a well-respected institution. Polk State produces quality individuals who have the knowledge, training, and commitment that protecting our communities requires.” RICHARD SLOAN
HAINES CITY PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR
“Polk State’s Criminal Justice programs and its training academy produce excellent candidates who enter the workforce well prepared and ready to contribute on their first day of hire. Polk State’s commitment to the community and the workforce is demonstrated through the innovative ways it offers its curriculum to students and the involvement it solicits from local agencies. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office benefits from this shared partnership to educate the best and brightest. These students become employees who then utilize their training to serve the citizens of Polk County.” LANCE FULSE
MS, PHR, CPM | DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, POLK COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
10/11 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
MANUFACTURER’S BUSINESS DOUBLES, POLK STATE HELPS IT KEEP UP WITH DEMAND Business is booming at Lakelandbased MaxPak — and helping the corrugated box manufacturer keep up with demand is the Polk State Corporate College. Since 1999, MaxPak has operated out of its location on New Tampa Highway, producing corrugated packaging for customers across the Southeast. Some of its biggest accounts are in the food, beverage, and agricultural industries. A change in MaxPak’s business model a few years ago has resulted in unprecedented growth, with annual business doubling from $30 million in 2008 to $60 million in 2015. To keep up with demand, MaxPak, like manufacturing operations across the country, has adopted new technology. General Manager Steve Wasko explained that the company has invested about $20 million into computerized machines that do everything from move materials across the factory floor to cut, fold, slot, glue, print, and bundle finished boxes. To operate those new machines, MaxPak now needs more highly trained employees, which is where Polk State College comes into play. Human Resources Manager Lori Foust estimated that in the past two years, MaxPak has sent about a dozen of its 130 employees for training at the Polk State Corporate College. The Corporate College provides customized workforce training through eight institutes, including the Advanced Manufacturing Institute. “The days of manufacturing being about lifting heavy things are going away,” said MaxPak Production Manager David Rodriguez. “What we need now is computer
literacy, knowledge of lean manufacturing and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, knowledge of quality, and good math skills.” Among the MaxPak employees who have trained at the Corporate College is maintenance technician John Higgins. Higgins has taken courses in electrical maintenance, and process control and automation. “With each course, I’ve been able to come back and put what I’ve learned to work right away,” Higgins said. For instance, Higgins’ training at Polk State taught him how to use a computer to run diagnostic tests on MaxPak’s machines. “I can have the laptop tell me what’s wrong,” Higgins said. “I couldn’t do that before. Before, I would have to do a lot of troubleshooting and wasted a lot of time.” As he’s advanced his education, Higgins has moved up the pay scale at MaxPak, but he’s also received the intangible rewards that come with improving himself and growing within the organization. “I want to be in management one day,” he said. “I’m getting ready for that.” Higgins and Wasko agreed that if it weren’t for the Polk State Corporate College, located just a short drive away in Bartow, it would be difficult for employees to get the training MaxPak needs. “The Corporate College helps fill in a gap in the labor market,” Wasko said. “It provides an avenue for manufacturing education. It is really geared toward helping manufacturers in this area do business.”
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
CORPORATE COLLEGE CLIENTS “I have taken Microsoft Excel and Access classes though the Polk State Corporate College IT/Computer Institute. The level of knowledge and experience of the instructors was absolutely incredible. These courses focus on fundamentals leading to a real understanding of the concepts. Highly recommended!” STEPHANI E. LEWIS
FINANCE STAFF ACCOUNTANT | CENTERSTATE BANK
“Safety Solutions & Supply believes that furthering the education and computer skills of our employees is an integral part of running a successful business. In order to achieve this, we have utilized programs at Polk State Corporate College’s IT/ Computer Institute, and we are very pleased with the results we have seen thus far.” TIM BURTON
FLORIDA OPERATIONS MANAGER | SAFETY SOLUTIONS & SUPPLY
“As a new start-up company, the CPT offering (the Polk State Advanced Manufacturing Institute’s Certified Production Technician) has provided us with a mechanism to identify a pool of applicants that has a level of knowledge that can separate the candidates. Even though there is no substitute for experience, we can have confidence that potential employees with the CPT designation have the foundational skills, which allows us to train for the job-specific tasks that we have to offer. We appreciate the training partnership we have with Polk State College and its willingness to assist us in our recruitment efforts to have a welltrained workforce.” MARK VIGNOVIC
VICE PRESIDENT | JDC PHOSPHATE
MaxPak, a Lakeland corrugated box manufacturer, frequently sends employees to the Polk State Corporate College for training. From left are Lori Foust, MaxPak’s human resources manager, John Higgins, maintenance technician, Steve Wasko, general manager, and David Rodriguez, production manager.
12/13 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
Gonzalo Gutierrez is pursuing his Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management degree at Polk State College. He chose to continue his education at Polk State because it offers small class sizes, exciting student-life opportunities, and is the most affordable higher-education option in Polk County.
FOR HONORS PROGRAM STUDENT, POLK STATE OFFERS THE MOST VALUE FOR HIS MONEY When Gonzalo Gutierrez graduated
university, located four hours from Polk
from Polk State Chain of Lakes
County, he would have had to move out of
scholarships, I would have had to work a
Collegiate High School, he planned on
his parents’ home and pay room and board.
minimum of 45 hours a week at minimum
attending a state university. His plans
The university costs kept adding up, and
wage to keep my debt down. But even then,
every time he sat down with his calculator,
I would still have had to borrow about $1,000
Gutierrez became more convinced that Polk
a semester,” said Gutierrez, whose mother
were nearly double what he would pay at
State was the wiser choice — not just for
works in custodial services and whose father
Polk State College. Plus, if he’d chosen the
himself, but for his entire family.
works in construction.
changed when he started doing the math. Tuition and fees at his first-choice school
“When I figured everything out, even after
“For my family, my mom or dad probably would have gotten a second job. They probably would have disconnected their Wi-Fi and one of their phones.” By choosing Polk State, Gutierrez saved his family those sacrifices, and himself thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. He is on track to graduate debt-free with his Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management degree in 2017. Polk State, however, wasn’t just the least expensive of his choices. It also offered him the best value. At Polk, he studies in the Honors Program, taking smaller, more academically rigorous classes that give him the chance to delve into subjects that spark his interest. This year, he is president of the Winter Haven Honors Program Student Council. He is also involved in student life, serving as president of Circle K, a community service club. He is also a volunteer peer mentor, helping new Polk State students acclimate to college life. “I don’t think most people think of Polk State as a place where you can stay and get the whole ‘college experience.’ Most people think of it as a place where you get your associate’s degree and then leave,” said Gutierrez, who earned his Associate in Arts while studying at Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School. “But at Polk State, there is a great atmosphere. The professors know your name. The students want to learn,” he said. Without the burden of student-loan debt, Gutierrez plans on heading straight into a master’s degree program after graduating from Polk State. Ultimately, he wants to open a business selling nutritional supplements. “Polk State has offered me the opportunity to get a great education,” he said, “and because it’s affordable, it’s allowing me to continue my education. If I were going into debt to get my bachelor’s, I would have to go straight to work to pay it off. Instead, I can go straight to my master’s.”
