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February 13, 2004

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Education Commissioner Jim Horne and Florida Community Colleges Chancellor David Armstrong Congratulate "All American Success Stories" Award Recipients
19 individuals from across Florida honored for their success in workforce education

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner Jim Horne and Florida Community Colleges Chancellor David Armstrong extended their congratulations to 19 Floridians who received "All American Success Stories" awards this week. The recipients, who overcame great obstacles, were honored for their achievements in community college and district workforce education programs. They traveled from all regions of the state to attend the 2nd annual Florida's All American Success Stories Awards Ceremony at the Capitol.

"All of the recipients embody the promise of education," said Commissioner Horne. "Their determination allowed them to make the most of Florida's complete range of programs offered to facilitate the transition between education and work."

Adult Education, and Career and Technical Education programs, administered through community colleges, technical schools, and school districts, contribute to Florida's economic development. Governor Jeb Bush's recent budget recommendation - the largest increase in community college funding in 14 years — will strengthen the programs. Community-Based Job Training Grants, proposed at the federal level as part of President Bush's "Jobs for the 21st Century" initiative, would provide additional resources.

"The stories of these recipients serve as inspiration to students of all ages," said Chancellor Armstrong. "The All American Success Stories awards give us an opportunity to showcase the accomplishments of some of the 400,000 students who participate in these valuable programs."

2003-04 All American Success Stories award recipients are:

  • Queenie Archer, Broward County - Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at nine months, Queenie overcame great odds and learned to read, write, paint, and use a computer through Broward County's Adults with Disabilities Program. She now teaches at the Nova University Tyler Institute for Disabled Children and promotes the work of disabled artists through the HAPPY group (Handicapped Artists Painting Productions for You).

  • June Barber, Pinellas County - Her fervent desire to become the first high school graduate in her family allowed June to earn her GED through the Even Start Family Literacy Program. She now works for Pinellas County Schools, where she volunteers with a county-wide parenting program called Families and Schools Together (FAST) and is an active member of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

  • Krista Blasberg, Sumter County - Once a teenage runaway, motherhood drove Krista to strive for success by returning to school. She earned her GED at the Sumter Adult Education Center, then went on to complete the certified nursing assistant (CNA) program and pass the CNA exam. A CNA at Lake Port Square Assisted Living in Leesburg, Krista is now as student at Pasco-Hernando Community College in Brooksville, where she plans to earn her nursing degree and become a registered nurse.

  • Lauren Bogar, Brevard County - An expectant mother at sixteen, Lauren entered the Brevard Central Area Adult Education program, where she earned her high school diploma. She went on to earn her Associate's degree at Brevard Community College, while working at the college bookstore and raising her daughter. A spokeswoman for a parenting program and community volunteer, Lauren is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering at Devry University.

  • Yvonne Boykin, Bradford County - After working full-time and raising two children, Yvonne returned to school at age 55 and earned her high school diploma at Bradford-Union Area Vocational-Technical Center. She went on to graduate from the Correctional Training Institute at Lake City Community College and now works as a correctional officer. When she hears any young person make excuses for not succeeding in life, she offers the advice that drove her to success, "No excuses, no escape."

  • Daniel Cosme, Lake County - After losing his right hand and lower arm while working at a textile mill in Connecticut, Daniel moved to Florida to pursue his dream. He enrolled at Lake Technical Center's Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts program and became a certified cook. He now works as a cook at Ruleme Center, where he makes a difference in the lives of 170 elderly residents each day.

  • Richard Ehlinger, Jr., Broward County - As a student identified with a learning disability, Richard often found school experiences unpleasant. He found his niche when he enrolled in the Ornamental Horticulture program at South Plantation High School. After completing the Golf Course Maintenance Management program at Lake City Community College, Richard now works full time with Home Depot as an account manager working with large commercial and residential contractors.

  • Claire Elliot, Broward County - While taking career and technical courses at Western High School, Claire found her occupational calling when she enrolled in the Drafting and Illustrative Design Technology program. After successfully co-designing a Veterans' Memorial and being active in the Science, Engineering Mathematics, Communication Enhancement program at Nova High School, she won a full scholarship to the University of Miami to study engineering. She is now enrolled in a two-year development program at General Electric.

  • Ramonica Flagler, St. Johns County - Ramonica has enjoyed styling hair since she was 14. A single mother of three and legal guardian of four teenagers, she enrolled in and completed the cosmetology program at First Coast Technical Institute while working full time at Flagler Hospital as a patient care technician. She now has her own salon, named Miracles and is a member of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the First Coast Technical Institute's Cosmetology Advisory Council and volunteers with the local Pop Warner cheerleading squad and the Bread of Heaven Soup Kitchen.

  • Carol Gann, Orange County - After moving to Florida as a high school dropout in 1974, Carol found it difficult to find employment and began working on her GED, completing it in 1984. Earning a Child Development Associate Credential (CDA) in 1994, she began working with children in crisis situations and eventually helped open The Nurturing Center in the Coalition for the Homeless. Carol suffered head trauma after a car accident in 1998 and as part of her rehabilitation, enrolled in the Web Design Program at Winter Park Technical Center, completing the program in 2001. Since then, Carol opened her own business, Winter Park Artists, and is now a successful entrepreneur in Central Florida.

