alumni networking – the osceola county connection

Osceola CampusSome months ago, Valencia’s alumni executive board met with college president, Dr. Sandy Shugart. As a result of this conversation, and feedback from fellow alums, the alumni board turned their focus to networking opportunities, an initiative driven by the Learning and Growing committee.

Under this new direction, the alumni association hosted a networking reception on West Campus in partnership with the Heart of Florida United Way last year. The event was a great success and left alumni in Osceola County with just one question: What about us?

“Now everyone wants one!” says Barbara Shell, alumni relations director at Valencia.

The Osceola alumni networking reception will be held on Thursday, Oct. 10 from 6 – 8 p.m. on Osceola Campus.

Barbara shares that having an event in Osceola is exciting because the campus has changed so dramatically and alumni get to see all the new development, including the new Building 4 that cements the partnership between Valencia and UCF on Osceola Campus. Building 4 is the largest building on any Valencia campus. In addition to classrooms, the four-story building houses the campus library, bookstore, 10 science labs, 18 classrooms, math and computer labs, the campus cafeteria and a coffee bar.

Attendees of the networking reception will have a chance to check it out in person on the 10th, the event will be held there and refreshments will be provided.

Osceola alumni see this event as another step to their ultimate goal, starting their own Valencia alumni chapter. The first step was the 5K Run Walk for Heroes on Saturday, Sept. 7. The event was part of the September 11 memorial events at the campus and raised more than $8,000 for the Rotary Club of Lake Nona’s September 11 Memorial Fund, which supports Valencia scholarships for emergency responders at Osceola Campus.

12,000 students take classes at our Osceola Campus, a number that campus president, Dr. Kathleen Plinske, hopes to grow with the help of our best ambassadors – alumni.

“We’re working hard in Osceola County to move the needle on our college-going rate. Osceola County ranks 57th in 67 counties in the state of Florida in terms of the percentage of high school graduates that enroll in college. In our effort to promote a college-going culture, we’d like to highlight some of our notable Valencia alumni who live and work in Osceola County. I hope that students in our elementary, middle, and high schools learn of these amazing Valencia alumni, and recognize that Valencia is a great start to any career. Valencia alumni have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, fire chiefs, bankers, teachers, business owners and public servants. I would like for students in Osceola County to recognize that they can accomplish anything that they set their minds to, and Valencia is a great place to start to achieve their dreams.”

Dr. Plinske wants to build a strong relationship with alumni in the area and is encouraging our former students to reach out and reconnect with Valencia. Input is requested from a variety of professions and careers so if you or someone you know is an alum, having completed a degree or certificate program, living or working in Osceola County, please contact Laura Oldroyd at 407-582-4101.

And after making that call, there is one more you need to make – your RSVP call for the Oct. 10 networking reception! Please call 407-582-3426 or email alumni@valenciacollege.edu by Friday, Oct. 4 so we know you are coming. The evening promises to be a chance to get back to campus and meet other previous students. Bring plenty of good Valencia stories to share!

checking up on the dental hygiene program

DentalHygieneReunion015October is homecoming month for Valencia with a number of events scheduled to bring alumni back to campus, including the 35th anniversary Valencia dental hygiene program reunion on Saturday, Oct. 12.

Valencia College’s dental hygiene program was established in 1977 and graduated its charter class of 23 students in 1978. The graduates of the program are employed as clinicians, educators and public health hygienists. Numerous graduates have continued their education in dental hygiene, dentistry, education and public health.

The reunion celebration offers graduates a chance to stay connected to the program. One alumna takes that connection a step further, by offering generous scholarship funding. Megan Warlow is a 1989 graduate of the program and provides scholarship dollars to those who are following in her footsteps.

Emily Anderson is a 2012-2013 recipient of that funding. She found out about the opportunity through the dental hygiene program director, Pamela Sandy. Without this assistance, she would not have been able to return to college.

Emily plans to continue schooling and obtain a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. She wants to be active in the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and support the work to increase the scope of practice for dental hygienists in Florida.

Beyond the dollars, the greatest gift she received from the scholarship was the confidence to go after what she wanted. “I feel like I have a team of cheerleaders in my corner,” she describes, declaring that she feels obligated to succeed and pay it forward.

And she already is paying it forward, seizing an opportunity that presented itself at a First One campaign event for the foundation. It was there that Emily met a young man who was the eldest of 12 siblings whose life had a rough start with a teenage mother and trouble around every corner. He shared that sometimes he gets lonely and wants to give up on his dream of education.

