More than a thousand students earned associates and bachelors degrees at State College of Florida in the final semester of 2018.
On Thursday night, 361 of them crossed the stage at Bradenton Area Convention Center and received the paper proof of the accomplishment to thunderous applause from family and friends.
For many, it was a long road to the ceremony.
The college’s flexible pace of study means that some students work steadily for years (and years) to earn a degree while holding down full-time jobs and starting or supporting families.
One such student is Miguel Garcia, who was chosen for the Outstanding Graduate Award.
Garcia returned to school in the midst of a career as a firefighter with Sarasota County Fire Department. It took him more than 10 years to finish his associate and bachelor’s degrees.
“I worked slowly and diligently, but the perseverance paid off,” Garcia said from the podium. “In that time, I have been promoted to a company officer, married the woman of my dreams and started a family.”
Garcia graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in public safety administration.
Yuliya Crosley, one of the runners up for Graduate of Honor, also battled obstacles for an education.
Crosley is a native of Ukraine. She immigrated to the U.S. after her mother, a doctor, died of cancer, and she has worked through school as a widowed, single parent.
Crosley has worked at Manatee Memorial Hospital as a registered nurse since 2013 and has now earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Graduation speaker Desiree Chubb, an alumna of SCF, spoke about the opportunities that the college opened up for her, including a valuable internship and lasting relationships with professors who have now become mentors.
Chubb received a degree in biotechnology from SCF in 2015 and has since earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where she currently teaches in the university’s brewing arts certificate program. Chubb’s full-time job is with 3 Daughters Brewing Company in St. Petersburg.
SCF president Carol Probstfield also had a message for the outgoing students.
“You have achieved academic honors at the national, regional and state level. I could not be more proud. These graduates embody our vision that, with and SCF education, you can get anywhere from here,” she said.
Many of the graduates will continue on the path to higher education at state universities. Others will join the workforce with new skills, knowledge and confidence.
A live stream of the entire graduation ceremony can be viewed on SCF’s Facebook page.