Join us for A Night of Celebration

You are invited to the Valencia Alumni Association’s
 “A Night of Celebration” event.

Please join us as we celebrate this year’s
Distinguished Alumni Award recipients.

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1 week to the big day- let’s make some noise!




What: #DollarsforScholars is Valencia College Foundation’s end of year campaign.

Why: #DollarsforScholars will make the difference for many students to get the education they’ve always wanted.

When: Starting with #GivingTuesday, a national day of giving, on December 1 through the end of the year.

How: Donate any amount. Take an unselfie.  Spread the word.



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valencia grad doing big things!

Carmi May 15 Post

Carmidaris Rivera-Vega ’13 graduated from Valencia College with an Associates in Arts in General Studies. She was accepted at the University of Central Florida in summer 2013 as a business major.

On May 9th, Carmidaris graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors of Arts in Business Administration (B.A.B.A.) a Minor in Health Services Administration and a 4.0 GPA. Carmidaris earned Cum Laude distinction and was the only B.A.B.A. student graduating with honors!

While studying at Valencia College, Carmidaris was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and while at UCF she was a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

In March 2013, Carmidaris joined the Valencia College family working as an Accounting Tutor and Front Desk Assistant at the Osceola Campus. Currently, she holds a full-time position as an Accounting Clerk at the Valencia College Foundation.

“What you learn becomes a part of who you are! For this reason, I thank God, my family, Valencia College and the University of Central Florida for being a part of the platform that supports who I am today. In my opinion, there is a single path to success and we build our own. Keep building yours by looking up and following the sky. And yes! That’s right! Our path is endless because there is nothing more rewarding than to keep achieving an entire life.” – Carmidaris Rivera-Vega

Valencia Graduates Working to Pay it Forward!

Rebecca East Campus

Meet this year’s Mary Smedley Collier Distinguished GraduateRebecca Nash! Rebecca and her fellow graduates invite Valencia faculty and staff to help them meet their challenge to raise $5,000 or more before Commencement on May 9th. Their Legacy Class Gift will support future students through scholarships.

Please consider joining their legacy with your support!

Donations can be made:

By credit card: Visit . Completely fill out the form, decide a gift amount that is right for you, and click submit.

Or by cash or check:  Drop off your cash or check donation in any amount at the Alumni Relations office (407-582-3426) in the District Office or mail to: Valencia Alumni Relations, 1768 Park Center Drive, Orlando, FL 32835, or mail intercampus to DO-41.


calling for alumni class notes for Vitae magazine!

Social Media PostCheck out the current edition of the Vitae magazine.

Faculty and staff giving at Valencia

why-i-give-banner-270x60The Faculty and Staff Giving Committee is excited to announce three students were awarded the Student Opportunity Scholarship for 2014/2015. This is only scholarship to be solely funded by faculty and staff contributions in support of the students they serve.  Christina Funk received the primary scholarship with Valencia students Michaela Decker and Gerald Jones also receiving modest scholarships.

Thanks to “Why I Give Where I Work”  new pledges, renewal gifts and annual donations, our Valencia faculty and staff are part of nearly $100,000 in annual contributions to the Valencia Foundation.

Valencia Employees are asked to consider donating in support of Valencia and the students we serve through payroll deduction or to make a one-time gift, you may use the secure online “Why I Give Where I Work” donation location at

The Valencia Foundation would like to send special recognition to co-chairs Josh Murdock and Diana Ciesko for their leadership during the campaign and to the 2014 ambassadors (pictured below): Andrew Becker, Chris Borglum, Ken Carpenter, Wendi Dew, Isabel Hagan, Jonathan Hernandez, Erich Heintzelman, Pat Lee, Donna Marino, James May, Rob McCaffrey, Mia Pierre, April Raneri, and past chair Katie Shephard.

2014 Faculty and Staff Giving Committee Members

Volunteer ambassadors of the faculty and staff giving committee encourage colleagues to consider committing support of Valencia College and the students they serve by making a contribution to the Valencia Foundation.

Valencia employees give back

why-i-give-logoValencia’s faculty and staff giving campaign is underway and in full swing. Last week, the Foundation sent information regarding this year’s “Why I Give Where I Work” campaign with Valencia colleagues who expressed the reasons why they choose to give.

Scholarships change lives.

Our goal is that each student who comes through our doors will be able to fulfill his or her dream of earning a college degree. As the data shows, those who complete a college degree and work full time, earn an average of $17,500 more than those with a high school diploma only, according to a recent Pew Research Study.

Additionally, Valencia’s associate in science graduates boast 95 percent job placement, even in this economy, and starting salaries average $43,385.

So it’s no wonder that Patti Riva, operations manager, energy education, says that she gives because “investing in Valencia will bring a brighter future for all.”

Reasons Valencia College employees give where they work:


Employees can be a part of this movement simply by completing the Payroll Deduction form — it’s that easy.

Sharing the Reasons

Valencia invites other employees to share why they choose to give by leaving a comment below.

If you have questions or would like more information on the campaign or how you can support the “Why I Give Where I Work” campaign, feel free to you may contact Valencia Foundation donors stewardship manager Donna Marino at or any of the faculty and staff giving ambassadors located at


Valencia employees share “Why I Give Where I Work”

Valencia employees make a big difference in our student’s lives!

Many Valencia College employees support students inside and outside the classroom. It was Sir Winston Churchill that said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

There are many reasons to contribute to Valencia Foundation, below are a few Valencia employees  who shared “Why I Give Where I Work.”


Gustavo Morales, professor, geology, West Campus:

I give because I like to support all the fantastic work my colleagues do.


James Thomas, professor, English, East Campus:

I give because I know exactly where my money goes: to help deserving students.

laurie-halftone-180w Laurie Youngman, manager, employee support:

I give because I believe in Valencia’s mission and want to show how strongly.


Donna Sovern, administrative assistant in the math office on Osceola Campus:

I give because Valencia is a community of helpers, and I love helping our students.

Share your passion for learning and student success! Help our faculty and staff support those students who need it most. Please visit and click on Make a Donation.

You can join the team of almost 300 Valencia colleagues and give today. Simply complete the Payroll Deduction form to start your giving legacy.

If you have questions or would like more information on how you can support the “Why I Give Where I Work” campaign, contact Diana Ciesko, professor, psychology, or Josh Murdock, instructional designer — the Faculty and Staff Giving Committee Chairs, or Donna Marino, CFRE, manager, donor stewardship.

Want to share why you give to Valencia College? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

“Why I Give Where I Work” is a part of the faculty and staff giving campaign that was designed by a team of Valencia employees and honors the commitment of faculty and staff to student success while seeking to provide additional resources for faculty, staff and students who work together to realize educational goals. This campaign is focused on sharing the good work of the Valencia Foundation and encouraging faculty and staff participation based on individual interest and willingness to contribute. A faculty or staff member should not, at any time, feel pressured or compelled to give to the foundation.

first one campaign success

First One GroupThanks to grassroots support, Valencia gathered $203,746 in scholarships for students who are the first in their families to attend college. That total includes our dollar-for-dollar match through a challenge grant; 100 percent of this money will go directly to students.

Top internal fundraisers were: Paula Pritchard, dean of nursing, Annmarie Coco Wise, purchasing agent, Katie Shephard, speech professor, Brenda Jones, facilities specialist, David Hosman, student life skills professor, Amanda Kern, graphics technology professor, Rob McCaffrey, graphics technology professor, and Josh Murdock, instructional designer.

The top Valencia alumni teams were led by Michele Nichols (Generation One), Julie Bennett (Gladiators in Wingtips) and Zia-ur-Rehman Ansari (Team Zia).

Foundation board members Rebecca York and Sue Foreman and foundation director emeritus and alumnna Sarah Kelly helped the team surpass its goal.

The most productive internal teams were graphic design, nursing, purchasing and OIT. These fearless internal philanthropy warriors were led by many, including Kristy Pennino and Ariane Dicarlo.

Kudos to Jason Dodge and the Valencia Volunteers team for their commitment, enthusiasm and heart.

Our thanks to each of you for, once again, putting students first.

a closer look – valencia’s first one campaign

Our First One campaign ended on Aug. 31 with $200,495 raised for student scholarships. This amount includes the dollar-for-dollar match that is the result of a challenge grant. 100 percent of the amount will go directly to scholarships for those that are the first in their families to attend college.

We’ve had a lot of fun during the campaign, reaching out via social media and tracking progress on WWW.VALENCIA.ORG/FirstOne.

Keith Houck, Valencia’s vice president of operations and finance, was the top fundraiser with $2,254 raised. And coming in second with $1,289 was donor Sarah Kelly.

There was some competition between Osceola campus president, and first-generation scholar, Dr. Kathleen Plinske, and West campus president Dr. Falecia Williams and both made the top fundraiser honor roll. And kudos to our very own Donna Marino!

Valencia alumna Michele Nichols and foundation board member Sue Foreman also made the list. And there was a strong showing among Valencia faculty and staff: Dr. Paula Pritchard, Annmarie Wise, Katie Shephard and Carol Millenson all made the list of top 15 fundraisers.

Foundation board member Rebecca York joined forces with Sue Foreman and their One Valencia team was at the top!

There were top teams throughout Valencia, including ones from the leadership team, West campus, graphic design, nursing, purchasing and OIT. Student government rallied and raised $1,105, surpassing their $500 goal.

You were introduced to Patti Riva in the above story and now you know she and Carol Millenson were behind the top producing AAWCC Prima team. Valencia retirees had a strong showing with $655 raised.

Professors Diana Ciesko and April Raneri joined top fundraiser Katie Shephard for the Speak Up team and Valencia’s very own house band, Rogue Scholars, raised $479.

Valencia alumni teams filled out the rest of the top 15 teams with Julie Bennett and the Gladiators in Wingtips team and Team Zia led by alumnus Zia-ur-Rehman Ansari.

Another great thing about the campaign was hearing all the “first” stories and meeting some of our first-generation students. This campaign afforded all of us at the foundation a chance to learn more about those we work with and the students we serve, truly a valuable outcome of the First One campaign.

Last month we learned that Dr. Kathleen Plinkse, Osceola campus president, and Dr. Joyce Romano, vice president of student affairs, were both first-generation students. This month we hear from Belen Caba, assistant director of admissions and records at Osceola campus, and Debra Hodges, associate professor of speech and instructional assistant for the Writing Center on West campus.

Belen was the first in her family to obtain a degree beyond high school. She completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration, while at the same time managing a business and raising three children with her husband. She recently obtained her MBA with a specialization in information technology. Both of these accomplishments are very proud moments in her life.

Belen grew up in an urban community, where it was a struggle to make ends meet and the dangers of violence and drugs were always present. She credits her mother with making her the person she is today and instilling in her the belief that “education will take you farther than you can see.”

She feels she is living proof of that sentiment and through her work today, she hopes to spread that same passion for learning. She feels this passion and zest regarding education is especially important when students are facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles. “I always tell them that working toward this goal is hard, but the rewards of completing a degree are worth it in the end.”

And it is not just in the workplace, on the home front too she promotes education, and it has worked. One of her children will be completing a degree in civil engineering this fall and another has a goal of being a computer engineer.

She credits education with getting her where she is today. “If it were not for my pursuit of higher education, I could not have made it to the position I currently have. I could not be in a better place to help the next generation attain the goal of being first in their family as I was. I hope to serve as a role model to others that education is attainable no matter your circumstances.”

Debra Hodges grew up in a family of five children, four girls and a boy. Her earliest memories were of the joy she experienced at school. Her favorite doll was “Suzy Schoolteacher,” with a little student desk, chalkboard and chalk. Though her sister was five years her senior, it was Debra who was always the teacher when they played school.

Her parents were proponents of higher education and Debra heard their message. While her sisters and brother dropped out of high school, Debra was determined to continue her education and become an educator.

It was at church when she was just 9 years old that she chose her school. The famed concert choir from Trevecca Nazarene University performed and she whispered to her father, “Daddy, I want to sing in that choir when I go to Trevecca!”

And she did. She graduated from high school a year early and auditioned for the concert choir at Trevecca Nazarene University, a small, liberal arts college in Tennessee. She traveled and performed with the choir in eight countries in Europe and throughout the southeast United States.

She completed college with honors after just three years and immediately began to pursue her master’s degree in preparation to teach college. She received the coveted master’s degree and remains the first in her family to gain a higher education.

She happily shares that her daughter is a Valencia alumna who went on to receive her degree from UCF. Debra is hopeful that her daughter will continue on with her education. “Who knows, maybe she will achieve a doctorate!”

Belen and Debra certainly paved the way for their children. Valencia students Taisha and Bianca had to navigate their journey on their own. They agreed to share their stories so that we can better understand the true impact of investing in first-generation students at Valencia.

Taisha Imani is expected to graduate in May 2014 with a degree in medical office administration. She wants to start her career immediately and is open to the possibility of continuing her education to advance in her profession.

As to why she chose Valencia, she says, “Valencia is an amazing school that gives many people, young and old, the opportunity to seek a degree and better their lives.” She is also grateful that tuition rates have stayed constant, unlike other institutions that have raised costs over the last few years. “I don’t know of any other school that cares about their students that way.”

She is the first in her family to go to college and acknowledges that is important. She sees herself “breaking the cycle of poor education in my family and hopefully beginning a new one that my children will follow.” She hopes to make life better for her family and wants to be a role model for her children so that they too will pursue a higher education. Her actions reinforce the belief that education is important and valuable in life.

She feels that scholarships are important because, simply put, college costs money. Not everyone can afford it and there are so many that may not qualify for financial aid. She echoes the sentiments of both Patti and Fleck from the story above, it is not just the gift of funds, but the fact that someone cares. “Scholarships, in my opinion, not only help out students financially, but it tells the student that someone believes in them and wants to invest in their education without any expectation of having to pay it back.”

Bianca Maldonado is also a first-generation student. She chose Valencia “because of all the great things I heard about it.” Even though they did not attend college, her parents raised her with the belief that she would have a higher education. “Even when I was younger, going to college was always something that was planned for me.”

Bianca Maldonado

Bianca Maldonado

Her father is very successful now, but she admits it was hard for him to get to that point without a college degree. Now she serves as an inspiration to the younger generation of her family. They can look up to her and say, “I can go to college too!”

Bianca will graduate in the summer of 2014 with an AS degree in nursing. She plans to go on to UCF and attain her bachelor’s degree.

She has met many other Valencia students who struggle with paying for education, working more than one job and juggling family responsibilities. She feels that scholarships offer a sense of relief and it is a great achievement to be chosen. “It makes you feel that all of the hard work that you have been doing is for a reason and someone out there thinks you are doing a great job.”

I asked both Bianca and Taisha what they would say if they could meet their scholarship benefactors. For all of you who donated to the First One campaign, these words are for you.

“I would tell them how grateful I am for the opportunity. This scholarship has offered me a way of focusing on my studies and not on how I am going to pay for it, so thank you!” – Bianca

“I would tell the kind people who donated the scholarship money how thankful and appreciative I am that they chose to donate this money for my future. I would let them know that they have not only invested in helping my life, but also the lives of my three small children. Their generous support will help me to be the role model I so desperately want to be, to show them that no matter where they come from or what people say, you can always make something of yourself if you put in the work and dedication.” – Taisha

my first one story – Angel Sanchez

Angel at the First One campaign kick-off

Angel at the First One campaign kick-off

As we enter the final days of the First One campaign, we asked Angel to share his personal story about being a first-generation student. The campaign ends tomorrow, but there is still time to support at

My name is Angel Sanchez, and I am the first in my family to not only get a GED, but to go to college and excel at it. Despite not having the resources and guidance available to make college a realistic possibility, today I am a 4.0 honor student at Valencia College and much of it has been thanks to the support I’ve received from grants and Valencia Foundation scholarships which have made college a reality.