  • Yolanda Gibson, Polk County - Even after earning her GED, Yolanda had difficulty finding assistance as single parent and she lived in a homeless shelter. After working only two days at a fast food restaurant, Yolanda realized that she needed job training to turn her life around. She enrolled in the Accounting Operations Program at Traviss Technical Center, completing the program in 1998, and was hired by US Foodservice in accounts payable. Her success story is far from over, however, as Yolanda is currently enrolled at St. Leo College in the accounting and business administration program and maintains a 3.7 grade point average.

  • Michael Hermann, Escambia County - When Michael entered the Adult Disabilities Program at age 18, his academic performance was at a 5th grade level. In only two years, he gained the skill level of a 12th grader, earned his GED, and began to tutor fellow students. He has attended life management and employability classes where he learned workforce and life skills, and is currently in a placement program at Southeastern Vocational Services with a dream to become a health care provider and attend Nursing School.

  • Jackie Hernandez, Osceola County - Watching her mother cook as a child, Jackie decided that she wanted to be a chef. As a single parent, she recognized that she needed to be a role model for her two daughters and enrolled in the Technical Education Center Osceola (TECO) Culinary Arts Program in 2001. While enrolled at TECO, Jackie competed at the state and national level, scoring high enough on the written test to earn a Culinary Journey Baker certificate. Jackie graduated from the program in May 2002 and is now enrolled in TECO's evening apprenticeship program pursuing her pastry chef certification.

  • Guadalupe Lamas, Hillsborough County - By the age of 12, Guadalupe had dropped out of school and was working full time as a migrant farm worker, following her parents around the country harvesting fruits and vegetables. In 1986, she heard about a program sponsored by the Hillsborough County Adult Migrant program designed to assist farm workers in continuing their education. Through the program, Guadalupe was able to earn her high school diploma and pursue a career in nursing, eventually earning her bachelor's and master's degrees. She is now an advocate for farm worker rights and issues and is an adult education instructor teaching certified nurse assistant classes for the migrant community, encouraging them to take the small steps that will eventually help them achieve the American Dream of freedom and prosperity.

  • Angel Lozada, Miami-Dade County - Because of gang-related crimes, Angel Lozada was sent to the Dade County Boot Camp for young offenders. Through his outstanding effort and attitude, he attained a high ranking leadership role within his platoon. After earning his high school diploma, he started working full time with the Cheesecake Factory, eventually impressing the company's president and becoming a national trainer. Angel returns to Boot Camp frequently to speak to the cadets to reinforce the need for education and how his military training and discipline helped him get promoted in business.

  • Jason Osborne, Charlotte County - Jason had no idea what to do with his life after graduating from high school. He eventually found his recipe for success in the Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts program at Charlotte Technical Center. After completing the program in 1993, Jason enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and is currently Executive Chef at the prestigious Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta. Jason is committed to mentoring students in the culinary field, and has sponsored externships for CIA students. He, along with five other chefs, established a basic food preparation training program for jobless citizens and has since hired two of them as cook's assistants.

  • Sgt. Dennis Ray Rigsby, Putnam County (now stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia) -After the challenges of high school seemed too much for him, Dennis enrolled in the GED program at St. Johns River Community College. Upon graduation, Dennis joined the United States Army and was assigned to Bosnia after completing basic training. He became a Sergeant and graduated from the Primary Leadership Development Course with honors and the second highest grade point average in his class. Dennis was promoted to a position as an anti-armor weapons instructor with the U.S. Army Infantry School. He is currently working in the operations department of Bravo Company while pursuing a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Troy State University.

  • Eric Walters, Escambia County - Eric always dreamed of becoming a Fire Fighter. With the skills of a 6th grader, the closest he could come to his dream was serving with the Ferry Pass Volunteer Fire Department, where he earned only $125 per month. After entering the Adult Education Disabilities Program in Pensacola, he was able to advance to a 12th grade level in just over a year and qualified to enroll in the next class opening at the Fire Academy. Eric works full time and currently serves as a Lieutenant in the Ferry Pass Volunteer Department, receiving the runner-up Volunteer Fire Fighter of the Year award. He looks forward to fulfilling his dream.

  • Shannon Wittwer, Alachua County - From the time she got her first car at age 16, Shannon loved cars. When she entered the Automotive Service Technology Program at Santa Fe Community College, she simply wanted to learn more about cars. However, she discovered that she could be a successful mechanic and make a living repairing cars. Shannon graduated with her A.S. degree in August 2003, overcoming barriers of physical strength and size as well as adjusting to working in an all-male environment. Even before she graduated, Shannon was a valued employee at All Pro Imports. She looks forward to going to work each day and is a wonderful role model for young girls who have mechanical skills and interest, but are afraid to venture into nontraditional careers.