Graduation is here for Polk State’s 3 Collegiate High Schools— a major life experience for most students, but even more special for those graduating with both their high school diploma and an Associate in Arts degree.
Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School will graduate its fourth class on Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Polk State Center for Public Safety Auditorium, 1251 Jim Keene Road.
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School will graduate its 10th class on Thursday, May 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Polk State Winter Haven Health Center, 999 Ave. H, N.E.
Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School will conclude the high school commencement schedule on Tuesday, May 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Polk State Winter Haven Health Center, 999 Ave. H, N.E.
All three of Polk State’s collegiate high schools allow students to simultaneously complete high school requirements and earn college credits. In many cases, students graduate with both their diplomas and Associate in Arts degrees. Polk State Lakeland Gateway specializes in helping students between the ages of 16 and 21 who have, in most cases, disengaged from studies at their traditional high schools.
Details on the 2017 graduating classes at each school follow:
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate
- 153 graduates.
- 92 graduates have a high school grade-point average of 4.0 or higher
- 83 students also graduating with their Associate in Arts degree from the College
- On average, graduates have earned 55 college credits
- Graduates have accumulated 38,882 community service hours
- Cumulatively, graduates have earned 2.2 million in college scholarships. Members of the class will continue their education at colleges and universities across the country, including Flagler College, Florida State University, Geneva College, Stetson University, University of California- Irvine, University of Florida, and the University of Hartford
- The valedictorian is Paul Voisard of Winter Haven, who has a 4.718 high school GPA
- Salutatorian is Kyle Weber of Auburndale, who has a 4.698 high school GPA
Polk State Lakeland Collegiate
- 149 graduates.
- 69 graduates have a GPA of 4.0 or higher
- 90 students also graduating with their Associate in Arts degree from the College
- On average, graduates have earned 50 college credits
- Graduates have accumulated 22,877 community service hours
- Cumulatively, graduates have earned more than $2 million in college scholarships. Members of the class will continue their education at colleges and universities across the country, including Alabama State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, Nova Southeastern University, Palm Beach Atlantic, Polk State College, University of Florida, University of New England, and the University of South Florida.
- Valedictorian is Harrison Broer of Lakeland, who has a 4.63 GPA
- Salutatorians are Jaime Cooper and Anna Lanzino of Lakeland, who have a 4.61 GPA
Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College
- 9 graduates have a GPA of 4.0 or higher
- Average GPA is 3.12
- On average, graduates have earned 27 college credits
- Age range is 16-21
- Students will continue their education at institutions such as University of Florida, Florida Southern College, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida Memorial University, Florida Atlantic University, Keiser University, Florida A & M University, and Polk State College
- Valedictorian is Michelle Lin of Lakeland, who has a 4.38 GPA
- Salutatorian is Samantha Wong of Lakeland, who has a 4.31 GPA
Each of the schools are proud and excited about the 2017 class. At Chain of Lakes, student Joseph Gallo was a little nervous at first coming to the high school from Auburndale High School, but the challenge quickly became an incredible opportunity for him.
“The staff at Chain of Lakes is amazing,” says Gallo. “I have learned from fantastic professors and teachers who are dedicated to enhancing the classroom experience. In my time at Chain of Lakes, I have built and tested an underwater robot, plus filmed a documentary and presented that documentary to the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit in St. Petersburg. This door was opened to me by being a student in the STEM Research class at Chain of Lakes. I was mentored and encouraged to lead.”
Indeed, Gallo feels even more prepared for college after attending Chain of Lakes collegiate high school. He will graduate with an Associate in Arts degree, along with his high school diploma providing him with a leg up on his peers.
“I feel ready for college,” he says. “I know what to expect and understand the rigor of the work involved. More so, I appreciate that I have two years done and won’t have significantly more expense.”
Gallo intends to attend the University of Florida with a focus in the medical field— radiology, biomedical engineering or healthcare.