My story, as is the story of every first-generation college student, is the story of heroes. I feel that by going to college and defying the odds, I am becoming the hero in my family.

I was struck with this reality when I was visiting my family in Miami during the winter break and was talking with my little niece, Destiny. Destiny is 7-years-old and growing up in the crime ridden inner cities of Miami and knows no one who has ever finished school besides her teachers. Before leaving, Destiny asked me why did I have to go, and I explained that I had to return to Orlando because I had classes the following Monday. In shock, Destiny asked, “Uncle, you’re in school? What grade are you in?” I giggled and said, “Baby, I’m in college; I’m past high school,” and with sheer confidence she replied, “Uncle I’m going to go to college too.”

At that point I realized that I carried with me a great responsibility and had been given a great privilege: as a first-generation college student, not only did I have the opportunity to change the trajectory of my own life, but I was also changing the idea of what was possible for my little niece—I was given the opportunity to be a hero for my family.

However, I am not the only hero in this story. Just as I am having an impact on Destiny’s life, there have been countless individuals who have impacted my life and helped make my college dream a reality—they too are heroes!

Therefore, whenever you are able to help someone be the first in their family to do something great, such as going to college, you are being a hero, because as one of my friends once told me, “when we change someone’s life, we are changing that life plus the ripple effect.” So I challenge you today to be a hero and join me in helping other first-generation college students become heroes too!

Visit and help someone today.

welcome back students – monday inspiration

Today is the first day of classes for the semester – welcome back students!

Here is some inspiration for all of us as we get our week started – favorite “firsts” from the Wall of Firsts that was at our campaign headquarters. Our First One campaign is a celebration of all firsts and raises money for scholarships for those that are the first in their families to attend college. There is still time to participate – visit today!


first one – campaign extension

first-one-avatars-23The foundation’s First One campaign has been extended! We heard from some of our hardworking team leads that perhaps we were too quick to end the campaign on Aug. 11. Scheduling things in the summer months can be difficult and we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be successful. We want to be sure the campaign ends at an appropriate time, and raises all the funds we can for our first-generation students.

All funds raised are still eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match and 100 percent of all money raised will go directly to scholarships.

For those of you already working on the campaign, thank you so much for your support. Yes, our campaign goal is important, but your friendship matters more. If there is anything we can do to help you reach your fundraising goal, just let us know! (

If you haven’t yet pledged your support, please visit today to find out more about this important campaign that supports education in our community.

First One Kickoff

building bridges to success

The Valencia College Bridges to Success program is responsible for working with diverse populations to assist with the post-secondary transition from enrollment to graduation.

Students often balance their academic course work, family responsibilities and personal life. Bridges students are provided an educational environment that supports their success and provides academic services, programs of interest and mentoring that benefit this diverse student population.

On July 26, the Bridges to Success mentor program IMAGES (Influential Men Applying Gifts and Employing Strategies) gathered in support of Valencia students: those who are the first in their family to attend college.

These IMAGES members joined the Bridges First One online fundraising team and created their team webpage:

These IMAGES members joined the Bridges online fundraising team and created their First One team webpage:

Bridges to Success at Valencia works with ethnically diverse populations to:

  • assist with post-secondary transition from application to enrollment and graduation
  • assist the college in creating an educational environment that supports the success of these students

For more information on the Bridges to Success program at Valencia College, please contact:

John Stover, Bridges to Success Program Manager
Student Services Building, West Campus
1800 S Kirkman Rd., Orlando, FL 32811-2302

spotlight story – donald gibson

Donald Gibson
“I truly try my best to enjoy every single day no matter how tough it gets or how bad it is.” And after meeting Donald Gibson, I can certainly attest to that fact.

Donald currently works at Valencia as a VA certifying official. He helps veterans and dependents of veterans, making sure they are accessing their education benefits and assisting with obstacles that might hinder their educational journeys.

It is a job he eyed when he was a work study student, a position funded through the VA. He found out that his VA benefits would be running out the same month that his supervisor was retiring. He approached his supervisor and told her, “I want your job. How do I get it?” Stunned at first, once she realized he was serious she did everything in her power to teach Donald everything she could. He made the transition and is very proud of the work he does at Valencia and especially proud that he gets to help his fellow veterans.

Donald joined the Marine Corps in order to access the GI Bill and go to college. He was told by his parents at an early age that they were not going to be able to help him finance college. He was good in school but hit some rough spots in high school and education took a second seat to life. At 15 he was responsible for all of his expenses – food, clothing, etc. At 18 he was told that he needed to live on his own, so with 6 months until high school graduation, he found a place of his own and worked to pay for it. Despite all of this, he did manage to graduate high school. Thinking back on that time, Donald says, “I was not necessarily ever anti-school, I was just a teenager trying to juggle a full-time job and going to school full time and it was difficult for me.”

He started attending Valencia, the first in his family to attend college, but soon life happened again. He was not successful at accessing his GI Bill funds and ended up thousands of dollars in debt. He soon found himself unable to continue his education.

Time passed and the Post 9/11 GI Bill was introduced. This version paid the school directly and gave him much needed peace of mind. He applied for benefits and was part of the inaugural group of scholars to attend college using this bill.

And then life dealt another blow. His father was electrocuted by a power line and almost passed away. He moved in with Donald, who not only served as his caregiver, but found himself paying for some of his actual medical care, he estimates $9,000 over two years. During this time, being a care provider and working full time, Donald remained a full-time student and had a 3.8 GPA.

It was a foundation scholarship that helped Donald during another one of life’s troubling moments – a $1,000 scholarship just as his VA benefits were running out. He often wonders if those funds saved him from having to drop out again.

Donald admits that his story may not be typical, and that his first-generation experience has included a lot of struggles. But he recognizes that he is farther along than others, “I’m getting ready to purchase my first home. Even with minimum wage jobs I always made sure that I took care of what I needed to take care of.”

He is able to put things in perspective, and credits Valencia in his life. “One of the biggest things to learn is that if you have goals, you have to understand there is going to be those unknowns that you can’t really plan for, but you have to be able to manipulate and work with them. And that is why I love Valencia so much, as a student and as an employee, because they understand, they truly understand life does happen. And they don’t hold it against you, they actually help you try to manipulate and maneuver those obstacles that get thrown in your way.”

And in his job, he is part of Valencia’s helping hand, providing service to fellow veterans. It is a population that is growing, with more than 2,000 students using VA benefits on an annual basis. Summer enrollment was the highest that he’s ever seen with 900 veterans using their benefits.

When asked how he remains so positive, even in the face of challenges, he shares that he has a good support system. “Me and my mom have an amazing relationship,” he shares. Some may question their relationship based on his strict upbringing, but he shares the truth is actually far different than people may assume. She knew him better than he knew himself and realized that he was the type of person who needed to go out into life and experience things on his own, even hardships. And he also cites his faith with reassuring him that everything happens for a reason and this is God’s plan.

His positive energy is not contained, it spills over to those close to him. He is a mentor to his cousin, who is also a first-generation student and currently attending Valencia. He identifies with the struggle of other first-generation families, struggles they may not have needed to go through if they were able to make more money with a college education.

He also mentors a young man that his aunt and uncle took into their home. The young man’s mother struggled with substance abuse and his aunt and uncle offered a stable and loving environment. Donald will tell you that this young man is “one of those people who has so much potential but doesn’t know how to tap into it.” To make sure this young man realizes that potential, he paid the $35 registration fee for him to go to Valencia and helped him fill out the FAFSA. But the support doesn’t end there: “I will be taking time to walk him through the system, to make it easy for him, so he doesn’t get overwhelmed and lost and confused. He doesn’t have people like that in his life that can help him walk through it because nobody he knows, not one person, has ever been to college.”

After meeting with him, I can definitely say that Donald Gibson is someone you would be grateful to have in your corner. The foundation is in the midst of our First One campaign and I find myself thinking about something Donald said at the very end of our chat. First time in college stories aren’t always about college. Donald’s story certainly shows that, sometimes life happens and how you get through it makes you stronger and wiser than before.

discussion on philanthropy – dr. kathleen plinske

This issue is dedicated to our First One campaign, and a celebration of first-generation students. For this month’s discussion on philanthropy, I am checking in with another first-generation college student, Dr. Kathleen Plinske, campus president at Osceola.
Dr. Plinske

Dr. Plinske had a distinctive high school experience, essentially moving out of home at 14 to attend a public, residential high school in Illinois, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). Growing up, there was always an expectation that she would go to college, and attending that high school was a game changer for her because such a large percentage of the graduating class went on to college. It also instilled in her early the concept of philanthropy and giving back. “When you are a student at the high school, they instill in you that the education you are given is a gift from the people of Illinois and the expectation is that you are going to make a difference in the world and give back for that gift you were given.”

The blessings continued for her as she went on to Indiana University and received a merit-based full scholarship which covered not only tuition, room and board but also undergraduate experiences like study abroad opportunities. She graduated with bachelor degrees in physics and Spanish and got a job at her hometown community college. She immediately started working on her master’s degree in Spanish, and they allowed her teach in the evenings while also working full time. She remembers that being a very neat experience – teaching, being a student and working as college support staff all at one time.

She got her master’s from Roosevelt University in Chicago and started a doctoral program at Pepperdine University in Malibu. It was a hybrid program that required attendance for a week at a time and the rest of the coursework was online. She would save and use her vacation time from work in order to attend classes.

She then progressed through a number of positions at McHenry County College and ultimately ended up serving as interim president, and from there she came to Valencia. But it wasn’t a full stop at Valencia, she continued her educational journey and received her MBA from the University of Florida in December 2012.

Doing all of this as a first-generation student offered a unique set of circumstances. She remembers her first semester, she was convinced she was failing all her courses. She remembers having conversations with her mom, should she drop out? Am I college material? And her mother wanted to help but didn’t know how to advise her, having not been in that position. But her mother gave her some wonderful advice: Just stick it out for this first semester and then we’ll see how you do and go from there. It turns out Dr. Plinske had straight A’s, and continued having straight A’s, she just didn’t have a thermometer to gauge how she was doing.

She brings these experiences to her job at Valencia and it is especially helpful at Osceola, where she cites having a very high percentage of students that are first generation. “I can empathize with what they are going through and I understand the importance of really uplifting them. I understand what they are feeling and what their fears might be and what type of support they might need, and just being understanding of what they are going through and how big a deal it is for them and for their families to be the first ones to go to college.”

Dr. Plinske is a firm believer in the power of scholarships, they open a door to a future that might not be possible. For her, she knows that her life and career path would have been much different had she not been afforded additional opportunities and one opportunity impacts the next, which impacts the next and so on.

And on the subject of first-generation students, she is just as passionate, “A contribution to this campaign that supports scholarships for first-generation students will have long-lasting impact on our world that we might not even be able to imagine.” Supporting the First One campaign helps support a student who one day may cure cancer or be president of the United States, the possibilities are endless. “We don’t know our impact ultimately in the end and I think that is what is so exciting about supporting student scholarships.” Without the catalyzing effect of higher education, these talents could remain untapped and unrealized.

Dr. Plinske made a very generous donation to the campaign, a $1,000 gift in memory of her father. Osceola’s student government president approached her and asked if she would support their First One fundraising team. They were shocked when she said yes. She knew she wanted to make a gift to honor her father and his support. She tells a wonderful story about when she was in high school. Every Friday, after work, he would drive to her high school to pick her up and then drive her back on Sunday. She was so homesick, without those weekends home she may not have made it through school.

On the subject of philanthropy, she believes “that unto whom much is given, much is expected.” It was a philosophy she developed in high school and every day a quote from astronomer Carl Sagan, his words on the wall at school, served as a reminder: IMSA was a gift from the people of Illinois to the human future. So from a very early age, the expectation to give something back to make a real difference in the world was introduced to her. “Each of us has unique gifts that we can share – time, treasure and talent – and it is our responsibility to make the best use of our gifts to make the world a better place.”

Would you like to join Dr. Plinske and support education in our community? You can, through our First One campaign. With this campaign, we are trying to raise $100,000 for first-generation scholarships. 100 percent of every dollar raised will go directly to scholarships and gifts received by Aug. 10 are eligible for a match through a challenge grant, bringing our impact to students to $200,000!

It’s not too late to start your own fundraising team, or you can support another team or make a general donation. Join us today at

a closer look – a conversation with dr. joyce romano

Dr. Romano and Barbara Shell at the First One kick-off

Dr. Romano and Barbara Shell at the First One kick-off

I learned that Valencia’s vice president of student affairs, Dr. Joyce Romano, was a first-generation student when she spoke at our First One campaign kick-off celebration. After hearing her words, I was interested in learning more. Hers is a first-generation student story set against the women’s movement and the changes of the 70s.

She was a good student in high school and counts herself lucky that she had friends whose families were college oriented because her family was not. Her parents lived very simply, there was no savings account, much less one for college.

Her father was born in 1910 and her mother in 1916. When she was 17, Dr. Romano’s mother told her that a girl didn’t need a college education. And she was right, speaking from her life model – women grew up, got married, had children and did not work outside the home. Looking back, Dr. Romano also thinks that this sentiment was shared because “she felt really bad that she couldn’t pay for it and I had to struggle on my own.”

Dr. Romano started to save for college early, babysitting when she was 12, getting a job at 16, working every summer, sometimes two jobs at a time. She worked very hard and saved every dime. “My friends used to beg me to go out with them but I would tell them no, I already spent my $5 this week.”

She was always a saver and always oriented toward college. She went to college before all the federal financial aid programs were available, so she paid her own way and took out a small loan from her hometown bank. She also had two or three different jobs on campus and feels those were an enrichment part of her education.

She was interested in psychology so she chose that as her major, receiving her bachelor’s degree and going on to receive her master’s in counseling psychology. She then went to the University of Kansas and received her doctorate by the time she was 31.

She was planning on being a therapist, working in community mental health, but a job opportunity changed her plans and set the course for her future. The job was in Residence Life and the men she worked with were extremely inclusive, treating her not as a graduate student, but as a professional. When she finished her master’s degree they offered her a full-time job with the office. And it was in this realm of student affairs and student activities that she built her career.

She came to Valencia as coordinator of student development on West campus. A few years later, then college president Dr. Gianini revamped student services as a result of feedback he got through the 1993 SACS reaccreditation process. She took an interim role in the new organization in 1994. Soon, she championed her own cause and pushed for a job search, with no guarantee she would get the job, and became a college administrator. She was in that position for nine years and when senior administrator Dr. Hooks retired, Dr. Shugart made her interim vice president of student affairs. She went through another search process and after about 9 months, she was named as vice president of student affairs. That was almost ten years ago.

She admits that even when she went to college, she had no idea she would be doing what she is doing now. It brings her back to her first-generation experience, “When you are a first-generation college student, your ideas of what is possible are so limited because you just don’t know what you don’t know.” Even in her career, she admits that it never crossed her mind to be a doctor, engineer, lawyer or pilot.

Part of this view was due to being the first in her family to attend college and part of it was the women’s movement. Dr. Romano went to school when times were changing for women, their roles in life – home and work – were moving toward what we may take for granted today. Dr. Romano admits that she is definitely a product of the women’s movement and the women she met on campus and saw as role models were the real leaders of the movement. These were the days of Betty Friedan, founder and first president of the National Organization for Women, speaking on campus. Dr. Romano recalls her resident assistant when she was a freshman. She would get everyone together to go to speeches or programs, either on her campus or at nearby Cornell University. People were acknowledging barriers and having conversations about it. The feminist perspective was gaining momentum and was enormously eye-opening. “That’s definitely what my college education gave me,” she says.

Asked why she feels college is so important, Dr. Romano is quick to reply, “It expands your sense of yourself and what is possible. It expands your view of the world and what is in it and what people are in it and what opportunities are in it.”

