STARS Student Road Trip 1388 Miles to talk with K-12 Students

FSUCCI Roadtrip

In 1388 miles, 29 hours of driving, 12 stops, and 5 long days, FSU’s chapter of the Students & Technology in Academia, Research & Service Alliance (STARS) was able to make a huge impact on K-12 students across the state of Florida. The team of five, led by Associate Dean of the College of Communication and Information (CCI) Ebe Randeree, left no time to recover from finals. Instead, these students chose to spend their very first week of summer break driving across the state with the goal of connecting with companies, linking with alumni, and promoting the CCI program at FSU.

When the objective is to inspire students to strive to be a part of a college program such as CCI and eventually to obtain a career in technology, this group of five could not have been more qualified. STARS students who took part on the road trip included IT majors Hannah Brock, Nicolaus Lopez, and Joey Cardenas, ICT major Deanna Sand, and MIS major Allison Cannan.

Beginning with a team dinner at the Brock house in St. Augustine, things were off to a great start. By stop #2, it was time to get down to business. The STARS team spent the day in Palm Bay vising the IT and Engineering Academy and the TSA Chapter at Palm Bay Magnet High School, where they spoke with 110 students about life in college, choosing a major, and working toward a career in technology. It is this face-to-face meeting with current FSU students that gives K-12 students the information and encouragement necessary to push them toward realizing and achieving their own career goals.

Throughout the road trip, the STARS team was able to speak at three more schools, reaching a grand total of 430 students. Covering topics such as engineering, graphic design, manufacturing, and IT, the team was able to align their own interests and passions with the students’ to show them all they have gained from being a part of FSU’s esteemed programs. The drive and ambition that the STARS team exhibits is not different than that of the students they visited, and is sure to have inspired connections that will lead these students to one day attending FSU.

The STARS road trip not only gave the team of five the opportunity to inspire the next generation, but it also allowed them to connect with alumni who have shown leadership and success in the IT field. The STARS program organized two formal dinners with alumni to initiate a conversation between student leaders and professional leaders that aimed to create an open learning environment for students to ask questions. The dinners also acted as an invitation for alumni to come to campus and continue to develop the STARS through mentorship.

For the first alumni dinner in Ft. Myers, students met with alumni Zach Broe, Waner Del Rosario, Jack Chipman, Lauren Williams, Michael Siegfried, and Emily LaFortune. According to several alumni, this dinner was successful in instigating connections and possible future mentorship opportunities.

“Being able to meet with current CCI students and recent graduates makes me feel connected to our FSU IT community. Talking with them about their current and future IT prospects instills confidence that my Alma Mater is continuing to produce high caliber IT professionals,” said Del Rosario, Systems Analyst for Lee Memorial Health Systems. “With other local Alumni there, we were able to really give a wide perspective of the tech industry in our town. I look forward to more visits!”

A second alumni dinner was held later that week that included alumni Jen Aguilar, David Belcher, and Bailey Ferguson. As another successful networking opportunity one alum left feeling very impressed with the caliber of hard work and ambition that is still very much present within the student body.

“I was very impressed with that program that Ebe has created. I was blown away to see the support and leadership that students have today. Being a part of the inaugural class, we didn’t have opportunities like this. All of the students were very engaged and asked great questions, it was great to be a part of the visit and I look forward to future encounters with this group,” remarked Belcher, Sr. Systems Administrator for Publix.

The final mission of the STARS road trip was to connect the students with companies to teach them more about employment and internship opportunities while also showcasing the students to the company leaders.

When visiting Gartner, students were provided a tour of the facility and meetings with a number of higher ups within the company. Regardless of specific departmental interest, students were given the chance to speak with a wide variety of professionals and were offered a large spectrum of helpful information. Students were allowed meetings with Research and IT departments, a personal meeting with GVP for Client Partner Group Americas Michael Chalk, and a conference call with GVP Chief Technologist at Gartner Michael McGovern. It is one thing to be a successful and hard working student in the classroom, but another to get real world experience from current leaders in the industry.

This real world experience continued when STARS students visited Fedex Freight IT Operations. Here, students became exposed to IT trends and future needs by meeting with Manager of IT Richard Kepenach and Director of IT Keith Oliver.

Finally, the 5-day road trip ended with a tour of IT companies and possible internship options with new companies in Lakeland, Florida. All in all, the STARS road trip was a success and resulted in some new connections with alumni leaders, inspired youth, future FSU IT students, and future IT professionals.