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Indian River State College Spring 2022 Graduate Profiles of Perseverance

Indian River State College Spring 2022 Graduate Profiles of Perseverance

April 25, 2022 Suzanne Seldes

FORT PIERCE, FL—During the 2021–22 academic year, Indian River State College awarded 2,075 Associate in Arts degrees, 537 Associate in Science or Associate in Applied Science degrees, 735 Bachelor's Degrees, and more than 1,300 certifications. This next generation of business leaders, educators, healthcare professionals, engineers and more have persevered through every one of life's challenges.

In celebration of the Spring 2022 graduating class, we share a sampling of inspiring stories from your Treasure Coast neighbors and new IRSC alumni.

"I have the pleasure of graduating with my dad. Working and studying for tests together was mutually beneficial, and he inspired me to get all As by watching him do so well in his classes at his age."—Erik Bustamante, Port St. Lucie, Associate in Arts

As a Dual Enrollment student, Erik Bustamante began taking college-level classes at IRSC during his sophomore year in high school. His inspiration—parents that moved to the United States as teenagers and who, as adults, juggled multiple jobs and sacrificed their free time so that they could build a bright future for their family. When Erik receives his diploma on April 28, he will walk with his father, Edwin Sr., who also earned his Associate in Arts degree at IRSC.

Erik's next chapter: Continuing his education at Florida State University and pursuing his passion for fashion industry marketing.

"There is nothing more satisfying in life than giving the best you have to obtain your best results."—Edwin Bustamante, Sr., Port St. Lucie, Associate in Arts

It was 30 years since Edwin Bustamante Sr. received his first Associate Degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology. With support and motivation from his wife Silvia—an advisor serving students on the IRSC Pruitt Campus in Port St. Lucie—and encouraged by his older son Edwin Jr.—a recent graduate of the University of Florida—Edwin Sr. pushed through significant health barriers to complete a mission that he once thought to be impossible. He set out on a journey to write his next chapter by building an educational foundation in Organizational Management. Side by side with his younger son, Erik, an IRSC Dual Enrollment student, Edwin Sr. began and thrived in his IRSC studies. Edwin is humbled and honored by the opportunity to graduate with his son this spring and credits his professors and an exceptional IRSC learning environment with helping him develop the learning skills necessary for success.

Edwin's next chapter: Pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Management at IRSC.

"In two short years, I went from being a two-time college dropout to becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa honors society, being a three-time dean's list and one-time presidents list recipient."—Jennifer Little, Port St. Lucie, B.A.S. Organizational Management

At the age of 23, Jennifer Little's life was unstable and uncertain. In 2015, she relocated to Port St. Lucie to address various mental and physical issues. Six months later, she embarked on an employment opportunity that unleashed her desire to learn and excel in the business world. As she continued to advance within the company, Jennifer was encouraged to pursue higher education. This was a significant undertaking as Jennifer was a high school dropout who became a two-time college dropout after earning her GED®. Despite being disqualified from receiving Federal financial aid due to a lack of satisfactory academic progress during her other attempts at higher education, Jennifer enrolled in her coursework. She met her financial obligations with the help of IRSC and her employer. In Spring 2020, Jennifer graduated Magna Cum Laude with an A.S. in Business Administration and distinguished herself as a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She immediately enrolled in the IRSC Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration program. All the while, Jennifer continued advancing professionally, eventually earning the position of Chief Financial Officer and achieving co-ownership of the company.

Jennifer is especially delighted to be able to walk in Friday's Baccalaureate Commencement ceremony as the pandemic canceled the event planned to celebrate her Associate Degree. She has again excelled academically, graduating with Magna Cum Laude distinction and as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success/Sigma Alpha Phi and Phi Theta Kappa.

Her next chapter: Jennifer plans to attend graduate school to earn a Master's Degree in Business Administration.

I am so grateful for all the support I have received from my teachers and family. I would not have been able to finish without them.”—Brydgett Youngblood, Okeechobee, A.S. in Culinary Management

Brydgett Youngblood chose to study at the IRSC Dixon Hendry Campus in Okeechobee because it was conveniently located, giving her time to raise her family and get a higher education. She began her Associate Degree program in the spring of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit; she fell in love with cooking and baking. Brydgett had to keep up with her online courses and her school-age daughter’s classes when classes went virtual. She also had an 18-month-old at home. Brydgett is grateful for the support of her family and the help and guidance of her instructor, Chef Deb, who kept her motivated throughout her educational journey.

Byrdgett’s next chapter: Become a pastry chef and one day own a bakery. She would also like to return to IRSC and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Operations Management.   

"It is astounding how passionate the entire staff at IRSC is about teaching. They chose to come to IRSC, and it shows."—Trent Burger, Vero Beach, Associate in Arts

For the Burger family, attending IRSC is more than a family tradition. Trent Burger's brother Jonathan received an A.A. from IRSC while attending high school. Shortly after Trent enrolled as a Dual Enrollment student, their mother, Christine, decided to attend IRSC. Her academic success provided Trent with the healthy competition that helped push him through some of his most challenging classes. Christine's relentless dedication to her school work caused Trent to focus more time on his work and put his heart and soul into everything he did. Trent admits that outstanding teachers at IRSC and a highly supportive household helped him through to graduation day. He says of his professors, "They care for every student that enters their class and none of that effort goes unnoticed."

