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​Our Stories

Inaugural NPEP alumni share their stories as second program kicks off

As the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence begins the second run of the Nonprofit Executive Program facilitated by the Jim Moran Institute and Tallahassee Community College Workforce Development, students from the inaugural NPEP class have found the lessons offered through the program invaluable in increasing their organizations’ capacities.

Inaugural NPEP.jpgChallenger Learning Center director Michelle Personette said the NPEP curriculum provided her and her fellow students with the resources and access to expertise needed to take their nonprofits to the next level of strategic organization.

“I strongly believe in continuing education for myself and my staff,” Personette said. “When the opportunity of the NPEP was presented and I found out it was facilitated by the innovative professionals at the Jim Moran Institute and vetted through Tallahassee Community College, attending was a no-brainer.”

Personette and Matt Guse, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Region, agreed that the NPEP’s focus on Lean Business Models was a program highlight.

“Using Lean Business Models has assisted me with ensuring that all aspects of projects are addressed completely, and provides a natural flow of thinking and action when completing a task,” Guse said.

Personette added that the good management practices and strategic use of resources taught in the NPEP help to gain and maintain the confidence of donors, clients, the government and the general public.

“Nonprofits are and should be run as a business,” she said.

Both Personette’s and Guse’s organizations are among the 70-plus member organizations INIE has amassed since it launched in late June of last year.

The NPEP’s second three-part series began on February 17. The program focuses on organizational growth and financial success from a business perspective.

Guse advised prospective NPEP attendees to prepare to be challenged and ask questions during the series.

“Have an open mind,” he said. “Don’t attend so you can get a certificate—attend with the goal of learning something.”

For information, contact Lisa Powell at (850) 201-9436 or

Navy vet credits service dog with saving his life, now needs help saving hers

BryanandBella2 (381x640).jpgPost-traumatic stress disorder is on the rise for thousands of our military veterans. Hospitals, colleges and other organizations do their best to help these men and women, but about one in three sufferers of PTSD will continue to have some symptoms throughout their lives. However, there is one breed of caregivers who provide companionship and support for those afflicted with this life-changing illness. Meet TCC honors alum and Navy veteran Bryan Wimberly and his service dog, Bella.

Wimberly served in the military for more than 20 years. After returning from Iraq in 2007, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative fugue with amnesia.

“Combat is hell,” said Wimberly. “When you’re living in an environment where you’re constantly, every second of your day, knowing that it could be your last, it really puts a lot of stress on your mind.”

For Wimberly, the stress began to manifest into anger, confusion and memory loss. He once woke up in his car in Georgia and had no recollection of ever driving there.

“It’s scary,” he said. “Sometimes my mind just shuts off and I have no control.”

The stress continued to affect Wimberly’s personal and academic life as a student at Tallahassee Community College. Through the assistance of a TCC adviser, he sought help for his PTSD. This led him to a young golden retriever named Bella. She was donated in 2012 with the sole purpose of becoming a service dog for a veteran in need.  Instantly, Bryan knew Bella was special in many ways.  

“Most service animals serve one person and they’re trained for a number of tasks. They’re not trained to be affiliative or empathetic,” said Stephanie Perkins, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Animal Therapy Program Manager. “Bella is special in that she has those traits too; she helps Bryan reach out to other people so that he can get outside of himself and create friendships and companionship with other people.”

“Not only has she touched me, she’s touched hundreds of people’s lives.”

“I could be in the classroom,” Wimberly said, “and just the fact of her laying there in the classroom with us here on school campus for a test, people were at ease.”

In addition to her work in TMH’s Animal Therapy Program, Bella also spends time in TCC’s Disability Support Services and has worked with Big Bend Homeless Coalition. “Not only has she touched me, she’s touched hundreds of people’s lives,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly credits many people, including his advisers and professors at TCC, for providing the environment in which he was able to graduate with honors from the College. But he credits Bella for getting him through each day, matching him step for step.

Now Wimberly is working on his psychology degree at St. Leo University on TCC’s campus. He plans to get his master’s degree and become a licensed case worker for homeless veterans. While his future is looking bright, he currently faces a large obstacle on his journey. Bella has torn both ACL’s in her rear legs and will require major surgery. 

