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GradPhotoMore than 1,200 graduates of St. Petersburg College crossed the stage during the 127th Commencement Ceremony at Tropicana Field on Saturday, May 16.

A total of 2,922 students earned 3,307 degrees from SPC this term, President Bill Law told the crowd of well-wishers. Graduates ranged in age from 16 to 76, with 31 graduates over the age of 60. Thirteen of the graduates received their diplomas on their birthdays. Check out all the graduation stats.

The Class of 2015 also includes the youngest student ever to receive a bachelor’s degree from St. Petersburg College, 18-year-old Richard Ramdohr, of St. Petersburg.

With this graduating class, the college has awarded 147,381 degrees since the college was founded in 1927.

Among other milestones, SPC celebrated the following:

  • 10,000th student to earn an Associate in Science degree in nursing
  • 8,000th baccalaureate graduate
  • 2,000th baccalaureate nursing graduate
  • 1,000th baccalaureate elementary education teacher graduate
  • The largest group ever of A.A. and A.S. degree students in one term, with 2,286

Inside and out, hundreds of tweets, photos and videos were shared on social media.

Before diplomas were handed out, the college’s Apollo and Alumni Achievement award winners addressed fellow students and guests.

Clearwater Campus student Amy Bhatt received the Apollo Award, the highest honor a two-year graduate can achieve. Seminole Campus student James Stanley Lenas was named the Alumni Achievement Award winner, bringing home the highest honor for a four-year SPC graduate.

Bhatt was a member of the Early College Program and graduated with her A.A. degree and a 4.0 GPA.

“In my two years at SPC, I found that this is a great place to learn and develop our ‘academic intelligence.’ But even beyond that, the interaction with faculty and students is phenomenal for developing our ‘practical intelligence’ in dealing with people and working as a team. And I quickly realized that in order to succeed, we need both – academic and practical intelligence. In just two years, I got so much from SPC, that I feel I will never be able to pay it back.”

Bhatt plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at SPC and would like to attend Stetson University’s College of Law and pursue her ultimate dream of serving on the Supreme Court. Professors at St. Petersburg College inspired students “to succeed every single day,” Bhatt said.

Lenas graduates with a B.S. degree in biology with a 3.65 GPA and is one of six students in the country to be accepted into Bayfront Health’s School of Medical Technology Laboratory Science program. During his time at SPC, Lenas presented research in microbiology at the American Society of Microbiology Summit in 2014 and was named a Biological Research Nominee, an award given to biology program students who complete outstanding research in the field.

“My experience tells me that my education as an SPC student, as well as yours, make us stand out,” Lenas said. “SPC is doing something right because it is producing competitive applicants for a number of careers.”

Lenas touted the college’s “small class sizes, where every instructor knew my name,”

Also honored at the ceremony was SPC’s 2015 Outstanding Alumnus, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway. Chief Holloway attended St. Petersburg Junior College in 1996 before transferring to Eckerd College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 1999 and his master’s degree in business administration in 2001.

During his 22-year career with the Clearwater Police Department, Holloway became the city’s first black police captain and eventually its chief in 2010. He was named chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department in 2014.

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See all our graduation numbersSt. Petersburg College will celebrate its 127th commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 16 at Tropicana Field, One Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg. About 1,200 of the 2,922 Spring 2015 graduates are expected to participate.

The youngest graduate is 16 years old and the oldest is 76 years old. The Class of 2015 also includes the youngest student ever to receive a bachelor’s degree from St. Petersburg College, 18-year-old Richard Ramdohr, of St. Petersburg.

With this graduating class, St. Petersburg College will have awarded 147,381 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

Among other milestones, SPC will celebrate the following:

  • 10,000th student to earn an Associate in Science degree in nursing
  • 8,000th baccalaureate graduate
  • 2,000th baccalaureate nursing graduate
  • 1,000th baccalaureate elementary education teacher graduate
  • The largest group ever of A.A. and A.S. degree students in one term, with 2,286

See all the graduation numbers for Spring 2015.

Amy Bhatt, winner of the 2014-15 Apollo Award, and James Stanley Lenas, recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award, will address their fellow graduates and guests.

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class,” said Bhatt, who has earned an Associate in Art degree. “While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC.”

Lenas, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, touted the active learning opportunities provided by professors with real-world experience that shaped his education at SPC.

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research and clinical field. I was a part of a group that gave me the chance to practice science outside the classroom in a relaxed, educational environment,” Lenas said. “I am not only proud to be an SPC graduate, but one who represents the school thereafter.”

