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Making A Difference Mondays, January 28

Monday, January 28, 2019

Donor Spotlight: German Del Valle

Head Coach, Women’s Volleyball

As head coach of the Polk State Women’s Volleyball team, German Del Valle knows how to build a team, train players, and guide them to give their best during games. His team has qualified for the national tournament each of the last five years, and his players have been recognized at the national level.

German recognizes that while his players are passionate about volleyball and may have the talent to compete nationally, how they perform off the court is equally important. “We recruit players from around the world, and we become a family. Our team words are: Love, Care, Respect, and Trust. While we might all have different cultures and beliefs, we all deserve respect and must work together as a team.”

Growing up in Puerto Rico, German played a variety of sports, including baseball, basketball, and volleyball. He also served as an assistant coach for a professional volleyball team. German earned his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and worked as a teacher and athletic director in Puerto Rico before moving to Florida in 2003. After teaching Physical Education for a few years while also building a competitive volleyball academy, German came to Polk State in 2011.

German believes in the importance of gaining a college education. He reminds his players that their time at Polk State is not just about playing sports but is also about continuing education. While most of his players end up transferring to four-year universities to continue their athletic careers, his first priority is that all continue their education. His former players keep in contact with him and some have shared that the time spent at Polk State College was pivotal to preparing them for both academics and athletics at the next level.

As a donor to the Foundation, German explains that to him, giving is personal. “You have got to believe in something in order to give,” he explains. “I believe in what Polk State and the Foundation are doing to support our students, both on the courts and in the classrooms.”

Alumni Spotlight: Paul Lewis Hughes
December 2018 Distinguished Alumnus

Paul Lewis Hughes started Polk State on a vocal scholarship. After trying out for a part in the College’s Theatre Program, he ended up performing six different roles in his first play. This led to an unexpected change in majors and a 43-year career as both a performer and director.

Upon graduating Polk State in 1976, Hughes continued his studies. During his junior year, he joined a Shakespearian repertory group, serving as both musical director and cast member. He graduated cum laude from St. Leo University’s Theatre Program and began working with Polk County Public Schools, also serving as Artistic Director with the Lakeland Pied Piper Players. He co-founded the Harrison School for the Arts Theatre Program and a theatre program at All Saints Academy, writing the curriculum, as well as acting and directing. In both 2001 and 2012, he and his students were selected to represent the U.S. at the American High School Theatre Festival at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Many of his former students have performed lead roles on Broadway and within touring companies, and Hughes has lent his directorial and performance skills to productions in the Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, Scotland, and Sweden.

In addition to his work in education, Hughes has directed over 400 productions, developed workshops, and served as the Programming Director for Polk Theatre’s renowned Fine Arts Series. For a decade, he served as a grant panelist for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Hughes has received numerous recognitions, including Harrison School for the Arts Teacher of the Year, and a Disney Community Service Award. He has been inducted into the Polk County Public Schools Hall of Fame, and received a Distinguished Career Award in Secondary Theatre Education for the State of Florida by the Florida Theatre Conference. In 2013, Hughes was awarded The Ledger’s Golden Garland for his lifetime contributions to The Arts in Polk County. In 2016, Harrison School for the Arts inducted Hughes as a member of its Hall of Fame for the legacy built during his 16 years of service.

Student Spotlight: Argenis Molina

Most people would find it difficult to pack a lifetime of memories and possessions into one suitcase, leaving everything else behind. Now imagine a single suitcase packed for a family of three to flee a country in turmoil for the hope of a better life in the United States.

Growing up in Venezuela, Argenis Molina was surrounded by family, and his parents held jobs that allowed for a comfortable lifestyle. According to Argenis, “My mother was a lawyer and my father had his own carpentry company.” However, the political climate and unstable socialist government created an environment where those who expressed ideals contrary to the ruling class were persecuted. His mother’s life was threatened, and the family had no other choice than to flee the country and relocate to the United States.

In search of freedom and a better quality of life, Argenis and his parents moved to Oklahoma in August 2016, along with his mother’s work supervisor. The colleague had family there, and a few months later Argenis and his parents moved to Florida to be closer to a cousin. “Leaving Venezuela to move to a country where we couldn’t speak the language and didn’t have a support system was very tough,” notes Argenis. His parents abandoned great careers and a network of friends and family to protect him, and the sacrifice became a struggle as the language barrier prevented either parent from finding comparable work. His carpentry skills enabled Argenis’ father to find similar work, but his mother was not able to work in the law field due to language limitations and the inability to retrain as a lawyer in America.

Argenis faced similar challenges. He had studied English grammar but struggled to speak the language. Despite the adversity, Argenis enrolled in high school and passed the Reading and Algebra I End-of-Course Exam (EOC) that allowed him to earn his high school diploma early. He graduated from Mulberry High School in 2018 at the age of sixteen.

Argenis dreamed of becoming an engineer, but his family’s economic situation made college impossible. With the help of the Polk State College Foundation and the Hispanic Club of Lakeland, Argenis was able to secure scholarships to cover tuition and books. This has allowed him to continue toward his quest to become an engineer.

Polk State offered Argenis the best opportunity to meet his educational goals. After finishing his Associate in Arts degree, he plans to transfer to the University of South Florida’s Engineering Program. He spends his free time volunteering in the community and working one day each week at a local car dealership with Venezuelan owners. According to Argenis, “The Foundation scholarship allows me to continue my studies and have the time to focus on my coursework and learning English. I am working hard to show my parents that all of the sacrifices they made for me were not in vain.”

Argenis’ life’s purpose is to serve and assist his local community, and to provide help to those who need it. He wants to make this world a better place and believes studying Engineering will provide the means for him to make a positive impact on society.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues! 

Thank you to each person who helped the College exceed its $50,000 Employee Giving Campaign goal! This generosity from coworkers provided assistance to so many students–primarily through emergency scholarships—to stay on track toward their degrees. This critical emergency fund helps recipients during times of unexpected need, when the threat of stopping-out is greatest. In this past year, employees have, as always, been tremendously supportive of students through so many initiatives. You have also generously given to Dr. Falconetti’s Endowed Scholarship, the My Brother’s Keeper Program, the Lakeland Food Pantry, and so much more. I am so grateful for your open hearts.

Through the kindness of our employees, we have always been fortunate to exceed the goals of the Employee Giving Campaign; yet sadly, further need remains. This coming year, we are focusing on encouraging more participation from across all College stakeholders. If we each can give just a little, it adds up to so much that we can do for others. Polk State is in the business of changing lives for the better, so rather than focusing on a thermometer, we plan to use the Making a Difference Mondays newsletter to share brief stories about the students who have been helped by your donations–as well as to recognize donors who have given and are therefore an integral part of these students’ success stories.

I greatly appreciate all that you do to transform lives through the power of education and philanthropy!  Working at Polk State is incredibly rewarding because people are fully engaged in our mission, both professionally and personally. Thank you for the important role you play in helping our students persist toward the life-changing goal of graduation.

All the very best,

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