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In Their Own Words: IRSC Graduates Describe Their Academic Journeys

Courtesy IRSC

Fort Pierce - Wednesday December 7, 2022: Indian River State College (IRSC) will hold its fall Commencement ceremonies on Wednesday, December 14 and Thursday, December 15, at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. The ceremonies will recognize the accomplishments of more than 2,500 students who have earned their Bachelor’s and Associate degrees and other credentials during the 2022 summer and fall semesters.

These newest IRSC graduates will soon write their next chapter—entering the workforce for the first time, utilizing their new degrees to take on increased responsibilities at their present workplace, or continuing their studies at IRSC or a university.

In celebration of the December 2022 graduating class, we offer a sampling of their inspirational stories:

Marline Destin-Chery - Port St. Lucie

Marline Destin-Chery came to the United States from Haiti after graduating high school. She started attending college soon after but had to quit for financial reasons. After moving to Port St. Lucie with her husband and giving birth to a son, Marline decided she needed to do everything she could to make a better life for her family. Finally, in 2018, she returned to college at IRSC to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exceptional Student Education/ESOL. It would be a struggle financially, but she was able to make monthly payments, as she worked full-time while carrying a full course load.

Then, a blessing came her way—an IRSC advisor named Lindsey Brown, who “turned Heaven and Earth,” Marline says, to help her find several scholarships that enabled her to continue studying and finally graduate, at age 41, completely debt-free. “I wasn’t prepared for all that was to come,” she says, “but I thank God every day for placing the right people in my path to guide my journey.”

During her final semester, when she was scheduled for student teaching, Marline began to feel weak on the left side of her body and she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors discovered two brain aneurisms and recommended surgery. Her professors agreed to give her more time to complete her student teaching and finally, after two surgeries, Marline was able to get into a classroom in August, and finish her degree in time for December graduation. She has been offered a teaching position in a St. Lucie County elementary school.

Joy Jarriel - Okeechobee

As a full-time Grant Coordinator at the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners, who also operates a home bakery business and volunteers at her church, attending college in person on a traditional schedule just wasn’t possible for Joy Jarriel. But by taking short-term classes and online courses shoe-horned into her already busy life, Joy was able to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management from IRSC—and she was even able to graduate a semester early!

Making all of this possible, she says, was a steady stream of encouragement and friendship from College professors, lab tutors, and other IRSC staff members. Joy even found time to take advantage of leadership opportunities with the National Society of Leadership and Success, Legacy Leaders, Career Ready Programs, Phi Theta Kappa, and other campus organizations. “The most special experience was being able to carry the IRSC flag at my Associate Degree ceremony last spring,” Joy said.

While studying online, IRSC’s Virtual Connections Club “’encouraged me to excel as a student and to take advantage of all the opportunities offered at the College, such as competing in Adobe Creative Cloud Jams, becoming an All-Florida Academic Team member, and even being honored with the 2021 Individual Impact Award,” Joy recalls fondly. All of this has led her to shift her career goals completely—after a semester as a work study student at IRSC’s Dixon Hendry Campus, she now sets her sights on becoming a college professor, after finishing a Master’s Degree program.

Wylnethe Salomon - Port St. Lucie

Wylnethe Salomon has seen more than her share of hardship, but the worst came in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Wylnethe, her parents and her three siblings found themselves homeless. Luckily, a relative in Port St. Lucie had a spare room, and there they stayed—all six of them in one bedroom. “I had just begun my first semester at IRSC and we had no WIFI or cell reception,” she recalls of that terrible time. With all classes now moved online and all the public libraries closed, Wylnethe had to scramble to purchase internet service at the house.

Between her studies, Wylnethe also helped care for the family’s youngest member, her sister. “I’d been helping to raise her since she was 11, so I feel like a mother, therapist, caretaker—she’s my biggest responsibility,” she said. “That, and watching my parents’ hardships and sacrifices, was my motivation to succeed at school.” Because she was an Advanced Placement (AP) scholar in high school, Wylnethe had satisfied more than half of the credits necessary for her Associate Degree.

Choosing IRSC was a way for her to afford college—at first, by taking a job to save enough money for her first semester, and later she qualified for financial aid. After classes returned to the campus, she took a work-study job in Student Services to help other students get started on their college journeys. And now, Wylnethe will become the first in her family to graduate college. Neither of her parents even finished high school. When she crosses the stage next week, Wylnethe will collect a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology.

“It’s nice to know that I’m doing something that is making my family proud,” she says. Her future plans include earning a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering.

Patrick Colasuonno - Fort Pierce

This marks graduation number two at Indian River State College for Patrick Colasuonno. Patrick first studied in 1997 at what was then Indian River Community College at the College’s Corrections Academy. After that, he completed the crossover law enforcement academy one year later. While serving in law enforcement, he continued to take courses with the eventual goal of achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management. When his wife returned to IRSC to finish her degree, it motivated Patrick to finish his, he said.

“I have been lucky to have some of the best faculty at IRSC,” Patrick shares. “Dr. Nicholas Brown, Dr. Trisha Maitland, professor Michelle Carrigan and Dr. Herbert Ricardo, especially. I am self-motivated, but these folks were very encouraging. It has been a long road, but I never lost sight of the end goal.”

Now at age 50, he’s ready to graduate.

So, what does he plan to do with that new knowledge about organizational management? When he retires from law enforcement, Patrick wants to start a barbecue trailer business. “I have enjoyed my time at IRSC and learned a lot from the fine professors there. I will combine my education with my life experience to hopefully have a successful future.”

Elsa Miguel-Domingo - Stuart

Working at a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic taught 23-year-old Elsa Miguel-Domingo how environmental factors affect large business operations. She took that insight with her when she sought a degree in Organizational Management at Indian River State College. “The best thing about attending IRSC is the opportunity to work with professors that grew up in the area and seeing how they achieved their goals,” Elsa says. “It helped me understand that I was capable of achieving, too.”

Elsa, from Stuart, is a first-generation college student and the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. “Growing up, I did not feel that this would be possible since my background did not include others who pursued higher education,” Elsa shares. “At first, I felt like a bit of an outcast, but with guidance from caring teachers and professors, I became inspired to work hard and that my goals were indeed achievable.”

Additional graduate spotlights are posted at