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Making a Difference Mondays, December 8

Monday, December 8, 2014

Donor Spotlight: Valparisa Baker
Director, Equity and Diversity


What a privilege, honor, and pleasure it is to be a donor to the Polk State College Foundation! The awesome opportunity to touch lives and help students achieve their dreams provides a feeling that just cannot be described. What better place to start the educational pathway than at Polk State College?

In reflecting for this article, I could not help but reminisce about my own higher education experience at Polk State, back when it was Polk Community College. For me there was no doubt college would be in my future. In my household, my sister and I were given only one directive: You will go to college. My mother was adamant that both of her daughters would receive an education. She wanted to ensure that we were equipped for the world.

I believe the desire to help others was one of the many characteristics I received from my mother. She would always help not only our family, but others as well. This is why I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Polk State College Foundation. I only wish I could give more to assist the growing population of students needing support to continue their educational journeys.

As a proud alumna of Polk State, I am pleased to see firsthand the many lives that have been touched because of the scholarships provided by the Foundation. There are many instances that come to mind, but one that resonates is when a student came to me needing financial assistance to complete his last semester. He had so many obstacles hindering his goal to walk across the stage to receive his degree. However, the major obstacle was eliminated when the Foundation provided him with the financial support he needed to pay for his classes. I am proud to say this student graduated with honors. It’s times like these that make me so proud to give all I can to our Foundation.

If you are contemplating the idea of donating to the Polk State College Foundation, I urge you to take action to help our Polk State College Eagles soar in the educational arena. Please make a difference and donate!

Alumni Spotlight: Fred Bohde
December 2014 Distinguished Alumnus


Fred J. Bohde is a citriculturist, consulting with citrus growers and grove caretakers in Central Florida. A Bartow native, he also has the distinction of being the very first graduate of Polk State College. 

After graduating from the Summerlin Institute in 1959, Fred attended St. Petersburg Junior College before eventually transferring to Polk State to be closer to family. Although he was awarded his Associate in Arts degree on June 7, 1965, the first graduation ceremony was held on June 1, 1966. 

After graduating from Polk, Fred served nine years with the United States Army Reserve. He achieved the rank of Captain and received an Honorable Discharge in 1972.

Fred worked as a Fire Insurance Underwriter for State Farm for several years. With a family history in the citrus industry, Fred left State Farm to work for a local citrus consultant. With his employer’s encouragement, Fred started taking classes at Florida Southern College, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Citrus in 1974. 

After graduation, Fred took a position as a fertilizer sales representative for International Minerals and Chemical Corporation (IMC Fertilizer, Inc.). He spent the next 22 years working at IMC, rising to management. Though he loved his managerial work, he always missed the freedom and opportunity he felt when working outdoors as a sales representative. After retiring from IMC in 1996, Fred started his own citrus consulting firm.

As a citriculturist, Fred advises growers and grove caretakers on various methods to manage groves across a wide expanse of Central Florida. For the past eight years, the biggest challenge in his industry has been battling citrus greening, a bacterial disease spread through insects that affects the quality fruit and eventually kills the tree. 

Fred is active in professional societies, including the American Society of Agronomy. He holds designations as a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and Certified Professional Agronomist (CPAg). Within the Bartow community, Fred has been a member of the Bartow Kiwanis Club since 1966, serving as past president and past District Lieutenant Governor. He has also served as president of the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce.

Fred lives in Bartow with his wife of 47 years, Sylvia. Their three sons – Bill, Greg, and John— are all graduates of Polk State. Fred’s grandson, Houston, is a freshman at Polk, marking the third generation of the Bohde family to attend the College.

Student Spotlight: Anne Sophie Jean Baptiste
Charting Her Course in a New Country


Just over two years ago, Anne Sophie Jean Baptiste left her native country of Haiti and embarked on a journey toward opportunity and a better education in the United States. Today, she is a student at Polk State, with dreams of majoring in business and also pursuing a career in nursing.

Anne Sophie’s parents dreamed of a better education for their children and were forced to make tough decisions after an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010. Her father was already in the US and helped Anne Sophie, her mother, and brother with the details of relocating into the country. After living with relatives in Tampa, the family settled in the Winter Haven area. Anne Sophie knew very little English when she started school at Haines City High School, but caught up quickly. Due to starting school so early in Haiti, she graduated from high school earlier this year at the age of seventeen.

With the help of the Polk State College Alumni Association Scholarship, Anne Sophie has been able to relieve the financial burden of her schooling from her family. She remembers when she was presented her scholarship at the high school awards ceremony: “I had been working hard to earn scholarship money for college, and had become discouraged. When my name was called for a scholarship to Polk State, I knew that this was my first hope for a college education.”

In starting Polk State in August 2014 and joining the Honors Program, Anne Sophie was still unsure about her major. “I enjoy so many things,” she notes. “I enjoy art, and was in chorus back in Haiti.” Her mother, who served as a nurse in Haiti, has been a strong influence in her life and has encouraged her to pursue a career in nursing. Anne Sophie has determined that this will be a path to faster employment after college. She also hopes to move back to Haiti and start an employment agency in order to help her fellow islanders.

Anne Sophie is a member of the LEGOLAND® Florida Resort Eagles Co-op Program, which is a paid internship at the park. This experience enables her to learn important business skills and get involved with all that Polk State has to offer. “I am enjoying my time at Polk State, and plan to be here until I finish the Nursing Program in a few years.”

Executive Director’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings Colleagues!

In the spirit of the holidays, allow me to convey a spirited thank you for giving the gift of education to Polk State students all year round. The important role that each of you play through your daily responsibilities is changing the lives of so many students.  And the generous financial gifts you have given to the Foundation have made it possible for innumerable students to attain their dreams for a college education.  

This year has been especially moving as we have celebrated the College’s 50th Anniversary. We set a landmark $50,000 Employee Giving fundraising goal and are on track to meet that goal by year’s end! Your generosity is incredibly inspiring and makes such a meaningful difference.

I simply cannot be more grateful. I hope your holiday is filled with all the same goodness that you share with our students and each other every day.

All the very best,

Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director