Aug 30, 2021
The carnival-like atmosphere on the Florida Southern College campus over the weekend welcomed some 3,000 students back to Lakeland. The Fall 2021 Orientation Weekend schedule was packed with events, both public and private. As the balloon arches beckoned some 800 new students, the largest incoming class in school history, ice cream socials and lawn games and music concerts mixed with tears of goodbye for parents and other family members. Yes, college life has begun anew at FSC, the oldest private college in the state of Florida.
Checking in this weekend were almost 300 first-generation college students from across the country, with support from the Student Solutions Center on campus. Through a grant from the Jessie Ball duPont and Complete College America, FSC supports and encourages first-generation college students in their quest to fulfil their versions of the American Dream.
One such student is Florida Southern freshman Aracelis Borrero, from nearby Kissimmee, Fla. Planning to major in film studies, she was attracted to Florida Southern because of the supportive campus environment.
Several of her family members have started college, but none has followed through to graduation yet. She plans to be the first, understanding that education is the path to economic freedom. “I want to be the first one to break through,” she said. “I want my family to know that, ‘You can do this too!’ and that we should all follow our dreams.”
Making the nine-hour trip from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Lakeland with his extended family, freshman Devin Rollins was excited for this opportunity. Truly a family decision, three generations came to support Devin as he moved into Spivey Hall: his grandfather, mother, father, and younger sister all packed into the family car for the trip to Florida Southern.
“During the college search, I noticed that FSC has the majors I am interested in – computer science and film – and everything just fits for me,” Devin said. The decision to go to college in the first place was easy.
Devin’s father, Octavius Glass, began college, though he never completed his studies. Nonetheless, he is the main inspiration for his son’s decision to focus on computer science. “As a parent, you always want the best for your kids. I know the importance of education in today’s world… so to me, it was a must for him. He just didn’t know it!”
Yet the now-freshman shrugs off most of that pressure, but not all. “It seemed like the right path to take,” he stated. “Besides, I have a role to fill for my little sister, to be the star role model.”
Fellow first generation freshman Riley Woods concurs. His father, Stephen Woods, understands the challenges of living in a rural area, and wants more for his son. “Where we’re from, things are limited. We have shown him that the world is his if he wants to take it.” And the younger Riley chose to take it at Florida Southern College.
Hailing from Ocala, Fla., he plans to major in nursing, following his mother, Denise, who currently works in the medical field. Riley wanted a smaller school, one where he could have a more intimate, one-on-one relationship with his professors. Moving away to college is always a challenging decision, but Riley understands that his parents “are only two hours away from me, and in my heart, I know that this is the best decision.”
A wide-eyed young man sits upright in a chair, eager for this next chapter. “All of the different emotions are present, from happiness to anxiety,” Riley admitted. “But four years from now, it will all be worth it!”
In all, 811 freshman and 27 transfer students begin a new chapter in their lives, one beginning at Florida Southern College. The incoming class is one of the most talented in College history. Among them are 13 valedictorians and salutatorians, and numerous students with perfect scores on sections of the SAT and ACT. Along with excelling in the classroom, the incoming class has demonstrated extraordinary leadership ability with members earning Eagle Scout rank and receiving the Girl Scout Gold Award. Members of the class have demonstrated a commitment to service, earning the prestigious Servant’s Heart, Presidential Service, and African American Achievement Awards, respectively. Their interests are also diverse, to include a published poet, an American Legion State Delegate, and an elected Clerk of the Court.
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