Share Your Story

The life of a higher education professional is unique. Everyone has a story to tell. Every day, people  from all backgrounds in rural and urban communities across the state find ways to teach, motivate, inspire, and uplift students.  Our colleges provide access to higher education, remediation, personal and professional development, and the opportunity to gain training for a new career. We create opportunity and transform lives and communities.

No matter your job title - faculty, custodian, advisor, police officer, or librarian -  you make a difference daily. Every college employee is important to a student’s journey. We want to collect and share your stories.

Tell us about your journey.

Read AFC Members' Stories Below!


Daniella Pierre, Miami Dade College

My journey and steadfast membership with the Association of Florida Colleges has taken me places I thought only existed on my vision board. After joining the organization in 2013, I have been able to learn more about Florida’s 28, lead with purpose, serve effortlessly, and proudly support fellow institutions for the greater good of all students. Being a member of AFC, I feel a part of a broader community that is united together by a legacy of service, commitment, action and advocacy.

I encourage everyone within the Florida College System to join, stay the course and get involved. We are AFC!

 


Roger Williams, Miami Dade College

When I first started at Miami Dade College as a student-worker in the ESL Department and after graduating from MDC with an AA in Journalism & Mass Communication, and then finishing university at Florida International University with degrees in journalism (BS) and public administration (MPA) and being hired at MDC as a full time Testing Coordinator, and then an academic & career advisor, I thought that my career trajectory would be common-place and typical. You know, starting at “lower” levels and working my way to the top. However, after joining AFC, I’ve come to realize that even if my aspirations do not take me to the upper echelons of academia, being involved in the AFC and my college community can be an enriching experience.

My experience with AFC and my college community has taught me that I do not need to be an academic dean or provost or a college president to make a difference in the lives of my students or in my community. Miami Dade College’s focus on civic engagement and democracy embedded within the college’s mission and curriculum, gave me the skills I needed to become a leader right where I am.


Raquel Gary, Seminole State College of Florida

I had no idea what I wanted to do after I graduated college, I can tell you this, I didn't think I would be working in education, but clearly God had another plan. I started working at Seminole State College of Florida immediately after I graduated from the University of Central Florida, and that alone was a huge honor since I am a first generation college graduate. At first I thought it was only cool working at Seminole State because I could relate to my students due to us practically being the same age at the time, but my colleagues and supervisor saw something more in me. Being around my colleagues at SSC made me want to be greater, and pushing my students made me want to push myself. I found myself applying for and obtaining my Masters in Organizational Leadership, I would have never gone for my Masters if it had not been for the encouraging words I received at Seminole State College, now I may even keep going and go for my Doctorate!

I may not be a graduate of the Florida State College system, but I am the educational scholar I am today because of the Florida State College System.


Lori Cannon, Gulf Coast State College

I am a first generation college student. My mother graduated high school, my father did not. Throughout my childhood, education was never thought of as a vehicle for success but more as a box to check for getting a job to contribute as our financial circumstances were less than desirable. I was fortunate enough to find my spouse early in life. After marrying at 19 and working a couple of years, at 22 I became a stay-at-home mom. I loved this job. It was the most important job I will ever have had. However, once my children (3) started school themselves, I found myself bored and looking for something for myself.

My husband was stationed at Tyndall AFB so I visited Gulf Coast State College. After conquering all my doubts and fears of being out of school for more than 15 years, I found a place that was welcoming and encouraging. While finishing my associates degree I also found a job on campus in the Student Activities department. It was through this incredible opportunity I found the drive and purpose to continue on at FSU-PC and receive my bachelors degree 3 years later. My institution was so supportive in not only my educational goals but also in what I could give back to the institution that I pushed on and 3 years later received my Masters in Political Science, all of this with 3 children and a military spouse.

I can confidently say that Gulf Coast State College helped me not only achieve my educational goals, that I am proud to say serve as an example to my children, but provided the environment that has allowed me to grow as a student, professional and future leader within the Florida College System. I can not imagine being anywhere else.


