Category Archives: Community Info & Events


Polk State College to Celebrate 118th Commencement Ceremony

Adam Putnam HeadshotWinter Haven, April 18, 2018 — Nearly 700 students with Polk State College’s 118th graduating class will walk the stage Thursday, May 3, at the RP Funding Center to receive their diplomas.

The upcoming commencement ceremony, which will start at 6:30 p.m. at 701 W. Lime St. in Lakeland, will feature remarks by Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

“We are truly honored to have Commissioner Putnam joining us to celebrate the success of our students,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Commissioner Putnam is a longtime supporter of Polk County and its local state college, and I believe students and guests will benefit greatly from his words of encouragement and his vision for Florida’s future.”

A total of 1,077 students qualify to march in the May 2018 commencement ceremony. Ninety percent of those are Polk County residents.

Here’s a more detailed look at Polk State’s 118th graduating class:

  • 218 students will receive degrees from one of Polk State’s baccalaureate programs:
    • 142 will receive a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management
    • 48 will receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
    • 21 will receive a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
    • 7 will receive a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace
  • 672 students will receive Associate in Arts degrees, which are fully transferable to any institution within the State University System.
  • 187 students will receive Associate in Science degrees, which prepare students to go directly into the workforce in fields including nursing, engineering technology, and diagnostic medical sonography.
  • 57 students will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a grade-point average (GPA) of 3.9 or greater; 64 will graduate Magna Cum Laude with a GPA between 3.75 and 3.89; and 151 will graduate Cum Laude with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.74.
  • 28 students will graduate with 4.0 grade-point averages.
  • 18 students will receive the College’s Honors Program distinction on their diplomas. These students have completed a minimum of 18 credit hours in courses with Honors Program designation and achieved a grade-point average of 3.2 or greater.
  • The youngest graduate is 16 and the oldest is 64.
  • In addition to Florida, students from Colorado, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia will receive Polk State diplomas.

“Polk State’s 118th commencement ceremony will celebrate the achievements and perseverance of all students and their supporters,” Falconetti said. “Our students serve as testaments to the College’s ability to provide access to quality higher education that prepares them for life and success.”

Steve LesterThe ceremony also will honor Polk County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Steve Lester, who will receive the Polk State College Foundation’s May 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Chief Lester received a Polk State Associate in Science degree in 1982 and a Polk State Associate in Arts degree in 1983, and credits the College with giving him the educational foundation he needs to be successful.

He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a master’s degree from Troy University. He reports directly to Sheriff Grady Judd, and is second in command of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, where he has served for more than 30 years.

Chief Lester will join Polk State on May 3 in celebration of the College’s 118th graduating class.

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.



SlingShot LogoMiddle and High First Place - Audrey Fagan, Cameron Brown, and Alexa Rodriguez - McKeel Academy of Technology - BTF Kids - with Bill Mutz and Justin Heacock

College and Under 30 First Place  - Michael Jernigan - Florida Polytechnic University - POROUS Aerial Imaging - with Bill Mutz, Bruce Lyon, and Justin Heacock








Lakeland, FL – Six finalists, made up of teams and individuals, received thousands of dollars in winnings at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce’s innovation competition, SlingShot Polk, on Monday, April 16, 2018, at the Gram Parsons Derry Down in Winter Haven.

Close to 100 students, teachers, parents, and business and educationalleaders were in attendance to hear nine finalists pitch their ideas to a panel of judges:

  • Wesley Barnett, Director, Lakeland Hospitality Group
  • Naomi Boyer, VP/Chief Information Officer, Strategic Initiatives & Innovation, Polk State College
  • Sean Malott, President and CEO, Central Florida Development Council
  • Hal L. Coffman, Senior Business Consultant, Madrid Engineering Group, Inc.
  • Kim Long, Executive Director, Polk Vision
  • Bruce Lyon, President, Winter Haven Economic Development Council

City of Lakeland Mayor, Bill Mutz, who served as emcee at the event, 2018 SlingShot Polk Chair, Justin Heacock (Entrepreneurship Center Coordinator at Florida Polytechnic University), and Bruce Lyon presented first, second, and third place awards in two categories to those who were selected to receive cash prizes. 

SlingShot Polk Finalists and Winners:

Middle/High School Presentations

  • Meryl Adrean, McKeel Academy of Technology, “Down Goes the Drone” – 3rd place ($500)
  • Audrey Fagan, Alexa Rodriguez, and Cameron Brown, McKeel Academy of Technology, “BTF Kids” – 1st place ($1,000)
  • Riley Mitchell and Jahira Bamaca, Bok Academy, “The Innovative Schools Security Patrol ISSP”
  • Kendall Decker, South McKeel Academy, “Anti-Drowning Patch” – 2nd place ($750)