“I am the first member of my family to go to college. There was no money set aside for my education, because no one in my family had ever gone to college. When I looked at universities, even with scholarships, I couldn’t have afforded to go there for even one year. If Polk State were not here for me, I would have had to go to work, and work for a long time, before I would have been able to afford to go to college. Instead, I graduated with my Associate in Science in Business Administration with no student-loan debt. I am now continuing at Polk State to earn my Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management.” NATASHA MOHAMED ’15 ASSOCIATE IN SCIENCE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, CURRENTLY STUDYING FOR HER BACHELOR OF APPLIED SCIENCE IN SUPERVISION AND MANAGEMENT
“I chose Polk State College because, after looking at other colleges and universities, I realized that Polk State would offer me the same high-quality education, but at a much lower price. Thanks to Polk State, I’ve made an affordable start on my higher education. I am pursuing my associate’s degree in Criminal Justice Technology, and plan to stay at Polk State for my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Ultimately, I want to get my master’s degree by the time I’m 26 years old. Saving money by starting at Polk State will help me reach that goal.” MONTANA ORTIZ
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN SCIENCE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE TECHNOLOGY
“The affordability of Polk State College is helping my family. I have two other siblings, including a sister who is just a year younger. My mom is putting us through college. Polk State is helping us financially, and it’s taken away a lot of the stress of paying for college, too.” SYDNI ATCHISON
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN ARTS
14/15 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
POLK STATE OFFERS ACCESS TO DREAMS AND EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS IN LAKE WALES With seven physical locations, a growing selection of online degrees, and flexible scheduling options, one of the words that best describes Polk State College is “accessible.” But that word, accurate as it may be, doesn’t even begin to convey the difference Polk State makes, day to day, for students who are unable to travel for their education. That difference can only be expressed through the words of students such as Allen Stahla and Amanda Roecker. Stahla and Roecker both agree that if it weren’t for the Polk State JD Alexander Center (JDA), located in downtown Lake Wales, they would have no options for furthering their education. “If the JDA were not here, I would be sitting at home watching TV,” Stahla said. Stahla, 43, an Army veteran, was always physically active. In 2008, he came to Lake Wales from his native Colorado, following his job with a home improvement retailer. In 2010, having been laid off from that job, he fell gravely ill. He recovered, but his left leg had to be amputated. Confined to a motorized wheelchair and no longer able to perform the physical labor he’d done all his life, Stahla enrolled at JDA in 2013. With no car, and not wanting to be at the mercy of public transportation to get to Winter Haven, Stahla used his wheelchair to get to the JDA five days a week, rain or shine. “I lived six blocks away,” said Stahla. “If this were not here, I would have had no options for going back to school.” Stahla graduated with his Associate in Arts
degree in December 2015. He is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. For Roecker, “accessibility” means that she can fit education into a schedule that leaves no room for commuting to and from Winter Haven, let alone another county. Roecker works as a security guard from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. five nights a week. She also has a husband with a different work schedule, and two children, ages 3 and 2. She dreams of giving her family a better life, and she knows that to do that, she has to get her education — but doing so means making every minute count. “My goal is to finish college, to be happy, to be able to come home at 5 p.m. and help my kids with their homework, and to just be a working mom,” she said. Polk State has offered her the ability to reach that goal. Thanks to the convenience of the JDA, as well as the College’s expanding selection of online courses, Roecker is on track to graduate with her Associate in Arts degree in May 2016. Afterward, she plans to continue at Polk State to earn her Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management. “If JDA weren’t here, I wouldn’t be in college,” she said. “I couldn’t afford the gas, or the time, to get to Winter Haven.” JDA opened in 2009 and now serves nearly 2,000 students annually. In addition to JDA, the College operates the Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center, which brings a wide variety of arts programming to the area.
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
“The convenience of Polk State definitely helps my family. My mom works an overnight shift. During the afternoon, I take care of my 10-year-old brother. It helps that I am close by. If I had to leave the county to go to college, it would make things a lot more complicated and would restrict my ability to take as many classes as I am.” SELESTE MATA
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN SCIENCE IN RADIOGRAPHY
“Polk State is very convenient. It is close to my parents’ house, which means I can live at home and save money while I’m attending school. It’s also close to my job. If I had to go to Tampa or Orlando, I probably wouldn’t be able to attend. Polk State is allowing me to pursue my dreams of studying music, and becoming a performer and music teacher.” OCTAVIA EMANUEL
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN ARTS
“I live and work just a few minutes from the Polk State Airside Center. That’s a huge benefit for me because I save time and money. I don’t have to go to a university or leave Polk County to get a good education and a good job. I can do it while I’m living at home.” MARY ANN MANALO
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN SCIENCE IN RADIOGRAPHY
“Having Polk State’s Aerospace Program here in Polk County, close to my home, made it a real-life possibility for me to pursue my degree in aerospace. I didn’t have to relocate across the state, which saved me a lot of money, and I got to stay near my family.” AARON POIDEVIN
‘15 ASSOCIATE IN SCIENCE IN PROFESSIONAL PILOT SCIENCE, CURRENTLY STUDYING FOR HIS BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN AEROSPACE SCIENCES
Allen Stahla and Amanda Roecker agree that if it were not for the Polk State JD Alexander Center in downtown Lake Wales, they would have no options for furthering their education.
16/17 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
AEROSPACE BACHELOR’S DEGREE HELPS STUDENT PURSUE DREAM, AVOID LOANS Olivia Lisbon does not mince words: Polk State’s Bachelor’s of Science in Aerospace Sciences degree program changed her life. “If it weren’t for this program, I would have had to leave Polk County. I wouldn’t have been able to help my family. I would be going into debt. Instead, I’m living my dream,” said the 22-year-old Lakeland native. While in high school, and at the suggestion of one of her teachers, Lisbon enrolled in the Central Florida Aerospace Academy. It took her no time to fall in love with aviation — even though she had yet to fly on a plane. “I loved the people, the planes, the travel,” she said. “I got bit by that ‘aviation bug’ and I couldn’t shake it.” Lisbon celebrated her high-school graduation with a flight to Washington, D.C., which confirmed that aviation was the field for her. After completing her Associate in Arts degree at Polk State College, she enrolled at a Central Florida university to study aerospace engineering. Not long after she began her studies, her mother became ill and was no longer able to work. Lisbon left the university, moved back in with her mom, and started helping to pay the household bills. At the time, Lisbon felt lost. She hadn’t really enjoyed aerospace engineering, but at least it was a pathway to the aviation field. Now she was back home in home in Lakeland, with no clear direction for her future. “I still knew that I wanted a career in aviation. I looked into private schools, and I got accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but no matter how much money I came up with, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to have to take out loans,” she said. In a case of truly perfect timing, just as Lisbon was trying to figure out her next step, Polk State College launched its Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Sciences degree program. The program was not only affordable, it offered tracks in both Professional Pilot Science and Aerospace Administration. The latter fit with Lisbon’s emerging interest in working for a fixed-base operator (FBO). FBOs provide a range of aviationrelated services, including fueling, hangar space rentals, and assistance with lodging and ground transportation accommodations. Lisbon is on track to graduate in 2016. She has incurred no student-loan debt. She still helps her mom, but now it’s with money she earns working as a customer service representative for Sheltair Aviation, which runs an FBO at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. If all goes well, she hopes to transition into Sheltair’s management training program after she graduates. “I’m thankful for Polk State’s bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Sciences. Without it, I would have struggled,” she said. “I grew up in Lakeland. I love my city. I’m proud that this is where I got my education and that this is where I’m finding opportunities to work in the field I love.”
