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Making a Difference Mondays, May 9

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chasity Branham
A Memorable Encounter with a Caring Employee Makes the Difference to One Alumnus

What seems an eternity ago, I graduated from Lakeland High School as a “bright” student with big ambitions to be an FBI profiler. Neither of my parents had gone to college and I had lived in Lakeland all my life, so there was no thought of me attending anywhere other than Polk State College. However, when I first was exposed to the jargon of required courses, prerequisites, majors, CLAST scores, and other college terminology, I immediately clammed up. I panicked. In fact, I remember wanting to turn, run, and settle into a “good job” that made a “happy life” without having to struggle with college at all. After all, that is what my parents had done, and I was pretty proud of them. What did I need college for anyway?

Fortunately for me, there was a Student Services Counselor, Mr. Reggie Webb, who stepped into my path and prevented me from darting back to safety and security. He sat me down, smiled his contagious smile, and offered calm in my emotional storm. He talked me through my placements in various classes based on my interests, test scores, and desired career path; he completely took the stress out of all those decisions. His confidence and caring must have put my fears to rest because from that day forward, college was something I learned to love, stick with, and embrace. So much so, that after graduating from PSC with an AA, I went on to the University of South Florida to receive a BA in Criminology, then to the Police Academy at PSC to become a Certified Law Enforcement Officer with the Lakeland Police Department. Finally, my educational ship traversed to Stetson Law School in St. Petersburg, where I received a J.D. in Law. Imagine that! A student too panicked to select college courses, braving the world of law school! As I look back over my educational path I often ask, “How did that happen?”

The answer is crystal clear to me: Mr. Reggie Webb. He stepped out on a limb and offered a hand to a girl who was about to jump from fear. He didn’t wear an I-am-only-here-to-do-this-certain-job hat; he showed genuine caring and concern. He showed compassion when it may have been much easier to let me walk away from college. I am quite certain he never knew what an impact his actions, words, and kindness would mean for me. He had no crystal ball to see that his example would later serve to encourage me to also “pay it forward” to others I come into contact with. But his dedication to the students was evident in the way he treated me. I am quite confident that my life would have been much different had Reggie Webb not been there on that afternoon in 1991. It wasn’t that there was anything special about me – but he made me feel special. He made me feel as though my decision to come to PSC mattered, and that he (and thus the College) cared about me personally.

Now, with four children of my own, being a former prosecutor, a current instructor at the PSC Kenneth C. Thompson Academy of Public Safety, and a teen trial coach, I see the need for more people like Mr. Reggie Webb– ones who realize the difference little things make. They offer the greatest rewards in the lives of others. No amount of money can compensate an individual for the gravity of what can be accomplished by caring about what you do and instilling that passion as a value in tomorrow’s generation.

Thank you, Mr. Reggie Webb, for being a wonderful representative for Polk State College, a caring Student Services Counselor, and even more importantly, a wonderful person! I hope my own kids will be blessed enough to have a Reggie Webb in their paths when the stormy waters of life – be they college decisions or other tempests – threaten their paths!

Donor Spotlight: Dr. Saul Reyes
Manager, JD Alexander Center – Commitment to Community

I support Polk State College because I know it makes a difference to our students.

But first, let me tell you my story. I am the son of Cuban immigrants, and I was the first in my family to attend college. I was able to afford a college education because I received need-based financial aid, student loans, and privately-funded institutional scholarships. I also worked part-time for the college to earn spending money and to pay for my books. I raked leaves in the fall, shoveled snow in the winter, and cut the grass in the spring. I’m grateful for the education I received and the people who helped me along the way. I am aware of the challenges faced by first-generation college students. More importantly, I know the difference that supportive staff, programs, and services can make in encouraging students to complete their college degrees. I give because a college education can change the course of a student’s life.

I see our students in Lake Wales struggling to balance work, family, and college. Three of our students were featured in a front page article in the Lake Wales News in November. The story “A Backpack Full of Dreams” chronicled the busy schedules of Polk State College students working full time, taking classes, and juggling family responsibilities. Their stories were inspiring! I’ve spoken with students who worry about how they will pay for books. I’ve met students who were glad for the JD Alexander Center because they couldn’t afford the gas to drive to the Winter Haven campus every day. But I have also witnessed their determination to somehow make it work so that they can complete their college degrees. I give because I see our students making great sacrifices to earn their degrees.

