Press Release

Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) will host winter commencement on Thursday, December 14, in the Physical Fitness Center at the West Campus in New Port Richey, 10230 Ridge Road. Two commencement ceremonies will honor graduates earning bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, and certificates. The morning ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the afternoon commencement will begin at 3 p.m. The events will stream live online at

This year’s winter graduates include many ambitious students, including some who have overcome adversity in pursuit of a higher education.

Matthew Kurtz, 22, of Dade City, will earn his AS degree in drafting and design technology. He is a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) member and East Campus Student Government Association (SGA) treasurer (2016-2017). Kurtz is a gold medal recipient of 2017 SkillsUSA Florida Region 4 Competition for architectural drafting and recognized as a Who’s Who among American Universities & Colleges. Curtis Home Design & Inspections in Palm Harbor where he designs residential homes recently hired Kurtz as lead draft designer. His concentration is on gaining hands-on experience in his new career, however, his desire to obtain a degree in architecture or engineering is in the distant future. “My love of drafting design is likely rooted in my love for video games and their unique concepts…the most fascinating thought is that humanity surrounds itself in its own creations. Like an entire building or a mere drinking glass on a table, everything was once just an idea in a person’s head. The ability to translate your thoughts onto paper and into something living that you physically interact with has always astounded me,” said Kurtz. An Exceptional Student Education (ESE) student, Kurtz found the restraint and regiment of public education did not match his way of learning. He dropped out of high school and obtained his GED, prior to enrolling at PHSC. “My life-long goal is to create an organization dedicated towards technological research for humanity, encouraging a shared vision of science and developing innovations to help shape the future of humanity—regardless of gender, race or religion,” said Kurtz.

Tara Guzina, 20, of Land O’ Lakes, will earn her AA. Guzina currently is a firefighter/EMT at Tampa Fire Rescue. While working full time, she continued to seek her AA degree at PHSC after earning her EMT certificate in December 2016 and graduating from PHSC Fire Academy Class #31 in May 2017. “I chose this field of study because I want to help people on their worst days and make a difference in my community,” said Guzina, who plans to pursue an AS degree in paramedics, an RN degree, and a bachelor’s degree in emergency medical services at USF.

Wislet Joseph, 27, of Zephyrhills, will earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in supervision and management (BAS-SM) with a concentration in organizational administration.

Wisly Joseph, 27, of Zephyrhills, like his twin brother, Wislet Joseph, will earn a BAS-SM. Their story is the same, down to their grade point average—with one difference—Wisly chose to concentrate his studies in health care management.

The brothers came to the United States from Haiti (Wisly in 10/2012 and Wislet in 1/2013). “We (his parents and siblings) came to America for a better life,” said Wislet Joseph. Knowing very little English, the brothers enrolled in the English as a Second Language program at Moore-Mickens Education Center in Dade City. They matriculated to PHSC in August 2013 and although greatly challenged in their first semester due to the language barrier, with the help of faculty and staff, the brothers achieved nearly straight A’s. In May 2015, they earned an AA. The brothers remained at PHSC to seek their bachelor’s degree. Since 2015, they were tutors at PHSC’s Academic Success Center in a variety of subjects, including developmental math and reading, calculus, chemistry, algebra, micro applications, public speaking, Spanish, statistics, and more. In addition to school and work at the college, they are PTK members. The Joseph twins will continue their educational journey pursuing an MBA at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Fla.

Fredajah Holmes, 20, of Brooksville, is a first-generation graduate who will earn her AA degree. Holmes was a peer tutor and student worker at PHSC. She volunteered at Awana, a youth ministry program. She encourages anyone who is going through tough times to “never give up, stay focused and always have faith.” To help realize her childhood dream of owning her own clothing line, Holmes will pursue a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a concentration in entrepreneurship at the University of South Florida.

Monica Baione, 30, of Port Richey, speaker for the morning commencement, will receive an AS in human services and is a member of the PTK, Psi Beta, and the Tau Upsilon Alpha honor societies. She is active in SGA, founder of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) on Campus club in March 2016, and PHSC West Campus Human Services Club president (2015-16) and vice president (2016-17). She received the Outstanding Human Services Club Member award (2015-16) and the Dr. Felisha Barker Outstanding Student Leader award (2016-17).

I am who I am today because I had 20 seconds of courage when I registered for my first class at PHSC in May 2014…,” said Baione. Dedicated to helping others, Baione volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and is vice president of the Eagle Riders for Fraternal Order of Eagles #3997 of Hudson, that participate in fundraising events for breast cancer, veterans, Florida Cancer Institute, children of Pasco County, and many other causes. “This career path comes straight from the heart. It is a genuine desire to go to work every day knowing that you can make a difference in someone’s life,” said Baione, who plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work at Saint Leo University.

Isaiah Lisbon, Jr., 20, of Richland, Fla., student speaker for the afternoon ceremony, will earn his AA degree. Lisbon is a proponent for PHSC’s Student Leadership Retreat (SLR), a free two-day event for PHSC students hosted by PHSC’s student life and leadership department. “You learn about networking and personality types and meet students from other PHSC campuses. The various activities teach us leadership skills that we will take with us when we graduate,” said Lisbon. He learned that time management and prioritization lead to success. “The best way to achieve a goal is to make a plan for that goal. I no longer wait until the night before it is due to write it; I break up the large project into smaller, more manageable tasks,” said Lisbon, who plans to remain at PHSC to pursue a degree in nursing.

Other graduation speakers include: District Board of Trustees Chair Rao Musunuru, M.D., in the morning and afternoon ceremony; Charge to the Graduates Speakers, Florida Senator Wilton Simpson (morning), and Pat Mulieri, Ed.D., PHSC professor emerita, retired Pasco County commissioner (afternoon); and Faculty Remarks by Faculty Senate Vice President Regina Mirabella, professor, nursing (morning) and Faculty Senate President Connie LaMarca-Frankel, professor, humanities (afternoon). Approximately 334 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremonies. An estimated 1,233 summer and winter graduates are eligible to participate.

Media Contact
Courtney Boettcher
Assistant Director, Marketing and Communications