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Palm Beach State will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024, in observance of Memorial Day.

Student Stories

Program: Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration

HVAC scholarship boosts woman's new career

Before discovering the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration field, career satisfaction had eluded Alexis Rodriguez. She had owned a carpet cleaning business and held jobs in various industries. It was her passion for troubleshooting and fixing things that led her to PBSC’s HVAC/R program, and with the encouragement of a PBSC advisor, she entered an industry scholarship contest—and won! Read more.

HVAC/R student Alexis Rodriguez

Alexis Rodriguez

Program: Nursing

A light bulb turns on

While caring for his father-in-law stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, David Kindred took his first-ever college classes at Palm Beach State. After 20 years in the electrical trade, Kindred had suffered a severe work injury, lost his business and was now getting back on his feet – pointed in a different direction.

For Kindred, the “aha moment” came during his Strategies for College Success class. “It was one of those epiphanies. We were going through a career exercise and I discovered, ‘wow, I’m really good at something. I have a natural affinity for caregiving.’” He’s now in the second year of the College’s Nursing Associate in Science degree program.

David Kindred

David Kindred

“Electrical work fell in my lap, and I just kind of went with it,” he explained. “I never really gave much thought to what a career is for – to develop all aspects of your life, including your own self-esteem and your self-worth. I’m really finding myself, my initiative and my passion, and motivation to go forward, to go after something as opposed to being a reactionary.”

Kindred took care of his father-in-law at home for almost three years, completing his prerequisites at night, while his wife worked during the day. At times he experienced “a level of stress that I never knew existed,” but he knew he was doing the right thing. Extremely happy with his choice, he now sees a bright future. “‘Better late than never’ keeps going through my head. To think all of this could have passed me by.”

Program: Automotive Service Technology

A driving passion leads to happy career choice

Have you ever fallen in love with a car? For Tanielle Edman, it was a 1992 Land Rover Discovery. “That was the spark,” she said when volunteering to speak to children at the Lake Worth headquarters of Adopt-a-Family of the Palm Beaches.

Edman had been asked to talk about her nontraditional career as an automotive technician. Her audience was a class of third through fifth graders enrolled in Project Grow, an Adopt-a-Family program designed to meet the needs of children with a history of homelessness or who come from low income families. The program’s educators make a special effort to expose the children to STEAM fields or STEM plus the Arts. Science, technology, engineering and math-related fields are among the fastest-growing and need qualified people, but without the arts, creativity and innovation lags.

As STEM fields historically have been underrepresented by low income, minority and female students, Edman serves as a great role model and confirmed to that “you need a lot of math.”

Tanielle Edman

Tanielle Edman

She also feels that it’s important to find something you’re passionate about. Her fascination with cars began at a young age, watching her electrician father fix things around the house. He gave her projects of her own, and when her interest grew to fixing cars, she sought out Palm Beach State’s Automotive Service Technology program. She graduated in December 2013 and went right into a paid internship with the Palm Beach County Fleet Management Division, where she worked for almost a year. Edman was the only female on the team, but it didn't’t bother her in the least. Now she’s a technician at Tires Plus.

“I'm really happy that I went to Palm Beach State. The fact that we worked on actual cars was a huge plus. The instructors and staff went the extra mile for us and even helped me get the internship. I love what I’m doing.”

As Edman talked about her work and passed around car parts for the students to examine, it was clear her enthusiasm was catching on. Whether any in the class will follow in her footsteps has yet to be seen, but hopefully everyone will follow her advice: “If you have anything you’re interested in, find someone who is willing to teach you. Then bug them. It works. It will show them that you are interested in learning. That’s what I did.”

Program: Medical Assisting

Veteran finds rewarding career helping others

When Gov. Rick Scott presented 187 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award in West Palm Beach on July 1, 2014, Thomas Whelan was among them.

Whelan, then a student in Palm Beach State College’s Medical Assisting certificate program, was recognized for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989-94. A Sergeant E-5, he served during Operation Desert Storm (Gulf War) and Operation Restore Hope (Somalia).

A Florida native from Jacksonville, Whelan worked for a government contractor after he left the military and then as a shipping supervisor at Naval Air Station Jacksonville before moving to South Florida. After a layoff and coping with service-related injuries, Whelan knew he needed a career change. Through VRAP, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, he got the tuition support he needed to go back to school and get trained in another field.


Gov. Rick Scott greets Thomas Whelan after awarding him the Governor’s Veterans Service Award. “They call the Korean War the forgotten war,” said Whelan, “but a lot of the Gulf War veterans are getting forgotten about too. So that’s why I felt it was a good thing for the Governor to do.”

“I had some medical training when I was in the Marine Corps, so I became interested in medical assisting,” he said. “I have a great desire to make a difference in people’s lives.”

He graduated in December 2014 and became a Certified Medical Assistant. Because Palm Beach State’s Medical Assisting program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, its graduates are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. The certification is awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants and considered the gold standard of medical assisting professionalism.

Most medical assistants work for physician offices, surgery centers, imaging centers, urgent care clinics and other ambulatory providers. But after graduation, Whelan found an unexpected opportunity through an online job search. Innovate Clinical Research, a new company associated with The Cardiology Center of Delray Beach, needed a medical assistant.

Whelan got the job and is now working directly with patients in a cutting-edge medical research project that measures the extent of adverse drug reactions based on patients’ DNA. The hope is to predict how drugs like statins are metabolized on an individual basis so physicians can adjust dosages and lessen side effects. Expanding rapidly, Innovate Clinical Research has many projects in the pipeline, and Whelan has already proven himself to be valued employee. So valued, he’s expecting a promotion in a few months to Research Coordinator. “I love this job and all the patients I help every day.”

The patients love him, too, and his outgoing personality. “Our patients don’t have a social life. Some are in assisted living, some live on their own and all are elderly. The only social activity they have is coming here, so I’ll talk with them,” said Whelan.

Of course, a key part of his job is communicating with patients, and he’s become used to comments about his medical knowledge, like “wow, I thought doctors were the only ones that know this kind of stuff.” Whelan credits the thorough training he received in PBSC’s Medical Assisting program.

Indeed, medical assistants are permitted to do many clinical and administrative tasks in the state of Florida. It’s this range of potential responsibilities that’s driving growth in the field and attracting more men to this traditionally female profession. Jobs for medical assistants are projected to increase by 29 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Average job growth is 11 percent.

Male medical assistants are making inroads, and Whelan definitely recommends the field to other men. He also recommends Palm Beach State's Medical Assisting program, and is currently serving on the College's Medical Assisting Advisory Council. “The program impacted my life immensely,” he said.

Program: Human Services, Youth Development

Assistant leisure services director started as volunteer, moved up

Read about Jowie Mohammed in Contact magazine. Mohammed is assistant leisure services director for the City of Greenacres. A highly motivated former Palm Beach State student, he not only earned his A.S. degree in the College's Human Services, Youth Development program (while working as a recreation aide), he also went on to complete his bachelor's degree here in Supervision & Management. In the article, he talks about how he got started and what he likes about his job.

Program: Electrical Power Technology

Powerful job performance earns recognition

Andrea Trainor is on the right track. A student in Palm Beach State's Electrical Power Technology A.S. degree program, Trainor was recognized as Team Member of the Month (October 2012) for her performance in a job obtained through the EPT program's strong business partnerships.

"One of the greatest benefits of the EPT program is that it offers students the opportunity to work in jobs (and internships) related to the program while studying," she said.

Trainor works as an assets management technician for QC Data, an international firm that manages computer data and graphics for utility companies, in this case, the Florida Power & Light facility in West Palm Beach. According to QC Data general manager Tom Carver, "The (Palm Beach State) students that we interviewed for one position were so impressive with their technical knowledge and ability to present themselves that we increased the number of positions so as to incorporate both into our organization. One of those employed is Andrea Trainor, who has been a wonderful addition to our staff."

In the Electrical Power Technology lab on the Palm Beach Gardens campus, student and award-winning employee Andrea Trainor determines the power factor for a circuit.

The EPT program offers science- and engineering-minded individuals a wide range of career choices in power generation and aerospace. Students operate wind farms from FPL's central control room in Juno Beach or work as instrumentation and control technicians in power plants and aerospace companies, to name just a few options. Trainor is one of three women currently enrolled in the EPT program.

"Congratulations to Andrea for this well-deserved recognition. Plenty of successful women are in these fields, and I am very happy that she is on her way to joining them," said Oleg Andric, EPT department chair.

Trainor, who is "thoroughly enjoying the journey," added, "I continue to be amazed at the vast array of possibilities that a career in energy provides. I would strongly encourage anyone interested, including skeptical women, to learn more about the program."

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