Two Seminole State honors students named 2017 Jack Kent Cooke Scholars

SANFORD, Fla. (April 24, 2017) – Seminole State students shine again! For the third consecutive year, multiple honors students at Seminole State College of Florida were named winners of one of the nation’s most prestigious and lucrative scholarships.


Gustavo Diaz Galeas and Cathryn “Cate” Kandle were awarded the Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship – worth up to $40,000 a year to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university and up to $50,000 a year to pursue graduate studies. Diaz Galeas and Kandle were among 55 scholars selected this year to receive the award nationwide.


Kandle began attending Seminole State as a homeschooled, Dual Enrollment student and is majoring in biology. She hopes to transfer to Cornell University in the fall. She will continue her education as a biology major with a focus on sustainability. Kandle works as a student tutor in Seminole State’s Academic Success Center.


“It feels unbelievable,” says Kandle. “The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship has opened up my options so that I can go where I want.”


Diaz Galeas is studying computer engineering. He hopes to attend MIT in the fall. Diaz Galeas is the programming director in the STEM Student Club and also serves as an embedded tutor for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant program and for the Academic Success Center.


“Because I am an international student, trying to find financial resources is really hard,” says Diaz Galeas. “The very fact that I got this scholarship means that I don’t have to worry about taking out loans, and I don’t have to worry about working. I can focus fully on my studies.”


Both Kandle and Diaz Galeas will miss the sense of community and the support from faculty and the Grindle Honors Institute that are found at Seminole State.


“I have felt like around every turn at Seminole State, someone has had my back,” says Kandle. “I never felt like I am in this alone. There are people who are always willing to help me and extend their hands to me.”


All of the JKC winners show financial need and strong records of academic achievement as indicated by grades, leadership skill, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity.


Since 2006, Seminole State has produced a total of 17 JKC scholars, including a national record-tying four scholarship recipients in 2015. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation says its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is to community college graduates what the Rhodes Scholarship is to overseas study.


JKC Scholarships fund the costs of attending college not covered by other financial aid, plus academic advising, stipends for internships, study abroad and opportunities to network with other JKC scholars and alumni.

Seminole State Biology Colloquium Series Presents Filmmaker Paul Rosolie April 19

SANFORD, Fla. (April 12, 2017) – As part of the Biology Colloquium Series, the Seminole State College of Florida Environmental Initiative Club and Biology Department will host nationally known speaker Paul Rosalie, as he presents his topic, “Protecting the Wildest Place on Earth: Conservation in the Amazon.” This free event will be held on Wednesday, April 19, from 7 - 9 p.m., in the Fine Arts Concert Hall (building G) at the College’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus.


As seen on Discovery Channel, Paul Rosolie is a naturalist, author, explorer and award-winning wildlife filmmaker who has specialized in the western Amazon for nearly a decade. 


As an author, Paul’s mission is to blend adventure and conservation with the aim of reaching a broader audience and including more people in an ecological call to arms.


Rosolie will share his experiences in the Amazon Rainforest and discuss his memoir, Mother of God, detailing his adventures in the Peruvian Amazon, the most bio-diverse wilderness on Earth. Learn about his wildlife encounters and how his conservation project, Tamandua Expeditions, uses tourism to support rainforest conservation.


Seating for this free event is first come, first served. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. A reception and book signing (with books available for purchase) will immediately follow the presentation.


For more information about the author, please visit


For more information about the Biology Colloquium Series, please contact Dr. Debra Socci at 407.971.5077. To view past speakers at Seminole State, visit the community speakers webpage.


About the Biology Colloquium Series: Seminole State’s Biology Department hosts the Biology Colloquium Series to present topics and issues related to various fields of biology. The Biology Department invites panelists and speakers to participate in the colloquium by serving as experts on these subjects. To learn more about the Biology Department, please visit

FL Main Streets Demonstrate the Importance of Fully Funding VISIT FLORIDA

The Florida Senate and House each passed their respective budget bills. As we anticipated, the House's proposed funding level for VISIT FLORIDA is $25 million, a 67 percent cut to VISIT FLORIDA's budget. The Florida Senate, however, matches the Governor's recommendation of fully funding VISIT FLORIDA at $76 million. The budget conference process, where the House and Senate will negotiate and determine what's in the final budget, could begin as early as next week. When this next phase begins, it will be more important than ever for you to reach out to your legislators to ensure VISIT FLORIDA is fully funded. We ask that you stand ready to advocate for full funding for VISIT FLORIDA and will be back in touch with a specific call to action when needed.

