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PHCC graduates overcome adversity and celebrate success

Pasco-Hernando Community College will hold its winter commencement Wednesday, December 12, in the gymnasium at the West Campus in New Port Richey, 10230 Ridge Road. Two separate ceremonies will accommodate graduating students and their families and friends.

The commencement ceremony for candidates earning their Associate in Science (AS) degree, Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree, Applied Technology diploma, certificate or GED will be held at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony for candidates earning their Associate in Arts (AA) degree will be held at 4 p.m. Also, guests are invited to attend a special dedication ceremony of the newly-named Rao Musunuru, M.D. Art Gallery from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. in the Alric Pottberg Library building on PHCC West Campus. 

This year’s graduates include several determined students, family members and those who have overcome adversity to achieve their academic goals.

Darryl G. Hunter, 50, of Spring Hill, is a returning PHCC student, current president of the West Campus Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, and the student speaker for the AA degree commencement ceremony. Married with three children and three grandchildren, Hunter worked for more than 20 years in construction management prior to returning to PHCC. Hunter plans to acquire an RN and then pursue a Bachelor of Science in nursing at USF where he hopes to enter the nurse anesthetists program.

Lauren Pardue, of Brooksville, is the student commencement speaker for the morning ceremony. Pardue will graduate with honors; she is a member of PTK and Psi Beta Honor Societies and a student ambassador. Pardue will receive an AS degree and pursue her goal to become a labor and delivery nurse or midwife.

Alyssa Cooper, 17, of Spring Hill, will graduate from PHCC with an AA and a 4.0 GPA before receiving her high school diploma from Nature Coast Technical High School where she is named Valedictorian for her Class of 2013. Cooper is a dual enrollment student who, in addition to achieving academic excellence, is passionate about helping others. With more than 450 community hours clocked, she has helped the Psi Beta and Psychology Club create a Homeless and a Bipolar Awareness symposium at PHCC’s North Campus in Brooksville, volunteered at Challenger K8 in Spring Hill, and participated with Children’s Crusade at Nature Coast in the Tolerance Festival at the PHCC North Campus. Cooper plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology with a minor in psychology, and hopes to become a child psychiatrist.

Christopher Cantrell, 32, of New Port Richey, will earn an AS in nursing. Prior to enrolling in PHCC’s RN program and after the birth of his first child, Cantrell honed his caregiver skills as a stay-at-home dad during his son’s first year. Currently, Cantrell is a patient care technician at Mease Countryside Hospital. Cantrell plans to pursue his BS in nursing, adding to the BA in political science he received in 2003 from the University of Florida. Cantrell said, “I get to work with people in a one to one setting and provide a service that really makes a difference in people's lives.”

Ashley Puleo, 23, of Port Richey, is a 2008 Ridgewood High School graduate, a 2009 PHCC Certified Nursing Assistant certificate recipient and will receive her AA, graduating with honors. Puleo is a member of PTK and Psi Beta honor societies and received the Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges certificate for two consecutive years. Puleo plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in psychology at St. Leo University. 

Cynthia E. Russell, 50, of Ridge Manor, is making a life change from nursing to law. An LPN for nearly 20 years, Russell turned to 16-hour weekend shifts to better accommodate her class load at PHCC as she pursued her AS in paralegal studies. She is a single mother of three children—all in their early to mid-twenties—with the youngest also attending PHCC. “You can become empowered through education and change your life,” said Russell. A member of Phi Beta Lambda, PTK and the Legal Eagles Club, Russell will receive her AS in paralegal studies, and then pursue a BS in legal studies at Hodges University.

David Hayes, 51, of Zephyrhills, earned a diploma in electronics technology in 1981 and after a 30-year academic hiatus, will receive his AA. PHCC assisted Hayes in gathering credits toward his AA from previous schools. He spent 14 years at IBM in Canada before moving to Zephyrhills to pursue his hobby-turned-career of skydiving; Hayes is general manager at Skydive City in Zephyrhills. Hayes has an interest in green engineering, however has not yet decided on his academic future. He is married to Kelli Hayes, assistant professor of biological sciences at PHCC East Campus in Dade City.

Courtney Flor, 17, of Hudson, is a dual enrolled student and will graduate prior to receiving her high school diploma from Gulf High School in May 2013. Flor plans to attend USF to complete the prerequisite courses needed to enter a pre-med program. Flor volunteered at Anclote Elementary for nearly five years prior to becoming a Business Cooperative Education (BCE) student at the school.

Jennifer Creamer-White, began her journey towards an AA 14 years ago, while raising two children. Having the desire to enter the medical field since childhood, Creamer-White intends to pursue a bachelor’s in nursing. She is a member of PTK and the Gay Straight Alliance on PHCC East Campus, and has launched a Spanish club and a Facebook page where students can trade and sell textbooks. Creamer-White said, “I’m a first generation college graduate; my dad passed away before he was able to see me graduate, but he’ll be in my heart when I walk across the stage.”

Graduation speakers will include: District Board of Trustees Chair Rao Musunuru, M.D.; Connie LaMarca-Frankel, professor, humanities, in the morning ceremony; and Michelle Beermann, assistant professor, mathematics in the afternoon ceremony. Professor of Language Arts Lois Henton, Ph.D. who is retiring from PHCC this year after 35 years of service is scheduled as the Reflections speaker, and student speakers include Darryl G. Hunter and Lauren Pardue. Approximately 284 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremony. An estimated total of 1,173 summer and winter graduates are eligible to participate.

Release date: 
December 4, 2012
Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications