From an insurance rep-turned-entrepreneur to a musician wanting a ‘Plan B,’ this year’s crop of grads from SJR State College is a diverse group

St. Johns River State College held its spring commencement on May 5, honoring the students and celebrating their diverse success stories. More than 240 of the 470-plus graduates from the St. Augustine, Orange Park and Palatka campuses participated in the ceremony, including 13 dual-enrollment students. The event was held at the Orange Park campus.

Among the graduates was Patricia Patsalos, 39, who earned her bachelor’s degree in organizational management. Patsalos juggled raising two sons and working as an underwriter for an insurance company while pursuing her degree. While at SJR State, she began thinking about opening her own business. Although Patsalos had always been passionate about cooking and sharing her dishes, she began using her newfound skills in marketing, finance and entrepreneurship to create a Greek salad dressing. She started her business, Fengari, in January.

Thanks to his newly bestowed degree, 22-year-old Corey Baetz now has a back-up plan. Baetz, who travels the country as the lead guitarist for AC/DC tribute bands, said he realized that entertainment career choices don’t always pan out, so he chose to earn his bachelor’s degree in organizational management as well. “Why not,” he said. “I feel like I could have a future in customer service.”

Also among the graduates was Eugenia Lara, 19. Originally from Venezuela, Lara moved to the U. S. looking for the opportunity to earn a solid education. She credits the college and her involvement in the Student Government Association for helping her to grow and adapt to her new country, learn more about herself, and to make new friends. “They have become my second family,” she said. Lara will transfer her associate in arts degree this fall to a university where she will major in industrial engineering.