Bachelor’s Students Stay On Track With United Way’s Destination Graduation


Shantel Smith is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Management degree at Seminole State and wants to help others find or create jobs for themselves.
Kelsi Brick is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education K-6 degree at Seminole State and plans to teach first grade.

SANFORD – Pursuing one of Seminole State College of Florida’s bachelor’s degrees opens opportunities in high-demand fields, but the road to graduation can be a bumpy one. To help students accomplish their goals and cross the graduation stage, the College’s Office of Holistic Student Support aims to intervene early before problems derail a student’s education, offering support with food, transportation, legal issues and more.

Two bachelor’s degree students share how Destination Graduation helped them stay on track when sudden expenses threatened to keep them from progressing. The program is a partnership between the College and Heart of Florida United Way, designed to help students with the support they need to overcome barriers to continuing their education and completing their degrees.

Shantel Smith – “There is no better place the Lord could have put me,” said Shantel Smith, a Bachelor of Science in Business and Information Management student. As a first-generation college student, she left Memphis, Tennessee, to seek more opportunities in Orlando and now works full-time as she continues her education. “I always enjoyed school and learning. I don’t have a problem of finding jobs, but I wanted to do more for myself,” Smith said.

A practical and efficient approach to problem solving is an excellent match for Smith’s business path and helped her seek resources when her light bill suddenly increased. “If I don’t do something about it now, it could be trouble in August,” she said, and reached out to Destination Graduation, which was not only able to help her with her electric bill but her rent as well. “I work a nine-to-five job and Jackie [Bradley] gave me an opportunity to put food in the fridge and build up my savings that month so I could focus on picking out my fall semester classes, look into financial aid and talk about other opportunities,” Smith said.

Smith advises others who may be in a similar situation to relax, seek help and to utilize the resources at the College. “I go to school for business so I can understand what companies are looking for, that way I can give the information out to my peers and help other people get jobs who are seeking to better their lives,” Smith said. “I’m not going to school to work for anyone. I want to go to school to help other people find jobs or create jobs.”

Kelsi Brick – For as long as she can remember, Kelsi Brick has wanted to work with kids. “Caring for children has always been a part of my life,” she said. From babysitting to working in daycares, Brick’s path has been consistent. She started at Seminole State in 2018, earning her associate degree in 2020. When the College was approved for two new education bachelor’s degrees in 2022, Brick knew she wanted to return. “I was already familiar with the school and its online courses, and I had positive experiences with the professors I had, so I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Brick said.

Her favorite part about the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education K-6 program has been completing her observation hours. “I’ve been able to spend time at a local school and experience the daily life of a teacher,” said Brick, who plans to teach first grade. “Including this in the program lets me explore the role I will have when this program is done.”

Practicing observation hours also brought additional expenses Brick did not foresee, the required background checks and finger printing that public schools require putting a strain on Bricks’ budget. “It has been hard for me to meet these expenses,” Brick said,” but thankfully one of my professors recommended Destination Graduation.” She used the program to help pay her rent bill for the month, opening her finances so she could pay for the items required to complete her observation hours.