Association of Florida Colleges honors SJR State graduate Roshonda Phillips with distinguished alumni award

SJR State President Joe Pickens, alumna Roshonda Phillips

SJR State President Joe Pickens joins SJR State alumna Roshonda Phillips in receiving the 2023 Association of Florida College’s LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award.

Roshonda Phillips’s story of personal and academic triumph began over 20 years ago with the decision to earn her GED through St. Johns River State College. After continuing her education in SJR State’s nursing program, Phillips would ultimately earn her doctorate of nursing practice at Jacksonville University, exemplifying the true value of an education and the spirit to pay it forward.

Phillips was recently honored with the LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award by the Association of Florida Colleges. As a recipient of the “Against the Odds” category, the award recognizes a Florida college alumnus who has achieved success despite adversity.

Phillips, a Palatka native, credits SJR State for providing an excellent, local education that facilitated the development of her calling to serve others through healthcare. Her thirst for knowledge, growth and advocacy is evident with her five national board certifications, two VHA certifications, teaching positions, and global medical mission trips that serve underprivileged women and children. Before her most recent position as the National Program Manager for the Department of Veteran Affairs Central Office, Phillips served as the chief nurse for quality improvement and nursing excellence at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.

“There’s an old saying that education is important. Through my experience at SJR State, I found that to be true. I have also found that many of us have barriers that hinder us from obtaining an education or understanding the true value of an education,” Phillips said. “It is hard to dream of being something you’ve never been exposed to. It’s hard to imagine being great when the visions of your surroundings are vastly different. So, I ask others to take the opportunity to seek to understand those who appear as troubled, outcasts or uninterested. It may change their life, it surely did for me!”

SJR State President Joe Pickens said Phillips’ success story is a testament to accessible education and a genuine reflection of the College's dedicated faculty and staff. "Local colleges play such a vital role in the life of a community,” Pickens said. “Roshonda’s ability to succeed at a high level in spite of her challenges exemplifies her tenacity, as well as our role in giving very capable individuals the skills and confidence to realize their full potential.”

Phillips has been slated to share her story as the commencement speaker for SJR State’s fall graduation in December.

The LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Award was created in 1990 by the AFC in honor of the former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins and his contributions to the Florida College System.