SARASOTA -- Some call it "MJC." Some call it "MCC." Some call it "SCF."
But whatever its acronym over the past 58 years, Manatee Junior College or Manatee Community College or State College of Florida, the school has been the area's institute of higher learning and has sent 44,000 graduates out into the world.
That figure includes the roughly 900 who graduated Friday night before an overflow crowd at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.
Palmetto's Carol Rauen, who, along with Saraota's Leon Hostetler, were recipients of Outstanding Graduate Awards Friday, may have most accurately stated the school's top assets in her acceptance speech.
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"I checked out a lot of schools and chose SCF because it was affordable, for which I am very grateful," Rauen said. "But when I got here I discovered it wasn't just affordable. The teachers are so supportive here. It has changed my life."
SCF just seems to be there when people are in the midst of transforming themselves, Rauen said.
Rauen graduated from Manatee High School in 1983, earned an Associate in Science in Nursing degree from then Manatee Community College and worked as a registered nurse in an intensive care unit for 15 years.
When she decided she wanted to go back into nursing she knew she had to go back to school.
"I knew I needed a higher level of education," Rauen said.
She enrolled in SCF two years ago to get a bachelor's degree of science in nursing,
which she received Friday, and now she plans to get her master's degree with the goal of doing research and improving quality of medical delivery.
"I feel like one of these youthful graduates," Rauen said. "I turned 50 Wednesday. I feel like I am starting over. I don't think I would have made it without the support I received here."
About 12 years ago, Hostetler, now 28, was making furniture in Montana as part of his family's Amish furniture company, now called Montana Wood Works.
"It's very good furniture," Hostetler said with a grin moments before graduation. "It's pine. I made tables, chairs, everything."
But a desire to study physics never left him. He moved to the area when he was 20 and enrolled at SCF to get his associate degree in arts and plans to earn a bachelor's degree of science in physics from Florida State University.
"I'm not sure if I am going for astro-physics or particle physics," Hostetler said.
There is no award for most-interesting student, but if there was one, Megan Orlando, who was up for Outstanding Graduate, might win.
Orlando, 23, is the mother of a cute 4-year-old daughter named Riddley. She is married to Francisco Orlando, who is heading to the U.S. Navy. Francisco does the housework so Megan can go to SCF and where, on Friday, she received associate degre in arts and associate degree in science in biotechnology degrees. She plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in biology.
"I would like one day to help discover a cure for brain injuries or diseases of the mind," Orlando said.
Besides going to school, being a mom and wife, Orlando somehow found time to volunteer at the Roskamp Institute in the Vision Research Department and worked as a part time for Kathy Doran, an SCF academic secretary in Natural Science.
"Megan is so willing to help everyone," said Doran, who attended the graduation to see Orlando get her diploma. "This one young man came in and was so worried about failing a course. Megan sat down and helped him figure out exactly what he needed on the final to pass and she gave him a book she knew would help him. He came in with a big smile and said, 'I know I did great on that final.' He even sent Megan a card."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.