And she says one thing that students don’t understand when they start, and she didn’t understand, is that it is a process. “Learning is a process. It’s a true development so it is not just a collection of 20 courses that you take to get a degree.” She feels it is much more, following a concept of Gestalt psychology, “that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.” It is not an additive process, she shares, more of a multiplying process where you build on experiences that just get bigger and bigger and sets you up to be a curious person in the world.

Dr. Romano did something wonderful during her remarks at our campaign kick-off. She presented foundation president Geraldine with a check to endow the Cliff Romano Scholarship.

She had a few reasons to establish the scholarship and one led back to her dissertation tribute. In it, she wrote that she regrets that her parents did not have the opportunity for a higher education as she did, and that it was simply a matter of the time they were born, it had nothing to do with intellect or curiosity. Indeed, she shares that both her parents were very curious. And her husband’s parents have a similar story. Neither were college educated, although his father went to the community college in his area after he retired and got an associate degree, becoming involved in the theater department. It is an artistic trait that she says runs in her husband’s family. It really is fitting that it is the Cliff Romano Scholarship because they are both first-generation college students. The scholarship also offers a wonderful way to pay tribute to the memory of these four parents, leaving a legacy that will last a lifetime.

She admits that, given the simple way her parents lived their life, she was surprised there was any money to inherit. She felt very strongly that she wanted to take the funds and pay it forward to help people like her parents get an opportunity. She chose Valencia Foundation because she feels that under Geraldine’s leadership, the foundation is humble and focused on serving the students. And she also loved the fact that here, at Valencia, $25,000 can make a remarkable difference in the lives of our students. When people hear or think about philanthropy, they might assume that you have to be a billionaire to be able to do something. But she proves that wrong and says, “It feels pretty good to be able to make a difference in someone’s life.”

And she brings it all back to her first-generation experience and how college changed her world view. Somebody like me could actually establish a scholarship? Dr. Romano proves that yes, someone like her and her good works can have a lasting effect on Valencia students. And she feels that through the scholarship, it is her parents, still giving her opportunity that she never felt that someone like her would ever have.

support first generation in college students

Have you pledged your support to our First One campaign? With a deadline of Aug. 10, we are trying to raise $100,000 for first-generation student scholarships.

Life is a celebration of firsts, and through this campaign, you can give a first that lasts a lifetime – being the first in the family to attend college.

Please join us today at


faculty and staff giving committee award 5 student scholarships

Valencia’s Student Opportunity Circle Scholarship — the first scholarship created solely with donations from faculty and staff —  awards 5 student scholarships for academic year 2013-2014.

Special thanks to Valencia’s faculty and staff committee ambassadors for their work diligently screening and reviewing scholarship applications from deserving students.

This scholarship is the direct result of Valencia’s annual Faculty and Staff Giving Campaign, designed by a team of Valencia faculty and staff.

Valencia Faculty and Staff campaign ambassadors offer their support of First One.  Valencia established the First One campaign to help first generation college students, those that are first in their families to attend college.

Valencia Faculty and Staff campaign ambassadors offer their support of First One. Valencia Foundation established the First One campaign to help first generation students, those that are first in their families to attend college, with scholarship support.

At the quarterly meeting on July 19th, the faculty and staff committee ambassadors also committed their individual time and resources in support of Valencia’s First One campaign.

Valencia Foundation launched First One as a fund-raising effort to help first-generation, low-income students pursue a college education.

The First One campaign provides the opportunity to give another first by helping a student go to college. For more information on First One please visit:

For more information on Valencia’s faculty and staff committee please visit:

The First One campaign takes advantage of Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program that maximizes state dollars for students through a dollar-for-dollar match of private contributions. During the 2011-12 school year, more than 29,000 Valencia students were the first in their families to go to college.

online fundraising campaign for first generation scholars

In whatever way you are able to pitch in, we are grateful. The students you serve are grateful. The deserving First Ones will be ecstatic.

In whatever way you are able to pitch in, we are grateful.
The students Valencia serves are grateful.
The deserving First Ones will be ecstatic.

Were you the first person in your family to attend college? If so, we’d like to hear your story and share it as an inspiration for our students and our donors.

Valencia has launched its first online fundraising campaign called First One. This short-term grassroots effort is spearheaded by faculty, staff, students, alumni and other community supporters.

We’re looking to gather $100,000 from our friends, which, quite frankly, is an ambitious initial effort. But think about the impact your efforts will have on individual lives!

Gifts raised by August 31, 2013 are doubled by a matching grant! This means that once we reach our fundraising goal, we’ll be able to provide $200,000 in scholarships to deserving students who are among the first ones in their families to attend college.
Here’s how you can play an important part:

• Share your story! Please email a few paragraphs to

• If you use social media, please temporarily change your avatar to one of our nifty First One pictures, which you will find here. (Your friends will ask questions.)

• We welcome your gift, which can be made by credit card by clicking here.

• To make a donation by check, please send it to: Valencia Foundation at DTC-1 with First One in the memo line. We’ll be sure it counts toward the online campaign and that it is matched.

• To amplify your reach and impact, consider creating a team you can manage at WWW.VALENCIA.ORG/FirstOne. If, for example, you have nine other team members and each raises $250, your impact will be $2,500 x 2 = $5,000 for scholarships!

• If you’d rather use your mad social media skills to spread the word about the First One campaign far and wide, please click here.

• Visit WWW.VALENCIA.ORG/FirstOne to start a team or make a donation today. For more information on the campaign, contact Donna Marino  at or Barbara Shell or call 407-582-3150.

In whatever way you are able to pitch in, we are grateful. The students you serve are grateful. The deserving First Ones will be ecstatic.

Through this campaign – and every day on campus – you are transforming lives and families.

Thank you.


Geraldine Gallagher, CFRE

President and CEO

Valencia College Foundation

first one campaign kick-off

Last Wednesday, the foundation kicked off our First One campaign. The First One campaign is a six-week online campaign that hopes to raise $100,000 in scholarships for first generation college students. These students are the first in their family to attend college, and the campaign itself is a celebration of firsts – those special memories that help shape who we are today. For more information on the campaign, please visit

a first that will last a lifetime

Now, you have the opportunity to help someone else have a first that will last a lifetime — becoming the first person in their family to go to college. And, with dollar-to-dollar matching on donations, you can make twice the impact.

First One Donate

Valencia established the First One campaign to help first generation college students, those that are first in their families to attend college.

The First One campaign provides the opportunity to give another first by helping a student go to college. – See more at:

first one efforts support first generation college students

New Campaign Seeks to Raise Scholarships for First-Generation College Students – by Carol Traynor

Valencia Foundation has launched a fund-raising effort to help first-generation, low-income students pursue a college education. The “First One” campaign takes advantage of Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program that maximizes state dollars for students through a dollar-for-dollar match of private contributions.

First One Kickoff

To share your “first” or show your support through a donation, go to or

“For first-generation students, a college degree not only transforms their lives, but alters the trajectory of their families for generations to come,” said Geraldine Gallagher, Foundation president and CEO.

During the 2011-12 school year, more than 29,000 Valencia students were the first in their families to go to college.

The campaign, which lasts from July 1 to August 9, seeks to raise $100,000 in private donations with a $100,000 state match. Students who qualify will be eligible for a scholarship of up to $2,000 to help offset the costs associated with college, including tuition, books and supplies, that cannot always be met with state or federal aid alone.


First-generation student and Valencia graduate Donald Gibson shared that he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school, not just college.

At a kick-off event held yesterday, first-generation student Donald Gibson, 31, told the crowd assembled that he was the first person in his family to graduate from high school, not just college. After graduating from Poinciana High in 2000, he spent five years in the military and later enrolled in college.

“I got my first-generation scholarship right as my GI Bill was running out. If it weren’t for that, I probably would have had to drop out my last semester,” Gibson said.

Finances are just one of the obstacles many first-generation students face. Joyce Romano, Valencia’s vice president of Student Affairs, shared the story of a student she met who drove to Valencia’s Osceola Campus six times before she could muster the courage to get out of her car, go inside the building and apply.

