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Making a Difference Mondays, January 28

Monday, January 28, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Greg Littleton
December 2012 Distinguished Alumnus

Greg Littleton was born in Winter Haven and raised in Auburndale, where he graduated from Auburndale High School in 1985. He received his Polk State College Associate of Arts degree in 1987 and his bachelor’s degree from Freed-Hardeman University in 1989, and later graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. Currently he is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Bank & Trust.

As the youngest in his family, he followed in the footsteps of his older sister and brother after high school and enrolled at Polk State College. His sister was the first in the family to obtain a college degree. Greg received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Polk State. He spent much of his time attending classes and working part time. After graduating from Polk State, and later Freed-Hardeman University, he returned to Polk County. America’s economy was struggling at the time, and the first job offer he received was from Barnett Bank as a collector. Greg worked for Barnett for eight years before moving to Citizens Bank in 1997. He originally was hired to open a new branch of the bank in Lake Wales in 1998, and in 1999 he was promoted to Executive Vice President. He became President of the bank in 2001 at the age of 34.

Citizens Bank acquired American Bank & Trust in 2004, and changed the company name to Citizens Bank & Trust. Citizens Bank had doubled in size over the mere seven years that Greg had worked with the company, and the new acquisition doubled the size once again (from $50 million in assets to roughly $450 million today).

Citizens Bank & Trust was established in 1920 by Latt Maxcy. The bank was family-run for many years; even today members of the Maxcy family are involved through the Board. When Greg joined the bank in 1997, it had 20 employees and he was one of six officers. Today, the bank has twelve branches, 150 employees, and 50 officers.

Through Greg’s leadership, Citizens Bank & Trust has been able to stay competitive with the products and services offered by larger national banks. For example, in 1997 the bank did not make home equity loans, offer debit cards, or provide e-mail and Internet banking services. Today, every product offered by national banks can be found at Citizens Bank & Trust.

As President, Greg holds quarterly breakfast meetings with newly-hired employees. The bank also holds events throughout the year, such as cookouts and trips to spring training games to encourage a close relationship among employees.

Since Citizens Bank & Trust is a community bank built on relationships with people, Greg has a strong desire to give back to the community, both through the Bank and through time given to local organizations. He has served as a member of the Polk State College District Board of Trustees since 2007, including a term as both Vice Chair and Chair. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Central Florida Development Council (for which he also served a previous term as Chairman in 2004). He is a board member of the United Way of Central Florida, Treasurer of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and Treasurer of the Polk Museum of Art Board. He is also on the Lake Wales Arts Center Advisory Board and is the Immediate Past Chair of Polk Vision. He recently concluded his term on the Florida Bankers Association Board and is a past chair of the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce.

Greg, his wife Julie, and their two daughters Currie Ann and Anna Beth, live in Winter Haven. Currie Ann is a student at the Polk State College Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School.

Donor Spotlight: Rosalinda Rivera Collins
Professor, Foreign Languages, Liberal Arts and Sciences

My thrill for teaching languages came from many sources. As a young person, I lived with my family in many places—from New York, to New Jersey, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, and Florida, but also in Uruguay and Venezuela in South America. Those travel experiences opened for me the vast world around us; diversity, with its multi-cultural and varied linguistic aspects, became my focus. My love for travel adds to my understanding of others; it is a passion. I cannot count the number of countries I have had the pleasure to visit over the years.

My family‘s heritage (both my parents were born in Puerto Rico and moved to the U.S. in their teens) provided a love for the Spanish language and eventually an interest and a desire to develop my skills with it beyond the daily use. My post-secondary education started at Seminole Community College and was continued at the University of South Florida. I continued both my Spanish and French language skills. I taught junior and senior high school for 17 years before I received my Master’s in Foreign Language Education and I began my college teaching career at Polk Community College in 1994. Until recently, at Polk State College, I taught French and Spanish and provided opportunities for students to travel abroad to experience these two languages, in particular. We have visited France and Spain, as well as Morocco and Italy.

My need to work throughout my college training years provided in me the interest to help those who would need financial support for their academic endeavors. Learning is a life-long goal; access to a good education can be a life-long project and an opportunity for me to provide support.

