scholarship recipient thank you letter

It is with extreme gratitude that I write this letter of thanks to you. My name is Elizabeth Labbe and I am the proud recipient of the Mildred Overstreet Scholarship. Scholarships such as this one will substantially lessen the financial burden on my family and will also allow me to devote a greater amount of time to my studies. The Mildred Overstreet Scholarship is one of the rewards that make a quality education possible for a hardworking and ambitious student such as me. I am grateful for your kindness and your involvement in the promotion of success in the lives of college students.

I am a political science major with an emphasis in pre-law. I am currently a sophomore and plan to graduate from Valencia in the summer of 2012. After graduation, I will attend University of South Florida – Honors College to earn my bachelor’s degree in political science; then continue on to law school. I have my heart set on Columbia Law School. I plan to pursue a career in government upon graduating law school with hopes of becoming a secretary of state. Eventually, I’d like to do humanitarian work in the U.S. and abroad to help those who need it most. Thanks to you and your donation, I am one step closer to that goal. The financial assistance that you’ve provided will be of great help to me in paying my educational expenses. I have been fortunate enough to see the reality that so many people around the world never have a chance to – to become educated. Because of this, I am grateful and do not take for granted my own opportunity for education. Coming from a small town in Haiti, it was instilled in me by my parents, both of whom are struggling lower middle class workers, to reach for the stars. As you can see, my career goals are not far from what they asked.

Thanks to your confidence in me, you reaffirmed that my dreams are possible. Your generosity is appreciated and accepted with extreme honor. I once again thank you sincerely for believing in me. By awarding me the Mildred Overstreet Scholarship, you have lifted my financial burden by a significant amount. This will allow me to focus more on my studies and projects, and the most important aspect of school, learning. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.

donor spotlight: mears family and mears transportation group

Mears Transportation Group pledged $1 million in support to Valencia Foundation to establish the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. Created in memory of Paul Mears Sr., the purpose of the fund is to support educational opportunities through the Take Stock in Children program. To honor this gift, the current Student Services Building, located on the West Campus of Valencia College, was renamed the Paul Mears Sr. Student Services Building.

The Mears family has a long history of support in the local community and their philanthropic reach is wide. As a family-owned business, their giving, both individual and corporate, is personal. Paul Jr. and Deb Mears provide the personal connection between Mears Transportation Group and Valencia. Deb is currently a board member for Valencia Foundation. The family has been involved with the foundation for more than a decade and their giving includes endowed scholarship, major gift, in-kind and event support.

Mears Transportation Group also offers support to the Red Cross and is a founding contributor to the Give Kids the World Village. Deb Mears has served on the committee for the local Festival of Trees and Mears Transportation Group has sponsored the event, presented by the Council of 101 to benefit the Orlando Museum of Art. In partnership with their sister company Hello Florida!, Mears has served as a corporate sponsor for the March of Dimes “March for Babies” charity walkathon.

Even the local little league is a touch-point for their generosity, as Mears Transportation Group is a current platinum sponsor of the Delaney Park Little League. The company is also involved in Mears School Supplies Give-Aways to benefit local children.

To offer response to an international crisis, Mears donated $25,000 to Haiti earthquake relief efforts the day after the tragedy happened. Through employee pledges and a dollar-for-dollar company matching challenge, more than $39,000 was raised, in addition to 8,000 pounds of donated items and supplies.

Started through a handshake between Paul Mears Sr. and founder of Give Kids the World, Henri Landwirth, Mears has provided complimentary transportation for more than 37,000 guests of Give Kids the World Village. Additionally, Mears is a sponsor of Give Kids the World’s Black and White Gala.

The Mears family’s support to Valencia was heightened in the ’90s with the establishment of the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship to benefit Valencia students in the hospitality management program. The family’s establishment of the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship has led others to achieve their dreams – an education. After a meeting with the foundation’s executive director in 1994, Paul Jr.’s interest was sparked by Valencia’s hospitality program. He believed an endowed scholarship in this area would be a fitting tribute to his father.