Romano herself was the first in her family to go to college. “I didn’t think of law school. I didn’t think of being a doctor. I didn’t think of owning a business. I didn’t think people like me did such a thing,” she said. “That’s another restraint for people who are first-

generation: they don’t know what things are possible.”

The First One campaign makes use of social media and peer-to-peer outreach and invites others to share how they were the first one to do “something.”


Available state funds are contingent upon matching contributions from private sources on a one to one dollar basis.

The First Generation Matching Grant Program (FGMG) is a need-based grant program available to degree-seeking, resident, undergraduate students who demonstrate substantial financial need, are enrolled at Valencia College, and whose parents have not earned baccalaureate or higher degrees.

Available state funds are contingent upon matching contributions from private sources on a one to one dollar basis.

To share your “first” or show your support of first-generation students through a donation, go to or

join us for our campaign kick off

first-one-avatars-22Do you have plans for this Wednesday? Now you do! Join us as we celebrate firsts and kick off our First One campaign.

First One Campaign Kick Off Reception
Wednesday, July 10, 5:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m.
Valencia College Criminal Justice Institute
8600 Valencia College Lane
Orlando, FL 32825

Enjoy food, fun and fellowship as we embark on the First One campaign in support of first-generation student scholarships.

The campaign runs through August 10. During that time, we are asking participants to share their firsts, a memory about a special first and how it impacted your life. #FirstOne

To RSVP for the reception, please call 407-582-3180. For more information about the First One campaign, visit

share your first …. help someone become a first

Your first day of college, your first road trip or your first born -- show your story with a First ONE profile picture and help spread the word on Facebook, or use one as an avatar wherever you share.

One’s life is full of firsts — first steps, first day of school, first car, first kiss. They only happen once, yet they stay with you forever. Now, you have the opportunity to help someone else have a first that will last a lifetime — becoming the first person in their family to go to college. And, with dollar-to-dollar matching on donations, you can make twice the impact.


Show your support with a First ONE profile picture.

Your first day of college, your first road trip or your first born — show your story with a First ONE profile picture and help spread the word on Facebook, or use one as an avatar on Twitter, WordPress or wherever you share.

Download an avatar — right click and select “save image as” on a picture below.



spotlight story: valencia launches first ONE campaign

foundation-first-one-wordmark-4c-stacked-printMany people I interview reference their parents and families as role models for higher education. Their parents went to college and they followed in their footsteps. But what if you didn’t have that? What would you do? Would you have enough courage to start down that path alone? Would you have enough motivation and faith to overcome obstacles?

Last year, more than 29,000 Valencia students did just that, they were the first in their families to attend college. These students are their own role model and work hard every day to change the trajectory of their family for generations to come.

To help these students, Valencia has launched the first ONE campaign. This is a six-week online effort to raise $100,000 for first generation student scholarships. 100 percent of the funds raised will go directly to support these scholarships, and each donation is eligible for a dollar to dollar match.

Each student story is unique but there is some commonality among first generation students. Often, they report that they watched their parent(s) struggle, not having a postsecondary education. And for each there is a mention of pride, pride they have for their accomplishment and the pride that they feel from their families being the first to attend college.

Natacha suffered a great tragedy, she lost her parents. That caused her to choose a career in the healthcare field. She wants to be a doctor to save people because she doesn’t want others to feel the way that she feels, not having those she loves and cherishes there to cheer on her accomplishments.

Samantha’s parents didn’t go to college, but they instilled in her the importance of education and greatly influenced her decision to become a nurse. She wants to give back to her parents and make them proud.

Alexander watched someone close to him struggle with cocaine addiction and since then he has always been anti-drug. He plans to finish his AS degree in criminal justice and attend the police academy.

Bianca’s dad was her only parent growing up and he never got past middle school. She shares that although he lacks a higher education, he is intelligent, gaining his accomplishments through hard work, and he taught her not to take any of life’s experiences for granted. She has been accepted to Valencia’s nursing program and recently got a job in the field.

Sequilla wants to get her AS in accounting and then move on to get a bachelor’s degree in business. She finds that going to school and being committed to her goals has had a ripple effect on her ten-year-old son. He has gone from a C student to straight A’s.

Isaias did some soul-searching and decided he would like to pursue a career in medical administration. He realized that a higher education would afford him more opportunities and a chance for a career.

Taisha remembers a childhood of poverty, addiction and welfare. As an adolescent she found herself in homeless shelters twice. When she became a mother she got serious about her education, determined to break the cycle of poverty and give her children a cherished childhood. Taisha is completing all of her pre-requisites and hopes to be accepted into Valencia’s sonography program.

Edith started a company with her husband but the economic downturn hit the business hard. She realizes that the job market has become much more competitive and most employers now require some sort of degree. She is at Valencia pursuing a degree in computer programming and analysis.

These stories represent the students that will benefit from the first ONE campaign. This online campaign will be a new venture for the foundation and we invite you to embark on this journey with us. Visit for more information.

If you are interested in leading a fundraising team, please contact Donna Marino, CFRE, at 407-582-3128, or Barbara Shell at 407-582-3219.

first ONE campaign, a celebration of firsts

Collin Jones52_CC-resizeSince the first ONE campaign is a celebration of firsts, I thought it would be fun to see what special firsts we remember here at the foundation office.

Here is mine: I remember my first day of college at UCF. I remember the tape that was in the tape deck of my very well-worn Pontiac Sunbird and I remember I was wearing a brand new pair of sandals. My classes were spread across campus and I remember I got the worst blisters from those sandals!

Here is a favorite first memory from our coordinator of foundation accounts, Vanessa de la Paz-Ramos: I remember the first time I laid my eyes on my nephew after he was born. He was so tiny, with legs that looked like that of a frog, but a cutie-patootie all at the same time. It was right at that moment that I realized how his presence as our very own little prince made our little family complete.

And from our scholarship coordinator, Jennifer Bhagirath: I’ll never forget winning my first award, the “Writing Wizard” ribbon for our school’s fifth-grade creative writing competition. Writing about what I believed happened when our community recycled, my composition included everything from talking recycling bins to singing whales so overjoyed by our efforts to keep our environment clean. It was this experience that set motion to my love of writing and I have been captivated by it ever since.

Our donor stewardship manager, Donna Marino, CFRE, also had a well-worn first car, a Datsun 310 hatchback, nicknamed “Skip” because he stalled and skipped until she got the handle of driving stick: I remember the first time I popped a clutch going backwards (forwards was pretty much all the time as the key didn’t work properly). It was on Valencia’s East Campus. Back then, there were slopes in the parking area around the trees. Students could park on the hills to keep a car under the shade. I was parked there on a day when my car wouldn’t start. There was no one around to push it forward. I figured popping the clutch should be the same backwards and forwards. I turned the ignition on, let out the clutch, allowed the car to roll back and I started the car, with a “Skip”!

Barbara Shell, alumni relations director, sends along this memory: My first summer alumni relations conference was at Vanderbilt University. My workmates sent me off with a “care package” that included purple flip-flops with polka dots for the community shower room. They were great conversation starters for sure! I am still excited to remember my first private dorm room and my first bunk bed experience during that time.

And Daphne Cooper, alumni relations assistant brings us full circle with a special student scholarship memory: My first Valencia scholarship came from The University Club of Orlando. I was very surprised and honored to be an award recipient. It definitely inspired me to continue my studies here at Valencia and gives me insight today as I currently work with scholarship applicants.

And now it is your turn! Connect with us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@valenciagiving) and share a special “first” memory with us. #firstONE

sending appreciation to faculty and staff

You may soon see Valencia employees on campus sporting a new piece of Valencia flair: the gold Valencia Foundation lapel pin.

This lapel pin is given in appreciation to those faculty and staff members who are “Giving Opportunity” to Valencia students through payroll contributions to the Valencia Foundation

This lapel pin is given in appreciation to those faculty and staff members who are “Giving Opportunity” to Valencia students through payroll contributions to the Valencia Foundation

This lapel pin is given in appreciation to faculty and staff members who are “Giving Opportunity” to Valencia students through payroll contributions to the Valencia Foundation.

