a closer look – valencia students

Any day spent with our students is a great one, and April 16 and 17 were great ones indeed. For the first time, the foundation hosted a scholarship recipient photo shoot on East and West campuses. We reached out to our recent scholarship recipients via email and social media, working with a professional photographer to get shots of interested students. We booked appointments ahead of time, and also filled some time slots with candids of students on campus.

While there is no “typical” Valencia student, they all seem to share a common bond. First, they are amazingly photogenic! But more than that, each student we photographed had a wonderful spark, a brightness about them that was easy to capture on film. And each was gracious, so glad to be able to help the foundation that provides opportunity for so many.

Our day on East started with Kevin, a Universal Orlando Foundation scholar who plans to continue his education at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. We met Yashira, who hopes to teach English in Korea one day, and her friend Victoria who is studying music. We also met two single mothers, Nancy and Angela. Nancy is a single mother of three who is enrolled in two associate degree programs, accounting technology and business administration. Angela is a single parent of two. She is the first in her family to attend college and it brings her great joy to be a positive role model for her children.

The day at West kicked off with Samantha, a nursing student who brought a special thank-you letter to her donors. Then we met Juan, who is studying biomedical engineering and one day hopes to make artificial organs. There was Gerald, who we mistook for a college administrator – he had a great smile hiding under that professional look!

Sophie and Chelsey showed up, only Sophie had an appointment but we quickly talked Chelsey into taking part too. Both are a part of the diagnostic medical sonography program at Valencia. Chelsey credits her continued support from University Club of Orlando with allowing her to focus on studies and maintain an “A” average. Sophie was born and raised in Guyana and came to the United States five years ago, a first generation scholar.

Frances-Ann came and wow-ed us all with her great Wonder Woman sneakers! She sees Valencia as being only the beginning of her educational career and plans to get her doctorate and become a nurse practitioner.

We ended the day on West with Angel. For those of you who were at our recent scholarship donor breakfast, you know Angel’s story. He has fought against incarceration and homelessness to secure his education. Still living in a shelter, he is a student at Valencia’s Seneff Honors College, pursuing an AA in leadership and an AS in paralegal studies. (Here is more on Angel’s story and here is a video documenting his story.)

Angel and Dr. Shugart at the scholarship donor breakfast

Angel and Dr. Shugart at the scholarship donor breakfast

So these are our students. Each come to Valencia with their own background, their own story, their own future to write. They will go on to do wonderful things and realistically, will change the world as we know it. While they are here, we have a chance to lift their burdens by awarding scholarships. So remember these names when you make a donation and know that you make a difference in the lives of Valencia students.

PS – The pictures from these photo shoots will be unveiled in our 2012-2013 annual report, which will go out this summer.

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philanthropy – different definitions, same message

Professor Ed Frame

Professor Ed Frame

This month, we get a Valencia faculty perspective on philanthropy and scholarships. Professor Ed Frame has been a professor at Valencia for 16 years. Prior to that, he taught at the University of Wisconsin and at a university in Malaysia.

He is a professor of humanities on the West Campus and also teaches Asian humanities. And he even teaches in avatar form, conducting honors mythology for Valencia’s virtual campus, Second Life. He also leads an honors trip overseas during spring break. Recently, 18 students traveled to Paris with him and Professor Gustavo Morales and next year’s international trip will be to London.

Professor Frame's classroom in Second Life

Professor Frame’s classroom in Second Life

Professor Frame is a member of the honor’s council, the SAGE committee and he serves on several ILP review groups. SAGE stands for Study Abroad and Global Experiences. Valencia offers international study abroad opportunities for students, as well as a number of international professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. Photos from these trips and experiences can be found on Flickr. An ILP is an Individualized Learning Plan, a tenure candidate’s professional development plan.

He has served his local community through the Rotary Club of Pine Hills and the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Clermont, and his good works have even been felt across continents. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Professor Frame served as a member of the United States Peace Corps involved in community development on the island of Borneo. The experience helped shape his ideas concerning the need to provide equal opportunities to all members of society. It is an idea that has lived on in his family – his daughter taught in Tanzania as a member of the Peace Corps.

“Philanthropy to me is anything we give – time, money, etc. – to help individuals improve their own self-esteem. Most important of all is the giving to help further education.”

In addition to his generous support of Valencia Foundation, he also works with African students, something he started doing with his wife when his daughter taught in Tanzania. When visiting, he was able to set up a continuing education program, similar to our DirectConnect program. He enlisted the support of local churches in Clermont and Hope College in Michigan, where his sister is a professor, and the program continues today. Seven students have been sponsored, with the entire cost of their education or technical training subsidized, and one student is now working on a doctorate degree. They also have purchased books for classes and provided funds to build a physics lab, including equipment, in the village where his daughter taught.

“These are students from villages that would never have had the opportunity to continue their education. I believe that often an individual can do more than an organization in terms of making a difference in the world.”