St. Petersburg College also will honor St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway as its 2015 Outstanding Alumnus.

The cost for parking in Lots 1-7 is approximately $10. Disabled parking will be available in Lots 1, 6 and 7, and a drop-off circle is available by Gate 5 along 16th Street South. Guests can enter through Gates 3, 4 and 5.

Connect with our graduates
Use our social media images to share your well wishes and be sure to use #spcgrad to tweet your congratulations so it shows up on our Social Tagboard and on the Jumbotron at Tropicana Field the day of the big event.

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Anthony Holloway

Anthony Holloway

St. Petersburg College is honored to announce St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway as our 2015 Outstanding Alumnus. Holloway will be honored at SPC’s Spring graduation May 16, at 9 a.m. at Tropicana Field.

Chief Holloway attended SPJC in 1996 before transferring to Eckerd College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 1999 and his master’s degree in business administration in 2001.

During his nearly 22-year career with the Clearwater Police Department, Chief Holloway rose through the ranks to become the city’s first black police captain. He began as a patrol officer in 1985 and was named the city’s Outstanding Police Officer for his undercover narcotics work in 1989. During his tenure, he also served as patrol officer, community policing specialist, undercover vice and narcotics detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant (Economic Crimes Unit), Support Services assistant division commander, and Patrol Division commander.

Chief Holloway’s impressive service showcases his untiring commitment and steadfast passion to serving the community. These attributes have led to a number of awards: He is a two time recipient of the Clearwater Bar Association’s Allen L. Moore Memorial Gold Badge, and has been named the Joseph F. Cornelius Family Foundation Outstanding Police Officer of the Year (the highest honor given by the Clearwater Police Department), and the Fraternal Order of Police Officer of the Year. Chief Holloway also received the Chief’s Unit Citation.

In 2007, Chief Holloway was selected police chief of Somerville, Massachusetts. In 2010, he returned to Pinellas County after being chosen from a field of more than 200 candidates to succeed retiring Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein.

His passion and dedication extend beyond the role of police chief. He has taught the precepts of law enforcement to governmental, educational, and community organizations throughout Florida, sharing his primary philosophy of the “three E’s” – evaluate problems in the community, educate residents about services and public safety issues, and enforce laws.

Chief Holloway was appointed to the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar in June 2012 and has served as consultant/trainer to the Department of Juvenile Justice, the U.S. Department of Justice, and St. Petersburg College. In June 2011, he received a certificate of completion for the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government and Executive Education.

In 2014, Chief Holloway was named chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department, where he continues his mission as a powerful and dedicated servant of the public, committed to protecting our community and kick-starting programs that address the social ills that lead to crime.

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St. Petersburg College will honor its top graduates and alumnus during commencement ceremonies May 16 at Tropicana Field.

This year, for the first time, award winners were notified before the ceremony.

Amy Bhatt was selected as the Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve.

James Stanley Lenas will receive the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Apollo Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards. It has been presented each year since 1966.

This year’s finalists are:

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class. While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC”.

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class. While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC.” Amy Bhatt

Amy Bhatt, Clearwater Campus, Winner

Ms. Bhatt is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate and a member of the Early College Program. She served as co-president of
the Honors College and co-chairwoman of the Pre-Law Committee for the Legal Studies Society. She was named to the All Florida Academic Team. She was the editor of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Newsletter, which acts as a community resource for attorneys and paralegals. Ms. Bhatt has a 4.0 G.P.A.

During her first year at SPC, she received the “Student of the Year” award in Honors Interdisciplinary
Studies, one of the youngest students at SPC to receive the award. In 2015 she was chosen as a recipient of the
Presidential Scholarship Award, which recognizes high school students who have attained academic excellence.

Dr. Richard Mercadante, Faculty Senate President, said: “Amy Bhatt is one of those rare students who excels
in multiple areas: academics, service, and leadership. She has earned the respect of faculty and her student peers
for her ability to serve as a positive role model regardless of the challenges she encounters. When I grow up I want
to be just like Amy!”

Ms. Bhatt’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at SPC. She would then like to attend Stetson University’s College of Law and pursue her ultimate dream of serving on the Supreme Court.

“I have felt tremendously encouraged and welcomed by St. Petersburg College, especially by the Seminole Campus. Through its resources, my college has taught me that I should not be afraid of my future, but instead step into it with confidence and fervent dedication.

