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Making a Difference Mondays, April 30

Monday, April 30, 2012

Alumni Spotlight: Susan Copeland
Growing up at Polk State, Education Runs in the Family

As a child, Susan Copeland remembers roaming in the halls of the Science building with her brother, while her dad, Professor Joel Sloan, graded papers and prepared Anatomy and Physiology laboratory materials. Her mother taught at Auburndale High School, so Susan knew from an early age that education was important and that one day she would go to college.

After graduating from Auburndale High School in 1984, the obvious choice was to attend Polk State. Recalls Susan, “I had spent so much time on the Winter Haven campus that it was just a natural progression to go there.” Susan got involved while at the College and was a cheerleader for the basketball team. She graduated with her AA in 1986. Susan then worked in retail for a number of years while pursuing her Elementary Education degree from Warner University, graduating in 1991.

Susan worked for five years in the classroom before accepting a position in the Polk Education Foundation (PEF) as the Program Coordinator for Grants. In 2005, she was named Executive Director of the Foundation. Her work at the Foundation prompted her to go back to school, and she earned her master’s degree in Business Administration from Southeastern University in 2008.

Recently, under Susan’s leadership, the Polk Education Foundation was ranked 6th in the nation in a study done of large school districts and their education foundations. Susan also started the Polk School District’s “Free Teacher Market,” where once a month selected teachers can “shop” for classroom items they need for free.

Through Susan’s work at the Polk Education Foundation, she has maintained a strong relationship with Polk State College. “Through the PEF’s scholarship program, I see a large percentage of Polk County high school seniors who choose to attend Polk, and it is a pleasure to see students select my alma mater. I know they will receive a great education and it is a logical, economical choice, especially for the first two years of college.”

Susan is involved with a number of organizations, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals, READ Polk, the Florida Air Museum Board, the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, and the Polk State College Alumni Association. She is also currently the President of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations.

“I feel like I have come full circle with Polk State College after spending so much time there during my childhood, then as a student myself, and now being in a job that helps students attend there with scholarships. It has been a pleasure to watch Polk evolve and grow into the college it has become today!”

Donor Spotlight: Steve Hull
Provost, Lakeland Campus

Growing up in Illinois, I was fortunate to have a grandfather who provided funds for me to go to college. So not only was college paid for, it was expected of me and my older brother and younger sister. My father had a two-year degree and my mother was a teacher, which is one of the reasons I gravitated into the field of education.

Although tuition was covered, all my living expenses were my responsibility. I worked as a bartender during the school year, and spent summers working on the track crew for the Burlington Northern Railroad, eventually earning my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Augustana College.

When I started working at Polk State nearly 20 years ago, I soon realized that my story of getting an education was the exception, not the rule. In my position as Provost of the Lakeland Campus, I often hear the stories of the challenges that students face in pursuit of a college education. Now that I also teach college preparatory classes, I actually see firsthand the students most in need of support through scholarships. Many work several part-time jobs, have families, and struggle financially.

Together with my wife, Bridget Kennedy-Hull, we support the Polk State College Foundation out of a sincere desire to help Polk State students in need. We know how important education is in workforce development, and we want to do everything we can to help make dreams come true through higher education.

By giving to emergency scholarships through payroll deductions throughout the year, Bridget and I are able to help students whose life circumstances could force them to drop out of college. To be able to provide relief for emergency financial situations is invaluable for our students.

Student Spotlight: Casmore Shaw
Empty Nest Finally Allows for Dreams of a Degree

Casmore Shaw gets teary-eyed when he talks about his children. As a father of five, he is extremely proud to note that three of his daughters have college degrees, and one will graduate next year from FSU.

Casmore has spent his entire life devoted to his wife of 33 years and his wonderful children. This devotion has included the sacrifice of putting his education on hold. He notes, “I was always fortunate to be able to make a good income without a degree, and my first priority was to make sure that my children received a good education.” As is true for so many parents, he wishes even better opportunities for his children than he has had for himself. His favorite quote is by Greek philosopher Epictetus, “Only the educated are free.”

After his position as a customer service trainer at an Orlando resort was eliminated, Casmore’s wife and children encouraged him to go back to school. “Being an older student has not been easy, but I know that retraining is necessary to be competitive in the workplace.”

As a past recipient of an emergency scholarship and the Devon M. and Louise B. Hizer Scholarship recipient for the 2011-2012 Academic Year, Casmore has been able to focus on his work in the classroom rather than on financial issues. He has also taken the opportunity to get involved in Polk State’s Student Government, the Polk State Chronicle, Phi Theta Kappa, the Honors Program, and My Brother’s Keeper. Outside the College, he is President of the Caribbean and Floridian Association, a board member of the Osceola Foundation of Education, and a member of the Osceola County Charter Review Commission.

According to Casmore, he has had a number of faculty and staff support him in the pursuit of his degree. Specifically, he credits Dr. Kim Thomas, Katrina Smith, MacKenzie Jennings and Sylvester Little with encouraging him during his first semester. As he explains, “My professors that first semester were so willing to help me. I also found my academic advisors very positive and committed to my success.”

While Casmore is working on pre-requisites for the Occupational Therapist Assistant Program, he has become very involved in the My Brother’s Keeper initiative for homeless students attending Polk State College. He has been part of the organizing group since the beginning, and works with students who come in for assistance. He estimates that as many as 80 students have come through the portable for support since it opened in early March.

Casmore believes that everyone should encourage children and young people to be educated, either academically or vocationally. In turn, he believes that an educated community ensures a sustainable workforce.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

The past few months (and years) have been a whirlwind of wonderfulness! It is so uplifting to see the outpouring of support for Polk State students, with so much of this generosity starting with us – the employees! I am grateful beyond words for your continued compassion and kindness which has played an invaluable role in the success of Polk State students.

People will often hear me say that Karen Moore has the best job at the Polk State College Foundation. She has the good fortune of awarding scholarships to our promising students, many of whom come in shedding tears of terror, not knowing how they will afford to stay enrolled at Polk State. Those students often leave shedding tears of joy because our collective philanthropy has given them the hand-up they needed to close the financial gap for their educational dreams.

Karen recently received and forwarded me an e-mail from a Foundation scholarship recipient that proclaimed “I Did It!” in the subject line. It was incredibly uplifting to read about this student’s journey at Polk State, and how she was so appreciative of her experiences here, the education she received, and the financial assistance that helped to make it all possible. She, as so many other scholarship recipients, expressed her gratitude for the ability to attain an education that will forever change her life. Her closing reiterated her subject line: “I did it!” Applause to each and every one of you, my wonderful colleagues, who have made it possible for so many of our students to make this astounding proclamation.

Together, We Did It!

Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director