Pasco-Hernando State College will host spring commencement on Wednesday, May 4, in the Physical Fitness Center at the West Campus in New Port Richey, 10230 Ridge Road. Two commencement ceremonies will honor graduates earning their bachelor’s degrees, Associate in Arts (AA), Associate in Science (AS), Applied Technology diploma or certificate. The morning ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the afternoon commencement will begin at 4 p.m. The events will stream live online at www.phsc.edu/news/webcast-live.
This year’s spring graduates include many ambitious students, and some who have encountered adversity in pursuit of a higher education.
Heather Tuck, 38, of Spring Hill, speaker for the morning commencement, will receive her AA degree. Tuck is a member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship recipient. Tuck works with the children’s program at the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind and helps raise funds for the Foundation Fighting Blindness–Vision Walk Tampa. Tuck will seek a bachelor’s in social work at Saint Leo University. “I want to use this degree to work with persons who are blind and visually impaired. Being visually impaired, I understand the obstacles and challenges of living in a sighted world. So many blind people do not live up to their potential because they are discouraged…I hope to provide them with counseling and training that will give them access to a whole new world,” said Tuck.
Nikole Wilson, 21, of Homosassa, student speaker for the afternoon ceremony, is vice president of the North Campus Student Government Association (SGA), a member of PTK and a work study student at the college. Wilson also is president of the Student Juggling Society at PHSC, which she formed this year, after learning to juggle from a faculty member. “I tried it once and I was hooked. I fell in love with the hobby and wanted to share it with others,” said Wilson who has been juggling for nearly a year and recently learned to juggle four objects proficiently. Wilson will seek a bachelor’s degree with focus in computer criminology and humanities at Florida State University.
Hilesca Hidalgo, 47, of Wesley Chapel, is one of 20 who will graduate in the first class of PHSC’s Bachelor of Science in nursing program. Hidalgo started nursing school when her children were two- and four-years-old, in 2011. She received her AS in nursing at PHSC in 2013. “It consumed every minute of my life and I often felt like I was neglecting my family, but my desire to succeed and provide a better life for my children kept me going,” said Hidalgo. This is Hidalgo’s second career; previously she was a construction manager. When the building industry collapsed, Hidalgo chose to become a nurse. “I have always been a caring person and becoming a nurse seemed like a great fit for my personality,” said Hidalgo who plans to focus on becoming a holistic family nurse practitioner.
Emily Turner, 21, of Wesley Chapel will earn her AA degree. Following a year-long break after high school, Turner was still unsure about her future. A co-worker recommended she meet with an acquaintance from PHSC which led to a college tour and an appointment with Timothy Moore, PHSC advisor. “He gave me the tools I needed to start my journey,” said Turner. “If you are lost and need to find your path, PHSC is a great place to start.” Turner managed full-time work with late-night and online courses and says she became a stronger worker and more independent while at PHSC. She will seek a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Saint Leo University.
Debra MacDonald, 58, of New Port Richey, will receive her Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management (BAS-SM) with concentration in health care management. MacDonald returned to school after years of relocating around the country with her Marine husband and three children. As a wife of a disabled veteran, she qualified for the CH 35 Montgomery GI Bill and returned to school with transfer credits from other community colleges to pursue her AA which she received from PHSC in 2013. MacDonald continued at PHSC, receiving three business certificates as she worked toward her BAS-SM. She is a Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) and PTK member (PTK vice president in 2013), and currently active in the Veterans Club and SGA. She works as a VA work study student in the college’s veteran services office, assisting current and incoming veteran and military family members during their transition to college life. MacDonald will pursue a master’s degree in business in fall.
Alyssa Allan, 24, of New Port Richey, will receive her AA. Allan is a single mother of a three-year-old son and a student worker in the student affairs office. Allan was a PHSC dual enrollment student in her junior year, but dropped out of high school entirely at age 18. She obtained a GED and became a licensed massage therapist, however in 2012 a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis ended her therapy career. No longer able to work with her hands, Allan enrolled at PHSC to finish her degree. “I learned valuable time management skills and became more involved in school activities this time, which helped me significantly increase my GPA,” said Allan. She plans to help students like her, manage life challenges and find direction. Allan will pursue a BA in psychology at Saint Leo University and then a master’s in educational psychology.
Veronica Potts, 49, of Zephyrhills, is a member of PTK and will receive an AA degree. Potts became a PHSC student in 2004. While in school, the single mother of two juggled the full-time care of her 15 year-old daughter who was born with cerebral palsy and also is deaf. Despite this responsibility and with help from her husband and her mother, she excelled as a student, often mentoring her peers, especially to learn American Sign Language. Potts managed to nearly complete her degree, however, debilitating health issues left her homebound and unable to finish school. In 2013 her health slowly improved and by 2015 she was able to return to complete three remaining courses to finish her AA. Potts plans to attend USF to become a nurse practitioner. “Caring for my disabled daughter and advocating for my own health issues is why I am choosing to become a nurse,” said Potts. “My personal experiences offer special insight that many others don’t have, which can be helpful to patients and their families.”
Graduation speakers include: District Board of Trustees Chair Morris Porton in the morning ceremony, District Board of Trustees Vice Chair Edward Blommel in the afternoon ceremony; Charge to the Graduates Speakers, David Lambert (morning), Member Relations Manager, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, Inc., and Representative Richard Corcoran (afternoon); Connie LaMarca-Frankel, professor, humanities; Reflections Speaker Stanley Giannet, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and faculty development/college provost; and Student Speakers Heather Tuck (morning) and Nikole Wilson (afternoon). Approximately 348 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremonies. An estimated 841 spring graduates are eligible to participate.
Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) serves the educational needs and interests of its community by awarding certificates, diplomas, associate and baccalaureate degrees. As a comprehensive, multicampus learning-centered institution, PHSC utilizes various instructional modalities and support services. PHSC provides an accessible, diverse teaching and learning environment rich with opportunities for students to achieve academic success and cultural growth in a global society.