A Student's Passion to Help

Sep 25, 2015

by Zoe Trout '17 | Student Life Reporter

Passion for learning does not stop at the door of the classroom for Florida Southern students. Junior and business major Stephanie Sharkey ’17 is a prime example of that, and she came to FSC with a fierce mission to connect her dedication to service with her business degree.

“There are so many ways that business principles can be applied,” Sharkey said. “The nonprofit sector is so often forgotten about when thinking of a degree.”

Scotland-native Sharkey did not hesitate to start serving the community. She became involved as early as her first year of college. Eventually, through FSC’s guaranteed internship program, she found a position at Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE), an Orlando-based nonprofit organization focused on eradicating hunger in the US and abroad. 

Sharkey had come into contact with FCE though an event sponsored by Florida Southern and hosted by Hunger Project, a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. There, she integrated her classroom training with her passion for service.

“It’s all hands on deck, so I really get to see every aspect of the organization.” Sharkey said, referring to the benefits of working for a service program.

At FCE, she started as an events and development intern and was promoted soon after to the HR department for her second interim with the company. No matter the branch, Stephanie gets to work directly with clients and company executives.

FCE often deals with large businesses, like Bank of America and the Miami Dolphins. Stephanie continues to play a huge part in running Hunger Projects, overseeing food-packing events that engage community members in the preparation of thousands of meals for worldwide distribution.

Stephanie Sharkey ‘17 is passionate about making a difference in her community.

“I really feel like I’m making a difference there,” Stephanie reflects. “I’m gaining real-world experience and living the principles I am learning in class. I would absolutely encourage other students to make the effort and take advantage of Florida Southern’s internship program. Even on days when I’m just in the office, I know what we’re doing is ultimately helping people. The opportunity to do that has shaped my college experience.”

Florida Southern was one of only two colleges in the US to which she applied, but her reasons for choosing it were vast. Sharkey knew what she wanted: a school where she could blend her interest in business with her desire to make a difference in the world. For Sharkey, classroom theory alone would not do. She hoped for an education that ultimately allows her to put theory to practice. She wants to graduate with field experience that fully equips her to make an impact in her community and in the workplace.

Sharkey is glad to have these opportunities at Florida Southern, and because of this she continuously involves herself in activities that also reflect those goals. She is a member of Enactus, a campus organization focused on sustainable projects as well as a member of the Elite Board of Students for the Business Program.

Demonstrating her motivation and success, she was a recent recipient of the 2015 GEICO Achievement Award — one of only 31 students nationwide to receive the award.

“I never imagined that I would be involved in so many activities on campus that relate to my passions. The FSC community is so close knit that I am really able to find my niche here and work with others to serve our city."

Sharkey credits her proactive attitude toward any goal she has set for herself — a trait she’s always had.

“After volunteering in Ghana when I was in high school, I returned home and felt empowered to start a fundraising project for the organization I worked with there. I was thrilled to raise over $5,000 for Home for Hope Orphanage.”

It was the opportunity to engage in this kind of service that made Sharkey commit to Florida Southern. Business Professor Mike Tracy speaks highly of Sharkey and her love for her community, “Stephanie has a strong head for business and a big heart for those in need. She is engaged in class and contributes with smart and witty dialogue.”

Through Enactus, Sharkey collected recycled material from business in downtown Lakeland, which was repurposed and recreated as bus shelters.

“I never imagined that I would be involved in so many activities on campus that relate to my passions,” Sharkey said. “The FSC community is so close knit that I am really able to find my niche here and work with others to serve our city.”

Stephanie is only one of the many students who enrich the Florida Southern community — and not just because of her exotic accent. By attracting students from around the country and other parts of the world, FSC has become a place where students can learn from and challenge one another to see the world through many points of views.

“Florida Southern offers a level of professionalism and student engagement that is rare,” Sharkey comments. “I feel very fortunate to be here.”

Mike Tracy’s description of Sharkey as “a budding globalist with a love of travel and learning other cultures” is not only an apt description of this remarkable student, but something to which all of us at Florida Southern aspire to as we strive to become global citizens.