Campus & Community

PBSC announces fall commencement speakers

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast and State Sen. Bobby Powell Jr.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast and State Sen. Bobby Powell Jr. will give the keynote speeches at Palm Beach State College’s fall commencement ceremonies for more than 2,700 expected graduates.

Two ceremonies are set for Dec. 19 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach. Mast, who is in his first term representing Florida’s 18th Congressional District, will speak at the 10 a.m. ceremony for graduates of the Associate in Science, Bachelor of Applied Science and Bachelor of Science degree programs and the certificate programs.

Powell, who is in his first term representing District 30 in the Florida Senate, will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony for Associate in Arts transfer degree graduates. About 58 percent of the graduates are earning an A.A. degree. Families and friends who cannot attend the ceremonies can view the live streams  on the College’s website —

Mast is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Prior to his election to Congress last year, he followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years, earning the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, the Purple Heart Medal, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. While deployed in Afghanistan, he worked as a bomb disposal expert under the elite Joint Special Operations Command. The last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both of his legs.

Mast remained on active duty following the injuries and provided expertise to the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms during his recovery process. After his retirement from the Army, he continued working in counter-terrorism and national defense as an Explosive Specialist with the Department of Homeland Security. Mast subsequently received a degree from the Harvard Extension School and volunteered to serve alongside the Israel Defense Forces to show support for the freedom Israel represents throughout the Middle East and the world.

Powell, a professional planner who works as a project manager with Urban Design Kilday Studios in West Palm Beach, is the first and only American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) member to serve in the Florida Legislature.

The Riviera Beach native graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Florida A & M University in 2003, and he earned his master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University in 2006.

After returning to Palm Beach County, he began working in his field and community. His interest in mentoring young people continued, as he was a volunteer coach for football and track and field and served on the Riviera Beach Library Board. He graduated in 2011 from Leadership Palm Beach County and later served on its Alumni Relations Committee. He has volunteered for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s EMBODI program for young males, and he serves as a board member and business manager for the MLK, Jr. Coordinating Committee.

His interest in politics and community service grew and intertwined. After serving as a legislative assistant to then-State Rep. Mack Bernard (District 94), he successfully ran for the State House District 88 in 2012 and 2014.

He continued his focus on community service, and he became known by his constituents for always “being there.”

Powell has received numerous awards, including the Call to Action Award by the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida; the Most Influential Black Business Leaders Award by Legacy Magazine South Florida; the Distinguished Alumni Award by the Palm Beach County chapter of the FAMU Alumni Association; and the Friend of Free Enterprise Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

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