“Bella has pulled me from the darkest, darkest corners of PTSD,” said Wimberly. “I’ve got to help Bella get that surgery so she can feel better. I owe that to her. “

To learn more about Bryan and Bella, visit their Facebook page at​. To help fund Bella’s surgery, visit To hear more from Bryan, view his feature below from TCC22​.

Former TCC student finds success in the tech industry

davidgully.pngDavid Gully, 35, of Tallahassee, Fla., will graduate from Valdosta State University on Dec. 13, 2014, with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in computer information systems. He is the son of Paul and Delores Gully and a 1997 graduate of Amos P. Godby High School. He previously attended Tallahassee Community College, where he earned an associate degree, and spent four years in the United States Navy, where he worked as an air traffic controller.

As a student at VSU, he worked as a computer science tutor, was vice president of the campus’s Association for Computing Machinery chapter, placed second in the inaugural Azalea Health Hackathon, presented original research at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, and received the Nexxtep Outstanding Student in Computer Information Systems Scholarship.

He has already secured employment as a software engineer with Nexxtep and hopes to further his education in the not-too-distant future, earning either a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) or a master’s degree in information systems. His dream is to someday start his own software company.

He said that he believes the skills he has acquired at VSU, along with the skills he will continue to acquire and sharpen in the workforce, will enable him to achieve that dream.

To hear David’s complete story, view his feature below from Valdosta State University.


This story was originally published on the Valdosta State University website.


TCC alumnus and veteran has successful science career

bidensmall.jpgCollege was never on the radar for Reamonn Soto. After struggling with math and science for years, he never expected to earn a physics degree, research cosmic ray particles or own his own business. 

"I knew that I was destined for greater," said Soto, "but I still couldn't see myself in college. I didn't have the best test scores and I didn't have the best grades."

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks fueled Soto's desire to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Leon High School. Though he was reluctant to continue his education, he also enrolled in Lively Technical Center to fulfill a promise to his mother. His Marine training gave him some background for his structural drafting courses.

After receiving more financial aid than he expected, Soto decided to take two classes at TCC. He aced both of them and agreed to a full course load, eventually earning his associate degree.

"The faculty and staff here were incredible," said Soto. "They went the extra mile."

"The faculty and staff here were incredible," said Soto. "They went the extra mile. I struggled on the reading portion of the FCAT here in Florida, but my professor took out that summer and taught me the fundamentals of writing and inspired me to become a good writer. I ended up winning statewide writing contests while being in the Honors Program here at TCC."

Support from TCC’s faculty and staff also played a critical role in helping him secure an internship. 

"They were able to orchestrate an all-expense-paid internship for me at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island with a stipend," said Soto. "I was doing research and working with the astrophysicists detecting cosmic ray particles from distant supernovas and other galaxies."

Soto went on to receive his bachelor's degree in physics at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle University and owns a business, Semper Stellaris Solutions, in Tallahassee.

"The study of physics is not the easiest degree to seek out," said Soto. "I'm glad I had a praying family who encouraged me to go forward and to become educated regardless of whatever I struggled with prior in school."

To hear Reamonn's complete story, view his feature below from TCC22.


Voices from the TCC Leadership Institute

Justin Adams, Communications Specialist Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Caption: Students of the first graduating class of the Leadership Academy of North Florida pose with mentor Gabrielle Gabrielli. From left to right: Barbara Ann Cox, Camille Martin, Zana Raybon, Amber Tynan, Nicole Moltimore, Patricia McCray, Gabrielli.​

Tallahassee Community College touches the lives of many community members who we might not think of as “students”—people of all ages and backgrounds. One of our community-oriented programs is the Leadership Academy of North Florida, which is offered through the TCC Leadership Institute. The Leadership Academy is a joint program of TCC and Gabrielle Gabrielli Consulting and provides leadership development experiences for professionals in the government, small business, industry, education and nonprofit spheres.     

The inaugural class of the Leadership Academy will graduate in 2015. However, we don’t have to wait that long to benefit from their newly enhanced skills. Below, five members of the current class talk about how their lives as leaders have changed as a result of their experiences in the Leadership Academy.   

Zana Raybon is executive director of the Florida Board of Professional Engineers and president of the Florida Engineers Management Corporation.   

Everything we do in class pertains to how we conduct ourselves as leaders and how we can learn to grow.   

We get real-world, hands-on experience from an instructor who has so much to offer. We have had guest speakers and participated in exercises that allow us to think outside the box. We have had an opportunity to mentor others and to be mentored.   

It has created an awareness in me of how our personal lives carry over into our professional lives. We must be mindful of having our personal lives in order if we wish to succeed professionally.   

Patricia B. McCray is a local government operations manager and the CEO of Butterfly Life Journeys. 

I was able to discover my strengths and challenges as a leader and to have support and guidance to enhance my skills. We were also encouraged to volunteer in our community. Once I volunteered the first time, it changed my life. Many opportunities have come my way to offer my time to assist various non-profit agencies in Tallahassee. 

In my role as a supervisor, it has increased my effectiveness, which allows me to motivate others to reach their peak performance. It has also increased my comfort level in networking with community leaders. Due to my discussions with my general manager on my achievements in the Leadership Academy, for the first time he asked that I present an agenda item to the city commissioners. 

The Leadership Academy has enhanced my quality of life and I now have more focus and knowledge to actualize my dreams. I have embraced my life passion while learning new concepts to achieve personal success through balance in work and at home. 

Amber R. Tynan is director of development and communications for Elder Care Services.   

As a Leadership Academy participant I have actively engaged in a multitude of activities related to become a better leader and community advocate. Everything from understanding differences in personalities to delegation to addressing and handling conflict in the workplace is among the rich curriculum. Each activity has developed my skill set as a leader even further so that I may continue to be an inspiration and motivator for my colleagues and staff, as well as our greater community. 

The knowledge I am gaining from this experience is exponential, because I am able to apply it to my daily work and personal life – which reaches multiple people. It helps me build stronger relationships with people and set the guideline for what I expect—setting the expectation for excellence and working as a team to accomplish it. 

Barbara Ann Cox is a certified meeting professional and freelance writer.   

The Leadership Academy has given me confidence. The Leadership Academy has given me encouragement. As the “senior” member in the class, I realize that age is just a number and my possibilities are limitless.   

Each of us is a mentor as well as a mentee to another classmate. My mentor is half my age and I have learned so much from her. My mentee is an emerging entrepreneur, and I love helping her with this process.   

I have become more aware of how I listen, how I react, how I respond. I am identifying what is most important about me and what perceptions need to be tossed.   

Nicole Moltimore is a physical therapist.   

[The Leadership Academy] helps me to look at work-related situations from a different perspective. I am better able to analyze results and anticipate outcomes in various situations.   

Becoming a better leader is becoming a better person…mother, friend, colleague.

My View - The Leadership Academy of North Florida

Patricia McCray Friday, August 29, 2014

​I am a wife and mother to three adult children and now Nana to four beautiful granddaughters. I am also employed as a manager in local government. As the days and hours roll along in our careers and our personal lives, we oftentimes settle in and just enjoy the ride. We aren’t really looking to make any changes or to do anything different.

Recently I have experienced change, and you know that change is good! It has given me new ideas and broken the monotony of day-to-day tasks. This new change has refreshed my thinking and motivated me to move outside of my comfort zone to establish a personal and professional goal of becoming a more effective and efficient leader.

You’re probably wondering what sparked the change. After researching the leadership opportunities offered in the community, I called a few people and was told to check out the Leadership Academy of North Florida, a partnership of Tallahassee Community College’s Division of Workforce Development and Gabrielle Consulting, Inc.’s Plugged In Leadership. After speaking with Dr. Gabrielle Gabrielli, I knew this program was just what I was needed to enhance my personal and professional life.

I have learned so much in the Leadership Academy of North Florida. The Academy is very comprehensive and takes a holistic approach of looking at all the different aspects that comprise a strong leader. The program is professionally organized and includes personal and professional assessments, coaching, mentoring, and many other new approaches to life and leadership.

This program has changed my personal and professional life in so many ways I never thought would be possible. It has enhanced my quality of life and I now have more focus and knowledge to actualize my dreams and aspirations. More importantly, in my role as a supervisor, it has increased my leadership effectiveness, which allows me to motivate others to reach their peak performance. It has also increased my comfort level in networking with community leaders.

I have participated in many different leadership programs, but the Leadership Academy of North Florida clearly rises to the top. The program days are always interactive where lifelong learning is encouraged not only by the instructor, but by all of the participants whose ages range from 25 to 70.

It’s such an amazing opportunity to listen and share knowledge with others about everyday situations that lead to improving your leadership skills. In addition, the program includes coaching and mentoring. As a result of combining all of these elements, each participant has developed an attitude of success.

I would strongly encourage you to enroll in the Leadership Academy of North Florida offered by Tallahassee Community College. It will open your mind to new ideas and refresh what you had learned previously and forgotten. It really doesn’t matter how old you are or the years you’ve been employed as a supervisor, manager, director, entrepreneur, the Leadership Academy of North Florida is just for you!

Students spend summer abroad in China

TCC students traveling in Rugao. Ben Manley, Angel Card and Anthony Zapata (478x640).jpgWith resources like a Global Gateway Program, international student services and organizations, and the many study abroad programs, TCC offers an attractive combination of benefits and learning opportunities to students who look to compete in the global marketplace.

This past summer, instead of spending their break relaxing or working, 11 TCC students boarded a plane and set out on a 20-hour flight to the People’s Republic of China as part of the College’s China Study Abroad Program. The thrilling program takes students on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure all over the country, allowing them to study China’s rich history, culture and language.

A significant component of the program is working with students from Tianjin Foreign Studies University in Tianjin City to develop business plans for Chinese entrepreneurs to export to the United States. Participants also go on many excursions beyond Tianjin including visits to Beijing, Xian, and for the past two years Rugao, where students have been invited by its mayor to take part in a very special two-day tour of the city.

“There are many experiences that are unique to that of a college student,” said faculty advisor Lee Kitchen. “Not the least of these is spending summers in faraway places, teaching and learning alongside other students who grew up half a world away and may not even speak the same language.” 

The value of a global education

Kitchen believes strongly in the value of an international education for students, especially in a city with global connections like Tallahassee’s.

“Though most are not aware of it, Tallahassee and its institutions of higher education maintain close relations with many international countries,” Kitchen said.

Welcome Sign at Rugao Development Zone (640x389).jpgLocated in the Jiangsu province of eastern China, Rugao is one of seven sister cities to Tallahassee. The relationship dates back to 2011, when a letter of intent was presented to Mayor John Marks and the Tallahassee City Commission to craft a partnership between Tallahassee and Rugao. Their desire was to foster economic and educational growth between the two cities based on their shared interests of green technology and sustainable business practices.

The mayor’s generous invitation to this year’s TCC study abroad group included transportation to and from Rugao, five-star accommodations, two formal banquets, and official visits from the mayor’s office and Rugao Board of Education. The students were shown six different local schools and participated in question-and-answer sessions at each, in which they were able to share their stories with elementary, middle and high school students.

Rugao Shanghai trips 2014 036 (640x478).jpgIn addition, the program gave students an opportunity to sit in on primary and higher education discussions with officials from the Rugao mayor’s office. Kitchen said he was proud to lead this most recent group of TCC students on this visit and take part in such a unique experience with them.

Two students, Paunise Pierre and Austin Miller, were able to join Kitchen, Bob Teel and Pat Tuthill in observing the negotiations with the Mayor's Office in Rugao and several dignitaries.

Another student, Jared Hansen, joined Kitchen for a nationally-broadcast event celebrating the relationship between Tianjin and Beijing, the prosperity of Tianjin, and the city's spectacular growth.

“Reporters from the China Daily newspaper interviewed all of us after the broadcast and were especially impressed with Jared,” Kitchen said of Hansen, who is also an Honors Program student.

The students and Kitchen, who is also a member of the Rugao-Tallahassee Sister City Board of Directors, were treated to a VIP experience. The trip is widely considered “life-changing” by the TCC students who participate, and the program has even generated interest among Chinese students in attending TCC and participating in additional business discussions.

“This was our best year,” said Kitchen.