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
“I graduated with my Associate in Science in Nursing from Polk State College in 2014, and will graduate with by Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2016. Polk State offers a high-quality program. The instructors are knowledgeable and friendly. The program is convenient and affordable. Most important, I know that it is preparing me to be the best that I can be. After I graduate from Polk State, I plan on pursuing my master’s degree, and I am confident that, having met the high standards that Polk State requires, I will be successful.” BILLY AHMAD
STUDYING FOR HIS BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN NURSING
“Polk State has changed my entire life. In 2014, I graduated with my Associate in Science in Computer Systems and Business Analysis. Immediately after graduating, I started my own business. I am a software programmer and I build databases. In 2016, I will graduate with my Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management with a concentration in Business Information Technology. I am a veteran and a single mother, and thanks to Polk State, I was able to get my education without going into debt. I love Polk State. The opportunities it has to offer are overwhelming.” SHAKIA YOUNG
STUDYING FOR HER BACHELOR OF APPLIED SCIENCE IN SUPERVISION AND MANAGEMENT
“I was robbed at gunpoint in 2008. I want to be a detective because I want to help make people understand that police officers are there to help them, and I want to help keep my community safe. I will graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 2016. Polk State’s program is affordable. I wanted to go to a state university, but decided on Polk State because I can take two classes for what it costs to take one class at a university. Also, the professors at Polk State have worked in the field. They know the job. That makes a big difference for students.” SHAREKA LEWIS
STUDYING FOR HER BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Olivia Lisbon is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Sciences degree at Polk State College while also working for Sheltair Aviation. She aspires to one day be a manager with a fixed-base operator.
18/19 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School senior Kailah Ruffen will graduate with both her high school diploma and Associate in Arts degree.
COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT GRADUATING WITH TWO DIPLOMAS, DREAM REALIZED For as long as she can remember, Kailah Ruffen has been determined to earn a college degree. In 2016, thanks to Polk State College, she will reach her goal. Two years ahead of schedule. “I’ve always wanted to make my parents proud — and now I have,” said the 18-yearold Winter Haven resident. Polk State College operates three collegiate high schools. Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven, where Ruffen attends, and Polk State Lakeland
Collegiate serve highly motivated juniors and seniors. A third high school, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College, serves students ages 16-21 who have disengaged from their studies at their home high schools, or who need help getting back on track academically. All three high schools allow students to simultaneously complete the requirements for high school graduation and earn college credit. In 2015, the schools marked another
successful year of helping students like Ruffen jump-start their college careers: ■ Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate graduated 149 students. Of those, 72 earned both their high school diplomas and Associate in Arts degrees simultaneously. On average, members of the graduating class earned 52 college credits. ■ Polk State Lakeland Collegiate graduated 143 students, 75 of whom had earned both their high school diplomas and Associate in Arts degrees simultaneously. The average
number of college credits earned was 55. ■ Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College graduated 16 students, who earned an average of 13 credits. As her own graduation day nears, Ruffen said the ability to earn her Associate in Arts degree while still in high school has changed the trajectory of her life. Ruffen was born while both her parents were still attending high school. Until recently, when her mother graduated from Polk State, neither of her parents had earned a college degree. Money has always been tight. She’s always been very much aware of the odds stacked against her in her pursuit of higher education. Now, not only is she on track to be an 18-year-old college graduate, she is also entertaining multiple scholarship offers from state universities. Perhaps most important of all, her experience at Polk State has erased the question marks that once surrounded her dreams of going to college — and replaced them with exclamation marks. “I’ve learned to stop listening to that negative voice in my head. I am going to beat the statistics,” she said. Ruffen, who is the 2015-2016 president of the Florida African-American Student Association, plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in educational leadership. One day, she hopes to be a college recruiter or dean, so that she can help others realize their own higher-education dreams. “For me, Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate was a school of preparation,” she said. “This is where I started exploring majors and making plans for my future. This is where I started to think about how I could have an impact on people. This is where I became the woman I really wanted to be. I am very thankful for this high school experience.”
“Polk State’s collegiate programs are great opportunities for high school students to try to get ahead and see what it’s like to go to college classes. Through Polk State Lakeland Collegiate, I’ve gained better time-management skills, better study habits, and I’ve matured as a student. I am on track to graduate from high school with my Associate in Arts degree. Then I plan to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology and eventually attend medical school to study neuropsychology.” RIELLE DRISKELL
POLK STATE LAKELAND COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT
“Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School offers a unique opportunity to take college classes while still in high school. This experience has made me more independent and a better time manager. I’m on track to graduate with both my high school diploma and Associate in Arts degree in 2016. Because I’m ahead of the curve, I’ll be able to get my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in the time it would have taken me just to get a bachelor’s.” JOHN PORTLOCK
POLK STATE CHAIN OF LAKES COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT
“Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College is helping me transition from high school to college. I have the freedom that comes with college, but also the support I need as I navigate the College, as well as small class sizes so I can have one-on-one time with my teachers. I am grateful to be attending Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College High School.” KIERA DAVIS
POLK STATE LAKELAND GATEWAY TO COLLEGE STUDENT
20/21 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
Polk State and LEGOLAND Florida Resort have partnered to create an internship program that allows students to learn both in the classroom and on the job. From left, David Rosado, human resources generalist at LEGOLAND, students Analeisa Esquivel, Gonzalo Gutierrez, Anahi Muñoz-Martinez, Glorysabel Lopez, Eleta Joseph, Logan Murphy, and Business Administration Professor John Woodward.
LEGOLAND FLORIDA, POLK STATE PARTNER TO BUILD INTERNSHIP PROGRAM AND LOCAL WORKFORCE An internship program developed by Polk State College and LEGOLAND Florida Resort perfectly represents both the College’s commitment to student success and its integration with local employers. In 2014, Polk State and LEGOLAND Florida Resort partnered to create the Co-Op Program, which combines classroom studies and on-the-job learning at the theme park. “LEGOLAND is very committed to this community, as is Polk State,” said LEGOLAND Florida Resort Education Manager Aaron Williams. “The goal of the Co-Op Program with Polk State is to create a pipeline of continuous talent for Merlin Entertainments (LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s parent company). So far the program has been very
successful, and I look forward to the upcoming years.” More than 30 students applied to participate in the program. Of those, six students successfully passed the intensive interview process that involved representatives from both the College and LEGOLAND Florida Resort. The Co-Op students are all enrolled in SLS 2930, Special Topics in Student Success, a class designed to teach them the ways of the professional world, from communication skills to management styles. They are also paid interns at LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven and regularly take part in on-site training opportunities with members of LEGOLAND’s leadership team. The students
implement what they learn in class on the job. Likewise, they bring their experiences from LEGOLAND Florida Resort into the classroom. The result is a synergistic experience that, the students said, has accelerated their professional and personal growth. “It’s an immersive and incredible opportunity,” said Matina Wagner, one of the SLS 2930 instructors and the College’s internship and experiential learning coordinator. Logan Murphy, a Winter Haven resident and Co-Op participant interning in LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s food and beverage department, agreed with Wagner. “We are learning about things that affect the hospitality industry and then we get to
go and apply what we’ve learned,” he said. “We get to actually use what we’re learning.” Eleta Joseph of Sefner, who is interning in admissions at LEGOLAND Florida Resort, said the Co-Op Program has empowered her to find better and more impactful ways of doing her work. “This week in class, we have been learning about the qualities that it takes to be successful at home, work, and school,” said Joseph in late November. “One of those qualities is innovation. To be successful, you have to make yourself different in some way. You have to stand out.” Because of the LEGOLAND Florida Resort Co-Op Program, Joseph didn’t just study the importance of innovation in the classroom. She got to innovate while on the job. “I work in admissions, which is where the day starts and ends for LEGOLAND guests,” Joseph said. “One of the things that I’ve done is change how I greet and say goodbye to guests. When they’re leaving, instead of just saying ‘goodbye,’ I’ll say something like, ‘LEGOLAND is going to miss you.’ Just that little interaction can change a child’s day,” Joseph said. As the students progress through the four-semester program, they will be exposed to on-the-job training in multiple departments. Joseph said as she’s learned more about LEGOLAND Florida Resort, she’s rethought her career aspirations. Gonzalo Gutierrez of Haines City added that one of the most valuable aspects of the program is that it teaches students about the opportunities available right here in Polk County. “It shows young people that they can make it big right here where they are,” he said. “We don’t have to travel a great distance or leave Polk County to make it big.” The LEGOLAND Florida Co-Op Program is one example of Polk State’s efforts to ready students for the workforce. Numerous other internship opportunities and a wide range of career development services are also available.