To continue to draw visitors to every part of Florida, this week, VISIT FLORIDA announced a new initiative to showcase Florida Main Street communities. In partnership with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) and the Florida Department of State's Florida Main Street Program, VISIT FLORIDA has begun including these historic Florida communities on the Florida Attractions Finder - a popular online tool where visitors can personalize their Florida experience. As part of the launch, VISIT FLORIDA has added an initial grouping of eight Main Streets to the Attractions Finder and will continue to work with these communities to highlight additional Main Streets throughout the spring and summer.

For more details, please contact

Additional City Services Available Now on Fridays at Sanford City Hall

The City of Sanford is pleased to announce that starting Friday, April 7, 2017 additional City services will be available on Fridays at City Hall.  We look to accommodate the increased growth in Sanford and to meet our customer’s needs both now and in the future.


With this new change, the City of Sanford Building Department and Public Works Department will be staffed on Fridays from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm.  The Building Department permit counter staff will take in permit applications, answer any questions related to building permits and vertical construction applications and setting up future building inspections.  Staff will also issue Building Permits that are ready for pick up, business tax receipts that have been approved by Planning and Development, and they will accept business tax applications. 


The Public Works Administrative Office will be available on Fridays to handle trash concerns, hand out recycle bins, and provide critical services such as pot hole repairs, hazardous sidewalks, and downed stop signs.


The Utility Department will continue to be open for billing and customer service inquiries on Fridays from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm.   

Seminole State Speaker Series to Feature World-Renowned Astrophysicist

SANFORD, Fla. (March 27, 2017) – The Seminole State College of Florida Speaker Series will host world-renowned astrophysicist, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, as he presents the topic, “Reach for the Stars, No Matter What the Odds.” This free event will be held on Wednesday, April 5, from 7 - 9 p.m. in the Fine Arts Concert Hall (building G) at the College’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus.


Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, a regular on Discovery Network, Science Channel and National Geographic, is a world-renowned astrophysicist, teacher, inventor and humanitarian. He grew up in impoverished Mississippi and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans with many of his “role models” involved in the worlds of drugs and crime. Nicknamed “The Gangsta Nerd” many years ago, Dr. Oluseyi embraces this identity as it speaks to his past, present and future, as someone who believes in the power of passion and dreams.

Currently, Dr. Oluseyi has five degrees, 80 publications including books, scientific and technology publications, more than 11 patents and has received several fellowships, honors and awards.

Dr. Oluseyi’s mission is to pass on knowledge, process and results to the next generation, along the way dispelling the myth of what it takes to be a scientist. In his presentation, he will share his story and his exciting work with the 100 Year Starship Project to help lay the groundwork for the first human mission to a nearby planetary system.  

Seating for this free event is first come, first served. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. A Q&A period, reception and a special telescope viewing will immediately follow.

Seminole State’s Speaker Series is co-sponsored by CFE Federal Credit Union. For more information, please visit the Speaker Series website. For a full list of events at Seminole State, please visit the Newsroom calendar.  

Related Event: Telescope Viewing

Following Dr. Oluseyi's presentation, guests are invited to step outside and experience the fascinating world of astronomy while viewing the wonders of the night sky through the planetarium's telescopes. Weather permitting, enjoy the view from the lawn between buildings G and C. This event is hosted by the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida. For more information on the Buehler Planetarium, visit the planetarium website.




Media contact: Donna Wright, 407.708.2694,

PM Promotions Looking for Show Sponsorships

Single Show Sponsorship: You choose the show you want to sponsor.


Annual Sponsorships also available. Please contact Michele Holley at




GOLD Sponsor


Company name on all printed materials. Excluding tickets due to space.

Mentions on all social media week of event (plugging your business and your sponsorship of #supportlocalmusic).




Company Logo on all printed materials. Excluding tickets due to space.

Mentions on all social media and on PM Graphix website for two weeks prior to event (plugging your business and your sponsorship of #supportlocalmusic).

