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Making a Difference Mondays, February 25

Monday, February 25, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Greta Cecchetti
Polk State Athletic Hall of Fame

Greta Cecchetti grew up in Bollate, Italy and started playing softball at the age of eight. She played on the Bollate Softball Club Team while growing up, and after graduating from high school, set her sights on playing in the United States. According to Greta, “A college education from the United States is highly valued in Italy, and I wanted to play Division 1 softball in a warm-weather state.”

With the help of a local coach, she developed a promotional video of her skills and created a profile containing all of her abilities as a pitcher. The coach she worked with happened to know Polk State Coach Jeff Ellis. This led to Greta and Coach Ellis connecting via e-mail. As Coach Ellis notes, “I signed Greta without ever talking on the phone to her or meeting her in person.”

As Coach Ellis’ first recruit, Greta arrived at the College in January 2009 and quickly became a starter for the team. And while classes and grades had not always been a focus for her, Greta quickly realized that getting good grades was the key to being able to follow her true passion–playing softball. “Dean Charlie Lyle helped me so much personally while I was at Polk State,” notes Greta. “The Winter Haven Campus is beautiful and the professors were great. The small classes also helped to create a family atmosphere for me, especially being so far away from home.”

On the field, Greta helped lead the Polk State Softball Team to win the Suncoast Conference title in 2009, and build the program to where it is today.

After graduating from Polk State with honors in 2010, Greta played softball at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, and graduated in December 2012 with a degree in Psychology.

Currently, Greta resides in Italy and is a member of the Italian National Softball Team. She is currently playing at the national level as well as on the Bollate Club Team, while also pursuing a position teaching English in her home country.

Greta’s sister, Lara, is following in her footsteps and currently plays second base for the Polk State Softball Team. Greta and her parents recently visited Florida to see Lara play and also attend Greta’s induction into the Polk State College Athletic Hall of Fame. As the youngest recipient and only the second female athlete to receive this award, Greta stated that she felt honored and humbled to be recognized by the College. “My dad taught me to ‘do something and do it well,’ and without the opportunity to play at Polk State, I might have quit playing altogether. Instead, I was able to play in the United States at the highest level.”

At the induction ceremony (held on February 20), Coach Ellis explained to the crowd that he cares about his players as if they were his own daughters. Filled with emotion, Jeff proudly told the group that because of the history he and Greta share, he would always consider her to be his “first born.”

Donor Spotlight: Beth and Bill Luckett
Radiography Program Director and Cardiovascular Technology Clinical Coordinator

The Lucketts—Spreading the Luck and Love They Found at Polk State

Polk State College is a great place to get an affordable education and prepare for a rewarding career, but for Beth and Bill Luckett it represents far more. Beth and Bill met as students in the Radiography Program during the mid-eighties, and they have been inseparable ever since. Proud graduates of the program, they both now work at the College.

Beth and Bill have an enduring love not just for each other, but also for the College that brought them together. They are passionate about helping students inside and outside of the classroom. As students, the Lucketts both struggled to earn the money to pay for school; they experienced first-hand the toll that financial pressures can place on the academic environment. Fortunately, Beth had an anonymous family friend step forward to pay for her second year in the Radiography Program, making it possible for her to continue her studies. Beth explains that had it not been for this person’s generosity, she “…would not have been able to continue.” This would have terminated not only her dreams, but it also would have tragically broken the chain of success of the many students who have benefitted from Beth’s inspirational leadership of the Polk State College Radiography Program.

As proud Polk State College Foundation donors, Beth and Bill are part of the cycle of personal philanthropy that drives student success and opportunity. “We proudly contribute to the Foundation because we know there are so many students today who need that extra bit of help to meet their goals,” says Beth. The Lucketts feel that through the Foundation, students’ financial needs are quickly eased so they can focus on their studies. They encourage others to contribute, adding: “It feels good to know that our contribution is added up with others’ to help so many students start new careers and become successful members of the community.”

Student Spotlight: Jesus Jaime
Selfless Service to His Community

At 43, Jesus Jaime has lived an amazing life. Born in Bartow and raised in Winter Haven, Jesus grew up in a migrant family that traveled with the picking seasons in Florida, Georgia, and Michigan. As a youngster, education, while important, came second to helping the family stay afloat financially. “Growing up, we always returned to Florida after school started in the fall,” recalls Jesus. “Each year I would constantly struggle to catch up to my classmates in each subject.”

This travelling cycle continued throughout high school. Jesus graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1988 and started taking classes at Polk State, but a death in the family prompted a visit back to Mexico. When he returned home, he restarted classes, but found that he was not prepared to continue his studies. Instead, he moved to Michigan, where he held a number of professional jobs and helped organize a large Cultural Mexican Fiesta each year in his community. The fiesta helped raise money for college scholarships. He even got involved in politics at the city and state level.

Jesus was serving as the Associate Director of Emergency Services for the local chapter of the American Red Cross when a series of events prompted a change. As Jesus explains, “My position was eliminated at the Red Cross, and not long after that I returned to Florida to care for my ailing mother.”

Back in Polk County, Jesus found it difficult to find a job. He contacted an uncle about returning to the fields to pick for the season, and in the process learned about the Mountain Lake Farmworkers Scholarship. According to Jesus, “I believe that everything happens for a reason, and had I not contacted my uncle, I would never have known that I could get a college scholarship.”

Since being awarded a scholarship, Jesus has immersed himself in the academic environment and the Polk State College community. He is also an AmeriCorps 300 hour scholar. Through this program, Jesus is able to mentor two students at Winter Haven High School and one student at Ridge Community High School. He is also a member of the Eagleteers.

Jesus plans to enter the Nursing program and volunteers his time providing basic health services to migrant workers and their families. “My passion is health, and I also like to help people. Health services are sometimes difficult to get in migrant communities, and I see this as a way to give back.”

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

You recently received the Foundation’s mailing for our annual Employee Giving Campaign – Dagwoods for Dollars. Last year, we asked you to give up a cup of coffee and give that amount (or more) for the benefit of our students, and this year we are hoping you will support students through a similar sacrifice of giving up a sandwich and donate that amount (or more) to the Foundation. Collectively in 2012, you all gave more than $35,000 to help our students soar! These vital funds gave many students a much needed hand-up that enabled them to remain enrolled at the College when unexpected life emergencies came their way. Many other students were able to buy a book they could otherwise not afford were it not for your generosity.

Our students truly are starved for knowledge–hungry to make better lives for themselves and uplift our community. We are the chefs who cook up their success. The Food Network has nothing on us! Whether you are a faculty member sharing your area of expertise, an advisor working in Student Services to provide our customers with the tools they need to attain degrees, a facilities team member creating a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing learning environment, an IT professional keeping us all connected to the latest and greatest technologies, or an employee in the Business Office keeping our operations running smoothly…all of the layers of assistance contribute to the most delicious recipe–student success!

And the olive on top of the Dagwood is your philanthropy, which so greatly contributes to the transformative change in students’ lives attained through the power of a Polk State education. I thank you all for every ingredient you contribute throughout our students’ educational journey with us, especially the olive.

All the very best,


Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director