OUR STUDENTS & EMPLOYERS “Polk State has been a terrific partner since LEGOLAND Florida Resort opened in 2011 – one that shares our goal of providing opportunities to develop a skilled workforce. Through our close collaboration, we created an internship program supported by both strong scholastic and on-the-job curricula and grounded in a keen understanding of business principles and needs.” ADRIAN JONES
GENERAL MANAGER | LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT
“Polk State College is a quality institution that continues to elevate the educational opportunities not only in Winter Haven, but throughout Polk. Polk State College is essential to making Winter Haven the desired destination for you to live, work, play, learn, and raise a family.” DERIC FEACHER
WINTER HAVEN CITY MANAGER
“Polk State’s Career Development Services helped me stay on track. They offered me the guidance I needed so I wouldn’t be lost. Without Career Development Services, I wouldn’t have been able to go back to college, graduate, and prepare for a career. Members of Career Development Services helped me plan my schedule, build my resumé and look for jobs, but the biggest thing was they made sure I kept my eyes on my goal of graduating and beginning a career.” ROBERT CHIN JR.
ASSOCIATE IN ARTS ’15
“Polk State’s Career Development Services and Internship Program are, of course, valuable resources for the students, but they’re also assets to the local business community. Career Development Services provides students with the polish they need to be effective for their future employers. The Internship Program carefully matches students with employers from their fields of interest. Students get applicable experience while employers get a chance to influence their next generation of employees. In the world of economic development, the ability to provide current and prospective employers with a pipeline of eager talent is critical. Polk State’s Career Development Services and Internship Program help us in creating the workforce Polk County needs to thrive.” BRUCE LYON
WINTER HAVEN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL PRESIDENT
22/23 | POLK STATE COLLEGE
IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WE SERVE:
OUR STUDENTS & COMMUNITY “At Polk State, I can study music and be around others who share my interest in music. Being here has helped me to open up and made me a happier person, rather than being hidden behind my shell. The faculty here are all very knowledgeable, and I’m getting my degree without any student-loan debt. Polk State Music is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” JADE PERRY
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN ARTS DEGREE, MEMBER OF POLK STATE’S WOMEN’S CHORUS, VOCAL JAZZ ENSEMBLE, AND CONCERT CHOIR
“I take art classes as a way to relieve the stress that comes with working and going to school full time. It’s something that I enjoy, and I’m learning a lot too. The faculty here take the time to teach you about art and what it stands for. The art classes are helping me to develop my creative side and become a more well-rounded person.” DANA LUXAMA
STUDYING FOR HER ASSOCIATE IN ARTS
After they graduate from Polk State College, Michael Burke and Sarah Ganey plan to study the arts at the university level, and eventually start careers as a filmmaker and opera singer, respectively.
ASPIRING FILMMAKER, OPERA SINGER CHOOSE POLK STATE FOR STRENGTH OF ITS ARTS PROGRAMS Michael Burke dreams of making movies. Sarah Ganey dreams of becoming an opera singer. Both agree the best first step they could have taken toward realizing their dreams was enrolling at Polk State College. For Burke, the “theatre bug” bit during his junior year at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland. He went to see Polk State Theatre’s production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and was so impressed that he became a regular attendee of the College’s plays. “Watching those shows, and seeing how professionally done they were, it made me want to be more serious about studying theatre,” said Burke. When he graduated from high school, he
decided to enroll at Polk State, where he knew he would get a high-quality theatre education at an affordable price and convenient location. In the fall of 2015, his first semester at Polk State, Burke was tapped to fill in for another actor in the College’s production of “A Raisin in the Sun.” It was Burke’s first time acting on a stage, but because of the training he’s receiving in his theatre classes, it went off without a hitch. “With all the information from my classes, I was prepared to take on the part. It took me about a day to get into character, and by the first rehearsal, I wasn’t even nervous,” Burke said. After he earns his Associate in Arts degree from Polk State, Burke will move on to a university to study filmmaking. Because of
Polk State, he will have a solid foundation on which to continue building his education. “It feels good knowing Polk State is here for students with interests like mine,” Burke said. “I got to stay here in Polk County, save money, and I got to be a part of a program that is doing productions that are as good — if not better — than what a lot of universities are doing. It’s awesome.” Ganey, a resident of Winter Haven, is similarly appreciative of the opportunities Polk State has offered her in the arts. Ganey recently starred in Polk State Theatre’s production of “Little Women: The Musical.” She’s also studying music, learning to read — and hit — the notes she’ll need to know to one day become an opera singer.
Like Burke, Ganey selected Polk State for the fact that it is convenient and affordable, but also because of the caliber of its arts programs. Polk State Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts all boast faculty with decades of professional experience. “I’m learning constantly,” Ganey said. “There hasn’t been a moment when I haven’t felt like I was learning something. Even if the professors aren’t teaching me a specific lesson, I’m learning from their direction and their critiques.” After earning her Associate in Arts degree, Ganey will also move on to a university. She is confident that, because of Polk State, she will be ready to take that step. “Polk State is affordable and close to home, and it’s a nice place to go before a university,” she said. “I feel like in college you have to be self-motivated, but here, while you’re figuring out how to be self-motivated, you have people supporting you, too. The professors know you and they help you. This is exactly what I need right now.”
“The arts are a key component of economic development. Polk State regularly hosts concerts in downtown Lake Wales and concerts, exhibits and other arts events at the Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center. In doing so, Polk State is providing that arts amenity to our area, which makes people and businesses more likely to want to stay here and invest in Lake Wales. For me personally, being able to stay in town and see a concert or an exhibit — rather than having to get in the car and drive to another county — is a very nice amenity for my family.” KEVIN KIEFT
PRESIDENT AND CEO | LAKE WALES AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
24/25 | POLK STATE COLLEGE | OFFICES OF EQUITY AND DIVERSITY, DISABILITY SERVICES
OFFICES OF EQUITY AND DIVERSITY, DISABILITY SERVICES DEBUT NEW PROGRAMS IN 2015 With a yearlong slate of diversity perceptions of the world,” Baker said. awareness events and a new Relatedly, the College’s ELITE Educational leadership development program, the Polk Leadership Enhancement Program hosted State Office of Equity and Diversity marked Pasco-Hernando State College President another successful year in 2015. Timothy Beard as the keynote speaker for its “What we strive to do, and what we are able annual luncheon. Beard described his to do year after year, is bring cultural awareness journey to the president’s office to the students, employees, community, and visitors of Polk and encouraged attendees of State College,” said Director of the luncheon to relentlessly Equity and Diversity Valparisa pursue their own goals. The Baker. “We aim for an environment Office of Equity and Diversity where diversity is celebrated and oversees the ELITE (Exceptional experienced every day.” Leaders with Innovative Talents In 2015, the Office of Equity and and Excellence) Program. ELITE, Diversity once again hosted its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. now in its ninth year, combines remembrance, as well as Black mentoring and professional History Month, Women’s History development opportunities to Month, Diversity Awareness VALPARISA BAKER help mid-level employees Month, and Disability Awareness DIRECTOR OF EQUITY AND DIVERSITY advance their careers. Month celebrations. What set the In 2015, the College also created the 2015 events apart from previous years, Emerging Leaders Professional Series (ELPS) however, was the caliber of presenters who participated, Baker said. to help mid-level employees gain skills and For instance, during Black History Month, explore different aspects of leadership. the College hosted EBONY Magazine Fifteen participants, representing the career, Editor-in-Chief Mitzi Miller for a lunch and professional/technical, and faculty conversation with students. Miller recounted employment tiers, are taking part in the first her path to the helm of the nation’s leading year of ELPS. Once a month for nine months, magazine for African-Americans. Miller also participants learn from guest presenters and moderated a community forum titled, “Brown, Black, and Blue: Politics, Education, department heads from throughout the Crime, and the Black Community.” College. Other speakers throughout the year “This program is intended to help included Polk State Distinguished Alumnus participants develop the professional skills Anthony James, retired executive vice they need to take their careers to the next president of Southern Company, one of the level, as well as to provide them with the largest producers of electricity in the United nuts and bolts about how the College States, who spoke during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Luncheon. Tiana works,” Baker said. Tozer, who medaled with the USA Women’s “By coming together and learning Wheelchair Basketball Team in the 1992 and alongside one another, participants are 1996 Paralympics, was the featured speaker making great connections and contributing during Disability Awareness Month. to one another’s understanding of the “With these events, we are exposing College. The College, and all its stakeholders, students and employees to people from all will be the beneficiaries of that walks of life, and in doing so, we are broadening horizons and people’s collaboration.”