As Megan Warlow was the cheerleader for Emily, she became the cheerleader for this young man, sending him the link to apply for scholarships and offering to be that friend in need when the going gets tough.

She credits the scholarship with helping to shape this outlook. “It has created a momentum that carries me and affects all those around me.”

She realizes that scholarships are a blessing that can help dreams become a reality and have a positive effect on the community. “I feel that the more skilled and educated people become, the more they contribute to making our society better as a whole. Often without the support, many talented individuals will not reach their full potential because they cannot afford to go to college.”

Jessica Alexander is another 2012-2013 recipient. She is finishing up her core classes, currently with a 4.0 GPA, and she hopes to find “a job that I love” after graduation.

She was referred to the online scholarship application through the Answer Center at the college. “When I saw the foundation scholarship, I figured I would give it a shot.”

And quite a shot it was. “Amazing!” she recounts. The scholarship surpassed anything she could imagine and provided almost a year’s worth of schooling for her.

Like Emily, Jessica comments that the financial burden is what keeps so many people from getting a degree. Thanks to her benefactor, she has peace of mind and can focus on her studies.

She thinks that scholarships are important because they reassure students that they are headed in the right direction. “All students have a time when they wonder if they are on the right path and when you receive a scholarship, it makes you feel like you are in the right place.”

And after graduation, expect to see both of them at reunions and alumni functions. Jessica says, “I will definitely keep in touch with the dental hygiene program. I have had such a great experience so far at Valencia. This year has changed me so much and I know over the next few years I will grow even more. I will always have the relationships and experiences to take with me.”

From Emily, “I definitely plan to keep in touch with the dental hygiene program after I leave. My entire experience with Valencia has been about making connections and feeling like part of a family committed to helping everyone succeed. At each event I have attended, I have seen the dedication that alumni have shown to their alma mater and I know that I will want to do the same!”

For all interested in the October reunion, the event will be held from 2 – 5 p.m. at the Special Events Center on the college’s West Campus. Please RSVP by Oct. 7 to 407-582-3426 or alumni@valenciacollege.edu.

a closer look: valencia’s paralegal program

paralegalAs Valencia’s alumni relations efforts continue to grow, certain disciplines develop their own alumni followings and host receptions that provide professional networking opportunities, as well as a great chance to catch up with former classmates.

This is the case for the paralegal program, which is hosting an alumni reception on Thursday, Oct. 24 from 6 – 8 p.m. in the auditorium of Valencia’s Criminal Justice Institute.

As the legal system becomes more and more complex, lawyers are increasingly turning to qualified paralegals to provide essential support services. The paralegal is one of the lawyer’s most valuable resources, performing substantive legal work delegated and supervised by the lawyer, including assisting with trial preparation and real estate closings, drafting legal documents and performing research.

Students in Valencia’s AS degree program in paralegal studies develop a strong background in many areas, including civil litigation, real property, business organizations, legal research and legal technology. Students also gain an understanding of the ethical framework within which they work and can effectively analyze and communicate in these areas.

Students may choose to specialize in two areas, litigation or transactional, and can work for lawyers in myriad of institutions, including firms, banks, corporations and government agencies.

Approximately 35 percent of program graduates transfer to an institution offering a baccalaureate degree. For students who choose this route, the program at Valencia has an articulation agreement with UCF and Valencia graduates may transfer to UCF’s BA or BS in legal studies program. There is also an articulation agreement with Florida Gulf Coast University, offering students a chance to complete an online bachelor’s degree in legal studies.

The program provides many ways to prepare students for the job market, beginning in PLA 1003, Introduction to Paralegal Practices and Ethics. In this class, the students are required to prepare a resume, cover letter and references. A guest speaker is also invited to provide information regarding the current job market and hiring tips. Students are encouraged to attend a free seminar sponsored by the Central Florida Paralegal Association that addresses the topic of resumes.

Program director, Wendy Toscano, is an important resource for the students. Upon request, she will meet with a student individually, review their resume and assist them in job searches. Students are also supported by the college’s Career Center, which provides resume writing assistance, mock interviews, career counseling and reference materials related to the paralegal profession and law school.

In their final year of studies, students will take PLA 2192, Legal Research and Theory III: Capstone. In this class students will create a portfolio of their assignments completed through the program. This portfolio can be used to showcase work during a job interview. Students are also required to prepare an updated resume, cover letter and reference list, as well as participate in a mock interview with a career counselor. This course also affords the opportunity to job shadow with local attorneys and paralegals to experience law firm culture.

