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USF grad passes final test with flying colors

SARASOTA -- Krystalle Nichols’ family and friends stood and applauded her when she accepted the “Outstanding Graduate” award at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee fall commencement.

They knew how far the 23-year-old had come to walk across the stage Sunday at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in downtown Sarasota.

When Nichols was a child at Prine Elementary School in Bradenton years ago, her parents were told their child had “SLD,” an acronym for “specific learning disability.”

Krystalle was labeled because she struggled taking tests.

“During tests I would shake and couldn’t remember anything I knew,” Nichols said.

It took years of work to address her test anxiety, but Nichols developed confidence that she was 100 percent ready for every test and her test results became better and better.

“I learned to power through it,” Nichols said. “I studied a lot. I had to feel prepared. It made me work harder.”

When Nichols graduated from Lakewood Ranch High School in 2007, she had a 3.9 academic average.

When she received her degree in elementary education Sunday, she carried a 3.97 college academic average.

Now she has a message for Tim McGonegal, superintendant of Manatee County schools.

“I would like to teach kindergarten or first grade in Manatee County and my mission will be to enrich the whole child, which is my philosophy,” Nichols said.

Because the Manatee Convention Center was hosting a sports event, USF used the Van Wezel concert hall for the first time in eight years.

Although it only seats 1,767, the Van Wezel offered seats in a separate area so the overflow crowd could watch on TV.

One nice thing about the Van Wezel is that it comes complete with volunteer ushers who helped lead the grads in and out.

“I remember when I graduated from The Ohio State University in Columbus,” said usher Ida Cuthbertson. “It was a cold day but I didn’t feel it. I was glad to graduate.”

Cuthbertson and fellow usher Ern Miller, from Brooklyn College, seemed to enjoy a change from the normal Van Wezel concert.

The pair acknowledged they were ready to rush the stage in case a musical broke out, which it didn’t.

But if it had, a possible starlet may have been Andrea Javed, the Golden Bull Award winner.

A self-described “shy girl,” Javed, 30, an accounting major, was so committed to her duties organizing events for the USF Accounting Society this year, that she organized a whopping five events and was the hostess for an average of 120 people per event.

Not bad for a shy girl.

“I am shy, but the more I became involved , the more I loved it,” said Javed, who was born in Manila, Philippines.

Javed already has an accounting job, with Kerkering-Barberio, a Sarasota-based tax and accounting firm.

USF Manatee-Sarasota graduationNumber of Graduates: 263Speakers: Arthur M. Guilford, regional chancellor; Byron E. Shinn, trustee; Rebecca Gutherz, president, USF Manatee-Sarasota student government association; Ashley Abene, chair, USF Alumni Association Manatee-SarasotaShining Moment: Tricia Hunsader, whose husband, Michael, is a co-owner of Hunsader Farms in East Manatee, got a tremendous ovation when she was named recipient of the Outstanding Professor Award. Hunsader, an assistant professor of elementary education, is teaching USF teachers how to teach math. “This is huge for me because I was nominated by my students,” Hunsader said. “And they are why I do what I do?” Hunsader said she is teaching teachers to teach the “whys” of math rather than just the “hows.”Best quote: “The only way to be completely satisfied in life is to do what you consider great work.” — Arthur M. Guilford.Interesting sights: Amanda M. Semrinec, a Manatee County star 4-H Club kid for countless years, walked across the stage as a confident young woman to receive her elementary education degree; Marley French wore “unforgettable pink” high heels; USF Tampa fine arts student Sarah Coit delivered a powerful “Star Spangled Banner,” made even more powerful by Van Wezel acoustics; Stephen Graves, a USF teacher, proved once again his unique talent as a “graduation name reader,” giving each name the energy and adoration of a minor league baseball announcer.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.