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First PHSC Graduating Class Walks in Spring Commencement Ceremony

Pasco-Hernando State College will hold its spring commencement on Wednesday, May 7, in the Physical Education Center (gym) at the West Campus in New Port Richey, 10230 Ridge Road. After more than 40 years of graduation ceremonies as Pasco-Hernando Community College, this will be the first Pasco-Hernando State College commencement.

The commencement ceremony for candidates earning their Associate in Science (AS) degree, Associated in Applied Science 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. Those unable to attend can view the events live streaming online at This year’s graduates include several determined students and those who have overcome adversity to achieve their academic goals.

Samantha Greenlee, 25, of Port Richey, is the student speaker for the afternoon ceremony. Greenlee, an Army veteran on the GI Bill® and member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) will earn her AA degree with honors. Greenlee was Airborne and Air Assault qualified, an honor graduate in Army combat basic training, having scored the highest in physical training out of 300 personnel, and member of the first place 10-miler team for Fort Bragg, N.C. She deployed to Haiti on a humanitarian mission in 2010, and then to Iraq in 2011 prior to her discharge and quest to fulfill her dreams of being a student athlete. Greenlee faced many challenges in her high school years, precipitous of her decision to join the Army. “I wanted more in my life. I wanted to be great,” said Greenlee. She is a six-time All-American at the NJCAA level for cross country, half marathon and academics in 2012 and 2013. Greenlee recently signed to attend Point University, West Point, Ga., as a women’s cross country team member in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. 

My Nguyen, 18, of Port Richey, will earn an AA with a 4.0 GPA and honors. Nguyen, a member of PTK, is a dual-enrolled AP Scholar and Ridgewood High School class of 2014 valedictorian. She has received leadership, humanitarian and volunteer awards and is active in high school and college clubs, including National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Phi Theta Kappa, Mu Alpha Theta, Student Government Association, and varsity golf and tennis. As a 2014-2015 Rotary Youth Exchange ambassador, she will spend the next year in Belgium mastering French, one of five languages she speaks. Nguyen has future plans to continue her undergraduate education at University of Miami and graduate studies at Columbia University. With an interest in artificial organs, tissue cloning and prosthetics, Nguyen’s ultimate goal is to become a biomedical computer engineer and perfect artificial intelligence.

Donald Bennett, 58, of Spring Hill, will receive his AA degree. Bennett is an audio engineer and business owner, two-time Tampa Bay Music Songwriting Award winner, and a national recording artist, who toured the country doing what he loves—playing music and performing. When encouraging his daughter Brooke to enroll in college, she asked if education was so important, then why did he not finish his college degree? Bennett made a deal with his daughter—he would finish his degree if she would register for college as well. “It was the best deal I ever made,” said Bennett. He was fortunate that many prior credits from the University of Michigan transferred and applied toward his AA degree. Bennett’s future plans may include pursuit of PHSC’s new Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management degree that begins fall 2014.

Rachel Witherell, 18, of Spring Hill, is the fifth and youngest Witherell sibling to graduate from PHSC. A dual-enrolled student who officially receives her high school diploma on May 1, 2014 from Witherell Home School, she earns an AA with honors from PHSC. She is current chief editor of the yearbook staff through Home Circle of Hernando, a support group organization for home schools. Her 222 hours of community service includes serving as juror, clerk of court, prosecuting attorney, and defense attorney with Hernando County Youth Court; campaign volunteering for Congressman Nugent, and Senators Rubio, Simpson and Weatherford through the Conservative Christian Teens for America organization; and sewing more than 600 pillow cases for pediatric cancer patients. Witherell plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.  

Chelsee McLean, 21, of Port Richey, plans to “change the world, starting with Florida.” The product of an unstable family life, the foster-care system, and other challenges, McLean’s passion for life and desire to make a difference has given her the right to be called a survivor. She will receive her AA degree and has served as senator and vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA) West Campus chapter; president of Psi Beta; and member of Phi Theta Kappa. McLean is a student worker in the student activities department where she helped coordinate events such as Second Chance Prom, and guided school children on Dr. Seuss exhibit tours in the Rao Musunuru, M.D. Art Gallery. An active volunteer, McLean assisted in coordinating a Valentine’s Day dance for the elderly and a pancake breakfast for the homeless and struggling families. McLean hopes to a double major in criminology and public relations with a minor in pre-law at Florida State University.   

Theresa Chin-Hing, 56, of Weeki Wachee, moved with her family to Hernando County from Mandeville, Jamaica in 2004 after a long 11-year wait for Visa application approvals. A senior office assistant at North Campus, Chin-Hing will receive an AA degree with honors. In addition to returning to school, her greatest challenge was facing a fear of mathematics. She credits the PHSC math redesign program for helping her successfully pass the GED exam and complete a college-level algebra with an A grade. Chin-Hing has been accepted to St. Leo University, Saint Leo, Fla. and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human services. She wants to work with women because she believes oftentimes “they lose themselves in the traditional roles of spouse, mother, daughter, care-giver, or nurturer” and life circumstance changes find them not prepared to make certain decisions. “It’s never too late to chase your dreams or reinvent yourself,” said Chin-Hing.

Jennifer Tellarini, 24, of Spring Hill, is the student speaker for the morning commencement. She graduates with an AS degree in internet services technology adding to her AS degree in graphic design. Tellarini said, “I wanted to explore and learn about the hardware aspect of computers, to complement my graphic design background.” Tellarini, a computer lab assistant on PHSC’s West Campus, plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems at St. Leo University. 

Harshada “Reena” Kalidas, 21, of New Port Richey, will graduate with an AA degree. Kalidas is Lead Student Ambassador, a member of PTK, and active in Student Government Association. She plans to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville to pursue a bachelor’s degree focusing on cognitive behavioral sciences. Kalidas aspires to work in a hospital, to counsel children and help them overcome mental illnesses so that they can progress successfully in their future.

Graduation speakers will include: District Board of Trustees Chair John DiRienzo; Michelle Beermann, faculty senate president and associate professor, mathematics; AA degree Reflections Speaker, Burt Harres, Ph.D., vice president of instruction and Provost, West Campus; AS degree Reflections Speaker, Cynthia Head, associate professor, mathematics; and Student Speakers Samantha Greenlee and Jennifer Tellarini. Approximately 380 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremonies. An estimated total of 868 spring graduates are eligible to participate.

Release date: 
April 29, 2014
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