Amy English, Florida SouthWestern State College

When I graduated high school, I already had a one year old baby to take care of. This left me little options for continuing my education. I had to get a job and help provide for my family. I was a waitress for several years and a secretary at various locations for a few more years, but basically I was going job to job instead of focusing on a career. I realized that the only way I was going to get out of that cycle was to earn my degree.

I started Edison State College (now Florida SouthWestern State College) in 2007 when I was almost 30 years old. I decided that I would pursue a degree in elementary education. I'm not sure why I chose this as I am not particularly patient and small children often drive me crazy. That was my goal though. I found out rather quickly that this was not the path for me and decided to pursue a degree in History instead with a minor in Psychology. Once I completed my AA in 2009, I transferred to FGCU and earned my bachelors degree in 2012.

Just three short months after earning my AA from Edison State College, I landed a job there as an instructional assistant. I have now been working for, now Florida SouthWestern State College for almost 8 years. I have since earned a masters degree in higher education and am currently pursuing a masters degree in history with the hopes of becoming faculty one day.

As a first year, first generation, non-traditional student, the odds were stacked against me for sure! Regardless, I set my mind to it and succeeded in earning my degrees. This is the basis that has caused me to be so passionate about helping students to succeed in their own degree programs.


Francine Fuentes, Chapter President, St. Petersburg College

My AFC story began with a nudge from a long-time AFC Member that held the position of Office of School Partnerships Director at St. Petersburg College. His name is Chris Lumia. Chris acknowledged the importance of RECOGNIZING all types of learners.

He asked me to share my story about learning disabilities. He encouraged me to create a presentation on “How to Make a Difference in a student’s life” at an AFC event. From the first presentation, I knew what my strength was and the message that I wanted to convey. I then became a presenter at every event possible through AFC as well as outside of the organization.

Long ago, AFC was simply an acronym to me and then my journey began as Historian for the Student Development Commission followed by Region IV Director. Talk about learning! In MY style, I dove right in and the Region IV conference was hosted by St. Petersburg College on April 27th, 2017. We had 104 attendees! The conference was well received.

EVERYONE has a gift! Some individuals are creative, some are intellects and others jump in and make things happen. With my Dean’s approval, I was able to delve in and grow.

As the SPC Chapter President, I am grateful for the opportunity to be working alongside our Chapter officers to promote, engage and deliver tools for the success of ALL employees and students. Everyone has a gift. Isn’t the purpose of education to grow? Our students and colleagues will believe they can succeed if we lead by example. Success often occurs when one is told they can’t, yet they do!

The moral of my story is to believe in yourself and use the tools that AFC provides to improve YOUR life as well as OTHERS in the college system and community as a whole. If not now, when? What are you waiting for?


Robert Flores, 2017 AFC President, South Florida State College

My story begins a long time ago in the far away place. I am extremely honored to be the 2017 Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) President. I never envisioned that twenty years after joining AFC, I would be the president of the association. AFC empowered me with opportunities to develop my leadership skills. The development and empowering of its members has been the calling of AFC.  

View his story here........ShareYourStoryRobertFlores.mp4




Dominique Phillips-Alvarez, Pasco-Hernando State College

I was born in New Port Richey Florida; however, I did not grow up in Florida.  My father worked out of the union so we traveled all over the country for work.  I believe I attended eleven schools before I graduated.  College was not a big concern in my family; in fact, I was the first person on my mother’s side to complete high school.  After marrying my husband, we purchased a home in Hernando County, where I soon discovered Pasco-Hernando “Community” College, at the time.  In my mid-twenties, I made that decision to walk in and sign up for classes.  That was the best decision I have ever made.  The faculty and staff treated me as if they had known me for years and made that first college experience incredible.  Within my year and a half, I had become a student ambassador as well as a chapter officer for Phi Theta Kappa.  I graduated as a first generation graduate and soon after became a part-time employee in Student Activities.  I have since moved into Athletics and have now been with the college for five years.  I really enjoy giving back to the students and making their college experience the best possible.  I recently made the decision to go back to school to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Business at PHSC.  I have to say that being with a community college really changed me to become a better person and leader.  I have learned so much and I would recommend this experience to anyone!