His advice to high school students considering a collegiate high school environment: “Do it. Polk State and Chain of Lakes Collegiate are here to help and you will be supported by the administration and teachers. It’s a great opportunity to get two years of college under your belt.”
Steven Berto was born in Haiti and moved to Polk County as a young boy. In 5th grade, he was awarded the Polk State Foundation Fancelli Family Future Leaders Scholarship, a fund established in 2001 to help young students develop a mindset for college several years in advance.
He chose to enter Chain of Lakes High School to advance his college dreams by capitalizing on the ability to earn his AA degree while attending high school. As 1 of 4 children, it was a blessing for his family to have that option.
“My parents are excited about my graduation from Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School,” he says. “This was a wonderful solution for our family considering the time and cost of a college education. It is a great way to obtain a college degree at no cost, while becoming acclimated to a college workload.”
Berto, who attends school full-time and works part-time at a local Dollar General, also credits the staff and professors of Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate for his success in high school and in college.
“There is no stress for me as I think about the next steps in my collegiate experience,” he says. “The staff, teachers, and professors have been supportive and have consistently encouraged their students to work hard, engage, and become a part of this college community. I’ve enjoyed all of my classes, even the hard ones.”
Steven is considering either the University of Central Florida or the University of Florida with a desire to study technology— computer science, game development or graphic design.
For Abby Campbell, at Lakeland Collegiate High School, the decision to attend the high school was a spontaneous one.
“I wanted a change and a new challenge,” she says. “Polk State Lakeland Collegiate fit the bill and seemed like a great place to try something new.”
Campbell quickly became immersed in life at the Lakeland campus. She joined several clubs and organizations and credits those with her positive and rewarding experience.
“People are often nervous about coming to the Collegiate High School because they fear ‘missing out’ on traditional high school activities,” she says. “I did not feel like I missed anything. In my two years here, I participated in National Honor Society, was a Senator with the Student Government Association, did Youth In Government, and was the FBLA Secretary.”
Serving as a dental assistant in two local dental offices, and now armed with her Associate in Arts degree, Campbell plans to attend Florida Southern College to study biomedical sciences to become a dentist.
Since she is the youngest in her family, Regan Caron’s parents influenced her decision to attend Lakeland Collegiate and get a jumpstart on her two year degree. Her grandmother, who lives with her family, also had a strong role in encouraging her to attend the high school.
“My family knew how beneficial it would be for me to attend Lakeland Collegiate,” she said. “Obtaining my two year degree without cost was an important factor for my family. Knowing that I might attend a private college, helping to alleviate the expense was a way Collegiate could in turn help my family.”
Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School was just the place for graduate, Austin Dixon. He attended Bartow High School but did not seem to find his place, so Dixon first applied to Lakeland Collegiate. Soon after, administrators found that Gateway was an even better fit for Dixon and he quickly enrolled.
“I needed a new environment and challenge, he says. “I didn’t do well on the PERT exam, but the administrators saw my potential and encouraged me to apply and attend Gateway. It was the best decision I could have made.”
Working part-time at a local fruit stand and attending school full-time, Dixon found support, encouragement, and accountability with administrators, staff and professors.
“I never planned for this, nor expected that I could do it,” he says. “But the staff at Gateway never gave up on me. It was not easy, and taking college classes is tough, but I had a strong support system and excellent teachers who were willing to work with me to help me achieve my goals.”
Dixon will graduate with his diploma as well as an AA degree. His mom could not be more proud of his accomplishments.
“All of my life has just been me and my mom,” he shared. “She motivated me to do this. When I got my cap and gown, she asked me to try it on. We both cried when I placed the cap on my head. I am so proud of this accomplishment and it has helped to show my mom how much her support has meant to me.”
Dixon wants to attend Florida A&M University, where he plans to major in Communications or Journalism. His future goal— to become a sports commentator.
Polk State College operates three public charter high schools, including Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate, and Polk State Lakeland Collegiate. All three high schools allow students to fulfill requirements for their diplomas while also earning college credits. To learn more, please visit polk.edu/charter-high-schools/.