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Polk State Wins Florida College System Chancellor's Best Practice Award for First Year Experience and Guided Pathways

For the second consecutive year, Polk State College received a Chancellor's Best Practice Award from the Florida College System – this time for its First Year Experience and Guided Pathways programs focused on ensuring students persist on their paths to degrees and careers.

College representatives accepted the award Thursday in Palm Harbor alongside colleagues from State College of Florida, Eastern Florida State College, and Florida SouthWestern Sate College who were also recognized.

"The First Year Experience and Guided Pathways provide students with critical support early on, as well as resources they need along their college journeys to achieve their academic goals in a timely manner," Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. "I could not be more proud of our faculty and staff, who continue to not only open doors of opportunities for our students, but who also guide them on their pathways to graduation and meaningful employment."

The First Year Experience (FYE) launched in fall 2015 to improve retention and completion of first-time-in-college (FTIC) students, and it has proven successful with a nearly 20 percent increase in fall-to-fall retention since the program's inception.

FYE is a comprehensive onboarding program that includes First Flight Freshmen Welcome, the First Year Seminar, success coaching, peer mentoring, and more that allow students to connect to key resources and develop relationships with peers, faculty, and staff.

"FYE helps students acclimate to college, engage in success activities, develop a sense of belonging, and experience timely completion of their academic goals," said Cate Igo, Director of Academic Success Initiatives. "A key element of FYE is the First Flight Freshmen Welcome, which is the official launch of the academic year where students are welcomed to campus and explore pathways with faculty experts."

With the College's implementation of the American Association of Community Colleges' Guided Pathways Model in fall 2019, students now have the opportunity to also engage in Guided Pathways breakout sessions based on their majors or if they have not declared an area of study yet.

Students explore career opportunities and the pathways to them through program maps, which provide specific sequences of courses needed to complete programs of study from a student's first term to graduation.

Polk State's FYE and Guided Pathways received a Chancellor's Best Practice Award for developing student-centered guided pathways – one of three focus areas defined this year in alignment with Governor Ron DeSantis' goal to make Florida No. 1 in the nation in workforce education by 2030.

The College also received a Chancellor's Best Practice Award in 2018 for the Establishing Leaders in Teacher Education (ELITE) Program.

"Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran and I applaud all of our colleges for their commitment to continuous improvement," Florida College System Chancellor Kathy Hebda said in a press release. "This year's awardees are excellent examples of how evidence-based strategies and strong workforce partnerships can accelerate success for all of our students."

About Polk State College

Located in Winter Haven, Florida, and established in 1964, Polk State College is a multi-campus institution serving more than 16,000 students with Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts, and Associate in Science degrees, as well as a wide range of certificate and workforce training options. The College also operates three charter high schools.

Polk State's advantages include small class sizes; hands-on learning; dedicated faculty; day and night classes; online options; affordable tuition; excellent financial aid; and a diverse community and vibrant student life, including fine arts opportunities, clubs, and intercollegiate athletics.


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