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Making a Difference Mondays, June 26

Monday, June 26, 2017

Donor Spotlight: Patrick Phillips
Professor of Radiography

Education has been a tremendous part of my life, so I am beyond grateful to have both the opportunity and the ability to donate to the Polk State College Foundation to help others in their quest for learning and advancement. It is because of the generosity of others that I have been able to pursue an education that I once thought was impossible.

Over 15 years ago, while attending Polk State via my high school dual-enrollment program, I had aspirations to become a pharmacist like my grandfather. I quickly realized that my family didn’t have the income to fund a traditional university experience. In hindsight I am incredibly grateful for that realization, as it brought me to Polk State College and to the career I love. After enrolling at Polk, I was awarded the Alva Addkison Memorial Scholarship from the Foundation and it greatly impacted the path my life has taken. I yearned to learn more and grow as a person. That personal growth and eagerness to learn has earned me Associate in Applied Science, Associate in Arts, and Bachelor of Applied Science degrees from Polk State College. My thirst for knowledge only grew during my time as a student and it further inspired me to earn my master’s degree from Midwestern State University.

My education has allowed me to help people, travel the world, and inspire others. In many ways, it has led me to my beautiful wife (who is also a Polk State alumna) and to our life together with our two amazing boys. I hope that the people responsible for providing the Alva Addkison Memorial Scholarship and each and every Polk State donor know the incredible impact of their gifts–an education truly is life changing. I can trace all that I am, all that I have, and all that I have done to the education I received at Polk State College.

Alumni Spotlight: Kelly P. Butz
May 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient

Kelly P. Butz graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1984. She received an Associate of Arts degree from Polk State in 1985, a bachelor’s from the University of Florida in 1987, and a Juris Doctor degree from Florida State University in 1990. She was admitted to the Florida bar in 1991 and currently serves as a judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court, having been appointed by Governor Scott in 2015.

As a respected local option for education, Kelly’s decision to enroll at Polk State after high school was easily made. She still remembers her time at the College fondly. After graduating, Kelly transferred to the University of Florida, earning a bachelor’s degree in three years; she later also earned her law degree in less than three years, graduating with honors.

While in law school, Kelly interned at the Polk County State Attorney’s Office in Bartow. After passing the bar exam, she joined the State Attorney’s office as a prosecutor. Her first assignment was in the domestic violence division. While she worked in many areas, the time she spent within this division was particularly personal, as it provided a tangible opportunity to make a difference in the community.

Kelly left the state attorney’s office in 1998 to join Sharit, Bunn and Chilton Law Firm in Winter Haven, where she handled family law cases. She was named a partner and was practicing in a variety of legal areas when the opportunity to apply for a judgeship arose.

Kelly submitted an application for Polk County judge in 2014, and while it was under review by the commission, a circuit judge position also became available; she submitted her application for that position as well. Governor Scott appointed her to the county judge position in late 2014. She had been a county judge for only two days when the Governor called with news of her appointment to the Circuit Court bench. She spent her first two years covering criminal cases and recently moved to hearing cases regarding felony violation of probation.

It is Kelly’s passion for serving the community that prompted a desire to pursue a judgeship. She loves the law, believing there is no better way to serve the people of the State of Florida. Her role is to take each case as it is, to hear the facts of the case, and to follow the law.

Kelly has been involved in many community organizations, including the Junior League of Greater Winter Haven, Girl Scouts of America, First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven, Winter Haven Youth Soccer, and Grace Lutheran School. She served on the Board of Directors for Girls, Inc. of Winter Haven; the Florida Dance Theatre; and Habitat for Humanity. She was also a member of the 10th Judicial Circuit Domestic Violence taskforce and the City of Winter Haven Efficiency Review Committee. In 2005, she received the “She Knows Where She’s Going” Award from Girls, Inc. of Winter Haven.

Kelly and her husband, George, live in Winter Haven and have two grown children, Will and Paige.

