Dec 14, 2022
Jimmy Paganis originally had his eye on Florida Southern College at the beginning of his junior year of high school because of his skills on the basketball court.
Now Paganis is set to graduate in the spring of ’23 as a Business Administration major trying to help others achieve their dreams having pivoted from a devastating injury he had to endure.
“After my sophomore year of high school, I was looking to play sports in the south,” said Paganis, who was a standout student-athlete in the Chicago area. “My coach recommended the Sunshine State Conference. I saw Florida Southern, went on a tour and I enjoyed it. When I was touring the campus I was impressed, specifically with the business building and the quality of education at Florida Southern for the size of the school. I always wanted to go somewhere I could build relationships with my professors to answer questions when I had them.”
Paganis’ life changed after tearing his ACL twice during his final two years of high school. With a college career as a student-athlete being wiped out, Paganis put his efforts into academics.
It has led to an incredible story of perseverance that has endeared him to at least one of his professors.
“A couple of things come to mind,” said Dr. Silviana Falcon, an Associate Professor of Business Administration at the College. “I think one of the most important things is that he reconfigured his whole life. He was an athlete and got injured. When you’re an athlete for so long, that’s all you know. Whenever he wasn’t able to play anymore it took him a little bit to redefine who he was. I think that’s what I find most fascinating. He was able to persevere and recreate himself and find a new passion, but not only find it, but excel at it. It’s hard no matter what phase we’re in to recreate ourselves. I think it’s harder when you are younger because you don’t have the maturity. You learn, you fall, and you get back up. When you’re young it’s difficult to learn that.”
Paganis said that when he was in high school, he was always interested in studying business.
He took some business classes in high school and was keen to stay up to date with what was going on in the business world, whether it was small or large.
Now as Paganis is a semester away from graduating, he is helping other business-minded people get their ideas off the ground.
Through Florida Southern’s guaranteed internship promise, Paganis has been interning with Lakeland-based Catapult since the spring 2022 semester. He’s done so well that Catapult, which aids business entrepreneurs in product development and marketing, has extended his stay through the spring 2023 semester.
“I really appreciate getting to work with a variety of people,” Paganis said. “I get to interact with entrepreneurs daily and build relationships with them.”
Paganis’ primary focus has been working on Catapult’s social media on LinkedIn and Facebook. He’s also been writing a bi-weekly newsletter that goes out to the Lakeland community, as well as doing promotion for events, some customer service, and helping out at the front desk.
“I’ve learned a lot about the type of place or company I’d want to work for or with,” Paganis said. “Everybody at Catapult is very welcoming and inviting. They encourage us to try. They see failure as a learning lesson. They give me a lot of responsibility and they trust me.”
Dr. Falcon is not surprised Paganis is excelling at Catapult, not after everything he’s already been through.
“He’s a kind soul,” Dr. Falcon said. “He’s very sincere and genuine. He really wants to see the best for people, and I think that’s why he’s done so well at Catapult. That’s the kind of environment they’re fostering over there.”
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