Matthew Holliday, Florida SouthWestern State College

When I graduated from high school in 1991 after growing up in Cape Coral, I attempted to start college at Edison Community College, but I found I just wasn’t mentally prepared at that time and dropped out. After working various jobs for a couple of years going nowhere fast, I needed a major change.  A friend and I decided to enlist in the military. He went into the Coast Guard, and I enlisted in the Air Force in 1993.  Following basic training and helicopter maintenance school, I was assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  While stationed there, I participated in numerous missions in support of special operations training and also Operation Joint Endeavor in the Balkans as part of the Special Operations Implementation Force (SOCIFOR). 

At the end of my first four years, I had to decide if I wanted to return to school or transfer overseas. With a little more maturity and life behind me, I returned home and reenrolled at Edison Community College and then transferred to The Florida State University (FSU) where I majored in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.  While at FSU, I did an internship for a lobbyist and developed an interest in politics.  Through my time at FSU, I was able to then secure a position at the Florida House of Representatives as a district secretary and then later the lead legislative aide for a member from Jacksonville where I served for six years. 

In 2008, I was hired to be the first director of governmental relations at Edison State College, my Alma matter, where I have now been for nine years.  The name has since changed to Florida SouthWestern State College, but I am still dedicated to advocating for the college and the students who benefit from the educational opportunities our institution and the Florida College System provides. 

Had it not been for the preparation I received in the Florida College System while at Edison (now Florida SouthWestern State College), I would not have been as successful at FSU and in my career. That is why I am so passionate in my advocacy for our students and our system.


Carol Smith, College of Central Florida

My family is from the Ocala area.  I attended Florida State University in the early 80’s but wasn’t able to finish.  While there in Tallahassee, I worked for an architectural and engineering firm, which included doing work for Tallahassee Community College.  When my husband and I moved back to the Ocala area, I got a job at the College of Central Florida.  My colleagues encouraged me to apply for my AA.  I then earned my AS at the College of Central Florida as well as earning a degree in medical terminology.  I remember AFC when it the Florida Association of Community Colleges.  I became involved first with the Career and Professional Development (CPEC) commission.  I remember attending the CPEC commission meeting at the headquarters office in Tallahassee.  Attending that meeting prompted me to become more involved with my local college AFC chapter.  I served in all roles from secretary to president.  I am encouraging our newer AFC members to attend the annual conference as they need to have the opportunity to learn and grow.  Because of AFC and the college system, I have been able to network with so many others in my field not only from my own college but from across the state.  It has also helped me “climb the ladder” from a division secretary to now Executive Assistant to a Vice President.


 Jessie Clayton, Tallahassee Community College

I was born in Tallahassee, Florida and raised by my father’s parents, who raised fifteen children and were sharecroppers on a farm.  My grandparents understood the values of working hard and family unity.  My grandparents focus was not on higher education.  Therefore, I enlisted in the Army after high school.  

At the end of my military service, I worked various jobs but did not excel professionally in my career.  My older brother Darrell often mentioned that I should enroll in college to better my career opportunities. I was older and more mature; therefore, I decided to enroll at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama where I majored in Information Systems. I did an internship for the Veterans Medical Center in Montgomery, Alabama in their IT department.         

In 2003, I was hired at Tallahassee Community College (TCC) to be a Technology Specialist where I have been for fifteen years. Immediately, I joined the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC).

Through AFC, I learned about the different Commissions and joined the Technology Commission.  I learned about networking with the Great 28 Community Colleges throughout the State of Florida. I served as TCC's Chapter website web master for many years and assisted with our membership drive. I was the Treasure for the Technology Commission for several years.  I assist with the AFC Annual Conference and serve my local Chapter as the photographer to capture candid shots.

Without my experiences with AFC, I would not be as successful in my career or be able to reach out to potential and struggling students that want to achieve a college degree. These are the reasons why I have such strong beliefs and am so emotional about AFC.