“I have felt tremendously encouraged and welcomed by St. Petersburg College, especially by the Seminole Campus. Through its resources, my college has taught me that I should not be afraid of my future, but instead step into it with confidence and fervent dedication.” Samantha Sue-Ellen Engelhardt

Samantha Sue-Ellen Engelhardt, Seminole Campus

Ms. Engelhardt is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She was a member of the Early College Program, the Intervarsity Christian Club, the SPC Community Band, and the Math Club. She has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She has been a math tutor in the Seminole Learning Commons and volunteered as treasurer of the Early College program. She also has volunteered at the Vineyard Inn, an assisted living facility, and at Horses for Handicapped.

She was a finalist for the All Florida Academic Team in 2015, is a Take Stock in Children Scholarship recipient,
and received the Early College Excellence Award for her outstanding academic success and leadership qualities.

Mathematics Instructor Jeff Taylor said: “She displays a level of intelligence and responsibility well beyond her years. The only thing more impressive than her intellect and kindness is her humility.”

Ms. Engelhardt will pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of South Florida with
the goal of eventually becoming a certified civil engineer.

“St. Petersburg College provides a learning environment for a melting pot of all different types of people. There are high school students trying to better themselves for higher education, retired veterans who want to go back to school, adults who would like to earn a higher degree to obtain a better job to provide for themselves or their families. I believe SPC has not only offered me a better education, but also a better future.” – Anita Thuy An Nguyen

Anita Thuy An Nguyen, Seminole Campus

Ms. Nguyen is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She participated in Phi Theta Kappa, Seminole Campus Soccer, the Great Eco Race, and volunteered in the Student Support Center to help plan events and activities. She has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She served as secretary of the Early College Program, and helped coordinate Spirit Week and the Halloween Costume event. She served as a volunteer math tutor in the Learning Commons on the Seminole Campus, giving over 15 hours a week to help struggling students. She also participated in the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital 5k run, the SPCA Toys for Toto drive, and Phi Theta Kappa monthly road cleanups.

Ms. Nguyen received the 2015 Early College Academic Excellence Award, and was a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship awarded to students who excel academically and maintain that excellence throughout high school.

Associate Professor Pelagia Mazarakis said: “She is an exceptional student, both academically and personally… respected and admired by her teachers and her peers.”

Her goal is to attend Nova Southeastern University’s College of Optometry with the ultimate career goal of becoming a practicing optometrist.

“Most memorably, SPC gave me the opportunity to realize my leadership potential by leading community service initiatives that benefited children and motivated my peers to go above and beyond.” Bernadette Praxides Mead

“Most memorably, SPC gave me the opportunity to realize my leadership potential by leading community service initiatives that benefited children and motivated my peers to go above and beyond.” Bernadette Praxides Mead

Bernadette Praxides Mead, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus

Ms. Praxides Mead is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She was a member of the  Student Government Association. She has served as a First Aid Responder for the Student Athletic Training Program at Boca Ciega High School. She has a 3.9 G.P.A.

She served as vice president of the National Honor Society, where she coordinated holiday gift drives, beach cleanups and social events. She was a member of the Interact Club and coordinated the Red Hand Day Commemoration Event, a worldwide initiative to stop the use of child soldiers. She also served as a volunteer
for All Children’s Hospital.

She received numerous awards, including: the President’s Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence from her high school, an Excellent Service Award from Junior Achievement, and the National Honor Society’s Community Service and Recognition for Outstanding Leadership award.

Leadership/Resource Instructor Sally Hoogewerf said Ms. Praxides Mead “represents everything admirable about SPC. Her contributions to class discussions were thought provoking, and she acts with joy in her heart
and a smile on her face.”

Her goal is to attend Georgetown University and become involved in international and development economics and then embark on her dream of helping the people of the Philippines escape extreme poverty.

Alumni Achievement Award Finalists

Four outstanding St. Petersburg College students have been selected as finalists for the annual Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Alumni Achievement Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards.

This year’s finalists are:

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research/clinical field.

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research/clinical field. I was a part of a group that gave me the chance to practice science outside the classroom in a relaxed, educational environment. I am not only proud to be a SPC graduate, but one who represents the school thereafter.” James Stanley Lenas

James Stanley Lenas, Seminole Campus, Winner

Mr. Lenas will receive a B.S. degree in biology. He has a 3.65 G.P.A.

He was a member of the Tau Delta Tau chapter of the National Science Honor Society, a senator in the Student Government Association and is a member of Golden Key.