As a young educator, I helped with my time supervising various clubs and activities to engender service and community interests in my students. At Polk State College, I have worked with my colleague Ana Maria Myers to found the International Circle in 2000, and with many other faculty support, we have continued the efforts to develop an understanding of people around the world. Our Guest Speaker events bring our local students in contact with the experiences of our international students’ as well as our local students’ varied heritages. This shared environment has opened up many opportunities for students to consider the global environment and the desire to learn about our interdependence. Polk State College’s Hispanic Heritage Month events have also benefited from the support of our International Circle. We continue to acknowledge the need to learn about our diversity and to promote educational opportunities for those needing the support.

As a seasoned educator, I have provided my time and financial support. I enjoy my experiences at Polk State College (both in- and out-of-the-classroom activities) and hope to promote others’ educational options.

Student Spotlight: Jessica Ciccarello
Volunteerism Helps Student Discover Career Goals

Jessica Ciccarello grew up as something of a protégé in the world of bowling. She started bowling at age four, quickly progressing into tournament competitions. By the age of ten, she shot a game of 275 and was even featured on ESPN.

The passion for bowling seemed pre-destined, as her parents’ first date was at a bowling alley. According to Jessica, “My dad competed in tournaments, so when I was little I watched him play.  When he saw my potential, he found a coach for me so that I could become competitive in the sport.”

As a young teen, however, Jessica found that bowling so competitively took a physical and emotional toll. “For me, this sport that I loved quit being fun. I needed a break to help heal my body, but I also wanted to focus on getting involved at my high school.”

During her hiatus, Jessica got involved in the medical academy at Ridge Community High School, becoming president of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). A competitor at heart, she placed third in the Physical Therapy competition at the regionals for HOSA, earned a spot for the State competition in Jacksonville, and missed going to the nationals by one point.

Growing up, Jessica had always known she wanted to go into the medical field. She wanted to be a veterinarian, but a series of personal events led her to decide to become a nurse. “I started volunteering in the emergency room at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center when I was fourteen and became interested in trauma. My desire to help others helped me decide to become a nurse.”

When Jessica graduated from Ridge Community High School in 2012, she also had her EKG Technician license and was a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant. After graduation, she worked to earn her Certified Nursing Assistant license and now works at Winter Haven Hospital.

While earnings from bowling tournaments covered one semester at Polk, with the help of an emergency scholarship from the Foundation, Jessica has been able to continue her studies unimpeded. “Without the scholarship from the Foundation, it would have been very difficult to continue with school until I could have earned enough money to pay for another semester. It also would have postponed my plan to enter the Nursing Program by one year.” Instead, Jessica is now able to go to school full time while saving up money for summer classes.

Jessica has also returned to bowling, working as a coach with her former competitive team. After earning her BSN at Polk, she plans to get her Master’s in Nursing at USF and work at Tampa General. Eventually, she hopes to become a nurse practitioner and work with her younger sister, who plans to become a dermatologist.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Happy New Year Colleagues!

What an amazing year 2013 is starting out to be building off the momentum of an incredible 2012!  Thanks to so many of you who attended the Ribbon Cutting, Dedication, and Grand Openings of our Teaching Learning Innovation Centers that are a reality due to the generosity of Boyer Building Corporation.  These Centers will help Faculty bring state-of-the art advancements into the educational experience for our students.  They are also a relaxed gathering place to discuss best practices to enhance continued successes.

As Co-Champion with David Steele of the strategic initiative focused on Value, we share President Holden’s pride that Polk provides the most affordable bachelor’s degrees in the region by far.  The Value Committee regularly discusses at its meetings the critical role affordability plays in the value we provide to our students and the return on investment to our community.  Polk State employees play a significant role in ensuring our institution’s costs are within the means of our students.  Between scholarship awards (of which employee donors contributed more than $35,000 in 2012!), financial aid, Bright Futures, and dual enrollment programs the average cost to our students is less than $8,000 which doesn’t involve student loans!

I cannot thank you enough for your contributions last year that totaled more than $35,000!  You helped approximately 100 students work toward and attain their dream of a college degree.  Many of those students you helped desired to stay on track but encountered an unexpected life circumstance that had them considering “stopping out” to address their challenge.  Others were considering dropping a class because they simply could not afford the book.  You made it possible for them to continue their education.  You made it affordable.  You made a transformational difference, and I thank you – whole heartedly.

All the very best,


Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director