A celebration of success: Seminole State’s Spring 2017 Commencement

SANFORD, Fla. (May 3, 2017) – Seminole State College of Florida awarded more than 2,000 degrees and certificates, including more than 100 bachelor’s degrees, in the Spring 2017 Collegewide Commencement Tuesday night at the University of Central Florida’s CFE Arena.

In her address, Seminole State President Dr. E. Ann McGee noted significant developments at Seminole State, such as the exciting growth of the College that includes offering a master’s degree in international business through a partnership with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, and the addition of two more international master’s programs in the works for fall.

She also highlighted Seminole State’s Cyber Security Specialization, which ranked first among the 30 best online cybersecurity programs, and the College’s nursing program, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation. But most of all, she celebrated the students’ achievements and the faculty and staff who help them succeed.

“Our strength has always been the personal touch that we offer students…the personal interest that our faculty and staff take in our students that helps them reach their full potential,” she said.

Dr. McGee went on to share that two of the graduating students, Gustavo Diaz Galeas and Cathryn “Cate” Kandle, are winners of the 2017 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, one of the most lucrative scholarships for transfer students in the nation.

She also recognized achievements outside the classroom. The Seminole State Raider softball team clinched its first-ever regular season conference title and set a school record for wins, finishing at 53-11. The Raider women’s golf team won its fourth straight National Junior College Athletic Association Region 8 golf championship, earning a trip to the National Championship in late May.

A few of the graduates enjoyed a moment in the spotlight, as Dr. McGee shared their unique stories:

Juan Moyers, of Apopka: Moyers was born on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola. After losing his job and going through a divorce, he began his education at Seminole State at age 38 and credits his instructors, his family and his five children with being instrumental in his success. Moyers, one of 12 children, earned a bachelor’s degree in business and information management and is the first of his brothers to graduate from college.

Saskia Fanord, of Orlando: Fanord is a first-generation college student. After starting at Seminole State in Spring 2014, Fanord left school and worked part time to support her family while her dad recovered from serious injuries sustained in a car accident. She returned to college in Spring 2016 and says her involvement in student organizations helped her persevere through school and the tough times in her life.
Stevanna “Stevi” Ames, of Clermont: Ames, a student-athlete, excels in the classroom and on the softball field as a shortstop for the Raiders. She was named to the 2017 All-Florida Academic Team and was selected as Raider Athletics’ Female Athlete of the Year. During her freshman year of high school, her 1-year-old cousin died from brain cancer. That tragedy inspired her to become a nurse. She plans to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and work with children battling cancer.

Randall Arana Vargas, of Oviedo: Vargas works 30 hours each week to help support his family. Despite a busy work schedule and home life, he exceled in his studies and is a member of Seminole State’s Grindle Honors Institute, Phi Theta Kappa and the Student Government Association. He wants to study business and sociology at Florida State University to be near the state capitol and maximize his opportunity to build relationships with legislators and politicians.

Mahaila La Spina-Burgess, of Longwood: La Spina-Burgess is an Australian citizen who moved to the United States two years ago. Her biggest challenge academically was adjusting to the way classes are taught in America. While working full time, she earned a GED with honors in two subjects. She will continue her studies at Seminole State to pursue a career in business and fashion design.
Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma, a former adjunct professor in Seminole State’s Criminal Justice Academy, provided the keynote speech for the ceremony, motivating students to understand the importance of balancing higher education with learning life’s lessons.

“In the highly technical and complex society we live in today, we must have a sound academic foundation,” said Lemma. “Education is more than books and concepts. It also means being socially and emotionally capable to interact in a positive and meaningful way. Commit yourself to self-improvement and learn something new every day. Embrace the concept of perpetual learning.”

During the ceremony, Seminole State also announced its Endowed Teaching Chairs. Professors Dr. Patrick Blythe, John Delgado, Dr. Laila Nimri and Leslie Sammarco each received a $5,000 award for earning the prestigious distinction.


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