DISABILITY SERVICES COORDINATOR
A close partner of the Office of Equity and Diversity is the Office of Disability Services, which ensures individuals with disabilities have access to classes, programs, and activities. In 2015, Disability Services Coordinator Melissa Futia hosted two forums to help faculty members better understand the various accommodations the College provides to students. Combined, approximately 80 faculty members attended the forums. “The faculty were most curious about accommodations, and particularly how those accommodations are made in the online environment, because the College continues to increase its online offerings,” Futia said. The forums were a big step toward Futia’s ultimate goal of creating an ongoing dialogue related to disability services. “The College continues to serve an increasing number of students with disabilities,” Futia said. “At the same time, the laws related to disability services are always changing. It’s important to keep the faculty informed so that they can help us deliver the best experiences possible for these students.”
Helping to transform the lives of Polk State College students through the power of philanthropy. foundation.polk.edu
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Oakley Rhinehart Cassidy, LLC
Ashley Bell-Barnett Community Activist
Anna Murrell Bostick Community Activist
Joanne Chappel Polk State College
Polk State Alumni Association
N T’ S
2015-2016 BOARD MEMBERS
S RE ID E
The Polk State College Foundation, Inc. is a tax-exempt corporation whose purpose is to provide Polk State College with resources for the advancement of the College, its students, faculty, staff, and other constituencies in fulfillment of the College’s mission.
I R C L E
T H E P R E S I D E N T ’ S C I R C L E is comprised of community and corporate leaders committed to the advancement of the Polk State College mission. Unrestricted funds raised annually through the President’s Circle will enable College leadership to advocate, promote, and seek support for Polk State College in meeting the higher education needs in our community. This exclusive society of dedicated, forward-thinking leaders is working together to transform lives through the power of philanthropy. MASTERS
A·C·T Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc. / The Kincart Family The A.D. Morgan Corporation • John R. & Sarah Jane Alexander Boyer Building Corporation • Citizens Bank & Trust Fischer, Schemmer, Silbiger & Moraczewski; Ophthalmology Associates Ledger Media Group • Tampa Electric/Peoples Gas • Watson Clinic LLP
SEMCO Construction, Inc.
Eileen Holden, Ed.D.
Mark & Patti Bostick • CNP • Clark/Nikdel/Powell Duke Energy • Eileen & Al Holden • Peterson & Myers, P.A. SunTrust Foundation
Polk State College
Coca-Cola Beverages Florida
UBS Financial Services, Inc.
Lanier Upshaw, Inc.
Jerry Miller Duke Energy
Adamson + Co., P.A.
Dr. Alan Rich
POLK STATE COLLEGE FOUNDATION OFFICERS 2015-2016
Chair Peterson & Myers, P.A.
Coach Al Corbeil presents a plaque to Bing Tyus to commemorate the naming of the baseball field after him, while Bob Georges (center) looks on.
Melinda Harrison Vice Chair Watson Clinic LLP
Treasurer Citizens Bank & Trust
A S S O C I AT E S JD & Cindy Alexander Carol and Barney Barnett Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation Howard & Cheryl Beckert • Boswell & Dunlap, LLP • William G. Burns Melinda Harrison • Jim & Susan Jahna • George A. Kalogridis • Sam & Eileen Killebrew Tracy M. Porter • Alan & Linda Rich • Kim & Ken Ross • Joe P. Ruthven Straughn & Turner, P.A. • Tucker Construction
Colorado Boxed Beef Corporation
Gary M. Boyer
Development Chair Boyer Building Corporation
Bruce Scamehorn Tucker Construction
Taylor & Associates, Attorneys at Law, P.L.
Mark G. Turner
Straughn & Turner, P.A.
NHM Real Estate Investments
Please consider joining the President’s Circle today to help advance the College’s mission and receive special recognition and benefits. For more information, visit: foundation.polk.edu/president or call 863.297.1071 Note: Donor listing accurate as of Dec. 31, 2015.
Anu Saxena Immediate Past Chair Exponent, Inc.
THE GEORGES FAMILY HONORS BING TYUS THROUGH ESTATE PLANNING Leader, friend, Polk State College Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, and longtime donor to the Polk State Foundation, Bob Georges has chosen to continue his legacy of helping Polk State students through the establishment of the Robert and Nancy Georges Charitable Remainder Unitrust. As part of this important commitment, the Georges family wished to pay tribute to the 32 years of achievements and contributions of Polk State College Athletic Director and former baseball coach Bing Tyus, by naming the Winter Haven Campus baseball field after the beloved student mentor. This incredible plan to highlight Tyus’ legacy arose from a conversation Georges had with Polk State College Head Baseball Coach Al Corbeil, who had long wanted to honor Tyus for his dedication to the Baseball Program and community. Georges had always admired and supported Tyus’ work in uplifting others, especially students. As a donor to the Foundation for many years, Georges recognized that his philanthropic investments translated directly to student success and opportunity at the College. While the Georges family had always given generously annually,
they were thoughtfully considering a planned gift that would carry on their legacy of support of Polk State in perpetuity. Georges’ discussion with Corbeil spurred a formal commitment from the Georges Family Trust. On Nov. 7, 2015, during a special Polk State Alumni Baseball Game involving former and current players, fans, friends, and program donors, the Georges Family honored Tyus’ years of service and leadership through this generous endowment. During the ceremony, a sign under the scoreboard bearing the new name of the field—Bing Tyus Yard—was revealed. Corbeil joined Georges to present Tyus with a plaque commemorating the occasion. Corbeil is thankful to Tyus for building not just the Polk State Baseball Program, but also the entire Athletics Program, into what it is today. He is equally grateful to Bob Georges and his family for their support and dedication—they have been the baseball team’s biggest champions. The Polk State family and community are forever thankful for the heartfelt gift and generosity of the Georges family, which will forever assist Polk State students in attaining their dreams of a college education.
For Joe Strzelecki, playing baseball for Polk State enabled him to continue his athletic career beyond high school. Strzelecki, a catcher who had played on youth and high school teams, caught the attention of Head Coach Al Corbeil, who offered him a Polk State scholarship and a position as a right-handed pitcher on the team. Strzelecki credits the personal attention of Polk State’s coaches with giving him the confidence and skill to switch positions. After one year of mentorship in pitching for Polk State, Strzelecki signed to continue his athletic and academic career at Old Dominion University beginning in the fall of 2016.
