Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School student Rachel Kinder has received the county’s prestigious Silver Garland award for her more than 1,000 volunteer hours.
The 37th annual Silver Garland award ceremony, co-sponsored by The Ledger and Lakeland Automall, took place April 29 at Florida Southern College.
Awards were given in 11 categories, all of which emphasize community service. Winners received $1,000 and a crystal trophy.
Kinder’s win was based on her numerous volunteer efforts, including extensive time tutoring fellow students in Polk State Lakeland Collegiate’s Honors Chemistry course.
“She was an amazing help, and I knew if I had a student that needed more attention, Rachel could help me provide that help,” said Science Professor Leah Whitehead, who teaches the Honors Chemistry course.
“Rachel already knew what was required in my class because she’d gone through it, and she knew what students needed to do to prepare to go into General Chemistry.”
Kinder also logged hours volunteering at Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine Clinic. Having earned certifications as an Emergency Medical Responder and Emergency Medical Technician from Polk State, she used her training to conduct patient assessments, which helped doctors and nurses to see patients more quickly.
Kinder’s volunteer work also includes time working with children at Explorations V Children’s Museum in Lakeland.
Kinder, 18 and a resident of Lakeland, has already graduated with her Associate in Arts degree from Polk State and will soon graduate with her high school diploma from Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School.
She plans to move on to the University of Central Florida to major in Health Sciences and minor in Medical Sociology and Business. Her ultimate goal is to become an oncologist.
“As I started volunteering in the medical field and sciences, I learned that oncology is such an expanding field. People are coming down with cancer left and right because of genetics and environmental factors and new advancements are being made all the time. It’s a field of opportunity,” she said.
Polk State College operates two public, charter high schools, Polk State Lakeland Collegiate and Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven. The schools serve juniors and seniors, allowing them to fulfill requirements for their high school diplomas while also earning college credit — all at no cost. In many cases, students graduate with both their diplomas and associate’s degrees. A third high school, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate, will open later this year to serve students facing the most difficult circumstances, allowing them to earn a diploma and college credit.