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IRSC Spring 2020 Graduates Stories Illustrate True Pioneer Spirit

IRSC Spring 2020 Graduates Stories Illustrate True Pioneer Spirit

May 8, 2020 Robert Lane

Despite unforeseen challenges—from hurricane Dorian in the fall to the present Coronavirus pandemic—IRSC students persevered and achieved success. More than 3,500 Indian River State College (IRSC) students have earned their degrees this 2019-20 academic year. Like no class before them these students have shown true Pioneer spirit. The following are some of their stories:

“It was through my time at IRSC that I learned how to balance several aspects of my life and succeed in all of them.” 
Erin Motherway, of Port St. Lucie

Hard work and perseverance have earned Erin a stellar achievement. As a Dual Enrollment student, scheduling and time management were important parts of her success. Erin credits an amazing counselor who helped her achieve those goals as they worked together to map her academic plan each year. Erin believes that the best part of being a student at IRSC was the community and environment. Smaller class size, taking her courses with friends and getting to know her professors made her classes a better learning experience—as well as more enjoyable. Erin set high standards for herself throughout her education, and believes her role as a leader in her high school band program means she serves as a role model for all her peers. Erin graduates with her Associate in Arts (Physics Track) with a 4.0 GPA and has been accepted with a scholarship to her dream school, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she will study astronomy and astrophysics.

“I love seeing individuals grow as leaders and mentors for future students. Being a part of their growth and being able to plant seeds and lead by example is a great motivator.” 
Michele Vergho, of Sebastian

Michele’s experience as a student in the Human Services program earning her Bachelor’s Degree with a concentration in Youth and Family was illuminated by her own life experience. Heroically overcoming both traumatic physical abuse in her youth and substance abuse, Michele’s understanding of the program was both personal and academic. As she became engaged in student life, Michele learned more about the comprehensive student resources available at IRSC and desired to share that knowledge with her fellow students. Her passion for mentoring students to develop leaders grew as she participated in the Campus Coalition Government (CCG)—first as the CCG Representative for the Human Services Club and then serving as the CCG Board as Parliamentarian and ultimately Vice President. Michele also served as the Helping Hands Committee Chair. In the past academic year, the club experienced exponential growth and volunteered over 500 hours of service. Today, Michele is in the process to expand the organization into Helping Hands Community, Inc. that will extend its reach into the local community. Now, with her Bachelor’s Degree in hand, Michele plans to attend Graduate School with the goal to one day open her own private practice to counsel survivors of abuse and sexual trauma.

“The skills and knowledge I’ve learned throughout my education will have a direct effect on those that I treat in the future; because of that, I’ve always been motivated to be the best student I could be.” 
Luke Schrader, of Vero Beach

Luke Schrader completes his Associate in Science Degree in Respiratory Therapy at IRSC with the knowledge that he is well-prepared for the workforce .He credits the care and dedication of two of his instructors—Dr. Rosenfeld, Respiratory Care Department Chair, and Rob Walsh, IRSC Associate Professor—who were unwavering in their commitment to ensure that he had everything required to become the best medical professional he could be. Luke begins his career at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), and is planning to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree online.

“As soon I enrolled, I immediately felt included. The faculty and staff welcomed me and I and found a program that taught me to perform my best.” 
Nina Torok, of Stuart 

Nina Torok came to Stuart, Florida, from South Africa to live with her mom. Once here, Nina began research on schools in the U.S. with performing arts programs. One day, a customer at the restaurant she worked mentioned IRSC’s comprehensive theatre program and Nina decided to learn more. Nina joined the program in Spring of 2019. The following spring, as the impact the COVID-19 pandemic began to change daily routines for everyone, one of her last face-to-face classes, Modern Dance 2, quickly made the transition to an online format. Master Instructor Jocelyn Perez used online learning resources to create a virtual Lab class to provide instruction in Pilates and dance. Nina would perform her routines each week at home often joined by her mother—following instruction from Perez. “It has been so, creative!” declares Nina. “I’ve enjoyed it as much as our in-person classes.” Nina is extremely excited to continue her studies in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Florida in Fall, and credits the IRSC Theatre program and faculty for preparing her for acceptance to this very selective program.

"I appreciate all of the adults, instructors, and professors I have met in the Trio program. Being a part of this program helped me gain better social skills, professionalism, and responsibility.” 
Da'Jah Farr of Vero Beach

Da'Jah describes her past two years at IRSC as an "amazing experience." Da’Jah started classes at the IRSC Mueller Campus as a dually enrolled high school sophomore and credits her amazing advisors and academic coordinators for a smooth transition to the college environment. Da’Jah joined the Trio Upward Bound Program where she learned the Trio motto, the three A’s—academics, achievement, and attendance. Da’Jah credits the program for inspiring both her personal and academic success as she incorporated the three A’s into her life. Da’Jah shares how her mother and father inspired and motivated her while attending IRSC. “They push me out of my comfort zone and always have my back no matter what.” Having earned her Associate in Arts Degree, Da’Ja is ready to transfer to Jacksonville University as a college sophomore to pursue a career in nursing. 

“My professors not only took an interest in my academic achievement, but they also pushed me to advance professionally. I applied for positions with their encouragement and, as a result, I have advanced my career faster than I ever thought possible.”
Shane Friedman of Port St Lucie

Shane is proud of his five years of service in the United States Marine Corps. He believes this experience gave him the determination and follow through to “win the race,” and maintain his focus as a full-time student and full-time security officer, all while staying actively engaged with his family life. For and Independent Study project at IRSC, Shane was given the opportunity to be Deputy Chief Coordinator for Florida Hope 2019 by Professor Joan Rivera. As part of this experience, he developed exercise scenarios and training curriculum, and developed exercise design and evaluation. For his Capstone Project this spring, he assisted his hospital develop a training exercise in preparation for COVID-19. This project allowed Shane to use the academic knowledge learned in his Bachelor’s program in a real-world application. Shane credits these hands-on opportunities for allowing him to achieve his professional goals. This spring, Shane completed the Emergency Management and Public Safety Administration B.A.S. program. He serves as a lead security officer at his hospital, and serves on their emergency response team. His goal is to eventually become an Emergency Preparedness Specialist for the same health system to continue to improve his community's readiness for all hazards.   

“I am proud to say that after graduating the Respiratory Care program I have gained more than just a degree. I have gained lots of friends who are like family, and I have been offered a job, and proven I am more than just a statistic.” 
Hope Harriman of Fort Pierce   

After her high school graduation, Hope—pregnant at age 18—gave up on her college education. She went on with life thinking she was another teen pregnancy statistic, unable to achieve her academic and career goals. At age 26, Hope resolved to change her life and enrolled at IRSC. She began working toward an Associate in Arts Degree, Health Science Track, in the summer of 2016, and in May 2018 she was accepted into the Respiratory Care program. She was excited but terrified to begin the rigorous selective admission program, wondering to herself if she could ever succeed. With her husband, children, and family cheering her on, Hope was determined to achieve her goals. When her studies were their most challenging her instructors were there to support her success, becoming like family as well. This spring Hope earned her Associate in Science Degree in Respiratory Care, proving to everyone—and especially herself—that she has overcome the statistics.

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