He presented research in microbiology at the American Society of Microbiology Summit in 2014. He served as a microbiology tutor at the Health Education Center, where he also helped run workshops teaching students various lab techniques that applied to their curriculum. He served as the lead microbiology assistant for more than 120 students on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus.

He has participated in the Great American Teach-In and served as a judge for the 2015 Pinellas County Regional Science Fair. He was the recipient of an SPC Foundation grant and was named a Biological Research Nominee, an award given to biology program students who complete outstanding research in the field.

Dr. Katherine Siegler said: “Jimmy was one of two students whose research we supported with a stipend funded by the SPC Foundation. He is one of the few undergraduate students I have known that possesses the ability to pose independently, thought-out hypotheses.”

Mr. Lenas’ goal is to work as a medical technologist in the Tampa Bay area.

“I believe I am leaving SPC with a legacy for other students to follow. A legacy that shows them that hard work and integrity can give you a better life.” Robert Hurley

“I believe I am leaving SPC with a legacy for other students to follow. A legacy that shows them that hard work and integrity can give you a better life.” Robert Hurley

Robert Hurley, Clearwater Campus

Mr. Hurley will receive a B.A.S. degree in paralegal studies. He has a 3.69 G.P.A.

He is founder and president of the Legal Studies Society, president of the Titan Blue Club, a senator in Student
Government, treasurer of the MAX program, and has spearheaded scholarship workshops for SPC students.

He has volunteered for the Salvation Army, participated in the Student Veterans Club Trash Cleanup and in the annual Turkey Trot for Student Government. He helped advertise and collect Thanksgiving food contributions with the MAX club, participated in the Christmas toy hand-out through Student Government, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity through Phi Theta Kappa.

Mr. Hurley received the Lynch-Reed-Wakefield Scholarship, and was a student speaker at the annual SPC Foundation employee giving event.

Student Life and Leadership Coordinator Stephanie Henningsen said: “He has worked tirelessly through the
Student Government Association and helped make students aware of opportunities.”

Mr. Hurley’s goal is to earn an M.B.A. from the University of Florida and return to St. Petersburg College as a professor.

“SPC has given me opportunities I have embraced and used to allow myself to grow as a professional.” Zayda Jania

“SPC has given me opportunities I have embraced and used to allow myself to grow as a professional.” Zayda Jania

Zayda Janiak, Clearwater Campus

Ms. Janiak will receive a B.S. degree in elementary education. She has a 3.75 G.P.A.

She was a member of Kappa Delta Pi and is an active blogger for SPC Learning Resources. She was a member of the
Early College Program, completed ethics training in the College of Education and has attended NASA Professional Development Education Workshops.

She volunteered as a student assistant at the Clearwater Campus Library and served as an intern at M.K. Rawlings Elementary School. She has completed more than 120 field-based hours as a student teacher in language arts, mathematics, and science.

She was the winner of several scholarships, including the prestigious Presidential Scholarship, which is awarded
for outstanding academic excellence. She is a member of Golden Key.

Adjunct Professor Cynthia Freed said: “Over the past seven years I have come into contact with hundreds of students. Few stand out as much as Zayda. She understands the meaning of diligence.”

Her goal is to earn a Ph.D. in education and teach at the college level.

“I and my family are staunch believers in the educational programs at SPC After taking the time to have a family, I decided at the age of 38 to go to college and now I am graduating with honors.” Angela Sue O’Connor

“I and my family are staunch believers in the educational programs at SPC After taking the time to have a family, I decided at the age of 38 to go to college and now I am graduating with honors.” Angela Sue O’Connor

Angela Sue O’Connor, Tarpon Springs Campus

Ms. O’Connor will receive a B.S. degree in elementary education. She has a 3.77 G.P.A.

She was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the Pinellas Reading Council, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

She participated in a teaching trip to Jamaica, where she served as lead teacher of third- and fourth-graders. She was a Girl Scout Leader for 15 years, leading her troop to a Bronze Award and a Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor.

She has volunteered at the Safety Harbor Library and participated in the Christmas Toy Drive in St. Petersburg.
Dr. Cher N. Gauweiler said: “Angela is among the highest achieving students in the College of Education.

She exudes a positive, friendly spirit and has the ability to make others feel at ease. The glowing feedback I
receive is indicative of her teaching ability.”

Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in education and become a full-time teacher.

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Avatar-125

Share this moment with friends and family by using the #SPCGrad hashtag and any of our images for your social media accounts.

