PBSC celebrates first graduates of the Human Services bachelor’s program

From l: Lady Funcke, David Oppenheim, Theresa Tripucka, Destiny Gibbons, Jamie Miller and Dr. Suzanne Duff.

Five Palm Beach State College students are hoping to improve the lives of others as they become the first to graduate from the bachelor’s degree program in Human Services.

Each one has overcome great challenges ranging from addiction and depression to abuse and bullying and now have a deep desire to help others in similar situations.

“One of the best parts of my job is watching people transform into the next version of themselves,” said Dr. Suzanne Duff, professor and chair of the Human Services Department. “Many students who come into the program have been through their own set of struggles and have learned that they can allow those struggles to weigh them down or accept and build on the resilience and empathy that resulted from them. No one likes pain, but ultimately, we define how pain will affect our lives, and these students are examples of people who have decided to use them to connect deeply with others and bring forth good and healing into the world.”

The students are:

Destiny Gibbons, 42, wants to help others who suffer from addiction that plagued her family. Her brother became addicted to his medication after a car accident and her father was also an addict. She first earned an A.S. degree in Human Services with a concentration in addiction studies, and because of that positive and encouraging experience she chose to stay at PBSC to complete her bachelor’s degree. She now plans to pursue a Master of Social Work at FAU and become a licensed mental health counselor.

Jamie Miller, 23, was always interested in looking deeper into why people behave the way they do. She also suffered from chronic bullying from age 11 to 17 and now wants to help others who are bullied. She earned PBSC’s A.A. degree and A.S. degree in Human Services General and plans to earn a Master of Social Work online through the University of Nevada and become a licensed mental health counselor. Her dream is to run her own practice and speak to children at schools nationwide about overcoming bullying.

David Oppenheim, 34, struggled with an addiction to opioids and heroin from age 18 to 28. In 2015, he found his fiancée, Amanda, and unborn child dead from an overdose. After attempting suicide, he got help and now wants to help those with the same struggles. He earned his A.S. degree in Human Services with a concentration in addiction studies and plans to earn a Master of Social Work at FAU and become a licensed clinical social worker. During his time at PBSC, he says it was hard to feel comfortable with his past but the professors, especially Duff and Dr. George Stoupas, made him feel supported and were amazing.

Lady Funcke, 35, wants to help people with mental health issues, especially those who get out of prison. She knows firsthand the challenges as she served a year and a half for a mistake she made five years ago. During her childhood, she suffered abuse from someone close to her family. As she grew up, she blocked it from her memory which led to toxic relationships, thoughts of suicide and wrong choices. She said prison was a wake-up call and led her to get the help she needed. She faced challenges earning a degree because of her past but persevered and earned an A.A. degree in psychology at PBSC. She faced some of the same challenges when applying to graduate school but persevered again and was accepted to Columbia University and the University of Michigan. She chose Michigan and will pursue a Master of Social Work and a licensed clinical social worker career. Her dream is to earn a doctorate degree, become a professor and run an organization that helps those released from prison adjust back into society.

Theresa Tripucka, 51, struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction along with her husband. After helping one of her daughters fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to attend college, she filled one out herself and learned she qualified for financial assistance. Wanting to help others beat addiction the way she did, she enrolled at PBSC and earned the A.S. degree in Human Services with a concentration in addiction studies. She now plans to attend FAU to earn a Master of Social Work and become a licensed mental health counselor. She is also a certified recovery residence administrator and a certified addiction counselor. She says her time at PBSC was wonderful and encourages anyone at any age to pursue an education.

Duff and Stoupas spent three years developing the program with the help and support of many people. According to Duff, it was a long, grueling, and stressful process that made it hard for her to see the good that would come out of it.

“These students have given me moments of delight, as I watched our ideas and hard work come alive, and it reminded me of the gratitude that exists in hard work,” Duff said.  “You don’t have to be famous or perfect, or rich or extraordinary to add something to the world that makes a difference in people’s lives and futures. They have given that to me, and now I get to watch them do it for others as they use their experiences, backgrounds and gifts now cultivated through education, in their unique life’s trajectory.”

The Bachelor of Science in Human Services, which launched in fall 2020, is open to graduates of PBSC’s Human Services A.S. degree program (all concentration areas) and A.A. degree tracks, as well as those with an associate degree (or a minimum of 60 college credits) from a regionally accredited institution that is equivalent to the satisfactory completion of a PBSC A.S. or A.A. degree.

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3 comments on “PBSC celebrates first graduates of the Human Services bachelor’s program”

  1. Congratulations to these courageous and hard-working students. Thank you Dr. Duff and Dr. Stoupas. You are making the world a better place for all!

  2. Just in time to celebrate all that is good! Kudos to all graduates and Prof. Duff and Prof. Stoupas!

  3. These students are a gift to the people they will work with. They have demonstrated resilience and determination. I wish them the best in all they do.

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