College/Under 30 Presentations

  • Michael Jernigan, Florida Polytechnic University, “POROUS Aerial Imaging” 1st place ($3,000)
  • Nathan Roberts, Branden Duke, Shania Madramootoo, and Celeste Ramirez, Florida Polytechnic University, “SwitchTape” – 2nd place ($2,000)
  • Jessie Pullaro, Henrique Bolivar, Saivamsi Hanumanthu, and Brent Kuhn, Florida Polytechnic University, “echoBot”
  • Robert Kelly, Jamie Cook, Dylan Kanhai, and Sydney Weber, Florida Polytechnic University, “E-cycle Solutions, LLC”
  • Rachel Ash, Ashton Malicoate, Ethan Brabo, and Elizabeth Hicks, Florida Southern College, “SNAP” – 3rd place ($1,000)

In 2017, more than 100 Polk students entered SlingShot Polk to present their business ideas relating to STEM. This year, students entered SlingShot Polk with the hope of solving Polk’s Biggest Problems every year. The goal this year, and going forward, is to leverage our young, creative, and talented innovators by engaging them with private and civic leaders to solve a problem that matters to Polk County and its residents. Our hope is that through this effort we will achieve actionable steps for change as well as an increased retainment of our best and brightest in Polk County.

In February, middle, high school, and college students and innovators under the age of 30 were invited to enter plans outlining a solution to one of Polk’s biggest problems. Nine finalists from more than 100 entries submitted were selected to move forward in the competition. Finalists received mentoring and training to develop enhance their communication skills before they presented their final plans and products on April 16.

SlingShot Polk is an initiative of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and is sponsored and supported by:

  • Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise at Florida Southern College
  • Bartow Culinary Academy
  • Bill and Dena Rhey
  • Centennial Bank
  • Central Florida Development Council, Inc.
  • Enterprise Rent-a-Car
  • Georges Family Trust
  • Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce
  • Hamic Previte & Sturwold, P.A.
  • Heacock Insurance
  • InTouch, Fleet Intelligence Simplified
  • Madrid Engineering Group, Inc.
  • Main Street Winter Haven
  • Joe and Kim Childs
  • Polk County Public Schools
  • Polk Vision
  • Saint Leo University Lakeland Education Center
  • Southeastern University
  • Webber International University
  • Winter Haven Economic Development Council, in partnership with: BB&T, The Becky and Baxter Troutman Family, Straughn & Turner P.A., Citizens Bank & Trust, CNP Agency, TECO, and Pennoni

*Photo captions:

  1. Middle and High First Place – Audrey Fagan, Cameron Brown, and Alexa Rodriguez – McKeel Academy of Technology – BTF Kids – with Bill Mutz and Justin Heacock
  2. College and Under 30 First Place – Michael Jernigan – Florida Polytechnic University – POROUS Aerial Imaging – with Bill Mutz, Bruce Lyon, and Justin Heacock


Since 1921, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce has served as an advocate for business. The Chamber is a 501 (c) (6) not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper. The Lakeland Chamber is the largest Chamber of Commerce in Polk County with more than 1,400 investor businesses. The Lakeland Chamber continues to be an integral component of the Lakeland community by offering a wide variety of programs and initiatives that positively impact the economic vitality and quality of life in our region. Our investors capitalize on the contacts, resources, and support provided by the Chamber.

Luau postcard-front (3)

Annual Networking Event Celebrates 19 Years

LAKELAND, FL (April 12, 2018) — For 19 years, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Citizens Bank & Trust has hosted one of the most popular networking events in Lakeland at their location downtown “on the deck.” The tradition continues this year and record attendance is anticipated. Thanks to the underwriting of Citizen Bank & Trust, the admission, only $10 per person, includes food samples and treats courtesy of local restaurants, live music by Norris Riggs and the Music Makers, photo booth, beverages, beer, and a chance to cast a vote for Lakeland’s annual King of the Wings competition.

Originally designed as an event to celebrate and thank loyal members of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce in 1999, the Luau After Hours has evolved into an annual restaurant competition and popular networking event with over 500 attendees representing local business and community leaders.

“Citizens Bank & Trust is proud to host this annual event once again and I know we will enjoy the festivities of the evening with everyone having a good time, networking and building relationships. Of course, we hope that the Luau will help generate new membership interest for the Lakeland Chamber and that’s why we have a $10 price for everyone – members and guests. Personally, this year’s event is special to me as the 2018 Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors,” says Weymon Snuggs, Executive Vice President, Citizens Bank & Trust.

This year, King of the Wings competitors include last year’s People’s Choice winner Smokin’ Aces BBQ and Judges’ Choice winner Beef O’Brady’s South. They will fight for the right to be the King of the Wings. Two restaurants return this year – Mojo’s Wings, Burgers, Beer (2016 winner) and The Winghouse of Lakeland. Newcomers include the Detroit Tigers / Flying Tigers, Duke’s Brewhouse Lakeland, Kick Yo’ Butt BBQ & Catering. Who will reign supreme for 2018?

For party-goers that want something other than wings, we invite them to try samples and treats at bd’s Mongolian Grill, Cold Stone Creamery, Got Candy & More Food Truck, Jet’s Pizza of Lakeland, Miller’s Ale House Lakeland, MOJO Federal Swine & Spirits, and the North Lakeland Rotary Club.

