Seminole State awards more than 2,400 degrees, certificates

Thursday, December 12, 2019
Written by: Mark Richardson

Seminole State College of Florida awarded more than 2,400 degrees and certificates during the Collegewide Fall 2019 Commencement on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Addition Financial Arena at the University of Central Florida.

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Kathy Hebda, chancellor of the Florida College System’s 28 institutions, delivered the keynote address telling the graduates they are now proud alumni of the best higher education system in the country and to stay involved with the College. 

“Florida is number one in the nation for higher education, and I am honored to be a part of this amazing system of Colleges offering new opportunities to change lives, families and communities," said Hebda. "There are so many exciting things happening at Seminole State College and across the system, and I hope you stay engaged as an active and proud alumnus of the system and your College."

First graduates of Universal Orlando partnership program
Among the graduates this fall were the first graduates of the College’s partnership with Universal Orlando to train engineering technicians from the theme park in mechatronics and robotics as well as utilities trades including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical systems, and plumbing.  

(L-R) Sixto Agostini, Joshua Finch and Tyler Blumer

Sixto Agostini, Joshua Finch and Tyler Blumer were three of the 26 students who graduated from the Universal Orlando partnership program. 

Agostini’s drive and ambition to succeed in HVAC and do his best is what stood out to his instructors. His instructors said he came to class every week with an eagerness to learn everything about his trade, and when he struggled, he worked harder to grasp the lessons. 

The College’s plumbing instructors said Finch was serious in his efforts to learn the plumbing trade and put in the effort to make sure he understood the principals involved in plumbing, as well as the mechanical execution of the work.  

Blumer’s instructors said he approached the electrical class with purpose and drive to succeed, and consistently sought additional study materials and made his mission to not just pass but excel in the program.  

Other students who graduated were:

Joshua Buday, Associate in Science in Criminal Justice Technology

Joshua Buday

Joshua Buday chose to go directly into the workforce after graduating high school in 2004. He completed his police academy training at age 19 and started his law enforcement career as a police officer with the City of Fort Pierce Police Department in 2006, before joining the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) as a State Trooper in 2009.

In 2018, while attending an advanced training course at the College’s Center for Public Safety, Buday met Dr. Sandra Dillard, criminal justice program manager. She told him about the opportunity to earn articulated credit toward a college degree, something that Buday had always wanted to do.

In Fall 2018, Buday enrolled in the Associate in Science (A.S) Criminal Justice Technology program. Shortly after, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle and Buday was assigned by FHP to assist with recovery efforts from the devastation the Category 5 storm left behind. Buday credits the fact that the program is offered completely online and is geared toward law enforcement officers with flexibility built into the assignments as the reasons he was able to stay on track.

“I am grateful to the phenomenal staff and instructors who helped me continue my education despite the demands of my rigorous career. I wouldn’t be here today, walking across the stage without their support. I’m living proof that you can GO State. GO Far,” said Buday. 

Emily Gearhart, Associate in Science in Chemical Technology

Emily Gearhart

Emily Gearhart was born in Ormond Beach and graduated from Deltona High School. In 2016, she started at Seminole State and received a scholarship through the Wayne M. Densch Scholarship program for first-generation students. 

Gearhart credits biology professors Dr. Debbie Barr and Dr. Debra Socci and the biology department's "Women in Science" field trips for giving her the opportunities to experience hiking through the Amazon jungle to see its unique flora and fauna, touring Santa Fe Community College’s extensive sustainability initiatives, and spending her summer at the New Mexico Consortium Biolabs learning about research.

“I am extremely grateful to my instructors who continuously motivated me to take part in study abroad programs that opened doors to future opportunities and to the Foundation for Seminole State College for providing me with scholarships to obtain a higher education,” said Gearhart.

Gearhart plans to attend a four-year university and earn her bachelor’s in either biochemistry or biophysics, pursuing a career in scientific research.  

Valerie Styles, Bachelor of Science in Business and Information Management

Valerie Styles

Valerie Styles dropped out of high school after becoming a young mother but never gave up her dream of getting her high school diploma. Thanks to her two daughters’ encouragement, she enrolled in the GED® Prep Program at Seminole State and earned her high school diploma. She returned to Seminole State and completed her Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree and has now completed her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Business and Information Management, graduating Cum Laude. 

Styles credits her success to the help she received from departments across the College that helped her stay on track. She also credits sociology professor Baboucar Jobe, English professor Karen Feldman and math professor Daniel Gabilondo for their advice and encouragement. 

“Although it was difficult in the beginning, with the help that I received from the faculty and staff at Seminole State I was able to complete my classes and graduate with my bachelor’s degree. All the hard work was worth it.”

Valerie's dream is to continue using her information management skills at the College and to one day start her own Foundation scholarship for adult education students.
Give Hope, Give Back

Graduates who donated were given a commemorative zipper pull.

The Seminole State Alumni Association also continued their Give Hope, Give Back campaign where graduating students can donate to a Seminole State program, scholarship or club that made a difference in their life. The donations allow graduates to pay it forward and ensure that future students will have continuous growth opportunities. Graduates who donated were given a zipper pull to wear on their gown to let others know they are making a difference.

About Seminole State College

Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit
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About the Seminole State College Alumni Association

Since 1966, Seminole State College of Florida has awarded more than 100,000 degrees and certificates. The Alumni Association provides benefits and services for all alumni as they continue their lifelong connection with Seminole State College of Florida. It also provides opportunities for alumni to network with one another, interact with the student body and support the College.

Whether you've earned a degree or a certificate, or enrolled in just one course, you're a Seminole State alumnus, and we want you to enjoy the benefits of maintaining a relationship with the College. The Alumni Association is here to help you stay connected to Seminole State through various platforms and initiatives.

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