Two Free tickets to the sponsored show.




Company Logo on all printed materials. Excluding tickets due to space.

Mentions on all social media and on PM Graphix website for month of the event (plugging your business and your sponsorship of #supportlocalmusic).

Four Free tickets to the sponsored show.

Mentions on our WJRR and IHEART Radio promotion spot (if applicable).




April 1st = Every Mother’s Nightmare

May 6th = Saliva: Live and Unplugged

June 3rd = Sanford Hurricane Party, PM Promotions has stage inside of the West End Trading Company

August 5th = Facelift: Alice and Chains Tribute

November 4th = KORN AGAIN: KORN Tribute band from the U.K.

PM Promotions of PM Graphix Opens in Full Swing

PM Graphix’s promotion department, PM Promotions, opened full swing on Jan. 1, 2017, at the mark of PM Graphix’s 17 year anniversary.


PM Graphix started as a “concert/band promotion” company back in 1999 when we were PM Graphix Plus.  We did a lot of printing for musicians and promotion, band logos, etc.. but it just was not fulfilling at the time. So we decided to steer in a different direction and go full force with PM Graphix, dropping the ‘Plus’, and opened our Printing and Graphic Design company in January of 2000.


Now 17 years later, PM Graphix is doing beyond wonderful and PM Graphix has no plans of ever stopping. This has given Paul and I a great opportunity to pursue something we both have always loved, music, and we were finally able to open the promotion side up again and unveil PM Promotions, a division of PM Graphix. We have been planning and working on this for several years.


PM Promotion’s main focus is to promote local music by teaming up Florida's best local bands with National and International signed acts. There is a plethora of talented musicians in Florida that no one knows about so why not use our musical resources to help extend their reach.


PM Promotions also wants to bring as many people to downtown Sanford, my hometown, as we can by having all of our events in a local venue, The West End Trading Company, located at 202 S. Sanford Avenue. There is so much to offer here and personally, I was always burnt out on having to drive out to Orlando or Daytona to find any nightlife or good concerts. Then driving home, that was always the worst part. I am so happy I have this chance and the opportunity to make a change about something I’ve always wanted to change. As well as being able to help out the community I love and help support all of the people in it in a positive way.


#pmgraphix  #pmpromotions  #supportlocalmusic  #supportlocal

SBA Deadline to Apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans in Florida is March 23

ATLANTA – The U.S. Small Business Administration is reminding small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in Florida of the deadline to submit disaster loan applications for economic injury resulting from the Orlando attack on June 12, 2016.  The deadline to apply for a working capital disaster loan is March 23, 2017.


“Businesses that suffered economic losses as a result of the attack and want to apply for
low-interest loans from the SBA are urged to do so before the March 23 deadline,” said
Frank Skaggs, director of SBA Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Low-interest disaster loans are available in Orange County and the neighboring counties of Brevard, Lake, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia in Florida.


Working capital disaster loans up to $2 million are available at 4 percent for small businesses, and 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. The loans are intended to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other expenses that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred.  To be considered for this assistance, eligible entities need to apply by the deadline.


Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at 


Applications and program information are available by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing), or by sending an email to Loan applications can also be downloaded from the SBA’s website at Completed applications should be mailed to:
U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.


The deadline to return economic injury applications is March 23, 2017.

ePathways Announces Next Internship Expo

It is with great enthusiasm that ePathways announces the next Internship Expo to be held Tuesday, April 11th, at NOAH's Event Venue in Lake Mary.  This event will connect students to employers interested in hosting interns this summer and/or fall.  Our goal is to increase our employer partnerships for spring to maximize learning opportunities for students. 


SCPS ePathways is actively seeking 150 employers interested in partnering with the district to provide students with authentic workplace experiences that allow students to apply the skills and knowledge developed in the classroom to the real world of work.  Employers interested in supporting workplace learning commit to providing 133 hours of paid or unpaid work to a high school student in the summer or fall of 2017 (June-July and/or August-December).  Business partners are supported by district administrators who facilitate the internship by conducting site visits, communicating with parents and schools, etc.


If you would like to participate in the next Internship Expo, please complete the intern request form to reserve your table for networking with students. More Info HERE

Casting a Wider Net for Giftedness

One of Walt Griffin’s first tasks after he was appointed superintendent of the Seminole County, Fla., school district in August 2012 was to comb through the system’s statistics.

