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Making a Difference Mondays, August 20

Monday, August 20, 2018

Donor Spotlight: Holly Scoggins

Professor of Art, Polk State College

At one time or another, each of us has encountered a student who struggles to determine his or her career path, but still understands that a college degree is the key to a better life.

I can appreciate these types of individuals, because this was my story too. I grew up in a poor, rural town, and often worried more about how to help my family than what I might do with my future. My father was disabled and in poor health, and my mother worked tirelessly to provide for our family. Becoming an artist seemed impractical and unrealistic. But, my mother always told me that there was more out there than our small town: ‘a world bigger than this.’ She encouraged me to go to college, as she felt it would change my trajectory, and allow me to achieve all that was deep within my heart. “Then,” she said, “you will be able to take care of yourself, just as I am taking care of you now.”

To help make ends meet, I took my talent for drawing and painting and did whatever I could to be independent and lessen the load on my mom. For example, my first paid art jobs were in middle school doing things such as painting murals for local businesses.

Because of teachers and donors who personally invested in me, I am the first in my family to graduate from college with a four-year degree, as well as the first to earn a terminal degree in my field. I have been able to reinvest with the students at Polk State to expose them to new materials, methods, and techniques of art production.

Receiving the George Jenkins Endowed Teaching Chair has enabled me to expose students to Printmaking, an art form that goes back to the 5th century. The award is being used to train and equip me to teach students safe methods of reproducing fine art images, and this can, in turn, generate art sales for them and expand their breadth of knowledge in visual art.

I support the Foundation to pay it forward, so that students who grew up under similar circumstances can reach their fullest potential and change their lives for the better.

Alumni Spotlight: Steve Lester
2018 Distinguished Alumnus

Steve Lester received a Polk State Associate in Science in Criminology degree in 1982, and a Polk State Associate in Arts in 1983. After graduating, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminology from the University of Florida in 1999, and a Master of Public Administration from Troy State University in 2007. Today, he serves as Chief of Staff for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) and is second-in-command of the agency. He acts as Sheriff in all regards during the Sheriff’s absence.

Lester has served as Chief for seven years, overseeing 1,700 employees in daily operations. He has worked at the Sheriff’s Office for over 31 years. Born in West Virginia as the third of four children, Lester’s parents met in a coal-mining town, with his father working in the coal plant and his mother working in the coal company’s store. Seeking a better life for his family, Steve’s father made the decision to leave the company and move the family to Atlanta, Georgia. The family eventually moved to Winter Haven.

Lester joined the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in 1986 as a detention deputy sheriff. He rose through the ranks, from Corporal to Chief Commander for the Department of Detention, before his appointment as Chief of Staff in 2010. A career highlight during his tenure with the PCSO was the opportunity to attend the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Session 240.

Among his many professional and community affiliations, Lester is a member of the Polk County Police Chiefs’ Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Polk State College Training Advisory Committee, the International Association of Chiefs’ of Police, and the Rotary Club of Winter Haven. He is also a graduate of Leadership Polk Class II. Steve is married to wife Alisha and they have two children, Hannah and Jenna.

Student Spotlight: BreAsia Barnes

BreAsia Barnes’s favorite quote from Maya Angelou serves as her inspiration in life: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it is necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it.”

BreAsia graduated from Ft. Meade High School in 2017, and has dreamed of working in the medical field since she was eight years old. While other children might have been watching shows on Nickelodeon, BreAsia was watching medical shows that depicted real-life procedures and medical conditions. According to BreAsia, “Even though the shows sometimes featured people on operating tables and blood, I was fascinated by the surgeries.”

In fifth grade, BreAsia received the Fancelli Family Future Leaders Scholarship. She considers this to be her proudest accomplishment so far. “I was really surprised when my name was called,” recalls BreAsia. “I had always dreamed of going to college, and this scholarship made it possible.”

The future promise of a college scholarship served as a source of inspiration and encouragement during her middle school and high school years. When faced with a challenging class, BreAsia would remind herself that others believed in her enough to award her the scholarship. The Fancelli Scholarship gave her the drive to work hard in middle school and high school, where she participated in dance, cheerleading, and chorus. She graduated with honors and recently finished her first year at Polk State College.

BreAsia plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Physical Therapy at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) after graduating from Polk State, and she would like to focus on working with children.

BreAsia recently returned to Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary, where she had the opportunity to present a Fancelli Family Future Leaders Scholarship to another student, changing that individual’s life forever. “This was an amazing experience for me. My favorite part was seeing the reaction of the student’s parents, as they were fully able to understand the significance of this life-changing scholarship.”

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

Each and every gift to the Foundation is tremendously appreciated, as these donations create ripples of change throughout the community. Over the summer, this was displayed through the reverberations of a donation enabling the establishment of an endowed scholarship for the benefit of single parents and children of single parents. Many students fall into these two categories, which can be accompanied by financial instability.

Not long after this generous gift was made, an important project came to a beautiful conclusion. Initiated by Pairris Jones, in partnership with Dr. Gregory Johnson (and his amazingly talented students), the Foundation received a tearful thank-you video from a single mother of four children who persevered to achieve her dream of a college degree after seven years. This woman’s dreams were made possible by the gift of so many donors at a variety of levels to our Foundation–and her gratitude, along with the transformation achieved through education, was communicated through this poignant recorded message. This video project, a part of Pairris’s participation in the Exceptional Leaders with Innovative Talents and Excellence (ELITE) Program, will enable recipients and donors to have a more personal connection. Listening to the student’s narrative and her heartfelt appreciation for the life-changing opportunity provided by the scholarship moved my soul. Because of the collective contributions that make such a difference, and now an additional endowed scholarship, even more students with a similar plight will be able to pursue better lives for themselves and their families.

The Polk State College Foundation is truly fortunate to be able to award more than 1,500 scholarships annually that are made possible through the philanthropy and kindness of thousands of donors across the history of the Polk State College Foundation. Individuals give at all levels and all gifts are essential to providing these types of life-altering opportunities to needy students. Our donors have made it possible for this young woman, and those like her, to overcome financial hardship and walk across the graduation stage–no matter the timetable. And because Polk State students have such strong success in the marketplace and when seeking higher degrees at other institutions, earning a degree at Polk State College is truly the catalyst for waves of change within a person’s life and career. It is incredibly rewarding to play a small role in this transformation, and in the overall growth and betterment of our entire community.

Our jobs, no matter the role, and donations, no matter the size, are contributing to these tremendous success stories. Our mission, and the work and donations that support it, make a profound difference in the lives of our students. My heart overflows with gratitude for your generosity, as do the hearts of more than 1,500 students who receive these scholarships each year.

Happy New School Year to each of you!

All the very best,

Tracy M. Porter
Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Executive Director, Foundation