Published On: Fri, Aug 26th, 2022

Palm Beach State College launches Kimmel Leadership Academy for students

A group of 27 Palm Beach State College students, including some who aspire to be engineers, physicians and human services professionals, honed their leadership skills in an inaugural program launched at the Boca Raton campus with a $42,000 gift from the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Family Foundation.

The curriculum for the Kimmel Leadership Academy, based on the Social Change Model of Leadership, was developed by Dr. Kalisha Waldon, a professor at the PBSC Boca Raton campus. It emphasizes seven key values that individuals, groups and communities should strive for to create change through leadership.

Waldon worked alongside Luli Marx, interim associate dean of academic affairs, who serves as the director of the Kimmel Leadership Academy, and two faculty facilitators, Professors Helena Zacharis and Lawanna McCoy, to select the participants and launch the program, which was open to all students at the Boca Raton campus. “We got a really good response,’’ Marx said.

The participants were picked from nearly 100 applicants. During the academy held Aug. 9-12, students learned about team building, personal branding, understanding their values, etiquette and other topics. Each student also received a $1,000 scholarship and will be recognized at a campus awards banquet Aug. 25.

“With the career goals I want to achieve, I need more leadership skills. This is going to help me with teamwork and help improve my communication,’’ said Tariq Wardak, a native of Afghanistan who came to the U.S. in 2019. Wardak enrolled at PBSC in fall 2021. He is working on his Associate in Arts degree at PBSC and plans to pursue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering. He desires to work at NASA or SpaceX.

“I’m very blessed and excited that I was chosen,’’ said Carla Graziano, a patient care coordinator at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and Associate in Arts degree student who aspires to also earn a nursing degree before pursuing her goal of becoming a physician. “I get to learn about leadership and receive some funds for school. Leadership is very important to me.”

Markus Lockhart, who works in the Community Services department for the Village of Wellington, is pursuing an Associate in Arts degree with plans to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services at PBSC.

“I find that a program or anything that I can do to enhance my leadership skills is not only an investment in myself, but it’s a benefit to all of the local communities that I’m able to reach and help,’’ Lockhart said.

Harvey Kimmel said he and his wife, Virginia, were drawn to the College through their friendship with Dr. Roy Vargas, dean of academic affairs at the Boca Raton campus. They also were impressed with the College’s funding proposal, written by Jyrece McClendon, interim dean of academic affairs, to train the next generation of leaders. The Delray Beach couple has contributed to many educational and other initiatives in Palm Beach County, as well as in Philadelphia and Michigan where they once lived.

A retired businessman and Penn State graduate, Kimmel said he and his wife, a former teacher who worked in some of the toughest schools in her hometown of Chicago, are both passionate about impactful educational initiatives.

“We like these kinds of programs because they address a lot of things the normal college curriculum doesn’t,’’ said Kimmel, who has lived in Palm Beach County for eight years. “We decided to give it a shot for this year, and we will see how it goes. We are not a huge foundation. We tend to do smaller grants, but we like to see the impact of the programs that we sponsor. We are strong believers in education being the long-term solution to the critical issues facing our communities.”

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