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In Their Own Words: IRSC Graduates Describe Their Academic Journeys

In Their Own Words: IRSC Graduates Describe Their Academic Journeys

December 6, 2022 Jon Pine

FORT PIERCE, FL—Indian River State College (IRSC) will hold its fall Commencement ceremonies on Wednesday, December 14 and Thursday, December 15, at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. The ceremonies will recognize the accomplishments of more than 2,500 students who have earned their Bachelor’s and Associate degrees and other credentials during the 2022 summer and fall semesters.

These newest IRSC graduates will soon write their next chapter—entering the workforce for the first time, utilizing their new degrees to take on increased responsibilities at their present workplace, or continuing their studies at IRSC or a university. In celebration of the December 2022 graduating class, we offer a sampling of their inspirational stories:

Marline Destin-Chery, Port St. Lucie, B.S.Exceptional Student Education/ESOL

Marline Destin-Chery came to the United States from Haiti after graduating high school. She started attending college soon after but had to quit for financial reasons. After moving to Port St. Lucie with her husband and giving birth to a son, Marline decided she needed to do everything she could to make a better life for her family. Finally, in 2018, she returned to college at IRSC to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exceptional Student Education/ESOL. It would be a struggle financially, but she was able to make monthly payments, as she worked full-time while carrying a full course load.

Then, a blessing came her way—an IRSC advisor named Lindsey Brown, who “turned Heaven and Earth,” Marline says, to help her find several scholarships that enabled her to continue studying and finally graduate, at age 41, completely debt-free. “I wasn’t prepared for all that was to come,” she says, “but I thank God every day for placing the right people in my path to guide my journey.”

During her final semester, when she was scheduled for student teaching, Marline began to feel weak on the left side of her body and she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors discovered two brain aneurisms and recommended surgery. Her professors agreed to give her more time to complete her student teaching and finally, after two surgeries, Marline was able to get into a classroom in August, and finish her degree in time for December graduation. She has been offered a teaching position in a St. Lucie County elementary school.

Joy Jarriel, Okeechobee, B.S. Organizational Management

As a full-time Grant Coordinator at the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners, who also operates a home bakery business and volunteers at her church, attending college in person on a traditional schedule just wasn’t possible for Joy Jarriel. But by taking short-term classes and online courses shoe-horned into her already busy life, Joy was able to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management from IRSC—and she was even able to graduate a semester early!

Making all of this possible, she says, was a steady stream of encouragement and friendship from College professors, lab tutors, and other IRSC staff members. Joy even found time to take advantage of leadership opportunities with the National Society of Leadership and Success, Legacy Leaders, Career Ready Programs, Phi Theta Kappa, and other campus organizations. “The most special experience was being able to carry the IRSC flag at my Associate Degree ceremony last spring,” Joy said.

While studying online, IRSC’s Virtual Connections Club “encouraged me to excel as a student and to take advantage of all the opportunities offered at the College, such as competing in Adobe Creative Cloud Jams, becoming an All-Florida Academic Team member, and even being honored with the 2021 Individual Impact Award,” Joy recalls fondly. All of this has led her to shift her career goals completely—after a semester as a work study student at IRSC’s Dixon Hendry Campus, she now sets her sights on becoming a college professor, after finishing a Master’s Degree program.

Elizabeth Johnson, Palm Bay, B.S. Organizational Management

Elizabeth Johnson, 42, is a two-time award-winning author and C.O.O. at PlaTy Multimedia and Publishing Company. Her first book, Just Like My Dad, was published in April 2021, and her second book, Mamaw Mel’s Kitchen—Trust Goes a Long Way, was released in November. She was named the 2021 Author’s Porch and PULSE Magazine’s Author of the Year. She’s also a soon-to-be-graduate in the Organizational Management program at Indian River State College.

Elizabeth previously earned an A.A. Degree in General Education and an A.S. Degree in Early Childhood Education from Brevard Community College. With her IRSC Bachelor’s Degree in hand this December, she plans to continue on for a Master’s Degree in either Organizational Leadership or Human Resource Management and to further her writing career.

Patrick Colasuonno, Fort Pierce, B.S. Organizational Management

This marks graduation number two at Indian River State College for Patrick Colasuonno. Patrick first studied in 1997 at what was then Indian River Community College at the College’s Corrections Academy. After that, he completed the crossover law enforcement academy one year later. While serving in law enforcement, he continued to take courses with the eventual goal of achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management. When his wife returned to IRSC to finish her degree, it motivated Patrick to finish his, he said.

Patrick C.“I have been lucky to have some of the best faculty at IRSC,” Patrick shares. “Dr. Nicholas Brown, Dr. Trisha Maitland, professor Michelle Carrigan and Dr. Herbert Ricardo, especially. I am self-motivated, but these folks were very encouraging. It has been a long road, but I never lost sight of the end goal.”

Now at age 50, he’s ready to graduate.

So, what does he plan to do with that new knowledge about organizational management? When he retires from law enforcement, Patrick wants to start a barbecue trailer business. “I have enjoyed my time at IRSC and learned a lot from the fine professors there. I will combine my education with my life experience to hopefully have a successful future.”