Employees who contribute by payroll deduction can select which scholarship they would like to support. These scholarships may reflect discipline, organization affiliation, or in memory of a colleague.

Others Valencia employees support Valencia’s Student Opportunity Scholarship, the first scholarship created and funded solely by faculty and staff for the students they serve.

For a full list of scholarships please visit the Valencia Foundation website.  If employees wish to contribute by semi-monthly payroll deductions please download the application here.

The Valencia Foundation would like to send special thanks to Katie Shephard and Josh Murdock who lead the 2012-2013 Faculty and Staff Committee!

If you are interested in serving as a faculty and staff campus ambassador please contact Donna Marino, manager of donor stewardship for Valencia Foundation at 407-582-3128 or email

valencia foundation & united way join forces in finish line campaign

Join your colleagues in helping our students and our community cross the Finish Line in our first joint Valencia Foundation and Heart of Florida United Way campaign. Dr. Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College, launched the campaign on Monday, March 18 and sent each employee a unique link directly to the electronic pledge process hosted by United Way.

Often students face obstacles in meeting both their educational expenses and their basic needs for housing, food, transportation, and childcare. When a student can’t meet the most basic needs, studying and learning become even more challenging. This joint campaign with the Foundation and United Way is designed to address both needs, ensuring that students have access to necessary financial support to meet their obligations and reach their dreams.

The campaign runs through April 5, 2013 and the goal is to bring new donors and new dollars to both organizations. Specifically, the Foundation is working to bring several scholarships created in honor of Valencia employees, students, and alumni to the Finish Line – completing the endowment – so students can begin receiving disbursements from these funds.

When you log into your personalized e-pledge site, you will have the opportunity to pledge the amount that you wish and to determine where that gift is designated (to the Valencia Foundation and/or to United Way). You can split your gift to fund both organizations or pledge the full amount to only one organization.

For information about how to make a one-time donation, click here.

Check out The Juice newsletter each week during the campaign to see our progress via a Finish Line graphic, as seen below.

If you did not receive the email from Dr. Shugart or accidentally deleted it, please contact to have it resent. If you do not wish to receive additional emails about the campaign, simply log into your personalized e-pledge site and click “I do not wish to give at this time.”

For more information about the faculty and staff Finish Line campaign, visit the Valencia Foundation webpage. If you have any questions about the campaign, please contact or

faculty and staff give-up-a-cup in support of the students they serve

Valencia College faculty and staff have launched an internal campaign to raise scholarships and college program funds. This year they are asking colleagues to “give up a cup” for Valencia students.

Valencia Foundation provides vital support to students and to the college through scholarships, endowed teaching chairs, and program support. Last year, faculty and staff donations grew by 39 percent. This year the campaign ambassadors would like to involve more faculty and staff in payroll contributions.

Primary focus of the committee is to share the good work of Valencia Foundation and encourage faculty and staff participation based

The campaign principles, taglines, and clever graphics were designed by college staff and faculty to provide support for the Valencia students they serve.

on individual interest and willingness to contribute. This is a grassroots effort lead by the hearts and volunteer time of the campaign committees. A faculty or staff member should not, at any time, feel pressured or compelled to give to the foundation.

The clever ‘give up a cup’ slogan and ‘have you left your mark’ logo were created by staff. These taglines really highlight how little drops of support, from multiple contributors, can collect into huge assistance for a Valencia student.

Feel free to visit the “Give Up a Cup” donation site online at:

Under the leadership of the campaign chairs Katie Shephard and Patti Riva the campus committee members have contributed their resources, relations and fond regard in support of the Valencia students they serve. Many thanks to the Valencia College staff and faculty campaign ambassadors: Chris Borglum, Clarence Canada, Diana Ciesko, Kimberly Finley, Brian Macon, Donna Marino, Josh Murdock, Mia Pierre, Denny Rogers, and Jorge Soto.

introducing the seneff honors college

James M. and Dayle L. Seneff Honors College

Seneff Honors College: Launching Fall 2012

Students are being asked to aim higher!

The new Seneff Honors College at Valencia will launch Fall of 2012, offering four distinct paths to an honors degree.

This program is for students who want more from their college experience—more challenges, more opportunities and more connections with fellow students and great professors. The Seneff Honors College is for those with a deep passion for learning.

  • overseas trips
  • special scholarships
  • recognition at commencement

Valencia offers this and more, all in a setting that nurtures the whole individual.

Admission information will be available December 2011.  For more information please visit the James M. and Dayle L. Seneff Honors College website or contact Director Valerie Burks at

foundation f.a.q for you


FAQ's for you!

Want to know more about the Valencia Foundation and how we support Valencia Community College?  F.A.Qs for you are provided so you can be one of Those-in-the-Know.

What is the Valencia Foundation?
The foundation is a separate, not-for-profit, IRS approved 501(c)(3) corporation chartered in 1974 to provide financially for the educational needs of Valencia that cannot be met through state aid or student tuition income.

What does the Valencia Foundation do?
The office coordinates campaigns that help Valencia Community College provide a range of benefits, including scholarships, new technology, facilities, faculty improvements, and special programs. Nearly 60 community leaders volunteer generously of their time, talent, and resources by serving on the board of directors.

Can I tell the foundation how to spend my money?
Yes, you can tell our foundation how to utilize your donation by making a restricted gift.   *Please see the next question and answer for more information about restricted and unrestricted gifts.

What is the difference between a restricted gift and an unrestricted gift?
If you make a restricted gift, also known as a designated gift, you can direct your contribution to a specific scholarship, academic program, or any other special need. If you make an unrestricted gift—one with no restrictions on its use—you give Valencia the ability to apply funds where students need them most, including taking advantage of unexpected opportunities and meeting unforeseen challenges.

Will I receive tax benefits for my gift?
Yes, in most cases, the college’s supporters can deduct gifts from their taxes. Besides making direct, one-time contributions, you may also want to consider the long-term tax and estate-planning benefits of giving through annuities, trusts, and other financial tools.

Can I make a gift in honor or memory of someone?
Yes. As a tribute to a friend, colleague, mentor, family member, or anyone else, you can give in a person’s name.

How can I double or even triple my contribution?
Check with the human resources office at your company to see if it offers a matching funds program. More than 1,200 corporations have programs that match employees’ gifts to organizations like Valencia Community College.

What is a planned gift?
A planned gift is an arrangement to make a contribution to the Valencia Foundation, usually in the future. Annuities, trusts, and bequests in a will are examples of planned gifts. For more information, please visit our planned giving website at or contact Donna Marino at (407) 582-3128.

What is an outright gift?
An outright gift is an immediate, direct contribution, usually consisting of cash, real estate, or securities. 

Are there any advantages to making an outright gift?
Yes!  In fact, the advantages of making an outright gift are many… Valencia now offers more than 50 pre-major associate of arts, over 100 associate in science and applied science degrees and certificate programs: most programs lead to immediate entry into the workforce.

When you make an outright gift of cash, property, securities, or other assets to the Valencia Foundation,

  • You provide instant assistance to the college and gain an immediate tax deduction.
  • You usually get a charitable deduction for the full cost of the gift in the year you make it.
  • It’s an easy, efficient way to support a cause you believe in.
  • There are no complex financial documents to fill out.
  • You get the satisfaction of offering direct financial help that furthers Valencia’s mission of reaching out to potential students and providing affordable, accessible learning opportunities.
  • You receive other benefits depending on the type of gift: cash, real estate, or appreciated securities.

Because most Valencia Foundation benefactors make an outright gift of cash, the foundation has established several convenient ways for you to provide that support, including a check or credit card.

Are all gifts useful?
Yes, gifts of all amounts are deeply appreciated no matter how large or modest. Added to other gifts, any one gift combined has a large impact. Any gift demonstrates your concern for educational excellence at Valencia.

Can I make a gift online?
Yes. It’s quick, easy and secure through our online registration form at Make a Donation.