For many, internships are a key experience when deciding a future career and life path. The paralegal program does provide an intern course as an elective. A member of the paralegal program faculty is responsible for placing, monitoring and evaluating the internship. Valencia paralegal students have interned with the state attorney’s office, working closely with the assistant state attorneys. Students have also interned with local law firms, small and large, as well as solo practitioners.

The program is supported by a strong advisory committee. The committee provides meaningful guidance, job shadowing, internships and jobs, funds for book scholarships and other program needs. They also help with the most important factor in getting a job – networking. Wendy Toscano states that bringing the alumni together with current students and the advisory committee is a great way to learn about job opportunities and recent developments in the paralegal arena.

Wendy expands on the importance of alumni in the equation: “Program alumni are one of our primary sources regarding paralegal job opportunities in the Central Florida legal community as well as current trends affecting the paralegal career. They are also living, breathing examples of the quality of Valencia’s paralegal studies program.”

There is something else that provides assistance to our paralegal students, and Valencia students in all disciplines – scholarships. Scholarships lead to more graduates, which strengthens our alumni base and leads to all of these great networking and reunion events.

One day soon, Melixa and Katie will be proud alumni sharing their stories and serving as the embodiment of how education can change the trajectory of a life.

Melixa is currently unemployed and has a child with severe learning disabilities, but she says she will continue to fight for their future. It is a future that will involve more education as she would like to transfer to UCF to complete a bachelor’s degree. Her dream is to go to law school and one day have the initials JD behind her name.

Flattered and blessed, that is how Melixa feels about her scholarship support. Her first reaction to the scholarship news was to laugh out loud and say, “Thank you all!” She feels the faculty at Valencia is doing a superb job and she is proud to say that she is a Valencia student.

To the generous donors, she says, “God has provided angels disguised as scholarship benefactors. Again, my children and I say thank you for investing in our future. I will do the same for others when the time comes.”

A very special benefactor offered assistance to Katie, Helen Von Dolteren-Fournier, Esq. Helen is a past president of the Valencia Foundation board and one of our most treasured friends. Her generosity knows no bounds and students like Katie reap the rewards of that philanthropy.

Katie is a single mom with four children and this is her first time in college. There was a problem accessing her financial aid and she found herself struggling to pay for two semesters. She hopes getting a degree will improve her life and her children’s. “I want to show them I can, and will, succeed.”

Come share your success and mix and mingle with fellow paralegal graduates on the 24th. RSVP to 407-582-3426 or alumni@valenciacollege.edu by Oct. 21.

Note: Paralegals cannot give legal advice, represent a client, or provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.

2013-14 ime becas scholarship available now!

IME Becas Scholarship

Are you a first generation Mexican-American student in college? Apply today for the IME Becas Scholarship!

The IME Becas Scholarship is dedicated to providing support to students who are first generation in college students that identify themselves as Mexican-American or Mexican immigrants.

Students must:

  1. Complete the 2013-14 Valencia College Foundation Scholarship found here: http://valenciacollege.edu/finaid/Scholarship_bulletin.cfm
  2. Complete the 2013-14 FAFSA Application
  3. Be a first generation in college student
  4. Mexican-American or Mexican immigrant
  5. Demonstrate financial need

If you qualify, apply today by completing the IME Becas Scholarship application found at https://valencia.scholarships.ngwebsolutions.com/CMXAdmin/Cmx_Content.aspx?cpId=466

putting a human face on genocide

Valencia’s Peace and Justice Institute brought Carl Wilkens to Valencia campus through a $2,000 grant from the United States Institute of Peace, which was matched by a $2,000 donation from Orlando-based ShuffieldLowman Attorneys & Advisors.

One Person Can Make a Difference: Recalling Lessons from Rwanda

  • By Linda Shrieves Beaty

When the genocide in Rwanda began in 1994, Carl Wilkens found himself facing a terrible dilemma.

A Seventh-Day Adventist aid worker, Wilkens had lived in Rwanda for four years, building schools and starting his young family there. But as the violence between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis erupted, and the killing began to engulf the country, the U.S. embassy urged all Americans to get out of the country.

There was just one problem, Carl Wilkens told audiences at Valencia this week. The Wilkens family — Carl, his wife Teresa and their three small children –  employed two Rwandans: a housekeeper and a young man who was their night watchman. Both were members of the Tutsi tribe, whose members were being hunted down and killed by members of the majority Hutu tribe and its government.