St. Petersburg College will mark its 125th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. About 350 of the 1,121 graduates are expected to participate.

“We congratulate the students – and their families – who have persevered to this graduation milestone. They always inspire us with their determination,” said President Bill Law.

SPC dates back to 1927 when it became Florida’s first two-year institution of higher learning. There were 48 members of the first graduating class in 1929.

Saturday’s ceremony is expected to last about an hour. Featured speakers include Crystal Hampton, representing four-year programs, and Tait Sorenson, representing lower division programs.

“I’m 35, but (my mom) still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker,” said Hampton, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration. Read her story here.

“The faculty and the advisors at SPC really encouraged me in finding the roadmap that would get me where I wanted to be,” said Sorenson, who will earn his A.A. degree from SPC and pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida in the fall. Read his story here.

Graduates and guests can check our instructions page for the big day. You can also follow social media posts and catch a live stream of the ceremony on our page dedicated to the ceremony.

Here are our summer graduates by the numbers:

Summer-2014-graduation-infographic[1]

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Tait Sorenson at his NASA internship

Tait Sorenson at his NASA internship

Waiting tables and bartending in St. Petersburg wasn’t cutting it for Tait Sorenson.

After graduating from high school in Montana, Sorenson made his way to Florida in 2008. What he found during the recession, however, was a very unstable living and future.

“During the recession, it was so hard to keep a job or get enough hours to live on,” said Sorenson, who will graduate from St. Petersburg College Saturday with his A.A. degree and will speak at commencement.

Sorenson took a cue from friends who were attending SPC and from his father and brother, both in engineering. This fall, Sorenson will pursue his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida.

“I figure it’s a little easier to stay employed as an engineer in a recession rather than sales or something. It’s a little more stable.”

In two weeks, Sorenson will complete a summer internship at NASA, where he has been assisting with the website. He plans to eventually pursue a master’s degree in Space Systems Design.

Sorenson started with only a couple classes at SPC in the fall of 2011 but soon found himself immersed in college life. While taking an Honors class, he was encouraged to become an officer for his Student Government Association. At an SGA event at the Downtown Campus, he signed up for a Study Aboard trip to Costa Rica, where he met some students in Phi Theta Kappa who encouraged him to join them.

“I learned from other students how to be successful, how to study and get good grades,” said Sorenson, who was named to the 2014 All-Florida Academic Team for his academic achievement, leadership and service to the community. “I encourage every student to get plugged in, to network and collaborate with others. A lot of students just came and go to class, and they never know what else is there for them.”

Sorenson also credits SPC’s faculty and advisors for getting him on the right path.

“They really guided and encouraged me in the whole process,” Sorenson said. “The advisors sat me down and really helped map out what it would take for me to receive a bachelor’s in aerospace. SPC really helped mold that roadmap for me.”

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Crystal Hampton

Crystal Hampton

When Crystal Hampton crosses the stage during SPC’s summer graduation on Saturday, it will be an achievement not just for her but also for her family.

With a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration in hand, Hampton will become the first college graduate in her family.

“I know they’re all very proud of me,” said the native of London, Ky. “My mom talks about being proud of me all the time. I’m 35, but she still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker.”

Prior to pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she completed an associate degree in nuclear medicine from Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, Ky., and worked for two years at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Hampton pursued a health care career because of her late father, Carl Cupp, a veteran who died of heart disease at age 53.

“Nuclear medicine is a field that involves cardiac imaging, among other things,” she said. “I thought maybe I could help keep another daughter from losing their father by working in this field.”

Hampton’s deep respect for the military and sacrifices made by U.S. military servicemen led her to pursue a career at the VA.

“My father was a veteran, but I also have the utmost respect and appreciation for all veterans,” Hampton said. “It’s nice to be able to give back and help serve those that so bravely served us.”

In addition to being a full-time student, Hampton also works full-time as the Lead Nuclear Medicine Technologist for the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

“Working full-time and going to school full-time was challenging, especially while trying to maintain my 4.0. GPA,” said Hampton, who has leaned upon the steadfast support of her husband, Troy Hampton, and the advice and guidance of her SPC advisor and professor, Floyd Butz. To fit in classes around her busy work schedule, she mainly took classes online.

She is considering going on to pursue a master’s degree in health care administration. Her ultimate goal is to continue working at the VA and to move up as a health care administrator or manager in radiology and to continue help saving lives and serving our nation’s heroes.

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