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Making a Difference Mondays, August 26

Monday, August 26, 2013

Donor Spotlight: John Sprenkle
Assistant Controller, Business Services

I was one of those few individuals fortunate enough to have had parents who provided funding to cover tuition and books when I was an undergraduate. I was the first in my immediate family to attend college, and I guess at the time I thought having my parents pay for college was the norm. With my parents’ financial support, I received my Bachelors in Science in Accounting from Salisbury University in Maryland. Later, I worked in Ocean City, Maryland at the Department of Transportation. When I decided to get my M.B.A, I was fortunate enough to work for a company that covered tuition and books. I was able to get my master’s from the same institution, again graduating with no college debt.

During my 12 years with Polk State, through many interactions with students, I have come to realize that my financial situation while in college was nowhere close to “the norm.” Students today face far greater pressure from forces outside the classroom than ever before, and with the rising cost of a college education, many are being forced to work more hours outside the classroom to make their dreams possible. I have seen the impact a full scholarship has for a student, but also what it means for a student to get a book or emergency scholarship that bridges the gap and keeps that person in school.

I do not give to the Foundation for recognition. I give because, although my contribution by itself may be small, when added to the rest of the employees’ donations, it can be a life changer for a student who may not have the means to otherwise attend college. With all the challenges that face our students today, financing their educational goals should be at the bottom of the list.

Alumni Spotlight: Tracy Mouncey
Business Consultant and Community Volunteer Values Education Accessibility

Tracy Mouncey smiles as she reminisces about her 27-year journey to receive her AA degree from Polk State. While unconventional, she knows that she was able to achieve a number of personal goals while on her pathway, each contributing to her return to Polk to finish her degree in 2012.

A Polk County native, Tracy grew up in Davenport, where her father served as mayor for seventeen years. After graduating from Haines City High School, she was accepted to the University of Florida, but a full scholarship offer from Troy State University changed her life path. “I had my heart set on attending UF, but instead I went to Troy. I missed my family and was not happy in Alabama, so I came back to start at Polk State in 1985,” recalls Tracy. “Then I got married and started a family, and put my college goals on hold.”

Tracy originally planned to be a stay-at-home mom to Brandon and Brooke, now 27 and 25 respectively, but she landed a position with a locally-owned company, Standard Sand and Silica. The size of the company allowed her to gain experience in human resources, purchasing, administrative support, and to also learn about the sand and mining industries. When the company was purchased by Rinker in 1998, Tracy helped with the transition from a local firm to a national company. As Tracy notes, “The management team recognized the need to change the way business was conducted. Community involvement and the building of relationships with local businesses and the community became more important.” Tracy had always served as a volunteer with community organizations, and working as the community relations coordinator allowed her to continue this involvement on behalf of Rinker. She even served as a Polk State College Foundation Board member during this time.

In 2007, CEMEX purchased Rinker, and Tracy’s position changed again with her new focus solely on community relations and sustainability. In 2010, Tracy used her expertise in corporate communications and the sand and mining industries to open her own consulting firm, Florida Communications and Development Group, Inc. She rebranded and renamed her company in 2012 to Tracy Mouncey & Associates.

Even with all of her career success, Tracy still felt that something was missing. “It really bothered me that I had never finished my degree. My sisters all had their degrees, and even my nieces and nephews had degrees. My husband, Matt, encouraged me to finish at Polk State, and I am a proud 2012 graduate.”

Tracy found that the flexible schedule of classes offered at Polk allowed her to individualize her schedule and work around her work as a consultant. She also had ample time to serve as chair of the Haines City Northeast Polk County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Now an alumna, Tracy also serves on the Polk State College Alumni Association Board of Directors.

This fall, Tracy will continue her studies at the University of South Florida, where she plans to study Environmental Policy and Science. Tracy believes that “Anybody can go to school, no matter your demographics. Accessible education in our community is helping to change the face of Polk County.”

Student Spotlight: Mike Boswell
Fishing up Success on the Lake and in the Classroom

Mike Boswell enjoyed fishing as a kid, but he never thought that it would help him get his college degree. Yet as the first-ever recipient of the Florida B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Scholarship, he is transforming his sporting talents into college success.

A 2012 graduate of Bartow High School, Mike was a member of the Bartow High School Fishing Team, where he served as president and co-angler. During this time he had eight top-three finishes and was named Classic Champion. According to Mike, “My dad is the one who really got me interested in fishing. Wal-mart is a big sponsor of the sport, and professional anglers would frequently come to the store where my dad works and visit the fans. These were my first experiences in seeing that a sport I love could become a profession.”

In addition to his success on the high school team, Mike was honored as Angler of the Year in 2012 from the Lakeland Junior Hawg Hunters. He had seventeen top-three finishes.

Bass fishing has been around for many years, but is developing a surge in popularity among youth. Polk State College has even formed a competitive fishing team, and Mike is part of this new group. “I am proud to be a part of the Polk State team. I frequently take young kids out fishing, and I keep my Polk jersey in the car to wear when I am working with them so that they can see that fishing is something they could do to earn scholarships for college.”

Mike wanted to stay close to home to help the junior high and high school fishing teams, so Polk State College was the perfect fit. He is majoring in Business and Marketing, and plans to continue his education at the University of Central Florida. He plans to join their fishing team as well.

Working as an office assistant at the law firm of Frost Van den Boom & Smith, Mike was able to save money to start Polk State in the Spring 2013 semester. Receiving the Florida B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Scholarship means that he can use those funds in the fall and continue to save for subsequent semesters, with the goal of graduation without debt.

While some may think that fishing is just a leisure activity, Mike points out that there is a science to being a successful fisherman. “I compare studying the sport of fishing to that of a big school test,” Mike explains. “I am constantly studying the grass lines on lakes, the water levels, and many other scientific factors that will give me an edge in competition.”

Mike’s future plans include becoming a professional angler, and then eventually parlaying his Marketing degree into a career in the fishing industry. His familiarity with the sport, in addition to his desire to see the sport and the industry become more advanced, would be helpful for the different companies that produce the products used most on the water – fishing rods and sunglasses. Recalls Mike, “My overall dream is to own my own fishing clothing company, and I would like to be able to help anglers get the products that will help them advance the sport.”

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

Ah, the first days of school in the fall… It’s like enjoying a York Peppermint Patty—it’s simply invigorating to have a fresh start and to witness thousands upon thousands of students choose Polk to begin their journey to a bright future.

I had the great pleasure of working at the First Days table and was so inspired by one of the students who stopped by. He was so very excited to be at Polk State! He explained that he has practically been on his own since he was 12 years old, yet because of hard work and perseverance, he has bought a home and two cars. He also lost over 140 pounds the healthy way in recent years, and was hired by the YMCA during his transformation. This has allowed him to encourage others toward their own goals. The YMCA sent him to training, and this experience inspired him to decide to become a physical therapist so he could help both the elderly and children. He said he knows these new goals will take a lot of hard work, but there is only one thing he is bad at… quitting!

What an incredibly powerful way to start the new school year! Hearing his enthusiastic story of determination motivated me to continue to stay true to the Foundation’s goal of having a scholarship for every student who needs one to be able to attend Polk State College. And you, my colleagues, play such an essential role in that goal. You help identify those students who just need a hand up to attain a higher education, and your donations at all levels help give us the ability to keep students on the pathway to a college degree. Your support is greatly appreciated, and I could never thank you enough for all that you do to promote student success at Polk State College.

All the very best,

Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director