SJR State graduate wins 2015 LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award

Krissy, Kristina Garcia St. Johns River State College alumna Kristina Garcia was recently honored with an award from the Association of Florida Colleges. The former St. Augustine resident and Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind student was nominated by SJR State and won in one of the four categories comprising the LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Garcia, a recent graduate of Florida School of the Arts, was presented with the "Against the Odds" award, signifying the success she achieved at the College despite the challenges of being a deaf student.

SJR State President Joe Pickens, J.D., who accompanied Garcia on stage at the AFC annual convention in Orlando, said Garcia's story is a true testament to the dedication of the College's outstanding faculty. "Kristina enrolled in the Florida School of the Arts as a non-speaking student with the aspirations of becoming a college graduate as well as an actress - a challenge that was both accepted and achieved by Kristina and the FloArts faculty," Pickens said. "Kristina's success exemplifies our mission as the community's college to educate, serve and enrich the diverse population it serves."

FloArts acting professor Patricia Crotty, who was instrumental in coaching and transforming Garcia into a speaking student and actress, said it was an honor to teach such a talented and inspiring individual. "Kristina is generous, compassionate and fiercely dedicated to her work. She brought that spirit with her to every class and rehearsal," Crotty said. "Her work ethic inspired her classmates, and her talent continually astonished us all."

The award was created in 1990 in honor of the former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins and his contributions to the Florida community college system. Three additional recipients were also presented with awards for "Rising Star" (South Florida State College), "Hometown Hero" (Florida Keys Community College) and "Lifetime Achievement" (North Florida Community College).


Kristina Garcia knew early on that she was destined for the stage; however, as a deaf student, following her calling to become an actor would require more than natural talent and simply stepping into the extraordinary world of make believe. It would require enough bravery to step outside of her comfort zone, the perseverance to thrive outside of the deaf community, and the dedication of exceptional faculty members.
Although Kristina began her acting classes at the Florida School of the Arts as a non-speaking student who required interpreters to communicate with the hearing world, she wasted no time informing her instructors that she wanted to become a speaking actor, the kind of actor who was not limited to deaf roles. And so the transformation began.

With the support and encouragement from her fellow classmates, combined with countless hours of tutoring and working one-on-one with her professors, the close-knit college community found a way - a way for Kristina to gain the skills and confidence to break her silence and land her first speaking role.

Following her debut in the comedy 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, Kristina would ultimately be cast in a total of six productions at the College while earning her A.S. degree in acting. Her final appearance on stage would be to deliver the exhortation reading during the College’s commencement ceremony, where she concluded her journey at St. Johns River State College with a standing ovation.

A testimony to Kristina’s talent, progress and success was validated during the 2015 Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC), where students audition to either continue their education with private colleges and universities or join various theatre and entertainment companies. Kristina received an unprecedented number of callbacks. Faculty will tell you that, on average, they expect students to receive approximately 10 callbacks - or invitations - to either continue their auditions or accept scholarships. Kristina received more than 40.

Yet, if you ask Kristina who are the real “stars” of the College, she would say it is the faculty. “They are truly supportive,” Kristina said. “They didn’t let my “disability” affect their way of teaching, so I felt equal to the rest of the students.”

Krissy, Kristina Garcia and family, Pickens and staff

“Their passion for teaching is inspiring,” Kristina continued. “They know what is best for the students and help us discover it. They also know that our struggles lead to our strengths, so that’s why they do not give up on us.”

Kristina is now continuing her education at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina on scholarship, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in performing arts studies. Her reason for selecting Lees-McRae? “It felt like FloArts,” she said.

Looking back at her first day on campus, Kristina admits she felt nervous setting foot into the “hearing” world, yet she said she also felt welcomed. “I knew that this was a place where I belonged,” she said. “I know my classmates and I have grown into better and stronger people.  FloArts is a magical place. I am forever a Floie.”

Pictured are William Brogni, Wendy Santiago, Floria School of the Arts Dean Alain Hentschel, Kristina Garcia, FloArts instructor Patricia Crotty and Ricardo Garcia.