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MAY 2015 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS AWARD
DECEMBER 2015 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS AWARD
Thomas Brooks was born and raised in Lakeland, graduating from Lakeland High School in 1969. After spending one year at a private engineering school, he went to work for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). He was later drafted into the Air Force, where he spent nearly four years before returning to Polk County and to his job. As a child, Brooks enjoyed painting and drawing, realizing early on that he wanted to focus on art. He originally planned to be an engineer, but instead used his art talents as a draftsman. Upon returning to his job at the FDOT, Brooks attended Polk State on the GI Bill and took night classes to finish his degree. During this time, a friend introduced him to the wildlife and environmental art movement. Brooks found that he could freely express himself and his feelings about nature through his paintings of wildlife and landscapes. He received his Associate in Arts degree from Polk State College in 1982, and took with him a newfound love for capturing the beauty of nature. Brooks continued at the FDOT, ultimately rising to an administrative position while also fielding opportunities to exhibit his artwork at shows throughout the Southeast. After 28 years with the state, Brooks decided to pursue his dream of focusing full time on his art. He resigned from his position on Sept. 11, 2001—a date that would signify change on so many levels. Today, Brooks is an award-winning wildlife artist whose work has been recognized at both the state and national levels. His paintings are displayed in many corporate, public, and private collections. Just a few of his many honors include Artist of the Year for the Florida National Wild Turkey Federation, Featured Artist for the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, and Featured Artist for the Plantation Wildlife Art Festival. Additionally, his art was selected for the 1995 and 1996 Florida Wild Turkey Conservation stamps, and in 2011 he was selected by the National Wild Turkey Federation to create its national stamp. The State of Arkansas also commissioned him to create its State Wildlife Conservation stamp prints. In 2008, Florida Congressman Adam Putnam asked Brooks to paint the White House Christmas ornament representing the State of Florida. The ornament depicted the citrus and cattle history of Polk County and Central Florida. Brooks was invited to the White House for the unveiling, and his ornament remains in the permanent collection in Washington, D.C. Along with his many awards and accomplishments, Brooks also donates his time and art in support of youth, wildlife preservation, conservation, and environmental organizations that operate both locally and internationally. He hopes to share his passion for art and wildlife on canvas so that current and future generations can enjoy and appreciate nature.
Chris Nelson currently serves as the chief of police for the City of Auburndale, a position he has held since 2012. After graduating from Bartow High School, he went to work for the Polk County School Board in the vocational department. He later took a position as a police officer with the Bartow Police Department after attending the Polk State Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety. Nelson had always wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, and it was during this time that a mentor encouraged him to go back to school to get his degree. Nelson was able to work full time while attending Polk State on a part-time basis. He worked as a patrolman and traffic homicide investigator with the Bartow Police Department before he moved to Live Oak, Fla., where he eventually became assistant chief. Nelson received his Associate in Arts degree from Polk State in 1998, his Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from St. Leo University in 2001, and his Master of Science in Criminology from Florida State University in 2010. In addition to working for the Live Oak Police Department, Nelson also worked as an investigator at the State Attorney’s Office in the Third Judicial Circuit. The chief of police in Live Oak, Nolan McLeod, had been a mentor and colleague to Nelson. When McLeod was appointed chief of police in Auburndale in 2007, he hired Nelson for the position of deputy chief. When McLeod passed away, Nelson was appointed the chief of police for the City of Auburndale in July 2012. As a board member of both the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Polk County Police Chiefs Association, and a member of the Polk State College Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, Nelson’s leadership and experience have helped to advance the profession. He has been a strong advocate for the Polk State Center for Public Safety. Nelson remains highly involved in the community though his membership in the Auburndale Rotary Club and his participation as a board member for the Polk County Youth Fair. He participated in the Youth Fair in high school, and credits this activity for teaching him about being responsible for others and the importance of fiscal accountability—skills he has used throughout his career. Nelson is also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Class 209 and Leadership Polk Class VIII.
POLK STATE COLLEGE FOUNDATION ENDOWED TEACHING CHAIR RECIPIENTS
In 2015, two professors were recognized with Endowed Teaching Chair Awards. Established in 1996, these awards are granted annually to deserving and talented professors. Each winner is granted $5,000 that can be used for a variety of learning environment improvements such as continuing education opportunities, professional development events, state-of-the-art technology and equipment purchases, and seminars that strengthen educational ability and outreach. Dr. Mimi Jenko, recipient of the Lakeland Regional Health/Winter Haven Hospital Endowed Teaching Chair, holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Florida and a Master of Science in Nursing from Emory University. She recently completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Duke University. Her clinical specialty is hospice and palliative
Aaron Banks is a registered architect with Furr & Wegman Architects, P.A., part of the team that designed the Polk State Center for Public Safety. He served as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) for the project and sought environmentally friendly materials and energy-efficient processes for the building. Banks graduated from Polk State in 2002 and then transferred to the University of South Florida. Through an accelerated architectural program, he graduated with a master’s degree in architecture in 2006.
care. Jenko has taught at Polk for five years and embraces technology in the classroom. She has had two of her courses nationally certified through Quality Matters. CR Junkins, recipient of the George Jenkins Endowed Teaching Chair, was born and raised in Waynesboro, Ga., not far from the world of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. In 1990, he graduated with a double major in philosophy and English from Mercer University, with honors in creative writing. Junkins holds a Master of Arts in English Literature from the University of South Florida, where he also earned a graduate certificate in creative writing. Junkins joined Polk State in 2008 as an adjunct professor and was hired full time as a professor of English in 2011. Junkins teaches Composition, Introduction to Literature, ScienceFiction and Fantasy Literature, and other courses.
Jason Leatherwood was the 2015 Polk County School-Related Employee of the Year for Polk County Schools. At the time of his nomination, Leatherwood was serving as an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) paraprofessional at Horizons Elementary. He was selected for this honor from among 150 nominees. A 2015 graduate of Polk State’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management degree program, Leatherwood currently works as a seventh-grade intensive reading instructor at Boone Middle School. Marie Wilmot has worked for the Florida Industrial & Phosphate Research (FIPR) Institute for 30 years and currently serves as its office and human resources manager. A 1992 graduate, Wilmot is responsible for the operational aspects of the FIPR Institute, serves as the human resources liaison with Florida Polytechnic University, and is the meeting coordinator for the Phosphate Research and Activities Board. She is active in the community, teaches fitness classes, and is a member of Leadership Polk Class IX. Alexandria Wilson is a fellowship student of European Studies in the Political Science doctoral program at the University of Florida. A 2011 graduate of Polk State, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of South Florida in 2012. Wilson received her Master of Arts in Political Science in 2014 from the University of Central Florida. In 2015, Wilson was selected as a Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship recipient, which has provided her with the opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic for language training.
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JANUARY 28, 2016
UNCHEON L MARCH 10 & 11, 2016
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SEPTEMBER 15, 2016
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For more information, visit foundation.polk.edu/joinme
BY THE NUMBERS
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POLK STATE COLLEGE FOUNDATION BY THE NUMBERS
THE POLK STATE COLLEGE FOUNDATION’S ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO HAVE A SCHOLARSHIP FOR EVERY STUDENT WHO NEEDS ONE TO BE ABLE TO ATTEND POLK STATE. YOUR GENEROSITY HELPS US GET ONE STEP CLOSER TO THIS IMPORTANT GOAL EVERY DAY.
IN SCHOLARSHIPS WAS AWARDED BY THE POLK STATE COLLEGE FOUNDATION IN 2015.
$25,000,000 THE POLK STATE COLLEGE FOUNDATION HAS OVER $25 MILLION IN TOTAL ASSETS.
