Return to Normal View

DOE Homepage Students Educators Community Family Administrators and Staff

Florida Department of Education

DOE Home > Success Stories

Success Stories


  Success Stories  

Text Index Google Custom Search
An Education Celebration: A+ Success Stories from Across the State

More Success Stories >>

Polk Community College Student Wins Fourth Place
in National Essay Contest

Courtesy of Kathleen Riley, Reading Professor, Polk Community College

Charles Howell Charles Howell of Lakeland always dreamed of working alongside his father as an accountant. But to do so, he had to overcome several serious challenges. First was the intractable seizure disorder that had interrupted his education. Toward the end of his high school career, he chose to undergo risky brain surgery followed by an arduous course of rehabilitation rather than accepting life on disability.

Buoyed up by courage and faith in God, he underwent a successful operation and in the months following, regained the physical functions and mental skills that are so often taken for granted by those blessed with good health.

Next, Charles faced the challenge of preparing for college work. Because his education had been affected by his medical condition, Charles began his studies in Reading I and Writing I at Polk Community College. He eagerly worked his way through two levels of prep English and reading courses, earning A's in all of them. Then he faced the "acid test" of college work. Free to focus on his education and with the confidence amid skills needed to succeed at higher level work, Charles earned A's in both College Composition I and II. In fact, one of his English composition instructors said he rarely finds someone who puts so much energy into his writing and produces one paper substantially better than the last all term long. Charles is now within one year of completing his associate's degree and going on to a university so that he can fulfill his dream of a father and son partnership.

Charles' account of his success story won him a fourth place award of $250 in this year's Townsend Press Scholarship Essay Contest. He wrote a 2,500 word essay on his educational triumphs. He finished among the top 33 writers in a field of many hundreds of entrants from across the country, all of whom had begun their college careers in developmental reading or writing courses and gone on to remarkable achievements in their credit courses.

Charles' story is only one of hundreds from students whose lives have been transformed by the efforts of the Florida Developmental Education Association (FDEA) members. As he says himself, "I always knew I was good in math, but I never dreamed I'd be able to read and write so well!" Armed with his determination to succeed and a good foundation in basic skills, Charles no longer feels any limits on what he can accomplish in life.

For more information on the Townsend Press Scholarship Essay Contest, visit

For more information on Polk Community College, visit