Finally, I give because I feel a part of this place. I love the people I have encountered here and I feel a sense of community and caring from the staff. I’ve been impressed with the sense of philanthropy and volunteerism I see in my colleagues. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the needs we see, and to believe that our small gift won’t have much impact. But, I truly believe the size of the gift does not matter; as someone once observed, “It is a fact that in the right formation, the lifting power of many wings can achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone.”

I give because I see the examples of others around me, and I am inspired by their investment and commitment to improve the communities they live and work in.

Saul Reyes

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

In a recent meeting with David Steele, our Associate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs and resident expert at “getting the word out,” he recommended changing the day for the release of our “Foundation Fridays” newsletter, as the majority of our faculty do not teach on campus on Fridays. Marianne George and I wholeheartedly concurred, and we came up with “Making-A-Difference Mondays” to greet you once a month, at the beginning of the week, to emphasize the positive impact you are making for our students, colleagues, and community, and to set the tone of your week and your work with their inspiring stories.

A person who has helped to make those inspiring stories possible is my long-time friend, my classmate, my colleague, and a generous donor to the Polk State College Foundation, Dean Charles N. Lyle, II.

Charlie was a genuine philanthropist in every sense of the word. His generosity was truly immeasurable. He gave wholeheartedly of his time, talents, and resources for the betterment of our students, colleagues, and the College, as well as to the community as a whole. I retain the utmost respect and admiration for his compassion, professionalism, expertise, and fairness. His positive attitude and sense of humor made the job, whatever it was, a pleasure to do. He shared the College’s world-class vision and consistently “got to yes.” He will be sorely missed.

I feel Wikipedia’s definition of philanthropy described Charlie well:

Philanthropy etymologically means ‘the love of humanity,’ in the sense of ‘what it is to be human,’ the essence of our humanity. In modern practical terms, it is private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of life… Put simply, philanthropy is the pursuit of excellence in every facet of human life, for every human life, by imagining and implementing new systems, to bring that philosophy to fruition.

Charlie believed in people and the power of collaboration in making the world a better place. I honor Charlie for the tremendous difference he made in my life and the positive impact he has made on innumerable lives. Scott Adams said, “Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Charlie’s countless acts of kindness, both large and small, will have no end. His legacy will never be forgotten.

Many of you have inquired if there will be a scholarship set up in Charlie’s memory to help continue his amazing legacy at Polk State College. I am pleased to announce The Dean Charles N. Lyle, II Student Involvement Memorial Scholarship. This endowment will assist students who are actively involved in the Student Activities and Leadership Department, and will help students who experience unforeseen life emergencies whereby finances threaten their ability to remain enrolled in Polk State College. Recipients must have and maintain a 2.0 or higher GPA, and demonstrate a financial need.

Charlie Lyle was an exemplary leader and person who valued the role he played in making a difference in the lives of others. I also salute each and every one of you who also believe that caring, compassion, and a personal investment can make great changes in the lives of our students, colleagues, and community. I truly appreciate all that you do for the College and Foundation.

All the very best,


Tracy M. Porter,
Executive Director, PSC Foundation

Student Spotlight: Dan Montijo
Early Spark Launches Dreams of Soaring for a Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School Student

Loughman, Florida is located north of Davenport. When Dan Montijo was a child, it consisted of a convenience store, a century-old community center, a flashing light, and his school: Loughman Oaks Elementary School.

Dan is the son of Iran and Joan Montijo and is the middle of three children. He and his family moved to the area midway through the school year when Dan was in fifth grade. He was earning good grades and did not think much of it when the principal asked him to write an essay for consideration of an award. At the fifth grade graduation, he was surprised to learn that the essay had paid off in the form of a college scholarship provided through the Fancelli Family Future Leaders Scholarship Program. “I thought school was free, so I never thought about what this scholarship meant at the time,” shared Dan.

Fast forward a few years: Dan decided that he wanted to attend the Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School. For him, the relationship with Polk State College that started in fifth grade was the spark that lead him to attend eleventh and twelfth grade on the College campus. Dan currently carries a full load of high school classes and is set to graduate on June 4. However, he has also been dual enrolled as a Polk State College student simultaneously. On May 5, 2011 he graduated with his AS degree; he completed his college degree before receiving his high school diploma.

Dan plans to study electrical engineering at the University of Central Florida and then join the Air Force. As a child, his dream was to become an astronaut. Now that he is older, he has decided that he would like to work on airplanes in addition to flying them. This dream might have never taken flight had it not been for the scholarship awarded by his elementary school principal so many years ago.