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Making a Difference Mondays, May 13

Monday, May 13, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Steve Hogan
May 2013 Distinguished Alumnus

Steve is the Chief Executive Officer of Florida Citrus Sports, a non-profit event management company that produces the Capital One Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, Florida Blue Florida Classic, Orlando Citrus Parade, and other Florida-based events that impact the economy and benefit at-risk children and educational initiatives in Central Florida.

Steve received his Associate of Arts degree in Communications from Polk State College in 1989. He received his bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Central Florida in 1991.

After working for McCaw Communications and The New York Times, Steve started his employment at Florida Citrus Sports in 1995 in the events department. He worked his way up to become the Events Manager, Assistant Executive Director (COO), and interim Executive Director (CEO). After a nationwide search, Steve was named CEO in 2006.

During his tenure, Steve has worked on a variety of major sporting events. In 1999, he created a college football all-star game from scratch that lasted seven years on ESPN and boasted over 100 NFL draft picks. Over the years, he has managed several NFL pre-season, college football regular-season, and international soccer neutral-site games. Additionally, he has negotiated television, title sponsorship, and conference agreements that have elevated the organization into one of only three communities that stage multiple bowl games.

Steve has worked tirelessly for the last decade with community leaders to dedicate funding for the reconstruction of the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. Overcoming significant challenges and the recent recession, the near $200 million project received approval in 2012 to move forward immediately following the 2013 bowl season.

Steve serves nationally as Chairman of the Football Bowl Association and locally as the current Chair of Leadership Orlando. Other board service includes Orlando Inc., the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, and the Community Health Impact Council.

Steve and his wife, Angie, live in Orlando with their two sons, Davis Brownlee and Anderson Hogan.

Donor Spotlight: Lavern Williams
Transcript Evaluator-Registrar’s Office

Like so many, every year I make a New Year’s resolution to lose a few pounds…however, for 2012, I made a different resolution and it has been life changing. I decided to show my gratitude for all the people and things that have enriched my life, and to give to a cause that means a lot to me – education.

Like many students, my education was made possible by grants, family, and student loans. But, I was also fortunate to have most of my tuition expenses for both my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees paid for by my employers. I am grateful to those individuals and institutions for their support. One of my many dreams for the future is to establish a fund to assist needy students. Although I am not financially at that place in my life, I have come to realize that there is no reason to wait to assist those in need. Until I am able to attain that lofty goal, I have vowed to start doing what I can to help.

Over the years, I have contributed here and there as possible, but in 2012 I decided that I wanted to make a greater commitment, and that is why I chose to donate to the Foundation. It was so easy! Making my contribution through payroll deductions was a no-brainer.

In spring of 2012, I enrolled in a ceramics class. As an employee of Polk State College, the College paid the tuition, and all I was responsible for was the cost of the book. As I purchased my book and supplies for a class that was just for my own personal enrichment and pleasure, it brought to mind the experiences of our students. I recalled discussions with students who were challenged with finding funds for books and supplies required for their classes and programs. Because of this experience, I chose to have my contribution designated for books. Seeing students who are committed to earning their degree but who are unable to fulfill that commitment because of one challenge or another makes me want to extend myself. I know that though my contribution may feel small to me, it is significant in its effect, as when it is combined with others, it can make the difference in keeping a student in a class and continuing his or her educational journey.

I enjoy the interactions I have with students and seeing their academic and personal growth. Supporting students in taking the next step toward their goals is very rewarding for me.

Student Spotlight: Jonathan Chery
Securing His Future through Hard Work

Jonathan Chery was born in Haiti, and moved to the United States in 2007, unable to speak English. He attended Lake Region High School, and spent a lot of time reading in order to teach himself English. Through hard work and perseverance, Jonathan passed the FCAT his senior year and graduated in 2009 with a 3.0 grade point average. He knew that he wanted to go to college but was unsure of what he wanted to study. He decided to start Polk State College in the fall of 2009 to try and and find a career path.

Growing up, Jonathan’s parents encouraged him and his siblings to work hard in school. According to Jonathan, “The education system in Haiti is different than in the United States. My father went to technical school and my mother attended high school. I have one sister working on her master’s degree, one attending Polk State with me, and a brother in high school.”

Through classes at Polk, Jonathan was able to determine that he had an interest in computer networking and security. He will finish his last three classes for his associate’s degree this summer and plans to continue at the University of North Florida (UNF), one of the only schools in the state that offers a specific major in network security.

Jonathan’s eagerness to finish his two-year degree prompted him to take five classes in the fall semester. While financial aid covered his classes, Jonathan did not have a way to pay for his books. Sylvester Little referred him to the Polk State College Foundation, which was able to provide him with an Emergency Scholarship. This summer, the Foundation will also be helping him financially with his last three classes, allowing Jonathan to stay on course with his educational goals. “Words cannot describe how much I really appreciate all that the Foundation has done to help me. Without their help, I would have had to postpone taking classes until the fall, which would have meant not graduating until December and starting UNF in 2014.”

With the help of Linda Dickinson and Claudy Fenelon in TRiO Student Support Services, Jonathan was able to research the Computer Networking and Security Program at UNF, fill out applications, and get accepted. He plans to finish his degree and work for the government before eventually moving on to attain his master’s degree.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

Graduation events really warm my soul, and last week’s was certainly no exception. Two highlights particularly stand out on reflection. One was when a student excitingly proclaimed to Dr. Holden, “It only took me 10 years, but here I am!” Another was hearing a student’s children screaming “Way to go Mom!” as she walked across the stage. These moments just take my breath away. I also found the speeches of our Distinguished Alumnus, Steve Hogan, and Commencement Speaker, Kasongo Butler, Assistant Chancellor of the Florida Department of Education to be exceptionally powerful.

Steve focused on being passionate, believing in one’s self, and having faith in others – all of these elements are key to our students’ and graduates’ successes. These are also the attributes that exist among Polk State College employees toward the core of our business – student success. The professionalism and dedication here is unparalleled, and the commitment to the realization of student potential is inspiring.

Chancellor Butler talked about superheroes. When she said that word, I thought to myself, “I am surrounded by them – my colleagues, our students, and our community.” She referenced the recent Iron Man 3 movie by asking Tony Stark’s insightful question: Does the suit make the man, or does the man make the suit? This led me to epiphany – it is the people of Polk that make it truly great, not the location, buildings, climate, or any other superficial aspect. It is what people here do each and every day, the way we go out of our way and above the call of duty for students… Although it may seem minor to us, the day-to-day interactions are small acts of heroism, because the outcome of our efforts changes lives forever!  We play a vital role in the ten-year scholar’s walk across the stage, the single mother gaining the skills and economic potential to provide opportunities for her children, and the proud cheering family moments as moms, dads, children, grandparents and friends get to shake Dr. Holden’s hand and accept the degree that becomes a transformational key to a new and better life.

My whole-hearted gratitude for your tremendous acts of heroism and philanthropy that continue to allow our students to leap tall barriers in a single bound to create a new tomorrow and better world around us!
All the very best,

Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director