Tania Chandler and her son, Michael Garcia, are enjoying their Intro to Digital Media class at Polk State College in the hybrid format, which mixes online learning with face-to-face time in the classroom. Meanwhile, Chandler’s stepdaughter in Jacksonville is enrolled online through the College, meaning this family is receiving the full Polk State experience during the pandemic, which has required faculty and staff to get creative in the ways they deliver their courses and provide support services to their students.
“What Polk State does is it offers the opportunity for students to come face-to-face, complete their courses online, or a combination of the two while ensuring that all students in any class format can be successful,” Chandler said. “They care for you here. They want to see you finish. Polk State provides a community – a family.”
For Chandler’s family, the different formats and variety of class options allow her son and daughter to pursue their education in ways that best suit them. From personal experience, Chandler knew that Polk State was a top option for its level of flexibility.
The first-generation American whose parents came from the Dominican Republic moved to Polk County after Garcia was born. She called it a “Jesus-turned-the-wheel” moment when she discovered Polk State College.
“What Polk State does is it offers the opportunity for students to come face-to-face, complete their courses online, or a combination of the two while ensuring that all students in any class format can be successful.”
Digital Media student
“I was driving down U.S. 98 and all of a sudden, Jesus turned the wheel into Polk State, and I remember Melvin Thompson was an academic advisor,” Chandler recalled. “I said to him, ‘I don’t know what to do, I just need to go to school and I need to be off [when my son gets out of school].”
She achieved her Polk State bachelor’s degree, went on to complete a master’s, and now serves as Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School’s Student Resource Specialist. Little did she know that more than 10 years after stumbling upon Polk State, she would assume the student role yet again to help support her son in the Digital Media Technology Program.
“I am very passionate about my son, and he is very passionate about Digital Media,” she said. “We thought it would be fun to take a class together, to learn something together. It is a bonding experience in a different way because he is the leader in this class… because it is something he is passionate about. It shows where his interests are, what his passion is, and he’s allowing me to be a part of it.”
During COVID-19, it is also an opportunity for Chandler and Garcia to get out of the house and interact with others – in a socially-distanced and masked environment, of course.
“In the pandemic, it’s a bit hard to get out of the house. At the same time, we want to be safe and close to home. I picked Polk State so that I could be close to home while still having more up-close and personal training,” Garcia explained.
Their hybrid class meets in person for the first half of the semester and then will transition to mostly online for the remainder of the course once the students have received the foundation they need to work on their projects independently.
“Just because we have a pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t learn new things,” Garcia said. “You have to still try, even if you’re stuck indoors, six feet distanced, and wearing a mask.”
Polk State is in Phase II of its Return to Campus Plan for the Spring 2021 Semester and continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines closely, ensuring thorough sanitation of classrooms and equipment between class meetings, and requiring everyone on campus to wear cloth face coverings. Additionally, the majority of classes are taking place in hybrid and online formats. When registering for classes on Passport, students should check the course descriptions for specific details about class formats and expectations and contact the professor with any questions.
“Hybrid is fun because you still get to learn on your own but then you come to the classroom where you have the support of the teacher, bounce ideas off your classmates, and even with your masks on you get to know everyone,” Chandler said.
She added that the pandemic should not distract people from their education and career goals.
“Polk State will provide them with the nourishment they need to flourish. That’s what it did for me,” she said. “I was able to flourish because Polk State understood the challenges that I had outside of here and they always worked with me.”
Garcia aspires to flourish into a film director.
“Just because we have a pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t learn new things. You have to still try, even if you’re stuck indoors, six feet distanced, and wearing a mask.”
Digital Media student
“My goal is to be a great film director. I want to make my own movies and cartoons,” he shared. “If there is anything I like about Digital Media, it’s the teachings of how to model your future. Here they can teach me how to handle the camera and I’m looking forward to learning how to edit videos.”
Brennan Chandler, who lives in Jacksonville and is enrolled online through Polk State, aspires to transfer to the University of Florida and become a veterinarian. She graduated from high school in 2020 and is currently enrolled in college algebra and health and wellness courses.
“It was hard at first trying to understand everything online. I missed a couple of assignments, but the teachers were so understanding and know that going to school online is a learning experience itself,” Brennan Chandler said. “My professors let me make up my assignments and have been very helpful. School may seem scary online, but you have so much support.”
Tania Chandler shared that she is confident that Polk State will provide Brennan and Michael with strong foundations that will help them in achieving their goals.
“Every parent says they want their child to be happy – that’s the political answer,” Chandler added. “Of course, I want them to be happy, but I also want them to see a path. Polk State will create a path where they are able to see, ‘if I work hard, study, and practice, I can get to where I want to go.’”
Polk State’s dedicated faculty and staff, quality of education, and flexibility – especially in the time of COVID-19 – is allowing Chandler’s children to do just that as they start on their paths to success.