Student Spotlight: Alexis Zellner

From a young age, Alexis Zellner has always focused on her academic studies. A graduate of Bartow High School (2013), she is currently working through the capstone course for her program and is on track to graduate with her Polk State Bachelor of Applied Science in Public Administration this summer.

While mapping out her schedule of courses, Alexis discovered that she would need to get creative in order to stay on track and graduate in 2017 as she had planned. According to Alexis, “In addition to the heavy course load, I really didn’t know how I would be able to pay for all the classes I needed to finish on time.”

A friend encouraged Alexis to apply for a scholarship with the Polk State College Foundation. “I remember thinking that there were sure to be so many qualified applications for scholarships that I would never have a chance,” recalls Alexis. “One thing I have learned through this experience and my entire time at Polk State is that if you try –you might be selected. And the people at Polk State are here to help you to be successful in finishing your degree.”

By receiving a scholarship from the Polk State College Foundation, Alexis was able to take five courses and cover the cost of tuition and books. The financial relief allowed her to focus on her studies instead of her bills, and she made the Polk State Dean’s List in the Fall 2016 Semester.

Alexis works full time at Highlands City Elementary as a para-educator, and also works at the Dairy Queen in Bartow. Her long-time goal has been to go to graduate school and get a master’s degree in Human Resource Management; however, she has received praise and encouragement from her co-workers and the principal at Highlands City Elementary, and is now considering a career in teaching. She currently works directly with students and has been asked to assist with lessons in the classroom. She feels that this could potentially be her career calling. Notes Alexis, “I have a passion for helping others and serving as a mentor. I enjoy finding ways to help others, and have even helped a fellow employee at Dairy Queen enroll in Polk State’s Medical Coding Program.”

While Alexis had never thought about teaching as a career previously, she enjoys the environment at her school and knows that she is making a difference in her life, as well as in the lives of others, as a result of the support she received through the Polk State College Foundation.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues.

Every month I write about something that has inspired me at Polk State. This month, I want to pay tribute to a woman who has inspired us all: Dr. Eileen Holden.

In March of 2006, I received a call from a former colleague informing me that Dr. Holden had a position available. The colleague said, “You should think about applying for it.” I had had the pleasure of working with Eileen at Broward Community College and already had tremendous respect for her. She had never wavered in putting students first and had shown herself to be a truly selfless leader. I eagerly applied. Thankfully, the Search Committee felt I was a contender, and the rest is history.

We are extremely fortunate to have worked for someone who fights ferociously for the College, for students, and for what’s right. We, as her army, are proud soldiers. She worked with each of us all early on to commit to a world-class vision. We “get to yes” at Polk State, and outside our doors it annoys us when others don’t. We are driven and innovative, continually finding ways to better help our students succeed. Dr. Holden is the driving force behind this cultural mindset. While recently talking with Dr. Bill Caldecutt, he summed up one of her best qualities: ‘When she walks into a room, no matter who is there– District Board Member, facilities staff, faculty member, administrative assistant, or student–she sees each person as equally important and doesn’t know who to greet first.’ She is our leader, and she is one of us–she turned Polk State from an institution into a family.

At every opportunity over the past eleven years, Eileen has proclaimed that it has been her honor and privilege to serve as our President. Now, I join with all of you in proclaiming that it has been our honor and privilege to work with such a passionate, caring, committed, devoted, and special servant leader.

Eileen, this journey with you has been the most rewarding, refreshing experience of my career–a sentiment shared by every person I know. Words cannot express how much you will be missed. You have changed the lives of so many. In this respect, it is not just the students–we, your colleagues, have all have been positively impacted by your energy and example.

Thank you for the blessing of bringing me to Polk and giving me the ability to play a teeny, tiny part in the important mission of transforming lives through the power of higher education.

With all sincerity and much love to Eileen– and to each of you,


Tracy M. Porter
Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Executive Director, Foundation