SINCE THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM’S INCEPTION IN 1989, MORE THAN 1732 SCHOLARSHIPS HAVE BEEN AWARDED TO PROMISING STUDENTS. SINCE 2008, MORE THAN
285 ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIPS
$560,000 DOLLAR IN EMERGENCY SCHOLARSHIPS HAVE BEEN PROVIDED TO STUDENTS WHO HAVE ENCOUNTERED UNEXPECTED LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE PREVENTED THE COMPLETION OF THEIR EDUCATIONAL GOALS.
DONATED TO THE FOUNDATION MAKES A TRANSFORMATIONAL DIFFERENCE AND IS GREATLY APPRECIATED!
One Awesome Year in Sports | 2015 Report to the Community polkeagles.com
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VOLLEYBALL TEAM COMPETES IN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP — AGAIN Blending talent and chemistry, the 2015 Polk State volleyball team soared to its second straight appearance in the NJCAA Division I National Championship Volleyball tournament, where the Eagles finished sixth in the 16-team event. During the season, the Eagles beat several nationally ranked teams, ending the year ranked No. 2 in Florida and No. 6 in the nation. Head Coach German Del Valle said he is very satisfied with everything the team achieved during the season. “We work for this,” he said. “My philosophy is that we don’t work to be No. 2 or No. 3. We work to be No. 1, and by trying to reach that goal, we end up having a great deal of success.” Did that success surprise Del Valle? “Yes,” he said. “At the start of the season, I knew we had good people and good chemistry, but I didn’t know how well we would play. “I have coached other teams but (they) didn’t have the togetherness that this year’s team had. We faced several teams this year that were good but lacked unity. Our players played hard for each other. In practice and in games, they held each other accountable. “ Del Valle relies on Assistant Coach Chris Williams to help promote and build team unity. “Chris comes up with a lot of teambonding activities,” said Del Valle. “For example, the day before our first match in the state tournament in Pensacola Beach, he went out and bought some beach toys and organized some fun activities on the beach. “Having fun is important for us. Good chemistry is vital. Talent can only take you so far.” And speaking of talent, freshman Yue “Phoebe” Wu from Shanghai, China, earned Suncoast Conference Player of the Year and FCSAA State Player of the Year honors. Her play
in the national championship tournament earned her a spot on the All-Tournament Team, and she received All-America recognition once the season ended. Wu led the NJCAA Division I in kills (616) and kills per set (5.09). Del Valle said Wu’s immediate impact surprised him. “I knew she was going to play good defense and pass well, but I had no idea she was going to be as good as she was. She’s so versatile, and she does so many things well on the court. It was exciting for me.” This year’s squad had six sophomores who played in last year’s national championship tournament. That experience motivated them to return this year. “Playing in nationals last year was very valuable for our sophomores,” said Del Valle. “This year, that set a goal of returning to the national tournament. When we qualified, one of the sophomore players said to the freshmen, ‘Now we’re going to see a different kind of game.’ And next season our sophomores will have valuable experience playing for a championship against tough competition.” Have consecutive appearances in the national tournament helped put Polk State on the national map as a strong volleyball program? “I hope so,” says Del Valle. “It’s very exciting. I hope it gives us more opportunity to recruit good people and keep doing what we’re doing. “It’s (the national tournament) one more opportunity for our players to be seen by college coaches from around the country. Several of our players have received offers from four-year schools, and the big reason is because of the tournament.”
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BASEBALL TEAM WINS SECOND CONSECUTIVE SUNCOAST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP After starting the 2015 season slowly, Polk State baseball finished strong, winning its second straight Suncoast Conference Championship. “Winning back-to-back championships is hard in any conference,” said Head Coach Al Corbeil. “On any given day, you have to show up and be ready to play, or else you’re going to get beat. We did a really good job of bringing a lot of energy to our games. Night in and night out, our guys played hard.” Because of several injuries in the fall, the team struggled early in the season, winning
just two of its first six games. “We started off really slow, but our pitching staff carried us early in the year,” said Corbeil. “Then conference play started and our guys did what they had to do. They found a way to win the conference title, and we really started to come together as a team during that time.“ One of Corbeil’s goals every season is to help his players improve. In 2015, he saw several Eagles take their skills to the next level. Nine players earned All-Conference honors, including Fireman of the Year Cody
Gamble and Defensive Player of the Year Keith Oren. Pitcher Jordan Barrett led the state in earned run average, while Luke Parker set a school record with 41 stolen bases. “We have high expectations here, and I think that’s completely evidenced by the seasons that Barrett, Gamble, Oren, and Parker had,” he said. Although the Eagles made it to the state baseball tournament again, they were eliminated after losing their first two games. But success, said Corbeil, means more than
just wins in a tournament. “I believe we’ve done a really good job at keeping our guys on track to graduate. They’re leaving Polk State with their degrees, and they’re getting great scholarship offers to four-year schools. That has happened not only because they’re talented and our program has had success, but also because they take care of their academic commitments. They have their priorities in order, which is important.”
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IN FACE OF INJURIES, POLK STATE SOFTBALL TEAM FINISHES SECOND IN SUNCOAST CONFERENCE Despite losing key players to injuries, Polk State softball enjoyed another winning season in 2015, finishing second in the Suncoast Conference. Injuries to starting pitcher Danielle Gizoski and starting catcher Meghan Lindell kept them out of the lineup for several weeks, which was a big blow, said Head Coach Jeff Ellis. “When you lose your starting catcher, you have to move people around, and it weakens you at other positions. When you lose one of your starting pitchers, it makes others carry more of the load. “And both of them were starting to get rolling with their bats before they got hurt, so we lost two .300 hitters for a significant amount of time.” A tough non-conference schedule gave the Eagles valuable experience against nationally ranked teams. Polk State played No. 2 College of Central Florida six times, No. 4 Seminole State College four times, and No. 6 Indian River State College five times. “That’s 15 games against three of the top six teams in the country in the final poll,” said Ellis. “We held our own. We won some of those games and we lost some, but I think they helped us get better as the year went on.” Ellis said the 2015 team was a joy to coach. “They were a bunch of really good young ladies who worked really hard. They kept trying to get better, and they kept getting better as the year progressed. They made it
fun to come out to practice every day.” For the first time as a coach, Ellis named a team captain, sophomore Riley Caylor. “I’ve never done that before because I believe that naming a captain and imposing it from above can prevent individuals who are truly leaders from leading because they’ll say, ‘I’m not the captain.’ “But Riley was off-the-charts as a leader from the start of the year all the way to the end. From the way she carried herself and how the other players listened when she spoke, it became obvious that as far as leadership goes, this was her team.” “Riley is a good player, and she had those natural leadership qualities, and everybody responded to her.” Asked to name his team’s most valuable player, Ellis picked sophomore Erica Morrissey. “As far as position players go, she was our best player. She ended up leading us in hitting and had a really good year. She also made the sacrifice when Meghan got hurt of moving from third base to catcher, which helped us out a tremendous amount. She hadn’t played that position since eighth grade, but she caught on quickly.” Polk State’s second-place finish in the conference earned the Eagles a trip to the state tournament in Vero Beach. They won their first game before losing their next two in the double-elimination event. “It was a good year. I was pleased with it,” Ellis said.
