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Making a Difference Mondays, December 12

Monday, December 12, 2016

Donor Spotlight: Brenda Bracewell
Enrollment Services Specialist


Growing up, I developed a love of learning that was fostered within a loving family. After I got married and had children, my husband and I put such a high value on education that we made the decision for me to educate our sons at home. This allowed me to spend quality time with my children, collaborate with other families who made a similar decision, further develop my love for learning new things, and share my enthusiasm.

This same love of learning is what led me to enroll my children in Polk State’s Kids at College Program years ago—then work as an adult volunteer, and eventually as a paid staff member overseeing the Kids at College Program and Enrichment Academy. These experiences opened the door to more learning opportunities for my family, as one of my sons attended the Collegiate High School and went on to graduate from Southeastern University. Currently, my younger son is a senior at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Polk State College provided both of them with their first introduction to a college environment.

My monthly payroll deduction to the Foundation doesn’t adversely affect my family’s budget, but I believe that my small donation, accumulated over time and added to other employees’ small donations, can provide enormous benefit to others. These funds can prevent a student from giving up on his or her dreams and quitting school before finishing a degree. It makes me happy that I can be a part of this type of tangible encouragement for our students while supporting a cause for which I have had a lifelong attachment.

Alumni Spotlight: Twanna “T-Fay” Dewdney
December 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient

dewdney-twannaTwanna “T-Fay” Dewdney is a local business owner and community activist. She earned her Polk State Associate in Arts degree in 2011, and a Bachelor of Applied Science in 2013. She is the first baccalaureate program graduate to be recognized as a Polk State Distinguished Alumna.

Dewdney graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1986. She started at Polk on a volleyball and basketball scholarship, but eventually dropped out. Due to blemishes on her record, her work options were limited. She had always had an interest in working with hair, so she went to beauty school and became a licensed cosmetologist.

Dewdney, a single parent, developed a rare condition at the end of her pregnancy where she lost her sight. Only eight known cases have been reported in the United States, and she is one of only two survivors. Miraculously, her sight was regained four days after her daughter was born.

After working at several salons, Dewdney’s brothers built her a salon of her own. She named the salon after her daughter, Ashanti, who had become a catalyst of change in her life. In 2016, Salon Ashanti celebrated twelve years in business.

After the miracles surrounding the birth of her daughter, Dewdney recognized that God had a purpose for her. She returned to Polk State to finish her education, and even appeared in the College’s “We Are Polk” ad campaign.

With a renewed focus on serving others, Dewdney has used her salon as a community resource in the Florence Villa neighborhood. She began Project Park Bench as a drive where items could be brought to the salon for donation to the homeless, eventually filling a park bench. She set the bench in her salon and discreetly told her co-workers and customers about it. By the end of the first week, the bench was covered with blankets, scarves, and caps. Items were donated to the Mission of Winter Haven. The project is now in its fourth year and continues to grow.

Dewdney is a passionate advocate for individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She had a cousin who died alone of AIDS, having moved away after the diagnosis so as not to hurt his family. Recognizing that lack of education about this disease can separate families, Dewdney became licensed to administer HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. She now provides testing and educational resources in her salon.

Dewdney is also active in her community. She received the Girls Inc. of Winter Haven “She Knows Where She’s Going” Award in 2014, and now sits on its board of directors. She was instrumental in bringing “Tallahassee Nights Live” to Winter Haven, where musicians perform a variety of genres to large community audiences.

Dewdney is a dedicated member of Hurst Chapel AME Church, serving as an usher and a licensed minister, and is involved with the women’s prison ministry and Willing Workers Committee. She has received numerous awards for her service to the community and her success as a small business owner.

Student Spotlight: Aubrey Fletcher
Loss of Family Member Forces Student to “Stop Out” of College


Aubrey Fletcher was raised by his grandfather, who provided him with love and financial support. While he was attending Polk State, his grandfather became ill and, as the sole caregiver, Aubrey was forced to drop out of college to work and return the tender care that he had received while growing up.

His grandfather lost his fight against cancer, leaving Aubrey without any family backing and adjusting to the loss of his childhood home. Aubrey fell into an endless pattern of working multiple part-time jobs just to survive. The desire to return to college was a dream that lingered for years. Between roommates and bouts of homelessness, the dream seemed more distant every day, but with assistance from the Polk State College Foundation, his dream became a reality again.

With the help of a Polk State College Foundation scholarship made possible by generous donors, Aubrey found himself back on his path toward a degree. He received his Polk State Associate in Arts degree in the spring of 2016, and is now working on his bachelor’s degree at the College. Aubrey plans to apply the skills and knowledge he attains through his education with his passion for merchandising, sales, and people. He hopes to ultimately work for a large retail company.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

This past month has been especially enlightening regarding the critical work we do at Polk. I have had the opportunity to learn of several especially inspirational student stories this past month.  Their perseverance to overcome harsh realities to complete their education strongly reinforced for me the positive impact we have on students and the community. I encourage you to read about one of these individuals, Aubrey, who is featured in this newsletter. Whether it’s giving our best within our job descriptions, or going above and beyond to help students thrive, our students depend on us—as does the Polk County community. Each person plays an important role in the circle of support we create.

I am really looking forward to graduation this week, as there is nothing more uplifting than seeing the excitement and hopeful ambition in our graduates’ faces as they walk across the stage. Equally uplifting is hearing their proud families and friends cheering them on. Thank you for all for all you have done to help our graduates achieve this life-changing milestone.

I am also eager to hear from our graduation speaker, Distinguished Alumna Twanna “T-Fay” Dewdney, who also overcame odds to become a beacon of light in our community. Her story is one that proves the powerful impact that one person’s will to do good can have on others.

While hearing Dr. Holden announce her retirement last month was extremely difficult, I am so proud to have worked with her. Under her leadership during the past 11 years, the College and Foundation have grown exponentially, and most importantly, have helped so many students succeed. She has truly been a transformative leader, and our College family and the community have greatly benefitted from her tireless efforts. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to her in this public forum for leading by example, especially with regards to the Foundation. Without hesitation, she has generously supported every initiative, providing both vision and a personal financial investment to demonstrate her belief in our students. She stated her commitment to building Polk State into a world-class institution when she first arrived at the College, and that standard set the stage for how we were to do business. The Foundation Board and Team have been honored to work with all of you to rise to this calling.

As each of you take time to enjoy the season and catch up on some well-earned rest, please know how very appreciated you are. I wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy Winter Break!

All the very best,

Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director