From carefree student to Scholar: How PBSC helped Stella focus on a future in med school

When John Stella first came to Palm Beach State College, he admits he was envious of his high school peers who went to universities.

After graduating from a small, religious high school in upstate New York, Stella didn’t follow in their footsteps because he believed he wasn’t academically ready and even unsure if school was for him.

Stella, who graduated summa cum laude with his Associate in Arts degree and hopes to attend medical school, also felt isolated, given that PBSC is a commuter school.

This all quickly turned around for him, as he joined various student organizations.

“I found a strong sense of community at PBSC,” said Stella, a Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College student and Phi Theta Kappa member. “I have learned what you make of your situation is much more important than that situation itself.”

Stella not only connected with other students, but his algebra professor Tamara Johns also made a big impact on him. He would attend her weekly study hall, where he gained more confidence and found studying more enjoyable.

“One thing I will remember about her is that she is the first professor that I found who truly believed in me and my ability to succeed.”

From developing a greater foundation and succeeding in his initial coursework, Stella became far more interested in academics and much more inquisitive when he realized that school was for him. From there on, he flourished.

During his time at PBSC, Stella was named to the 2023 All-Florida Academic Team; became a 2023 Coca-Cola Academic Team Silver Scholar; served on the executive board of the American Medical Student Association; was PTK vice president of scholarships; and was the founder and president of the Student Empowerment in Action Club, geared toward helping students succeed in college; among others.

Stella also had the chance to conduct social psychology research alongside Professor Ted Cascio, Ph.D., and present the findings at the 2023 Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, which he says fostered his interest in exploring the connection between psychology and medicine.

“At PBSC, the immense support from my parents and professors coupled with adaptive techniques I implemented to help me succeed at school allowed me to do better than I had anticipated and to be a much more competitive applicant than if I had tried back in high school.”

He also says that one of the things he liked best about PBSC was the diversity in its student body.

“I found this eclectic environment to be a pleasant surprise,” Stella said. “My peers’ diverse backgrounds opened my eyes to various viewpoints; teaching me to embrace ideas different from my own.”

Stella has applied to many schools and says he will choose where to go in June.

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