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BASKETBALL TEAM HAS EIGHTH CONSECUTIVE WINNING SEASON, ADVANCES TO SUNCOAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT A mixture of sophomore leadership and freshmen development helped the Polk State basketball team achieve another winning season in 2014-15. The Eagles made it to the Suncoast Conference Tournament, where a loss ended their quest for a state championship. Polk State finished the season with a 21-10 record, the eighth straight winning season for Head Coach Matt Furjanic. “I’m definitely proud of the effort the guys gave,” said Furjanic. “We had some very good wins against some very good teams. We had four victories against teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season. “Our players did a very, very good job. We didn’t reach all of our goals, but whenever you win 20 games in a college basketball season, you consider that a good year.” Furjanic credits sophomore leadership for a large portion of this success. “Our sophomores did a great job. I’d say our MVP was Bernard Samuel for everything he gave us throughout the year. With his
intensity and his ability to make tough shots at the end of our games. He was our go-to guy. But also he averaged about 14 or 15 points a game, so we were very balanced in scoring. And that’s something I like. You like to see four or five guys around that doubledigit mark.” This type of leadership provided a foundation for the freshman to develop skills, and play an important role as the season progressed. “As a group our freshmen really came through and developed,” said Furjanic. “That was a big factor because it gave us the opportunity to play eight or nine guys a game. The freshmen gained some valuable experience, and they were key players in a lot of games. A lot of times freshmen, like Elijah Cottrill and Darrelle Porter, were the ones in double figures for scoring.” “We knew what to expect from our sophomores, but the freshmen really did a nice job for us and were a pleasant surprise. We are counting on their leadership this year.”
SOCCER TEAM UNITES, CHALLENGES NO. 1 CONTENDER Although the Eagles finished the 2015 soccer season with a 4-9 record, Head Coach Steve Linamen said the team had a great year, both on and off the field. “This group bonded very well, very quickly,” he said. “Even in the preseason, when we had no clue how we’d play, they bought into our system and became a close-knit group. “We want to focus on personal growth as well as the sport, and they quickly bought into the idea that, regardless of how your season plays out, the important aspects you’ll carry with you for the rest of your lives are the relationships you have gained and the things you gain from competition. “From that aspect, it was a tremendous year. The team is so close. They enjoy being around each other, and even if you take the wins and losses out of it, it’s still been a great season.” This season was Linamen’s third as head coach of the Eagles, and it marked the first time he had a team made up entirely of players he recruited.
“We have players who have fantastic character, who are strong academically, and who are talented. We’re right where we want to be as we move forward.” Although Linamen hesitates to single out one player as the team’s MVP, he praises the work and play of Cristina Gutierrez, a sophomore midfielder from Plant City. “I’ve seen her grow a lot. She’s really focused on her career path and how soccer relates to that. Her work ethic is exceptional on and off the field. If we took her off the field, our team would definitely miss her leadership and struggle.” Once again, the Eagles played a tough schedule this year. They faced — and played well against — nationally ranked teams, including three matches against No. 1 Eastern Florida. “We didn’t get the results we wanted, but we performed well against them,” said Linamen. “Out of all the teams Eastern Florida played this year in the regular season, we probably challenged them the most. We
know that the No. 1 team in the nation had to figure out how to beat us. They couldn’t just walk onto the field and win. We’re proud of that fact.” Linamen said that the experience is extremely valuable for his players. “I think it’s huge because they can look back at the fact that we played so strongly against the team that was the No. 1 team in the nation the entire year. It builds our players’ confidence level so when they step onto the field with Eastern Florida next year, they’ll know they can play right there with them.” Growing through challenge is one reason Linamen prefers to play a strong schedule each season. He’d rather play a tough team and lose a close game than play an easy team and win big. “If we have a soft record early in the year, and then we go to play the No. 1 team, we’re not prepared for it,” he said. “So I’d rather be challenged and have the team see what we need to work on to get better, than to play easy games.”
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POLK STATE CHEERLEADERS PLACE SECOND IN 2015 COMPETITIONS The Polk State cheerleading squad competed in three major cheerleading events in 2015 and finished second in each one. The Eagles showed their skills at the Florida State Fair, Jamfest 2015 in Tampa, and the COA Nationals in Orlando. The squad also cheered at Eagles basketball games and other College events. “This was a rebuilding year for Polk State cheerleading,” says Coach Brittany Carson. “Even with a group of new cheerleaders, we were successful in supporting our college and on the competition floor.”
Polk State College is governed by a local District Board of Trustees that serves without compensation. The trustees are appointed by Florida’s governor and are vested with the oversight of all College policies, including matters related to its programs, buildings, budget, and personnel. Here, the Trustees share why they are proud to serve Polk State College.
“Education is the great equalizer. As a Cuban exile, I know everything can be taken from us, yet no one can take away the power of knowledge. Polk State College has been part of my life since 1973. It was here that I learned English and where I was inspired to pursue a career in education. I experienced the advantage of a small and diverse college environment, an institution that facilitates progress and affords all socioeconomic levels the opportunity to become honorable and productive members of our community. I strongly believe in our system, and I consider chairing the Polk State District Board of Trustees one of the greatest honors and achievements of my lifetime.” CHAIR TERESA V. MARTÍNEZ
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTE OF SPANISH COMMUNICATION INC. | POLK STATE COLLEGE DISTINGUISHED ALUMNA
“I am very proud to be able to be part of Polk State College. As an alumnus, I am grateful for a great education. As an employer, I am thankful that many members of our local workforce receive their education and training at Polk State. As a citizen of Polk County, I am grateful and indebted to the many healthcare workers, first responders and police officers who were trained at Polk State. As a trustee, I am so gratified and thankful to see the tremendous positive change that Polk State makes in the lives of our students. Access to education truly helps to lay the groundwork for a better life — and that is an awesome thing.” VICE CHAIR GREG LITTLETON
CEO AND PRESIDENT OF CITIZENS BANK & TRUST | POLK STATE COLLEGE DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS
“Polk State College is a wonderful educational facility where occupations are realized. I have been a proud alumnus since 1966, and now I am a proud member of the Polk State District Board of Trustees. As an alumnus, I know firsthand the difference this institution makes for its students, and now as a trustee, I have the opportunity to help make that difference for new generations. It is an honor to serve this college.” DAN DORRELL
CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT AND PRESIDENT OF FLORIDA BROKERS, LLC | MEMBER OF POLK STATE’S FIRST GRADUATING CLASS
“It’s an honor to serve on the Polk State College District Board of Trustees. It is very rewarding to see what the students accomplish in academics and sports, and how Polk State makes an impact on their lives.” RICK GARCIA
PRESIDENT AND CEO OF GULF COAST AVIONICS CORP.
“It is my honor and privilege to serve on Polk State’s District Board of Trustees. As a community member, I am thankful not only for Polk State’s role in providing access to a quality education that can transform lives, but also for the economic impact it provides to our county. Coming from the healthcare field, I am grateful for all the healthcare professionals who graduated from Polk State College and now provide quality care in our local hospitals, medical clinics, and other healthcare facilities. I am proud of the fact that most of our students graduate debt-free, or close to debt-free, and find jobs. And most of all, I am thankful that Polk State has President Eileen Holden, faculty, and staff who have the best interest of the students as their top priority.” LINDA PILKINGTON
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS | HEART OF FLORIDA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
“It is my pleasure and privilege to serve on the District Board of Trustees at my alma mater, Polk State College. It is a treasured responsibility to offer guidance and oversight of policies that positively affect students and provide opportunities to individuals and businesses in the community. I love — and have lived most of my life in — Polk County. Polk State College continues to stand out because of the effort the entire Polk State College team makes to meet the educational and training needs of our students and business community. Personally, this institution holds a special place in my heart because both my children, Shane and Travis, and 17 other family members, are graduates of Polk State.” CINDY HARTLEY ROSS
COMMUNITY ACTIVIST | POLK STATE ALUMNA
“Education is the key to empowerment and a better life. Knowing the significant role this institution has in our community and seeing firsthand the positive impact it has on our students and their future opportunities is personally very rewarding to me. I’m very honored and grateful to serve Polk State College in fulfilling its important mission.” MARK TURNER
ATTORNEY/PARTNER AT STRAUGHN & TURNER, P.A.
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