Pasco-Hernando State College will host spring commencement on Wednesday, May 2, in the Physical Fitness Center at the West Campus in New Port Richey, 10230 Ridge Road. Two commence-ment 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 event live stream link will be available at phsc.edu.
This year’s spring graduates include many ambitious students, and some who have encountered adversity in pursuit of a higher education.
Rachel Watson, 19, of Dade City, will receive her AA. Watson was four-years old when she passed a kindergarten entrance exam to a predominately-male private K-12 school. She graduated as a senior with the highest GPA in the school’s history. At PHSC, Watson managed being a full-time student, working part time as an English tutor, and completing a Professor-Student internship while travelling nearly every weekend to North Carolina where her fiancé was preparing for deployment with the Marines. “Like many women, I shared the struggle to discredit the stereotypical belief that women must choose between education or career and their love life,” said Watson, who realized she could have both a husband and the career of her dreams. Watson plans to become an English teacher. “I would like to inspire my students to know that what they write is important and can change the world,” said Watson, who will pursue her education in North Carolina and then seek a bachelor’s in advanced literary studies at Saint Leo University.
Kathryn McCarthy, 25, of Land O’ Lakes, will earn her AS in nursing degree. Nursing is a second career for McCarthy who previously was a sixth-grade world history teacher for Pasco County Schools. In 2012, an illness left McCarthy paralyzed and on a ventilator for four months. “I remember thinking that I would never be able to repay the kindness, compassion, and care I received in the hospital and during my lengthy rehabilitation. I built strong relationships with my caregivers…” said McCarthy. Despite her satisfaction in the teaching field, she continued to reflect on her caregivers and their impact. McCarthy left teaching to pay it forward as a caregiver and entered the PHSC nursing program. She also works with the Pasco Education Foundation and Take Stock in Children to provide one-on-one college readiness coaching, serves as a mentor to a Zephyrhills High School student and volunteers for many Pasco County Schools programs. McCarthy will continue to enhance her skills and abilities in health care while pursuing a BS in nursing.
Andrew Moses, 28, of Spring Hill, speaker for the morning commencement, will earn his AA. Moses withdrew from high school to complete an auto mechanic program in New York. Several years later, he moved back to Florida and found work as a cleaner for commercial accounts in his mother’s business. In 2015, Moses decided to go back to school to earn a college degree. An employee at Micro Matic, one of his clients, encouraged Moses to apply for an engineering internship within the company, where he is now employed. “Every day I learn more and more. I’m excited and hopeful for my future,” said Moses, a father of two young daughters, ages four and one. Moses will seek a BS in chemical engineering with plans to work in energy or modern materials while building a successful business through pioneering ideas.
Jonathan McCurnin, 22, of Dade City, speaker for the afternoon commencement, will earn his AA. McCurnin was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at an early age, resulting in language struggles and a resistance to form bonds and make connections with people. Educators recommended an ESE classroom for McCurnin; however, the McCurnin family enrolled his in the all-inclusive Academy at the Farm charter school where he was assigned a para-professional that shadowed him in his classrooms, teaching him organization and time-management skills. In seventh grade, McCurnin transferred to a mainstream classroom at Pasco Middle School, to help him make the transition for high school and to participate in football. McCurnin made honor roll during that first quarter. He graduated from high school having lettered in three varsity sports—football, weightlifting, and track and field and was recognized as a Dade City Rotary Outstanding Senior. McCurnin was active in Boy Scouts, church youth group, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He continued to prove his abilities at PHSC, despite findings from a required accommodations test for people with disabilities in education and work force that indicated college was not a good option for McCurnin because of his ASD and the accompanied anxiety he experienced in social and stressful environments. He immersed himself into the PHSC community as a student and a student employee at the college. McCurnin is proof that the power of goal setting, persistence and the right mindset will result in great accomplishments.
Other graduation speakers include: District Board of Trustees Chair Rao Musunuru, M.D., in the morning and afternoon ceremony; Charge to the Graduates Speakers, Representative Danny Burgess, Florida House of Representatives (morning), and Representative Amber Mariano, Florida House of Representatives (afternoon); and Faculty Remarks by Faculty Senate Vice President Regina Mirabella, professor, nursing (morning) and Faculty Senate President Connie LaMarca-Frankel, professor, humanities (afternoon). Approximately 424 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremonies. An estimated 881 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.