Pasco-Hernando State College will host spring commencement on Wednesday, May 3, in the Physical Fitness Center at the West Campus in New Port Richey, 10230 Ridge Road. Two commencement ceremonies will honor graduates earning bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, certificates and diplomas. The morning ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the afternoon commencement will begin at 3 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.
Lauren Binder, 18, of Spring Hill, is a dual enrollment (DE) student who will earn her Associate in Arts (AA) degree. Binder was named Valedictorian at Fivay High School where she will receive her diploma in May. Binder, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age three, says the DE path was the best choice for her, providing the opportunity to continue her education without interruption. “I missed many school days due to doctor appointments, injections, and soreness. I had, and still have, many difficulties with the small actions of everyday life that most people don’t think about, such as simply sitting down in a normal chair. Each of these mundane actions caused me to look for a better way of living and receiving my education…DE was the best scenario—it opened my schedule and broadened my horizons to important opportunities,” said Binder. She is a National Honor Society chapter treasurer and a member of the Mu Alpha Theta club at Fivay and a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) member at PHSC. Binder plans to enter the aerospace engineering bridge program at UCF, to obtain her bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously.
Yvonda Hedrick, 59, of Floral City, will earn her Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree with honors. Hedrick, practicing Florida licensed midwife since 1996 and registered nurse at Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center in Crystal River, spent most of her adult life dedicated to the health of mothers, babies and families. Hedrick temporarily moved to West Virginia to care for her mother while enrolled in the PHSC online BSN program. Also at this time, Hedrick was diagnosed with thyroid cancer—now in remission. “I view this as life happening while we are making plans!” said Hedrick, whose future includes Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, KY, where she will pursue a master’s degree in nursing as an advanced registered nurse practitioner in women’s health.
Martin Sharrer, 54, Dade City, will earn his AA degree. He is a member of PTK. Sharrer faced several life-changing challenges throughout his time at PHSC. Shortly after his first semester, Sharrer suffered a heart attack resulting in six stents—delaying initial plans to graduate alongside his daughter in spring 2016. Close to completing his coursework, he dropped several classes to care for his wife of 34 years, who had taken ill and passed away in July 2016. Sharrer volunteers with Catholic Charities in Dade City and Toys for Tots of Pasco County. He will remain at PHSC to pursue a BAS in supervision and management.
Lisa Brennan, 40, of New Port Richey, who earned her AA at PHSC last year, now completes a BAS in supervision and management. Brennan faced several hardships at the beginning of her journey as a PHSC student, including health issues with her then eight-month-old daughter, in addition to another infant and a toddler who fell into her care, and the loss of a job. “Being a single parent is a challenge. Going to school full time and working while raising a child alone, even more so,” said Brennan, who remained steadfast in her pursuit of a higher education. Brennan is a member of PTK and was secretary of the Synergy Sociology Club. She helped to organize Synergy’s first book drive, in 2014, resulting in more than 1200 books donated to schools and community groups. Previously a work-study student, Brennan now works full time at the college. She plans to pursue a master’s degree next spring.
Vickie Norris, 52, Dade City, will earn her Associate in Science (AS) degree in nursing. Norris began working on her AA degree in 1986, three years after graduating high school, however, a college degree was put on hold when she married her childhood sweetheart and focused on raising her three children. In 2015, she earned that AA. Now, she is pursuing her long-time dream of becoming a nurse. Norris worked at Pasco County School Board and Pasco Elementary School prior to pursuing her nursing degree full time. Norris plans to enter the BSN program at PHSC next fall with a long-term goal to earn a master’s degree in nursing or occupational therapy. She is a member of Psi Beta and PTK honor societies, the Nightingale nursing club and National Student Nursing Association.
Samantha Politano, 18, of Land O’ Lakes, will earn her AA degree. Politano, selected as 2017 Class Valedictorian at Wesley Chapel High School is a dual enrollment, first generation college student. “I’ve been championing the benefits of dual enrollment for years—passionate peers, cooperative atmosphere…true preparation for higher education,” said Politano. She is a PTK chapter vice president with recent honors including a PTK Art Award at the Florida Regional Convention, Elks Most Valuable Student Competition National Semifinalist and a PHSC Felisha R. Barker Outstanding Student Leader Award nomination. Among her scholarship awards are AXA Achievement Scholarship and Horatio Alger State Scholar/Florida – John Moran Scholar. In addition, Politano earned a Gold Award in the Girl Scouts after completion of her project that encouraged the adoption of road safety practices resulting in a 90 percent increase in the number of student drivers buckling up. She was instrumental in the road widening and sidewalk installation project underway—connecting Wesley Chapel schools. Politano plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology focused on marine and environmental science—a passion fueled by her childhood adoration of the Wii game, Endless Ocean: Blue World. Further plans include law school.
Bonnie Hunt, 47, of Dade City, will earn an AS in nursing. She is a PTK and Psi Beta member. Hunt waited until her children were grown to revisit her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. At 42 years-old, she enrolled at PHSC. She was strategic in her course selections, first taking a pre-algebra class, then other required math courses. “Math was always a challenge. I figured if I was going to be successful, I needed to face this challenge head on and slowly picked off the prerequisite classes for the nursing program,” said Hunt. The math challenges were the least of her worries. While employed as a nurse technician at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills and enrolled at PHSC, Hunt managed through her son-in-law’s liver cancer diagnosis and the death of her brother. She credits her family’s support as the backbone of what helped her earn an AA in 2014 and continue through the PHSC AS in nursing program. “Along this journey, I’ve learned to adapt and overcome obstacles. I have a new understanding that attitude is everything—we’re never too old, and it’s not too late to achieve your dreams,” said Hunt, who plans to pursue a BSN and MSN in the next few years.
Aaron Hayes, 26, of Brooksville, speaker for the morning commencement, will receive an Associate in Science degree in nursing. Hayes is a former president of North Campus chapter PTK and former vice president of Psi Beta. Hayes is a student Veteran, having served in the U.S. Army from 2009 – 2013. He was stationed in South Korea from 2010–2011 before serving at Fort Bragg, NC. Hayes expects to work as an RN in an emergency room with plans to enroll in the PHSC BSN program.
Kailey McCain, 17, of Brooksville, student speaker for the afternoon ceremony, is a member of Student Veterans of America and PTK. She is a PHSC student ambassador, treasurer of the PHSC Rotaract club, and Vice President of United Way of Hernando County’s Student Board. McCain will seek a bachelor’s degree with focus in biological sciences at Florida International University with plans of becoming an emergency room physician.
Other graduation speakers include: District Board of Trustees Chair Edward Blommel in the morning ceremony, District Board of Trustees Vice Chair John Dougherty in the afternoon ceremony; Charge to the Graduates Speakers, Richard Sanvenero Sr., chairman of the board, Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce (morning) and Amanda Murphy, vice president of investments, 360 Wealth Management Group of Raymond James (afternoon); and Reflections Speaker Mary Kelly, professor, office administration; and Faculty Remarks by Faculty Senate President Connie LaMarca-Frankel, professor, humanities. Approximately 450 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremonies. An estimated 919 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.