When asked about the importance of supporting scholarships, Professor Frame again refers to the opportunity an individual has to make a difference. “Valencia scholarships are extremely important in our community because a relatively small amount of money can make a major impact on the educational opportunities available. We are not a $55,000 per year school where major scholarships are needed. It is an opportunity for an individual donor to give funds that go directly to the community and make a difference. It is important to me that 100 percent of the monies donated go for scholarships.”

Thank you Professor Frame for reminding us that each individual and each gift counts so very much.

spotlight story – lynn desjarlais

When foundation board member Rich Maladecki talks, people listen. Rich is a longtime supporter of Valencia Foundation and president and CEO of the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association (CFHLA). So when he told us about Lynn Desjarlais, a former CFHLA intern who is now a career program advisor at Valencia, we decided to see just what it was that made this industry leader speak so highly of her.

Her enthusiasm is immediate and contagious. We jump right in and learn that Lynn graduated from Valencia in 2007 with a degree in hospitality and tourism management, which is now what she advises for. She then moved on to UCF and the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and received her bachelor’s degree.

Lynn Desjarlais

Lynn Desjarlais

She met Rich when she was a student at Valencia. “He walked into one of my classes at Valencia after Professor Inglis invited him in. He said, ‘Hi, I’m Rich Maladecki and I have an internship opportunity. You need to go apply, you can get a scholarship.’ I thought, a scholarship, sure!”

She applied and received the internship, and CFHLA scholarships, and was soon spending every Friday from August to December at CFHLA, assisting the special events director and taking part in the annual hospitality gala. After her internship, she kept in touch with everyone at CFHLA and 6 months later, Rich offered her a full-time job, which she accepted, leaving Universal Orlando Resort after nine years.

She worked with Rich for a few years and then her life changed, she was pregnant with twins. She dropped down to part time and eventually decided she needed to stay home on a full-time basis. Her desire for more education soon took over and she went back to school. She also re-entered the workforce, working in hotels, which was then her passion.

She was working her way up in the industry, promoted to assistant front office manager. It was exactly where she wanted to be, but she realized that the 50-plus hour workweek was just not manageable with two young children. The career program advisor position was offered at Valencia and she felt it was a perfect fit – who better to guide students than someone who had been in the industry and been through the programs at Valencia and UCF/Rosen? She is now the advisor to about 1,000 students studying hospitality/tourism, culinary, baking/pastry or restaurant management.

Her dedication to her job and passion for students is remarkable, even more so when you learn she’s only been an employee since January. She develops individual plans for each of her students, tailored to their area of study and catalog year. It is a living document that can be updated by the student as they complete classes each semester.

When asked about merging her hospitality background with the fields of education and leadership, she shares that, “You want to grow other people and teach them. I want to teach them how to do this for themselves. In the hotel industry, everyone wants things customized and you have to listen to your client. Well, the students are my clients so I need to listen to them or else I am not going to be helping them or effective whatsoever.”

And it was something Rich taught her – network, network, network – that has also made her so valuable to Valencia. Lynn seeks out relationships with other departments that will benefit her students. All of her students must do an internship, so she made sure to reach out to Carmen Diaz in the internship and workforce services office. Recently she began seeing a lot of veterans, so she joined the VA committee to see how she can help them more. She’s reached out to UCF, connected with her program chairs, dean and other advisors. Anything she can do to provide better service to our scholars, she will do.

The path to an education can sometimes be bumpy; students can question their path, maybe even wanting to drop out. In the truest sense of the word, Lynn can empathize with these struggling students. Her first experience at Valencia did not go as planned, the program she chose was not a good fit and it took her leaving school and getting honest with herself before she came back to be a success in the hospitality field. She tells students, “this is very important, you need to own this and you need this degree because the world is too competitive.”

She is able to relate to students and share common experiences: “I can say you know what, I had that same problem with that math class and here is what helped me. I don’t think there is any shame in saying that you didn’t do well in something that you weren’t meant to do well in. You can shine in something you are good at.”

Even now, as she continues her studies to get a masters, she understands the hardships of a student. “I understand what it is like, it’s hard. There have been plenty of times, like when I was in school last night until 9 p.m. and I haven’t seen my kids all day…but you can’t quit, or else what are you here for?”

So what is Lynn here for? Well, in the long term she is getting her masters in management and leadership so that she can teach and bring her experiences full circle. She wants to continue on and eventually get her PhD. “Well,” she says, “you never stop learning.”

And now? Well, now she continues to be an amazing resource for her students. She is an integral part of the process here at Valencia, stewarding our students’ education and making each student strive to be the best.

Rich Maladecki sums it up so well. “In the workplace, Lynn is dedicated to excellence. She is a hard working professional, striving to be the best she can be. Lynn is personable and understands that customer service is imperative to success.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Thank you, Rich, for introducing us to Lynn, she is a shining example of stellar service and a devotee of lifelong learning!