Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) will host winter commencement on Wednesday, December 11, 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 event live stream link will be available at phsc.edu.

This year’s fall graduates include many ambitious and accomplished students, and some who have encountered adversity in pursuit of a higher education.

Meclina Priestley, 44, of Wesley Chapel, will earn her Associate in Science in drafting and design technology with honors. Priestley, a single mom of three daughters, is successful artist and an Art Fellow at the James Weldon Johnson Foundation. Priestley has been doing shows and events for that foundation in New York and the Berkshires. She is also the Artist in Residence at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel. Priestley combines her love of art with the skills she learned in the drafting and design program at PHSC. “My goal is to work alongside architects and developers to integrate the thought of design and art making it a part of the architecture,” said Priestley. She is a member is Phi Theta Kappa and the SkillsUSA club where she was a medalist at the state competition.

 Hunter Karius, 23, of Weeki Wachee, is a full-time, first-generation college student who will earn his Associate in Arts degree with honors. Karius is the North Campus Student Government Association president, a student ambassador, and an enrollment management specialist in the Academic Success Center. Additionally, he is the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSA) Region Two Coordinator. Karius grew up in Hector, New York and moved to Florida two years ago harboring a passion for dentistry. “The Student Life and Leadership staff at PHSC has been a vital measure in my success as a person,” said Karius. “I came to this state a shy and scared individual who would never step outside the boundaries of comfort. Through mentorship, coaching and added responsibilities, I tapped into unknown skills and potential.” Karius plans to attend Nova Southeastern University to study biological sciences followed by dental school. His goal is to own a dental practice where he can provide comprehensive dental care.

Patricia Jauregui, 30, of Dade City, has overcome many obstacles, from kidney failure and transplant as a teen, to developing breast cancer when she was 22 years old. She enrolled at the college in fall of 2010 and the following year learned her kidney transplant had failed and she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. A true fighter, Jauregui never gave up. She resumed her studies as soon as her doctors would allow. “I still required dialysis three days a week because I was not eligible for a transplant at the time,” said Jauregui. “I would go to dialysis in the morning, come home to sleep for a couple hours, go work part time at a daycare center, and afterwards go to school part time.” Her health issues and the compassion she received from her nurses shaped her career path. Jauregui is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Psi Beta who is earning her Associate in Science degree in nursing with honors. “No matter what I was going through, I always tried to maintain a smile. I thought about the many people I would one day help and motivated me. I want to inspire and give my patients hope that despite their diagnosis—it's not the end.” She aspires to give back, working as a nurse either in pediatric oncology or in breast oncology.

Adriana Huapilla, 20, of Dade City, has served East Campus as a student ambassador and Student Government Association vice president. Huapilla is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Beta Lambda and is the first generation in her family to earn an Associate in Arts degree. With careful planning, she balances being a full-time student with a full-time job and often driving family members from home to school or work. “I first review the class schedule and fit it into my working schedule while still being able to have time for homework as well as family and personal obligation,” said Huapilla. After graduating Huapilla plans to continue her education at PHSC pursing a bachelor’s degree in supervision and management with a concentration in public safety.

Steeven Andrade, 20, of Wesley Chapel, was born in Ecuador and moved to the United States three years ago. Coming to a new country with few possessions and not speaking the language did not stop Andrade from pursuing his dream of a higher education. “I remember my first day of class, I didn’t know anyone or what to expect,” said Andrade. “It was my first time in college, in another country in another language, far away from where I felt comfortable.” Andrade made friends, became familiar with the college and professors, and by the fall of 2018, he was the Student Government Association vice president at the Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch. He is earning his Associate in Arts degree, with honors. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in management with a minor in global business at the University of South Florida in spring while working at Publix.

Student speakers include, Meclina Priestley (morning) and Hunter Karius (afternoon). Other graduation speakers include: District Board of Trustees Vice Chair Marilyn Pearson-Adams (morning) and District Board of Trustees Chair Alvaro Hernandez (afternoon); Charge to the Graduates Speakers, Chris Nocco, Pasco County Sheriff (morning), and Richard Corcoran, Education Commissioner (afternoon); and Faculty Remarks by Faculty Senate Vice President Julie Hendriksen, assistant professor, natural sciences (morning) and Faculty Senate President Jessica LaBossiere, Ph.D., associate professor, English (afternoon).

Approximately 345 degrees and certificates will be conferred at the ceremonies. An estimated 1,328 summer and fall graduates are eligible to participate.

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