The Bernie Little Distributing Co. (BLD) has been integral in the success of the Luau After Hours by providing refreshing Budweiser products for attendees. This year, look for Michelob Ultra Golden and Bud Light Orange as BLD launches new products. And, they may even bring the Miss Budweiser hydroplane…

The event is sponsored by these community-minded local businesses:

Presenting Sponsor

Citizens Bank & Trust Downtown

Big Kahuna Sponsor

Bernie Little Distributing, Co. / Budweiser

Tiki Sponsors

Advanced Disposal

Premier Party Rentals

Tuckers’ Southside Package & Lounge


Two Men and a Truck

Well-Done Events

Whatever Tees

To attend, please visit, or and look for the 19th Annual Citizens Bank & Trust Luau After Hours to register.


On the Deck at Citizens Bank and Trust

402 S Kentucky Ave

Lakeland, FL 33801

View a Map

Date/Time Information:

Thursday, April 19, 2018
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Contact Information:

Rebecca Fortier (863) 688-8551 ext 229

Send an Email


$10 members & guests

The casual, party atmosphere lends to productive networking.

This event is only $10 – chamber members and non-members.


Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce represents 1,400 member businesses in the Lakeland area and provides opportunities for networking, professional development and advocacy for companies of all sizes. Five-Star Accredited by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber upholds the following vision and mission statements:

Vision Statement

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce will be the premier catalyst for the advancement of Lakeland’s economic growth and enhancement of quality of life– creating Florida’s community of choice.

Mission Statement

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.




Lakeland Regional Health Team Member News

AllProNursingTeam_2018_IMG2 Perkins_Amanda

Lakeland, FL – Lakeland Regional Health has the following good news to share:

  • Amanda Perkins, AuD, joins Lakeland Regional Health Physician Group as an Audiologist. Dr. Perkins earned her Doctorate of Audiology from West Virginia University. She completed her Clinical Audiology Residency with Davis Family Hearing, where she most recently served as a Clinical Audiologist. Certified by the American Board of Audiology, Dr. Perkins sees adults and children at the Grasslands Campus, 3030 Harden Blvd, Lakeland.
  • Lakeland Regional Health Oncology Data Services cancer registry earned the 2017 Jean Byers Oncology Award for Excellence in Cancer Registration. This award recognizes healthcare systems and hospitals that adhere to rigorous national standards for completeness, timeliness and quality for reporting cancer data. This is the 15th year Lakeland Regional Health has earned this prestigious award.
  • Nurses in Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center’s Cardiology and Stroke Unit recently earned recognition by the All Pro Nursing Team for creating the poster titled “Implementing a Mobility Bundle to Decrease Postoperative Pulmonary Complications in the Open Heart Patient.” Contributing nurses are Kara Bailey, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, CMSRN, CCCC; Amanda Binney, BSN, RN; Leonarda Gaige, RN, CMSRN, FNP-MSN Student; Donna Lester, DNP, ACNP-BC, CC-CNS; Heidi Palipchak, MSN, FNP-BC; and Stacey Wells, BNS, RN. The American Nurses Association recognized the poster with an Honorable Mention.

Photo caption 1: Headshot of Dr. Amanda Perkins


Photo caption 2: Lakeland Regional Health nurses, from left, Kara Bailey, Donna Lester, Amanda Binney, Heidi Palipchak, Leonarda Gaige and Stacey Wells recently earned an All Pro Nursing Team award from the American Nurses Association.


Local Banker joins Bank of Central Florida’s Private Banking Team

tl Bank-of-Central-FloridaLakeland, Fla March 19, 2018 – Bank of Central Florida is pleased to announce local banker Tom Lloyd has joined the team as Vice President and Private Banking Officer. Lloyd will be responsible for establishing personal banking relationships that are centered on helping clients find the right solutions to meet their unique financial needs.

“We’re very happy to welcome Tom to our Private Banking team,” said Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer Joe Furnari.  “He brings a wealth of experience in private banking and holds the same dedication as we do to making sure our clients receive the highest level of personalized service available.”

After graduating from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Lloyd began his career in the financial services industry working for American International Group (AIG) and Raymond James. He then served as a Private Banking Associate for BMO Private Bank in Sarasota for four years working with private banking clients, businesses and non-profits. Lloyd has spent the past three years as a Senior Private Banker with Wells Fargo covering the Lakeland area.

Lloyd is very involved in the Lakeland community and currently serves as Treasurer of Board of Directors for Explorations V Children’s Museum. He is also a member of the downtown Lakeland Kiwanis Club.

In his new role, Lloyd will work in Bank of Central Florida’s South Lakeland headquarters at 5105 South Florida Avenue. He will be supported by Private Banking Assistant Bibi Moonab. Lloyd can be reached at 863-226-4118 or by email at

“We look forward to introducing Tom to our current clients and to having him build new relationships with clients right here in our market,” said Furnari.

About Bank of Central Florida — Founded in 2007, Bank of Central Florida was chartered to serve the financial needs of the local marketplace. The Bank is guided by a local Board of Directors with vast knowledge of the local business climate and driven by their vision for a financial services institution that is focused on client service. This approach has enabled the bank to bring the Art of Intelligent Banking to its clients. For more information about Bank of Central Florida, visit