Trent's next chapter: attending the University of Florida to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration–Information Systems.

"On May 2, 2019, I sat next to my husband in the auditorium watching our oldest son, Jonathan Bryce, graduate with his Associate in Arts from IRSC before graduating from high school. That day, I decided it was time to go back to college and finish my degree."—Christine Burger, Vero Beach, Associate in Arts

After graduating high school in 2000, Christine went to her local community college. She had completed only four classes before she married at age 18 and started a family at 19. College stayed "on hold" as she raised two children. In 2020, after a 20-year hiatus, Christine enrolled in IRSC and began online classes. Her son Trent, who attends Indian River Charter High School, was in his third semester of Dual Enrollment at IRSC. Initially, Christine was concerned about how he would feel with his mom attending the same college simultaneously. Trent not only embraced it, but he also encouraged it. They even ended up in the same ENC 1102 class, leading to great dinner discussions.

Christine's next chapter: Attending UF Online to earn a Bachelor's of Health Science concentrating in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

"My kids are what drive me to keep going. It is because of them that I am where I am today."—Selena Esquivel-Garcia, Fort Pierce, B.S. in Biology

Selena started at IRSC as a Dual Enrollment student. She expected to graduate with her Associate Degree in 2017, but like so many other IRSC students, life events threw curves into her best-laid plans. In 2016, Selena's health prevented her from continuing her studies. She healed and returned to IRSC, earning an Associate Degree in 2018, shortly after the birth of her first daughter. Determined to continue her education to make the best possible life for her family, Selena persevered with her baccalaureate program, pushing through as more curveballs—some joyful, some painful—headed her way. These included the pregnancy and birth of her second daughter; serious accidents that put both her husband and mother in her care; a pandemic that had her learning remotely with toddlers at home; and difficult third pregnancy and delivery of a son with multiple heart conditions. The path forward for Selena was incredibly challenging. Despite all the obstacles, she persevered and kept true to her promise.

Selena's next chapter: become a teacher and inspire others.

"My journey was all worth it. I am proud to say, 'Let no one control your destiny—the world is yours!'"Tamara Mincey, Stuart, B.S. Human Services

Tamara Mincey was on a mission. She wanted to prove to her children and grandchildren that no matter how late you start, no matter where you come from, no matter your past, there is always room for improvement—"You have to want it to achieve it" is her motto. Tamara demonstrated discipline and dedication throughout her journey despite periods of isolation and several painful personal issues. She opted for online courses to allow her work at her own pace and listen to the lecture repeatedly to get clarity. She sought out financial aid and visited the Academic Support Center to ensure that she had the financial and academic resources for success. Tamara walks in the Friday, April 29, Bachelor's Degree ceremony hoping to give other students the motivation to get started and finish hard.

Tamara's next chapter: continue her education, earn a Master's Degree and follow her passion for helping others, eventually founding a non-profit organization to give back to her community.

"My dream is to become a nurse. I have my student nursing uniform hanging across from my bed. It keeps me going when I have downtime."—Kristine Nguyen, Stuart, A. S. in Nursing

Kristine Nguyen was born and raised in Vietnam. She moved to the United States at 18 years of age. After finishing high school, Kristine worked full-time to help support her family. She began taking classes at IRSC part-time and eventually entered the nursing program. Once in the program, Kristine struggled. At the time, she was also homeschooling her sister and working full-time. For all her life, Kristine has wanted to become a nurse. As a child in Vietnam, she was often sick and in the hospital. Here Kristine fell in love with the doctors and nurses caring for patients. With an eye to her goal, she opened up to the Nursing program faculty, and with the help of IRSC Health and Wellness staff, she persevered through a deep depression that struck her with intensity during her second semester of the nursing program.

Kristine's next chapter: Take the NCLEX, begin training at HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital by the end of June and then apply for the IRSC Bachelor's Degree in Nursing program.

"The best thing about attending IRSC was the helpful staff and dual enrollment opportunity."—Kyan Wiseley, Palm City, Associate in Arts

Kyan says that his parents inspired and motivated him to do his best in college, which he started as a Dual Enrollment student during his sophomore year of high school. Heeding his parents' advice, Kyan will be an IRSC graduate even before receiving his high school diploma.

Kyan's next chapter: attending the University of Central Florida for a degree in Information Technology. 

"At 55 years old, having not been in a college setting for 35 years, it is fundamentally the desire to continue to learn to provide the best care possible."—Patricia Blazer, Port St. Lucie, Certified Nursing Assistant

Patricia developed a strong interest in hospice healthcare due to her personal experience with a father in hospice; she found the level of care and compassion compelling. After managing an environmental law firm in Chicago for more than 20 years, she moved to the Florida Treasure Coast area to pursue her "passion project." The transition back to school wasn't easy. Patricia praises the staff at IRSC for being incredibly supportive, thorough and knowledgeable and being a partner—from day one—in assisting her with the logistics of registering through to completing the CNA course.

Patricia's next chapter: Pursue LPN certification and become a hospice nurse in our community. 

Reporters interested in arranging interviews with IRSC graduates should contact Suzanne Seldes at or Robert Lane at

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