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2020 Student Profiles

2020 Student Profiles

December 2, 2020 Suzanne Seldes

Students Taking Selfie at Commencement

“My beautiful daughter was my main source of motivation. I wanted to lead by example and show her nothing is too difficult to achieve if you always push forward and believe in yourself.”Christin Santulli-Poppenga, Vero Beach, B.S. in Human Services–Generalist

Christin enrolled at IRSC after working more than a decade in various industries. Her experiences led her to pursue an educational foundation that would land her a job helping others. While enrolled at the College full-time Christin had a child and became a stay-at-home mom.  Despite the academic rigor of her coursework and exhaustion from juggling her studies and motherhood, she never once gave up. 

Next Chapter: With a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Services in hand, Christin looks to enter a profession where she can be a positive change and improve the mental, physical and emotional well-being of others.  She is studying to take Florida State exams to become a certified elementary teacher.

“Knowing that my husband and I would be sharing this special achievement together, continued to inspire and motivate us both.”Bailie Guadagno, Port St. Lucie, B.S. in Exceptional Student Education, graduates alongside her husband Nicholas Guadagno, B.S. in Criminal Justice

Bailie Guadagano worked for a charter school in Palm Beach County. Her husband Nicholas works for a local law enforcement agency. Together they embarked on a journey to broaden their opportunities through education. While the past semester in particular has been challenging, they continued to remind each other that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Next Chapters: Bailie will begin a Florida State University distance learning bridge program for speech and language pathology and intends to join the workforce as an elementary teacher. Nicholas will use his degree to advance his position with his employer.

“I’m a mom, and in March [as a result of the pandemic] I found myself overseeing my children's education as well as finishing up my own semester of school. These last few semesters turned out very differently than I imagined they would and I'm thankful that our faculty were able to very quickly transition to on online format, and implement alternative strategies that kept us on track, allowing us to finish our degrees on time.”Nissa Kilman, Vero Beach, A.S. Nursing

The relationship the IRSC Nursing Department has with hospitals in the community allows students to receive hands-on training during the clinical portion of their training. These experiences have been most meaningful to Nissa who shares that every patient she cared for has made a profound impact on her. Taking care of people amidst some of their most difficult moments has motivated Nissa on her journey to become a nurse.

Next Chapter: Take the National Council Licensure Examination and become a licensed Registered Nurse, and then continue her studies in the IRSC Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

“This has been one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, and there were many instances I questioned if I was good enough to see it to the end, but I am so glad I have persevered and challenged myself to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse.”Megan Schmidt, Vero Beach, A.S. Nursing

The road to become an R.N. was not easy for Megan Schmidt. The first time she applied to the program, she missed being accepted by just a few points. After her second and successful attempt to join the program, she only barely managed to pass the first semester. Knowing that the program was going to increase in rigor moving forward, she poured herself into her studies and redoubled efforts to make sure she could reach her goal. The subsequent semesters were as difficult as promised, but she stayed the course thanks to a support system—her husband and family—who encouraged her every step of the way.

Next Chapter: Megan will be joining the workforce as soon as she passes the State Board of Nursing exam. She is also planning to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at IRSC.

My children and younger siblings are my motivation. I wanted to show them the importance of education and how chasing your dreams requires you to overcome challenges in the process.”Lakeita Jackson, Fort Pierce, B.A.S Organizational Management  

Lakeita Jackson understands the importance of flexibility. Alongside the huge responsibility of raising her three children while studying for her Bachelor’s Degree, she began employment with Headstart. Working with her instructors and advisors, Lakeita moved from in-person instruction to wholly online classes so that she would not miss a beat in her studies. Lakeita walks across the stage on December 16 to accept her diploma.

Next Chapter: After graduation Lakeita plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.

“The best decision I made was to transfer to IRSC. When I came home after my freshman year, I had two full-time jobs—I was the CEO for a non-profit my family and I started and an intern at Piper Aircraft. Between running Live Like Cole Foundation and traveling with Piper, if there was ever a conflict with school and my busy schedule my professors at IRSC worked with me. Each one encouraged and supported both my academic and professional goals.”Melanie Coppola, Vero Beach, B.S. in Business Administration

Melanie Coppola began her academic journey at the University of Florida, pursuing a degree in Marketing. During this time, she was traveling back and forth from Gainesville to Vero Beach for Live Like Cole Foundation events in the local community. After her freshman year, she took an internship in the Marketing Department at Piper Aircraft—which led to a full-time position. As her dream was to come back to her hometown and work for Piper, she decided without hesitation to transfer to IRSC and start her new chapter at the College.

Next Chapter: Melanie took a job as the Social Media Specialist at Indian River State College and plans to continue her education by applying for MBA programs soon after she graduates in December.

“I experienced a tragic loss in my family in 2019. My professors and advisors were very understanding and made sure I had everything I needed to succeed.”Margaret Grosso, Stuart, B.S. in Information Technology Management and Cybersecurity

Margaret Grosso’s favorite parts of attending IRSC were staying close to her family and the relationships she built with her professors and advisors. Margaret noted that her professors—specifically Professor Richardson and Professor Calvert—went out of their way to work with her and let her know they were there to help and support her. This was especially true during her most trying times.

Next Chapter: After graduation, Margaret plans to use her skills to motivate and inspire girls to enter the technology field. She feels that when girls see women embarking on successful careers in technology or becoming tech entrepreneurs, it gives them hope that they can succeed too.


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