Mears Transportation Group recently pledged $1 million in support to Valencia Foundation to establish the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. Created in memory of Paul Mears Sr., the purpose of the fund is to support educational opportunities through the Take Stock in Children program. To honor this gift, the current Student Services Building, located on the West Campus of Valencia College, was renamed the Paul Mears Sr. Student Services Building.

Since 1995, Take Stock has impacted the lives of more than 17,600 deserving Florida students, providing more than 9,000 high school graduates with full college scholarships. The first class of Valencia participants is now in the tenth-grade and will graduate from high school in 2013.

This year’s gift to establish the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund will continue to transform the lives of future Valencia learners and community leaders – creating lasting, positive changes in our community. One shining example of a life transformed is India, one of ten children in an abusive and substance-exposed home. At age 16, on Christmas Eve, she suddenly found herself homeless. It was a simple question that changed India’s life: Do you want to go to college? India took part in the Take Stock program, graduated from the University of Florida and today is a teacher. Through tears, India shares that if it wasn’t for finding the right path through college and Take Stock, “you probably wouldn’t see my face today. I’d be a statistic. I can’t say thank you enough.” As of March 31, 2011, the foundation has purchased 100 prepaid tuition scholarships for Take Stock in Children. The generous funding from Mears will ensure that for those who think that the dream of college is out of reach, it is actually closer than they realize.

Paul Mears Jr. and his wife, Deb, believe that Take Stock in Children reflects the values Paul Sr. engendered: offering students a mentoring relationship, a hand up and a guaranteed college education based on their academic and personal successes through junior high and high school. With what is often called a “golden touch in transportation,” Paul Sr. founded Mears Transportation Group in 1939 with three taxicabs. Today it is one of Central Florida’s most recognized premier guest services and destination management companies. A family business at heart, his three sons always recall that Paul was an aggressive but fair businessman with the utmost integrity. He believed in doing things the right way and doing them well. High achievement and success were not options; they were expectations. Those same high standards were infused into both the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship and the recent Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. In fact, high standards, parental involvement and community support are crucial to Take Stock’s success. Students and their parents sign a covenant to maintain solid grades and refrain from illegal activities, such as drug or alcohol use. Weekly mentor meetings help children to focus on their schoolwork and stay out of trouble.

The Mears family provides encouragement and motivation through their gifts and continues to groom future leaders and career-driven members of our community. This is evidenced in the voices of our students who have received the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship. One such student, Juan, shares his passion and realized potential made possible through this scholarship: “Without scholarship patrons like you, there would be many students such as myself unable to pursue the career they’ve dreamed of.” After Valencia, Juan plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. His dream is to establish a career that allows him to “learn on an everyday basis.” This is a perfect fit with Paul Mears Sr.’s expectation of high achievement and continues the pay-it-forward spirit of philanthropy and involvement demonstrated by the Mears family. Transport: to carry from one place to another. Paul Mears Sr. began a small enterprise which has expanded into a large-scale transportation brand. His gifts and philanthropic touch, which he passed on to Paul Jr. and Deb Mears, provide transport of a different sort – carrying those most worthy, and often those most in need, to a new life and success through education.

purchase tickets online now!


Tickets to attend A Taste for Learning are available for purchase online!

Join us as vintners from around the world serve their finest wines, complemented by exquisite cuisine from local chefs.Tempting auction items will include everything from travel to truffles, wine and wild nights out. There’s something for everyone!

The event will be held on September 15, 2012 at Rosen Shingle Creek and reduced room rates will be available for guests! To purchase you tickets to this exciting event, follow the link below:

To book your room accommodations, follow the link below:

new valencia east & winter park president begins aug. 6

Dr. Stacey Johnson Named New President of East, Winter Park Campuses

Stacey Johnson, currently the vice president of academic affairs at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Tex., has been named the president of Valencia College’s East and Winter Park campuses.

