LSSC Celebrates Historic Commencement With Record 630+ Graduates

4 min read| Published On: May 9th, 2024|

By Cindy Peterson

LSSC Celebrates Historic Commencement With Record 630+ Graduates

4 min read| Published On: May 9th, 2024|

Lake-Sumter State College just completed its largest Commencement Ceremonies in the College’s 62-year history!

More than half of the 630-plus graduating students chose to walk across the stage at one of the two ceremonies held as part of the Sixty-Ninth Commencement exercises.

“Today marks not just the end of your academic journey at this College, but also the beginning of the next chapter of your lives – one that holds the promise of possibilities and exciting adventures,” LSSC President Heather Bigard told the graduating class. “As you navigate the path ahead, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and let your passion guide you through the uncertainties. Be bold, be brilliant, be courageous, and never underestimate the impact that one individual can have on the world.”

Retiring Senator Dennis Baxley was the Commencement Speaker at both ceremonies. On Friday, in front of a packed house and his entire family, the District Board of Trustees and President Heather Bigard awarded Senator Baxley an honorary bachelor’s degree in leadership.

“We are proud to recognize Senator Baxley’s unwavering dedication and outstanding contributions to our great state of Florida,” said President Bigard. “Senator Baxley has left an enduring mark on our community, and we believe that this recognition affirms your legacy of advocacy and unwavering dedication to our community and this state.”

Class of 2024 Facts

·         630+ graduates representing nearly every zip code in Lake & Sumter Counties

·         93% of graduates indicated that they would be continuing their education after graduation

·         67% of graduates reported working at least one job while in school

·         33% of the graduating class is first-generation, the first in their family to graduate college

·         28% of the graduating class is Hispanic

·         27% of graduates were dual-enrolled students also completing their high school diploma

·         35 students were presented the Academic Excellence Award for earning a cumulative 4.0 grade point average

·         3.3 was the average grade point average of this graduating class

South Lake Ceremony – May 1

At the Clermont Arts & Recreation Center, over 1,000 people attended to see their student cross the stage and earn the diploma they worked so hard to earn.

Kendyll Campi and Virginia De Flaviis were awarded the Order of the Lakehawk and both served as student speakers.

“The Order of the Lakehawk is the highest and most significant award a student can receive at Lake-Sumter State College,” said Dr. Joseph Mews, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, as he announced the recipients. “Students inducted into the Order of the Lakehawk represent the very best of our student body and will be remembered as an elite group of students at Lake-Sumter State College.”

Kendyll Campi, a dual enrolled student in the Health Sciences Collegiate Academy, shared a personal story of how her mother’s recent death has challenged her in unexpected ways. She closed with encouragement for this graduating class.

“LSSC is always our home and it’s more than just a physical place. It’s the shared experiences and lasting friendships we’ve built here. When life’s storms rage and you’re lost in where to go next, remember where this journey began, and keep your eyes set on the horizon.”

Virginia de Flaviis, an international student, shared of her journey from Italy to Clermont. During her time at LSSC, she embraced the full student experience including involvement on campus. She became the President of the Student Government Association for the South Lake Campus this year and had the opportunity to lead activities both on that campus and with the statewide SGA organization.

Her advice to fellow graduates was to “embrace the fear of the unknown. If I hadn’t left Italy, I would not have found my new passion and set new goals for my future. Life is about more than the destination, its about embracing the moments along the way.”

Leesburg Ceremony – May 3

Friday brought the celebration to the Leesburg Campus in the Everett A. Kelly Convocation Center with another packed house to celebrate the graduating class of 2024.

Emma Zelkowitz, a volleyball student-athlete, was the student speaker.

Emma reflected on her experience as a transfer student arriving to complete her second year of college.

“LSSC has shown me that the risk is often well worth the reward,” she said. “This school fosters a sense of family and community that transcends the classroom. I have learned that opportunities often present themselves in the most unexpected moments. Through internships on campus and volunteer work, I have seized opportunities that allowed me to explore my interests and contribute to the College community.”

Taylor Ford and Hannah Smith were selected as Order of the Lakehawk recipients during this ceremony.

Taylor was also offered the opportunity to share about her experiences at the College. She shared of personal struggles that caused her to lose some momentum toward her dream. With encouragement from her family, she began at LSSC with just one class.

“I would not be the person standing before you today if I hadn’t started with that one class,” she shared. “But I showed up and put in hours of work to make it happen, just like each of you did to get here today. Thanks to my experiences at LSSC, I have found my passion for event management and will transfer to Florida Gulf Coast University to pursue my bachelor’s degree.”

Senator Dennis Baxley

During his remarks at both ceremonies, Senator Dennis Baxley offered words of advice for the graduates.

“Remember that nothing significant is ever achieved alone,” he shared. “Be sure to thank friends and family who helped you get here today.”

“Today is called Commencement because it’s the beginning of something great,” he said. “I challenge you to be open to what comes your way.”

In reflecting on his own journey and leadership experience, Senator Baxley told the students, “be sure to recognize and encourage other people along your journey. Why? Because not only will it encourage and motivate you, but it will make a difference of the lives of many people around you.”

Provided by Lake-Sumter State College

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About the Author: Cindy Peterson

Originally from the small town of Berryville, Arkansas, Cindy has become a multimedia specialist in journalism, photography, videography, and video editing. She has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Central Arkansas and produces Style Magazine's Sports Hub Podcast and the Healthy Living Podcast. She also produces for Beacon College’s Telly Award-winning PBS show, “A World of Difference.” When she isn’t working, Cindy loves traveling the National Parks with her husband , Ryan, and son, David, photographing wildlife.

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