AVON PARK - Proud graduates armed with knowledge and potential, and a retiring academic leader with many accomplishments were recognized Monday evening at South Florida State College’s 2013 Commencement Exercises SFSC President Norm Stephens noted that each of the graduates earned a diploma, certificate of achievement or an associate degree. “From this day forward you will enjoy greater potential and more opportunities as a result of receiving these noteworthy credentials,” he said. “As we all know, opportunities are too often missed and potential is of little value unless developed. Your future is yet to be realized.” Stephens told the graduates to discover what they love to do and get really good at it. Then look for opportunities that allow them the freedom to use their talents and be productive members of an effective team.SFSC Board of Trustees Chair Tami Cullens told Stephen’s, since he is retiring this summer and this will be his last commencement ceremony as president of South Florida State College, the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and students would like to recognize his “exceptional contributions” to SFSC over the last 11 years. Student Government Association Vice President of Juris Prudence Kody Kindrick, on behalf of the SGA and students, presented a symbol of appreciation (crystal vase/centerpiece) to Stephens in appreciation of his, “11 years of outstanding dedication and commitment to the students of South Florida State College.” Cullens noted a number of highlights during Stephen’s presidency and, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, awarded Stephens the title of “President Emeritus of South Florida State College.” She presented a “permanent medallion” to Stephens. After the commencement exercises, Stephens said, “it’s such a beautiful ceremony and to see the smiles on the students that cross the stage is a memory that you keep forever.” This was his 11th commencement exercise at South Florida State College, Stephens noted. “It’s always special; every one is special,” he said. Darlene Sanchez, who earned an associate in arts degree, received congratulations from her mom, step dad, grandparents and aunt after the ceremony. She plans on attending the Ringling College of Arts and Design to study motion designing. Kevin LaDue received congratulations from his parents. The 17-year-old earned an associate in arts degree. He was home schooled and earned college credit through dual enrollment. “I graduated with my AA [degree] and high school diploma at the same time,” LaDue noted. He plans on attending either Florida Southern or Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. LaDue has definite plans on what he wants to do after completing his education. “I am looking to go into sports management and work for a golf manufacturing firm such as TaylorMade or Titleist,” he said. More than 837 students met SFSC graduation requirements for the May commencement exercises. Of these, 555 received associate in arts degrees, associate in science degrees or associate in applied science degrees, 166 received occupational certificates or college credit certificates and 116 graduated from SFSC’s Adult Education program. About 256 participated in Monday evening’s ceremony.