At Palo Alto College, Johnson served as chief instructional officer for the college of 9,300 students. Prior to that, she served as the dean of arts, humanities and social sciences. Johnson started her career in community colleges in public relations, where she served as director of marketing and assistant to the president of Palo Alto College.

Johnson earned her doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied in the university’s Community College Leadership Program.

Outside of the college community, Johnson is perhaps best known as a champion fencer, a two-time national college champion in fencing and served as a member of the United States’ 1980 Olympic fencing team.  She has continued her service to the Olympics by serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors from 1996 to 2004, and was elected to the USOC Executive Committee for 2003-2004.

In addition, Johnson served as president of the U.S. Fencing Association from 2000 to 2004, and was the first woman in the organization’s 125-year history to serve four terms as president.

While in San Antonio, Johnson also founded the “Dreams for Youth” San Antonio Sports Foundation, which received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Olympic Committee for its work in serving 100,000 children.

Johnson will start her new job at Valencia on Aug. 6. She will replace Dr. Ruth Prather, who recently retired as president of the East and Winter Park campuses.

The East Campus is located at 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, and serves 20,000 students. The Winter Park Campus is located at 850 W. Morse Blvd. in Winter Park, and serves 3,300 students.

silent auction sneak peek!

Thanks to the generous support from local organizations, this year’s silent auction at A Taste for Learning is sure to be memorable! Check out some of the great items you’ll be able to bid on:

Hotel Stay in Cancun, Mexico for 4 people
Orlando Magic Team Autographed Basketball
High Performance Glider Flight Experience
Hotel Stay at the Grand Bohemian Celebration
Grand Pines Golf Club Foursome
60 Day Golf Membership at Tuscawilla Country Club
4Rivers Sandwich a Week Gift Basket
Tampa Bay Rays Fan Pack
Richard Petty Driving Experience
90 Minute Massage at Euro Day Spa
Disney Park Hopper Passes
Busch Gardens Tickets

If you are interested in donating a silent auction item OR if you’d like to purchase tickets to attend the event, you can access more information at

osceola campus president named a finalist to orlando’s 40 under 40

Congratulations to Dr. Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses. She’s a finalist for the Orlando Business Journal’s annual 40 Under 40 awards. The awards recognize the area’s up-and-coming leaders under age 40.

Dr. Plinske earned her doctorate in educational technology from Pepperdine University in 2008. She came to Valencia from McHenry County College in Illinois, where she served as vice president for institutional effectiveness and also as interim president

Source: Marketing and Strategic Communications, Valencia Community College; Valencia News;

smart phone access to college information

Valencia has created a new mobile app for Android and iOS devices that can provide access to college information.

With this new app, those with Apple’s iPhone or an Android phone (or other Apple devices, such as the iPad) can access the faculty and staff phone directory, campus maps, safety alerts, news and events, Twitter, photos and videos.

Valencia students can use this resource for secure access to course schedules, account balances, and grades using their Atlas username and password.

Download this free Valencia Mobile app from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Shop.

For more information, please visit:


anyone hungry? great food offerings at a taste for learning!

Thank you to all our master chefs and restaurants who will be providing delicious treats for A Taste for Learning on Saturday, Sept. 15!

BB King’s Blues Club
Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que, Alafaya/UCF location
Cabin Creek Catering
Fiorella’s Cucina Toscana at the Westin Imagine Orlando
Godiva Chocolatier
Raphsodic Bakery
Tobias Flats & Watering Hole
Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria
Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar

Tickets are $125 each or $200 per couple, and are available at

a taste for learning: international wine sampling and auction

Vintners from around the world will donate and pour their finest wines- thanks to ABC Fine Wine & Spirits-hundreds of wines will be available.

Please join us by inviting friends and colleagues, sponsoring a table and contributing auction items.

For more information on the event including tickets, sponsorships and Rosen Shingle Creek Resort special room rates for attendees please visit our website online.