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Palm Beach County commissioner says PBSC gave him a second chance

Commissioner Michael Barnett is a proud alum of Palm Beach State College, having earned his Associate in Arts degree before rising through the ranks of Palm Beach County politics.

Originally from Boca Raton, Barnett earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of South Florida and his juris doctor at the University of Miami.

With a long list of professional affiliations today, Barnett reflects on his postsecondary path. “Palm Beach State accepted me after I left Florida Atlantic University after getting too politically involved. I did a three-year gap, worked a lot and matured enough to realize that I should have listened to my high school counselors who encouraged us to dual enroll.”

Barnett believes strongly in the benefits of community college, including how the supportive environment can truly help students grow and mature.

“One of my fondest memories of my days at the College is a class I had with Dr. Mohammed Asad. I was the only political science major surrounded by nursing students and was the best student in the class, recording his lectures and leading study groups. My interest in his class came from my mother and her medical books.”

More than 20 years later, Barnett and Asad are still in touch through the Muslim communities of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton.

At the time, Barnett had a fear of public speaking, but Peggy Racker, a speech communication professor, helped him not only get over that fear but also learn to love it, serving him well over the years. It’s a testament to what Barnett has come to appreciate. “This College can prepare you for four-year institutions and more.”

According to Barnett, serving as Commissioner is the best job he’s ever had, and he hopes to keep it for the next eight years. After law school, he started his own practice, representing people who struggled with insurance claims and fraudulent credit claims. He currently serves on staff with the Shiner Law Group.

“As you prepare to become a lawyer, you must represent people from all walks of life. Not being able to choose who you represent requires an open mind, so it’s imperative to put aside any preconceived notions or prejudices you may have.”

Palm Beach State College has had a remarkable impact on Barnett’s life, not just his career. “I tell everybody all the time about the second chance Palm Beach State gave me back when it was Palm Beach Community College.”

In February 2023, Barnett was honored to present PBSC President Ava L. Paker, J.D., with a special proclamation in recognition of the College’s 90th anniversary.

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