Lake-Sumter State College celebrates 2023 Distinguished Alumni & Hall of Fame Award Recipients

Lake-Sumter State College and the LSSC Foundation celebrated the 2023 class of Distinguished Alumni & Hall of Fame Award Recipients at a ceremony this week.

“We are proud to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our distinguished alumni and hall of fame recipients who make significant impacts to Lake-Sumter State College and this community,” said President Heather Bigard. “These recipients exemplify the promise of Lake-Sumter State College and underscore our commitment to transforming lives and futures throughout our community. We are inspired by their stories, their passion, their drive, and their commitment to excellence for themselves and their community.”

“Tonight we had the opportunity to celebrate what makes our College great – our students, our graduates, our employees, and our community partners who all make a tremendous impact within our community,” said Dr. Laura Byrd, senior vice president and executive director of the LSSC Foundation.

2023 Distinguished Alumni

Juliana Green ’11, Community Engagement Award
Presented to an alum who has made meaningful contributions to the advancement of LSSC through impactful engagement in the community

Juliana started her college career at Lake-Sumter Community College in 2009, and recalls having doubts about her academic abilities to achieve her dreams. She found support within the LSCC community and graduated with her Associate in Arts in 2011. She continued her education and received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Nursing, serving as a Cardiac Nurse and supervisor. She now pursues her entrepreneurial passions full time through her three vibrant businesses in south Lake County, including one on the LSSC campus where she began her college experience.

Patricia Atley ’70, Scholar Award
Presented to an alum who has demonstrated continual commitment to the field of education and works to instill a passion for learning in others

Pat graduated from Lake-Sumter Community College in 1970 and continued to UCF to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She taught elementary school in Leesburg for twenty years. After retirement, she continued to support students and teachers as a 30+ year member and president of the Lake County Retired Educations Association. She continues to provide opportunities for future educators through scholarships available from the LSSC Foundation.

Marilyn Aciego ’05, Professional Achievement Award
Presented to an alum who demonstrates excellence and has achieved success in their professional career

Marilyn was born and raise in Lake County and graduated from Umatilla High School before enrolled at Lake-Sumter Community College where she discovered her passion for journalism. While attending college, she wrote for both The Angler and The Odyssey on campus and earned her first job at the Daily Commercial in Leesburg upon graduation. Her work at the Daily Commercial led to opportunities for appearances on national television shows including Nancy Grace and others on Investigation Discovery. She has also served as the Florida Bureau Chief for an international news organization. Currently, Marilyn is the owner and publisher of Inside Lake, the most viewed local online news in Lake County.

Sandra Wilson ’89, Professional Achievement Award
Presented to an alum who demonstrates excellence and has achieved success in their professional career

Sandra earned her Associate in Science degree from Lake-Sumter Community College in 1989. She credits her time at the college as sparking her love for continuous learning and serving as a catalyst for her professional successes. Sandra has worked for five different municipalities, including 22 years at the City of Ocala where she finished that time as the first African-American female to be appointed as the City Manager. She now serves as the Director of Housing and Redevelopment for the City of Leesburg.

Lt. Christine Boodhoo ’22, Valor Award
Presented to an alum who demonstrates exceptional courage through service in the U.S. Armed Forces, law enforcement, firefighter, or other emergency first responder.

Lt. Boodhoo has served at the Groveland Police Department for seven years and was recently promoted to Lieutenant of the Criminal Investigations Division. Christine has lived in Lake County for most of her life and is a two-time graduate of Lake-Sumter State College earning her Associate in Science in Criminal Justice Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management degrees. She also completed her law enforcement academy training at Lake Technical College and is working toward a master’s degree in Public Administration and Criminal Justice from Columbia Southern University. Through her commitment and dedication, she is a role model for others pursuing a career in law enforcement, especially young women.

Andrew LoFaro ’16, Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award
Presented to an alum who has graduated in the last ten years and has distinguished themselves through excellence in their profession, service to the community, and commitment to LSSC.

Andrew graduated from Lake-Sumter State College in 2016 with his Associate in Arts, and had the honor of serving as the Student Commencement Speaker for his ceremony. He continued his education to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Central Florida and a Master’s of Science in Business Management from the University of Florida. Andrew is now the Regional Operations Manager for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando where his oversees the operations for four churches and three private Catholic schools. He is described as a servant leader with a true community spirit, volunteering his time as the Vice Chair of the UF Health Leesburg Hospital Foundation Board and on the Parks and Recreations Advisory Board for the Lake County Board of County Commissioners. 

2023 Hall of Fame

Toni Upchurch, Faculty Award
Presented to a current, former, or retired faculty member who achieved noteworthy accomplishments during their time at the College and provided exemplary service to the institution.

Toni joined Lake-Sumter State College in 2015 as a faculty member in public speaking and journalism. She loves teaching and her students share that she is humble, approachable, and loved by all. In 2020, she earned a promotion to an Associate Professor of Speech and Journalism. Toni has been instrumental in the execution of the College’s community outreach and service day, where staff donate thousands of hours of service to local organizations. She also serves as the faculty advisor to the Angler and PRISM clubs. Toni is also a 2023 semi-finalist for the Professor of the Year Award from the Association of Florida Colleges.

Kevin Yurasek, Staff Award
Presented to a current, former, or retired staff member who achieved noteworthy accomplishments during their time at the College and provided exemplary service to the institution.

Kevin joined Lake-Sumter State College in 2016 in the Marketing & Communications department and has served as an integral part of the College’s communications and public relations efforts. He also serves as part-time faculty member for public speaking courses. Kevin earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and master’s degree from the University of South Florida. He is a member of the Florida Public Relations Association and has served as a Chapter President and been recognized with a rising star award. Kevin’s love and passion for students shows in all that he does in his work for the College.

Patrick Ryan ’03, LSSC Athletics Award
Presented to a alum, current or former coach, athletics administrator, or community member who has contributed positively and significantly to the Athletics program and the experience of student-athletes.

Patrick attended Lake-Sumter Community College and was a student-athlete playing on the baseball team for two seasons. He holds several school records and was an All-Conference performer in 2002. He continued his education and baseball career at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, where he was the Regional Player of the Year and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American athlete. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 in the 19th round. He continued his professional baseball career for seven years. Patrick is now an instructor and coach at Ostingers Baseball Academy in Litha, Florida, where he is supporting future generations of young students and athletes. 

LiveWell Foundation of South Lake, Community Partner Award
Presented to a community member or organization whose partnership is integral to advancing the mission of the institution.

The LiveWell Foundation of South Lake’s mission is for the community of South Lake to experience a better quality of life through improved health and wellness. The impacts they are making through their work are transformational. Grants from the Livewell Foundation to Lake-Sumter State College has made possible the development of the medical lab tech program, the respiratory therapy tech program, the physical therapy assisting program, a bachelor’s degree in sports and human performance, the expansion of the nursing program and a renovated simulation lab on the South Lake Campus. Their support has a demonstrable impact on the College’s ability to offer education for high-demand careers.

2023 Recipient Interview Videos available on YouTube

2023 Event Photos