“I was going through every piece of data I could imagine,” says Griffin, 57, who started as a middle school math teacher in Seminole in 1982 and rose through the ranks of the central Florida district to the top job.

But there was still information on the 67,000-student school system for Griffin to learn­—and to worry him.

“The gifted data for our district was very, very alarming,” Griffin says.


Students’ Needs Are Paramount: Schools are frequently tied to student placement by their schedule. Build your master schedule around your students’ needs, always.
Advocate for All Students: Look at the data, make the tough decisions, follow through, and follow up to ensure excellence and equity for all.
Inspect What You Expect: Monitor and address misconceptions and stereotypes about gifted students and how you deliver gifted services. Take corrective action if you drift off course.
While the school system’s more affluent elementary schools could boast of dozens of students who were identified as gifted, the gifted enrollment at some of Seminole’s poorer schools could be counted on one hand, with fingers left over.

“We’re a district that prides ourselves on equity and excellence,” Griffin says. “At the end of the day, we have to be advocates for all people.”

Less than a year after Griffin took the helm, the school system launched an initiative to scout more broadly and bring more diversity to its gifted student population. To lead the effort, he tapped Jeanette Lukens, a district school psychologist with her own passion for identifying talent in underserved populations.

In 2015, Seminole County, in partnership with the University of Central Florida, was awarded a five-year, $2.4 million federal grant to support its work—dubbed Project ELEVATE—to expand gifted education to a broader base of students. ELEVATE, short for “English Learner Excellence eVolving through Advanced Teacher Education,” reflects the program’s focus on training teachers to better recognize potential giftedness.

Seminole was the only school district to receive a grant through the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program in 2015; funds through the program are more commonly awarded to university researchers. If funded for the full five years, Project ELEVATE will expand in Seminole County to seven additional schools, including two middle schools.

Photo: Eve Edelheit for Education Week
Too often, it’s easy to look at students in lower-performing schools and think only of remediation, Griffin says.

“The greatest way for students to gain success is to be challenged,” Griffin says. “You have to be very careful in remedial courses to make sure you’re not lowering the bar.”

Making a Difference

So far, the district’s efforts to bring more underrepresented students into gifted education have focused around five highly diverse Title I elementary schools, says Lukens, 37. While the district’s population of black students averages about 15 percent in its elementary schools, black student enrollment at the five schools ranges from about 31 to 56 percent.

The district’s population of English-language learners in elementary schools is around 8 percent, compared to 10 to 21 percent in the Project ELEVATE schools. And the schools also have a high population of economically disadvantaged students: 76 to 95 percent, compared to the district’s overall average of 52 percent in its elementaries.

At those five schools, gifted enrollment has risen from 62 students in September 2013 to 168 as of last June—hard evidence that the initiative is making a difference, Lukens says. Across the district, the share of low-income and black and Hispanic students who are identified as gifted has been trending upward.

The proportion of Hispanic students identified as gifted has risen from 10 percent of the overall gifted student enrollment to 14 percent. For black students, the share has risen from 4 percent to 6 percent, while the proportion of poor students who are identified grew from 22 percent to 34 percent between 2013 and 2016.

White students made up 66 percent of the gifted elementary student population in 2013 and 58 percent in 2016. Though the number of white gifted students increased by nearly 200 students over that time frame, their share of the overall gifted population decreased. Asian or Pacific Islander elementary gifted students held relatively steady at 11 percent in 2013 and 10 percent in 2016.

The number of Asian gifted elementary students increased by more than 20 in that three-year time span.

The greatest way for students to gain success is to be challenged.
Wicklow Elementary, in Sanford, Fla., is one of the schools whose students are benefitting from the extra attention of Project ELEVATE. When the initiative began, Wicklow Elementary—highly diverse, with 85 percent of its students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches—had just three out of about 700 students identified as gifted, says Principal Martina Herndon.

Now, more than 40 children have been identified.

“We try to exclude all of the other elements that often overshadow the giftedness,” Herndon explains. That means looking beyond students who are the hand-raisers or the straight-A earners.

