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Graduate Spotlight: Karley Drapp


Hillsborough Community College is proud of its 2020 graduating class. They have pushed through despite the circumstances to finish their last semester and have proved what it means to be Hawk strong. 


This year’s graduates will be honored via a virtual commencement ceremony to be held on June 26, 2020. Representing the 2020 class as the student commencement speaker will be 18-year-old Karley Drapp, a student who has been enrolled at HCC since the age of 15.


Karley is a dual-enrolled, homeschooled student who will be receiving her high school diploma while simultaneously graduating with her associate in arts degree from HCC. Born and raised in Plant City, FL, Karley’s journey has been “long and crazy.” During her freshman year of high school, she decided she wanted to graduate from college debt-free. “At the time, it seemed like an impossible task for a 14-year-old,” she laughed.  


From there, “I learned about dual enrollment and how I could get tuition and books for free. I sat down with my mom and laid out an education plan. I was like, ‘Okay, I will have to dual enroll for nine semesters. But if I can do it, then I will graduate from high school with two years of college for free.’ I knew going into it that it was going to be a lot of hard work.” 


At the age of 15, Karley officially enrolled at HCC the summer before her sophomore year of high school. She chose HCC not just because it was local, but because of her personal connection to the institution. “My mom actually went to HCC back in the day, and I know a lot of people that attend the college. Someone from my church is even a professor at the Plant City Campus, so it’s just really close to home.” 


Karley has been fortunate enough to take classes at the Plant City, Brandon, and Ybor City Campuses. “I had a mixture of it all and I was kind of all over the place.” With a majority of her classes also being online, the College’s transition to an online learning environment due to COVID-19 was a seamless transition for her.  


However, all of her achievements haven’t come easy. “My education has been my number one priority, and there have been days where I have sat at my kitchen table and worked for eight to nine hours straight. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my entire life.”


Karley has been able to take advantage of the benefits that dual enrollment offers, such as completing her high school credits in a shorter time frame. “With dual enrollment, it’s nice that classes count for high school and college credit. So, I’ve been able to trade some things out in a way. For example, instead of taking two years of a foreign language, I only took two semesters.” 


She has also been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA at HCC and in the fall of 2018, was inducted into the Plant City Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. At first, Karley didn’t realize she was eligible as a dual enrollment student, but was excited to find out she qualified and met the requirements. She was honored to be inducted by Professor Diane Kelly, the PTK advisor at the time, whom she had already met through three previous math courses. “It was nice to know that I could go to her if I had an issue or if I needed advice. She always believed in me and treated me just like any other student despite my age.” 


On top of dual enrolling at HCC, in October of 2019, Karley began volunteering as an AVID tutor at Marshall Middle School located in Plant City, FL. At first, she chose to volunteer to complete her Bright Futures hours, but fell in love with the students. When she turned 18, she was officially hired as a tutor. Additionally, for the past two years, she has also been studying at ARISE School of Ministry and working on becoming a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God. She hopes to be licensed by January 2021 and dedicate her faith and passion to youth ministry.


Karley is glad to have spent the last three years at a place as unique as HCC. “A lot of people don’t know how much their local community colleges have to offer. Whether it’s programs, support, or even the community itself. The experiences and conversations that I’ve been able to share with people from so many different walks of life have been the most amazing experiences ever.” An unforgettable memory she holds is an evening science course she took at the Ybor City Campus. What was originally a joke between her professor and the class, resulted in a classmate bringing in an entire pizza for everyone to share. The professor was surprised to find out everyone had pitched in to enjoy a snack during their late class. “It was so funny and a memory I know I’ll never forget!” laughed Karley.


All of her hard work and determination have led Karley to represent her class. “I’ve always had a passion for public speaking and being chosen as this year’s commencement student speaker has been a crazy and surreal experience. To me, a commencement speaker is somebody who should represent their class, cheer them on and encourage them by giving a final word of support before they head into their futures. For HCC to reach out to me, I just feel so blessed and honored, and I hope that I can encourage and inspire every single person in the class of 2020 that no matter what you’re facing, if you work hard and if you’re passionate about something, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.” 


Karley’s commencement speech will be pre-recorded and will be a part of this year’s virtual commencement ceremony. 


In the fall of 2020, Karley will begin taking online classes at Florida International University and pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in communications. “I chose to major in communications because I think communicating is so important, and I have this goal to be able to communicate with everyone in every situation about everything. I know it won’t happen overnight, but I want to be a person who can give hope to the next generation.” 

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