Polk State College celebrates Barnett family, $3 million pledge to Haines City-Davenport Campus

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Polk State College celebrated Barney Barnett and his family on Monday at Airside Center West in Lakeland, where students, faculty, staff, and College leadership thanked the Barnetts for their generous $3 million pledge in support of the future Haines City-Davenport Campus.

“Today we celebrate the benevolence of a family that has continued to give back to this community and has transformed it,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “This is a gift of a lifetime. Part of the impetus behind pursuing the development of the Haines City-Davenport Campus is because the majority of our health sciences programs are located here [at Airside Center West] and have no room for growth.”

The Polk State Haines City-Davenport Campus will be home to many of the College’s Health Sciences programs as well as Central Florida’s first public higher education interdisciplinary simulation hospital. It will also provide classes for the Associate in Arts, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Teacher Education, and Supply Chain and Logistics programs.

“On behalf of the entire Barnett family, we’re proud to contribute to the Polk State Haines City-Davenport Campus which will not only increase the talent pipeline for health services but will also see that students receive expert training to care for residents in our region,” Wesley Barnett said. “We love Polk State College because it offers access and affordability to students so that they are able to earn in-demand skills for both the workplace of today and tomorrow.”

The Barnett family includes father, Barney Barnett, and brothers, Wesley and Nick Barnett, who are longtime supporters of Polk State College and the greater Polk County community. Wesley Barnett’s wife, Ashley Bell Barnett, is a member of the Polk State District Board of Trustees.

The funds will be allocated to the College in payments over the next three years, with the final donation to be made in 2026.

Radiography student Haleigh Franza shared her firsthand experience on the life-transforming power of both a Polk State education and the generosity of the College’s donors.

“When looking for a radiography program, quality was always in the front of my mind. I thought I would have to sacrifice this due to affordability,” Franza explained. “When it came to Polk State College, I got the best of both worlds. Knowing I was getting a good quality education without having to stress about finances has allowed me to focus more on the education itself.”

“By adding…, the Polk State Haines City-Davenport Campus, Polk State College is making great strides for education,” she added. “Thank you to the Foundation and the donors for caring for my education.”

Vice Chair of the Polk State Foundation Board Bo Boyte, Vice President for Commercial Relationship Manager for Bank of Central Florida, echoed this sentiment.

“This generous donation provides an opportunity to launch the careers of generations of Polk State graduates and to improve the quality of life for their families and the Polk County community,” Boyte said.

Tours of the College’s Cardiovascular Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, and Radiography programs followed the remarks and check presentation.

Individuals interested in bringing this dream to fruition and donating to the development of the Polk State Haines City-Davenport Campus may visit foundation.polk.edu.