Wylnethe Salomon, Port St. Lucie, B.S. Biology

Wylnethe Salomon has seen more than her share of hardship, but the worst came in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Wylnethe, her parents and her three siblings found themselves homeless. Luckily, a relative in Port St. Lucie had a spare room, and there they stayed—all six of them in one bedroom. “I had just begun my first semester at IRSC and we had no WIFI or cell reception,” she recalls of that terrible time. With all classes now moved online and all the public libraries closed, Wylnethe had to scramble to purchase internet service at the house.

W. SalomonBetween her studies, Wylnethe also helped care for the family’s youngest member, her sister. “I’d been helping to raise her since she was 11, so I feel like a mother, therapist, caretaker—she’s my biggest responsibility,” she said. “That, and watching my parents’ hardships and sacrifices, was my motivation to succeed at school.” Because she was an Advanced Placement (AP) scholar in high school, Wylnethe had satisfied more than half of the credits necessary for her Associate Degree.

Choosing IRSC was a way for her to afford college—at first, by taking a job to save enough money for her first semester, and later she qualified for financial aid. After classes returned to the campus, she took a work-study job in Student Services to help other students get started on their college journeys. And now, Wylnethe will become the first in her family to graduate college. Neither of her parents even finished high school. When she crosses the stage next week, Wylnethe will collect a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology.

“It’s nice to know that I’m doing something that is making my family proud,” she says. Her future plans include earning a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering.

Elsa Miguel-Domingo, Stuart, B.S. Organizational Management

Working at a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic taught 23-year-old Elsa Miguel-Domingo how environmental factors affect large business operations. She took that insight with her when she sought a degree in Organizational Management at Indian River State College.

Elsa Domingo

“The best thing about attending IRSC is the opportunity to work with professors that grew up in the area and seeing how they achieved their goals,” Elsa says. “It helped me understand that I was capable of achieving, too.”

Elsa, from Stuart, is a first-generation college student and the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. “Growing up, I did not feel that this would be possible since my background did not include others who pursued higher education,” Elsa shares. “At first, I felt like a bit of an outcast, but with guidance from caring teachers and professors, I became inspired to work hard and that my goals were indeed achievable.”

Tracy Momperousse, Broward County, B.S. Business Administration

Tracy Moperousse’s college experience began when she was a freshman in high school. She became a work-study student at the library at IRSC’s Pruitt Campus. At that age, she really didn’t know what academic path to follow but continued taking classes full-time, anyway. Tracy almost lost interest entirely, she said, but an “amazing academic advisor” helped her find the right program. She soldiered on. A quote by the late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou guided her path forward: “Nothing will work unless you do.”

Tracy M.“Although it was challenging, I just knew I had to continue on,” she said. “Once I changed my perspective and understood that no one could help me go where I wanted to go until I was ready to push through challenges on my own, I realized that I could achieve everything I set my mind to.” Tracy completed her Associate Degree in 2019, and her work-study assignment turned into a paid part-time job at IRSC. Now, after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, she is working full-time as a Registration Assistant at IRSC’s Chastain Campus in Stuart.

But that is not the end of her academic journey: Tracy plans to continue her education and earn a Master’s Degree in Business.

Elizabeth Schneider, Palm City, B.S. Business Administration

Like many young people, Beth Schneider felt she wanted to get a degree after high school but didn’t know which path was right for her. So she took some time to work, landing a job in a customer service setting. “I thought I knew everything I needed to know about how to deliver amazing customer service,” she says. “I knew that I had a love for helping people and wanted to learn more. Once I started on my degree, I realized just how much I still needed to learn.” Beth continued to work full-time while studying, which taught her the importance of time management, she said.

Elizabeth Schneider“I also learned strong leadership skills, and to create an efficient study routine. Through the passion for teaching of my professors, I learned some valuable life lessons, as well as the skills I needed to improve my professional growth,” Beth said. “I have learned how important it is to understand how a company’s business units work together in an organization.”

After graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Beth plans to find a job as either a business analyst or project manager at a company that allows room for growth.

Dar Little, Stuart, B.S. Public Administration

As a captain with Martin County Fire Rescue, Dar Little knows he has to be at his best when he’s helping people during accidents and fires. But to be at his best, Dar felt he needed a formal education. He has been taking individual classes at IRSC since he was a dual-enrolled high school student. Each completed class took him closer to his goal – a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Administration and Emergency Management.

Dar LittleNine years later, at age 32, Dar has met his goal. “I knew from the time I was a teenager that I wanted to be a firefighter in my community,” he recalls. “I’ve had a lot of mentors along the way, including my IRSC Advisor Leigh Chappell. She helped me navigate my degrees so I could reach my goal with the shortest route possible.”

With his Bachelor’s degree in hand, what is next for Dar? More of the same. “I will be putting my degree to good use in my career right here in Martin County,” he said.

He plans to continue learning about firefighting and special operations at seminars and other opportunities at IRSC and elsewhere.

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