“You have to be open-minded and have a panoramic view of a child,” Herndon says. “Sometimes your view gets so crowded because of [students’] home lives. But that doesn’t mean they’re not gifted.”

This kind of project would be expected from Griffin and Lukens.

In 1997, Griffin became principal of what was then Lakeview Middle School. The school system was under a desegregation order from the U.S. Department of Justice, and Lakeview Middle, with its high population of poor students, was identified as having vestiges of inequity. “The Justice Department told the district, ‘Fix it,’ ” Griffin says.

With the help of an “incredible team,” Griffin led the transformation of the middle school into a pre-International Baccalaureate magnet school that offers concentrations in fine arts and communications. He was able to hire the school staff, and eventually oversaw construction of a new facility, now called Millenium Middle School.

“I learned early on that if you give great teachers great opportunities and great resources, students will be successful,” Griffin says. “When I put my very strongest teachers with my most struggling students, those students thrived. And in a very short time, a school of 900 students that people did not want to attend had a waiting list.”

Photo: Eve Edelheit for Education Week
Lukens, as a school psychologist, had worked in several schools in the county, and noticed disparities in who was being referred to her for evaluation for gifted programs.

“One student really stands out in my mind,” Lukens says. It was the first year of the Project ELEVATE initiative, and she was evaluating a shy 5th-grader at a school with low gifted enrollment.

“She was remarkable. She had such a high IQ. And, it was bittersweet. That child had been at that school since kindergarten, and we just missed all those years servicing her,” Lukens says.

Multiple Pathways

Project ELEVATE’s primary focus is on making sure such children are not missed any more. Empowering teachers with that knowledge is critical, Lukens says.

“We don’t want a child’s ZIP code to hinder potential recognition of traits,” she says. And, while the district does screen all 2nd graders for gifted traits—as many districts are starting to do—that screening still doesn’t capture all students who may benefit from enriched education, she says.

That’s where teachers’ knowledge becomes so important, and that includes knocking down stereotypes of what giftedness may look like, she says.

“Children who are gifted are not gifted every moment of the day,” Lukens says. “They’re going to have strengths and weaknesses, just like everybody else.”

Once children are identified as potentially gifted, they go through additional evaluation, including IQ testing and other assessments. A score of 130 or above qualifies students for gifted education.

A “Plan B” pathway offers the district the option of using different criteria for English-language-learners and students from low-income families. Lukens says that many of the Project ELEVATE students are qualifying under the usual pathways.

Children who are gifted are not gifted every moment of the day. They’re going to have strengths and weaknesses, just like everybody else.
The district’s work is not about identifying those diamonds in the rough and then separating them from their peers. Project ELEVATE has allowed each school to have its own gifted education teacher who, in addition to working directly with gifted students, is also in charge of creating schoolwide enrichment programs.

That has led to activities such as after-school programs where students in the gifted program, as well as those who have not been formally identified, can explore academic subjects in depth.

“It’s a safe place for them to explore and ask questions,” Lukens says. “I think it’s important for the students to see there are children who are bright and who are from their community, and when we began this project it was few and far between.”

Enrichment Opportunities

The district has also taken students to visit the University of Central Florida, to get a taste of college life. “They’re seeing that this is an actual path for them, something beyond high school is real, and they can see it and touch it,” Lukens says.

The district has also paid for teachers throughout the county—not just those in Project ELEVATE schools—to get an endorsement in gifted education.

The focus on elementary enrichment is a logical progression to other work the district has undertaken at the middle and high school level, Griffin says.

For example, the district’s ePathways program allows middle and high school students to create a customized learning plan that includes virtual courses, traditional face-to-face classes and a wide range of options for acceleration. “It’s all about students finding their passions,” Griffin says.

Griffin also sits down with each principal in the district yearly to talk about academic enrichment opportunities for students.

He and his executive team also receive monthly status updates on the initiative.

“It’s become a ‘feel-good’ for us, because Jeanette is doing such a phenomenal job,” he says of Lukens.

When he told Lukens what he wanted to see in gifted elementary identification, “She started formulating within hours what needed to happen. She understands the data, and she has the skill set to articulate changes as a result of the data that she’s seeing.”

Says Lukens, “I feel really fortunate to work in a district that is really open to trying for new things. If it’s best for kids, they’re open to that.”