Wilkens figured he had two choices: Leave the country and try to sneak out his two employees, which the U.S. embassy had forbidden, and which he felt might risk his family’s lives if  they were caught at the border. Or, he and his wife could leave their home in Kigali, and let their employees hide out in their home. Unfortunately, Wilkens knew that the Hutus would quickly find their employees and kill them.

In the face of such dreadful choices, Wilkens came up with a different solution.

He sent his wife and children to neighboring Burundi, and he chose to stay in Rwanda — where he could shelter his employees and other Tutsi friends.

“When Plan A is unacceptable and Plan B is equally unacceptable, I’d encourage you to stop and look for a Plan C,” Wilkens told the Valencia students and staffers at his speeches.

Wilkens, the only American who stayed during the bloody genocide that claimed more than 800,000 lives, managed to save the lives of his employees — and he’s credited with saving the lives of hundreds of others, including children in nearby orphanages.

During the 100 days of nonstop killing, Wilkens went out into the bloody streets of Kigali, faced down soldiers and civilians armed with AK-47s and machetes, and bargained with Hutu government officials to let him help the children.  Before long, he found himself dealing with men who were ordering the slaughter of thousands of people.  He was uncomfortable with the idea, but a Tutsi friend and pastor suggested it. “He said, ‘Carl, if you really want to make a difference, you have to form a relationship with the people in power,’ ” Wilkens recalled.

So Wilkens  met with Col. Tharcisse Renzaho, the governor of Kigali. Renzaho gave Wilkens a travel permit that would allow him through roadblocks to provide food and water to children in orphanages. When Wilkens asked for a truck to deliver the materials, the colonel provided one. Later, after the violence ended and the Rwandan people drove out the extremist government, that colonel was arrested and tried for his crimes.

Yet the incident taught Wilkens a lesson. “I want to focus on the power of relationships to make a difference,” said Wilkens.

Peace, he said, depends on it. “How are we going to build world peace? Through friendships.”

Wilkens stayed in Rwanda for another 18 months after the genocide, as the country began to heal. In 2011, Wilkens released his first book, “I’m Not Leaving,” which is based on tapes he made to his wife and children during the genocide. Today, he is the director of World Outside My Shoes, a nonprofit based in Spokane, Wash. Wilkens now spends much of his time traveling around the country,  telling how his experiences puts a human “face” on genocide,  showing students that  perpetrators, victims, and resistors will not soon be forgotten, and teaching participants how one person really can make a difference.

Valencia’s Peace and Justice Institute brought Carl Wilkens to campus through a $2,000 grant from the United States Institute of Peace, which was matched by a $2,000 donation from Orlando-based ShuffieldLowman Attorneys & Advisors.

are you a 2012-13 duke energy (formerly progress energy) scholarship recipient?

Duke Energy (formerly Progress Energy)  is boosting access to female students who are pursuing a career in the engineering field.

If you are:

  • Female
  • 19 years or older
  • Currently enrolled in an engineering program, with a 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Live in Orange or Osceola counties
  • Have documented financial need

You may qualify for the 2013-14 Duke Energy Scholarship.

This scholarship awards $4,275 annually for 2 years at Valencia and 2 years at UCF!

The Duke Energy Scholarship is renewable! If you were awarded the Duke  Energy (formerly Progress Energy) Scholarship in the 2012-13 academic year, you may qualify for a scholarship renewal. You must meet all original requirements and be enrolled full time in an engineering-degree seeking program.

In order to apply, visit: https://valencia.scholarships.ngwebsolutions.com/CMXAdmin/Cmx_Content.aspx?cpId=466 and submit your 2013-14 Valencia Foundation Scholarship Application.

Your Valencia Foundation Scholarship Application may also be considered for any additional scholarships to which you may qualify for. These scholarship selections are based on donor discretion.

In order to renew your scholarship, please contact Jen Bhagirath at (407) 582-3154 or via email at: jbhagirath@valenciacollege.edu in order to obtain further information on the scholarship renewal process.

For additional information, please visit the Valencia College – Scholarship Bulletin Board at: http://valenciacollege.edu/finaid/Scholarship_bulletin.cfm

thank you femmes de coeur

Sending appreciation to Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) for the recent $5,000 donation to Valencia Foundation. This generous contribution is earmarked to support Valencia College nursing students through the Femmes de Coeur Endowed Nursing Scholarship.

In addition to Valencia College Nurising program, Femmes de Coeur also contributed to Florida Hospital College of Health and Sciences, Seminole State College and UCF College of Nursing.

FemmesDC