During a visit to Polk State College on Wednesday, Division of Florida Colleges Chancellor Randall Hanna presented seven students with scholarships that he described as epitomizing the purpose of institutions such as Polk.
Hanna presented the scholarships during a reception at Polk State Winter Haven attended by the recipients and members of the College’s District Board of Trustees, faculty and administration, as well as representatives of the Polk State College Foundation.
In remarks before the presentation, Hanna emphasized the Florida College System’s open-access model.
“The Florida College System was created for accessibility. It allows anyone with a high school diploma to get a higher education, and it will help people get their high school education, too,” he said.
“Accessibility is at the heart of what we do.”
Hanna also spoke of the role the Florida College System — which encompasses 28 institutions, including Polk — plays in filling workforce needs.
The scholarships he presented on Wednesday, Hanna said, perfectly represent the dual roles of accessibility and workforce-based education.
During a weeks-long Florida College System Foundation scholarship tour, Hanna will be presenting more than $900,000 at the 28 institutions.
More than half of that money — $575,000 — is allocated to first-generation students. According to the Florida College System, these students face unique challenges in pursuit of a college degree, including less academic preparation, limited information about the college experience, and lack of support. The scholarships will help alleviate the financial struggles these students face, easing their path toward a college degree.
Funds were provided by endowments made by Bank of America and the Helios Education Foundation.
The remaining $330,000 is being awarded to students studying nursing or allied-health fields. These scholarships were provided by endowed funds from health plan insurer Florida Blue. The Florida Blue scholarships will help add more nurses and allied-health professionals that reflect the state’s diverse population and meet critical workforce needs.
Hanna began the scholarship tour at Florida State College at Jacksonville earlier this month.
Polk State’s recipients include:
- Tammy Ball, Lakeland, first-generation student studying toward an Associate in Arts degree, $500, Helios/First Generation Teacher’s Scholarship
- Mary Jo Combs, Winter Haven, studying for the Associate in Science in Nursing degree, $5,200, Abigail Elizabeth Simpson/Blue Cross Blue Shield Scholarship
- Ashley Fisher, Winter Haven, studying for the Associate in Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography degree, $1,615, Blue Cross Blue Shield Scholarship
- Odell Harvey Jr., Winter Haven, first-generation student studying toward an Associate in Arts degree, $500, Helios/First Generation Teacher’s Scholarship
- Emilia Segovia, Plant City, first-generation student studying toward an Associate in Arts degree, $1,500, Helios/First Generation Teacher’s Scholarship
- Casmore Shaw, Kissimmee, first-generation student studying an Associate in Arts degree, $1,500, Helios/First Generation Teacher’s Scholarship
- Sarah Stafford, Lakeland, studying toward the Associate in Science in Nursing degree, $5,200, Abigail Elizabeth Simpson/Blue Cross Blue Shield Scholarship
Polk State President Eileen Holden expressed her thanks to Hanna for visiting campus to make the presentations, and the students themselves voiced their gratitude as well.
Fisher, the mother of a young boy whose husband has been working multiple jobs as she studies, said the money will allow her family to spend more time together.
Added Shaw: “This shows us you care.”
Hanna concluded his visit to the campus by touring the newly renovated Winter Haven Fine Arts Theatre and Learning Resources Center, and the Nursing Program lab.
Polk State College, an open-access institution, was established in 1964, and serves more than 20,000 students annually. Its offerings include the Associate in Arts, which is parallel and fully transferrable to the State University System, and the Associate in Science, which is designed to lead directly to the workforce. The College also offers the Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and a variety of continuing education and certificate programs. For more information, visit polk.edu.