Honors graduate prepares for a career in nursing

Gaetane Charlotin

By: Ilene Greenfield

When Gaetane Charlotin left Haiti with her husband in 2020, little did she realize that she would be graduating summa cum laude from the Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College at Palm Beach State College with an Associate in Arts degree in Nursing in the spring of 2023. She wanted to move forward quickly, but she did not speak English. The dedication of her husband, who worked after serving in the U.S. armed services while earning his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from PBSC, inspired her.

“I only knew French and Creole when we came in July,” said Charlotin. “The cultural shock can be big.”

Charlotin enrolled in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program in August and quickly learned not only English but the culture of her new homeland. This jump-started her progress. She learned how to accelerate her educational journey and about the opportunities before her.  “Anybody in Florida knows Palm Beach State College because there they treat you well, understand what you are going through, and they will help,” she said.

In Haiti, Charlotin had studied law and knew she wanted to continue helping others – but not in that field – so she enrolled in a certificate program at a technical college to become a patient care assistant.  Then at PBSC, she enrolled in only two courses.  The ideology at the College and how she was treated made her feel comfortable.  Plus, Charlotin wanted to work at the same time, so she decided to continue her higher education journey full-time online at PBSC.  Charlotin was so focused on achieving her dream, at times she earned 23 credits a semester.

New Graduate Suggests Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses
“The first thing I would say to a prospective student is ‘know who you are,’” Charlotin said. “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  Take some time with yourself in your own environment and find out.  I know math is my weakness, even though I understand it, so I would not go into that field. Then, start with your motivation to get it done and do it well, not just begin.  For me, I took extra credit because I wanted to learn more, not just pass.”

Class Participation and Active Engagement Add Value
“Gaetane made a point for everyone to get to know her, even though our Honors Introduction to Sociology course was live online,” said Professor Lystra Seenath, Department of Sociology.  “She always had a response to a question and challenged her classmates, asking follow-up questions to their comments.  That made the course more engaging and led to deeper conversations about the course content.”

Luli Marx, interim associate dean, recalled Charlotin while teaching courses in English and Reading during the pandemic.  “She was a memorable student,” Marx said. “She always kept her Zoom camera on, asked questions, and prompted others to participate.”

Make Learning Fun
When Marx transitioned to her current role and led a week-long summer program designed to develop soft skills, Charlotin applied and was accepted to participate in the Kimmel Leadership Academy, which was supported by a grant from a local family in August of 2022, and the two got to meet for the first time.  “Gaetane was a super fun person to be around,” said Marx. “On the last day we were to wear our green t-shirts and she even dyed her hair green!”

Now that Charlotin and her husband have moved to Jacksonville and are expecting their first child, she will continue her academic journey there.  Charlotin has been accepted in the bachelor’s degree in nursing program at the University of North Florida. Her goal is to become a nurse anesthetist and earn a master’s degree in that discipline.

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