For information about the China Study Abroad Program, contact Lee Kitchen at (850) 201-8336 or

Computer club members are tech coaches at camp

Six members of TCC’s computer club, TC4, spent a week serving as volunteer tech coaches for high school students at the free Computers and the Virtual World camp held this summer at TCC.


Barry Walker, president of TC4, said that club members, all of whom are TCC students, were asked to help by TCC faculty member Carlos Torres, assistant professor of computer networking.

Torres realized that the college students would be ideal mentors for the younger students. “It was great to see both generations of students here working together.”

Torres and fellow faculty member Byron Todd, professor of computer networking, led most of the lessons while the TCC students circulated around the room helping campers with the hands-on skills they were practicing.

“Campers got to take apart desktops and laptops and put them back together. They made cable and learned how to create a virtual network,” said Walker, who will graduate in December with an associate degree in network technology.

Walker led one of the campers’ favorite activities, setting up a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized computer that plugs into a TV and keyboard and sells for only $35. It can be used to create documents, browse the Internet, even manage devices. The Pi was developed by a nonprofit foundation in the United Kingdom to give young people a fun, inexpensive way to learn basic programming.

Raspberry-Pi 2.png 

Walker introduced the Raspberry Pi and showed campers how it works. Campers were then surprised to learn that each of them would receive a Pi to take home. Walker had even made cardboard cases for the little computers—complete with TCC logo and other decorations.

Students also took a tour of TCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Center led by faculty member, Bruce Batton, where they learned about computer-aided manufacturing and even got to do some virtual welding.

On the final day, each camper made a short presentation for visiting families and friends. Many of them mentioned how glad they were that the camp focused on hands-on learning instead of lectures.

“On the first day, we already had our hands in the guts of a computer,” said camper Max Vickers.

The campers also enjoyed a visit from Shawn Einarson, director of career and technical education, who talk with them about career opportunities in information technology.

The camp was spearheaded by Kate Stewart, dean of TCC’s Division of Technology and Professional Programs, and organized by Mike Vickers, computer technology lab manager.

The TCC students who participated as coaches included Catherine Gurka, David Johnson, Jillian Mansberger, Zack Paredes, Tiffany Robinson and Barry Walker.

For information, contact Carlos Torres at or (850) 201-8966.

Community leader began her journey at TCC

​“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost’s words ring true for many non-traditional students, including TCC alumna Pamela Aveling.

After marrying and having kids right out of high school, her plans for a college degree were tabled. But Pamela was determined to reach that milestone for her kids, her husband and, most importantly, herself.

“I graduated high school in ’63, married in ’64, got pregnant in ’65 and it was important for me to stay with my children when they were young,” said Aveling.

Pamela later graduated from TCC with an AA, but she wasn’t finished. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University.

“I got my master’s degree in ’83, so altogether it took me 11 years to get the degree that I had always wanted to have. It changed my life. It changed my family’s life,” said Aveling.

Now a leader in the community, Pamela gives back to TCC through her service on the Foundation Board.

“The people in this facility, at TCC, they want you to succeed. Nobody is here to test you to fail. They want you to succeed. Ask for help. Go to the library or Learning Commons. Do what you need to do to make your dream come true.”

She is also the owner of Magic Whiteboard products and King Arthur’s Tools with her husband, Arthur.

To hear more from Pamela, check out her interview below from TCC22.

Students are enthusiastic about future in oyster aquaculture

The students in TCC’s first oyster aquaculture class were already enthusiastic about learning how to raise oysters and launching their own oyster farming businesses. So their energy only grew when they received a visit from two Australian businessmen and oystering experts in July.

The Aussies were visiting TCC’s Wakulla Environmental Institute as representatives of SEAPA, a company that pioneered and sells an adjustable long-line system for “off-bottom” oyster farming. The system uses the entire water column, instead of just the area immediately above the sea floor, the method that had been used previously in Florida.

The visitors in turn were excited about the quality of the program, the eagerness of the students and the vast potential of Wakulla’s nutrient-rich waters for producing oysters.

To hear some American and Australian voices—and see students in action assembling oyster baskets—view this video by producer Robert Seidler, who is also a student in WEI’s first oyster aquaculture class.

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