What is an Annual Fund?
An Annual Fund is a yearly campaign that raises resources for student scholarships and college programs and establishes a vehicle for Valencia to broaden its base of support. The rental income from the foundation’s real estate investments cover most of the foundation’s operating and fund-raising expenses, ensuring that 100 percent of donations are used exclusively for our donors’ intended purpose.

What is the Capital Campaign?
The Capital Campaign is a special campaign for new investments in people, programs, technology, and facilities for Valencia.

Where can I get more information?
Contact the Valencia Foundation at 190 S. Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32804; (407) 582-3150 or by emailing the foundation at

dmarino orig posting 09/09

donor spotlight: Helen Von Dolteren-Fournier, Esq.

Helen created the Valencia/UCF Frances Millican 2+2 Scholarship in 2007.

Helen’s roots in philanthropy and community run deep in Central Florida. She plays an indispensable role as one of Valencia Foundation’s key leaders and is the longest and among the top contributors. Her history as a volunteer at Valencia goes back more than fifteen years when she became involved with Valencia’s displaced homemakers program in the 1990s. Valencia Foundation’s board chair since 2008, Helen has helped the foundation thrive through even the most challenging of circumstances.

Under her leadership as chair of the board’s finance committee, Valencia Foundation implemented a new, comprehensive investment policy, revised financial policies, addressed audit issues, developed new financial strategies and continued to raise monies, meeting a $2.5 million first year external funding goal and more than $31 million in seven years. Under her leadership, the endowment has increased from $15.8 million in 2001 to more than $60 million in 2008. As head of the Valencia planned giving committee, Helen offers her professional guidance as a volunteer to field financial questions from donors and partners. In 2003, she spearheaded a campaign to raise $50,000 to name Valencia’s gallery in memory of a gifted faculty member, Anita Wooten.

Her personal contributions support the arts, women in transition, Valencia’s paralegal program and honors college, the Association of American Women in Community Colleges and scholarships that support access for all. She is gifted at cultivating new donations, bringing in American Express, BENCOR Inc. and other major corporations in support of the foundation. A master of nurturing new relationships, Helen uses the foundation’s special events as an opportunity to gather dozens of friends and colleagues and expose them to the goodness of Valencia – throughout the years, they have all become donors.

As an estate planning attorney and certified financial planner, she is in a unique position to help people reassess their priorities by giving to a cause whose mission the individual shares. In fact, she makes this a part of every presentation to show how charitable giving not only feels good but it also makes good fiscal sense. Her savvy in uniting people for collaboration has been of great benefit to Valencia and the foundation.

Helen created the Frances Millican Two Plus Two Scholarship in 2007, named in honor of the wife of UCF’s founding president, to help build a financial bridge for Valencia students to the University of Central Florida (UCF). And she created the Legal Eagles Pathway Scholarship in honor of her law school graduation, which funds students from Valencia through UCF and Barry University School of Law. 

Helen is a professional with great expertise who is willing to do whatever it takes. In the words of Valencia Community College’s president, Dr. Sanford Shugart, “Valencia Foundation is honored to have the passion, knowledge and friendship of this one-of-a-kind treasure.”

The President’s Circle

Click here for a list of current President's Circle members

Valencia Foundation’s board of directors created The President’s Circle to promote learning as the center of Valencia Community College’s work. The President’s Circle allows members to play a pivotal role in helping the college president and foundation provide scholarships for students with urgent financial need.

A minimum unrestricted gift of $1,000 entitles the donor to The President’s Circle membership. Membership allows participation in a wide array of exciting opportunities and a special partnership with college president Sandy Shugart and fellow advocates of learning. Members receive invitations to the president’s home for private receptions with artists, authors and other notable individuals, passes to Valencia arts events, an opportunity to attend our special-topic forums and invitations to the foundation’s annual donor gala.

One hundred percent of contributions to The President’s Circle support scholarships for students in need. For more information on this dynamic circle of the Valencia family, contact the foundation at 407-582-3150 or visit

donor spotlight: Mary Collier

Mary Collier with Valencia President Sandy Shugart

A 1982 Valencia graduate, Mary was named the college’s first Distinguished Graduate. The owner of Collier Jaguar in Orlando, she serves as a foundation board member, capital campaign captain, leadership team member, and is among the largest individual donors through cash donations, in-kind contributions and a legacy gift.

Her scholarship donation in 2006 represents a $200,000 endowed scholarship. In addition, her family is represented through the David F. Collier Scholarship, honoring her late husband, and the Mary Smedley Collier and Family Scholarship.

Mary served two terms as president of the Valencia Alumni Association board and continues to support their work and fundraising efforts. She is a consistent supporter of foundation and college events, including American Institute of Architects (AIA) Orlando and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Orlando golf tournaments, Valencia Foundation’s signature fundraising event, A Taste for Learning, and the alumni association’s Run, Walk and Roll event.

As a “non-traditional” student returning to college as an adult, Mary was well-versed in thinking outside of the box, especially as it relates to the success of students in need. Her foresight and willingness to make that first gift for transfer scholarships led to a major gift from Mayor Richard Crotty and a brand-new partnership with UCF to engage in joint philanthropy to support Valencia/UCF students. Without Mary’s leadership through the alumni association and the foundation, this type of scholarship assistance may never have taken route at Valencia. Consequently, we send hundreds of Valencia graduates to UCF, UF, USF, FSU and countless other institutions nationwide.

Mary’s story continues to inspire those who may at first be tentative at the prospect of going back to school. After her children had grown, she realized, “I was David’s wife, the kids’ mother and the dog’s owner. But I wasn’t Mary.” After some initial apprehension, she “dove in – it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It changed my whole life.” Her endeavors and unwavering support of Valencia are focused on the successful futures of learners of all ages. She truly exemplifies her own quote: “Anything you can imagine…you can do.”

 Reprinted from: Valencia Foundation Biennial Report

donor spotlight: C.T. Hsu

C.T. Hsu and Valencia President Sandy Shugart
C.T. Hsu and Valencia President Sandy Shugart

Foundation Director Emeritus C.T. Hsu, president of C.T. Hsu + Associates, P.A., is a true philanthropist.

In 1994, he established the Hsu Family Endowed Scholarship at Valencia to support minority students pursuing higher education. In 2006, C.T. and his wife, Jean, contributed $150,000 to establish the Hsu Family East Campus Development Fund to support teaching and learning, which resulted in a $600,000 endowment. His family’s giving commitment also includes hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked to scholarships, faculty endowed chairs and program support. 

He also helped bring the pre-architecture program to Valencia, which allows students to start the program at affordable tuition while remaining close to home. The program now matriculates directly to the University of Florida, and C.T. is committed to developing transfer scholarships. 

C.T. has been instrumental in attracting new donors and major contributors to The President’s Circle. In 2002, he secured the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Orlando Chapter as an annual donor to Valencia Foundation with more than $100,000 in contributions. Always one of the first to sponsor foundation events, C.T. also encourages his company and community organizations to sponsor Valencia Foundation events as well. 

His willingness to leverage both his professional and personal relationships in support of Valencia student scholarships has been instrumental in the continued success of Valencia Foundation and its fundraising efforts. 

Professionally, C.T.’s creative design genius is visible throughout Valencia’s campus locations, from the East Campus Criminal Justice Institute and Osceola’s flagship building to the soon-to-emerge UCF/Valencia joint-use facility on the West Campus. Personally, his leadership and enthusiasm are priceless assets to Valencia Community College and Valencia Foundation.

donor spotlight: Bruce Williams

A member of The President’s Circle, Bruce joined the foundation board in 2006 and serves as one of Valencia Foundation’s capital campaign leaders, helping to jump start a $20 million campaign by first making his own major gift, the largest of all board members.

A company is only as strong as its leadership, and at the helm of Williams Company is Bruce Williams, chairman of the company.

Actively involved in the Orlando community his entire life, Bruce Williams learned from an early age that in order to live in an enriching society, he would have to take an active part in creating and fostering enrichment. The view makes philanthropy a priority in his familyowned firm and his own family – every member of the Williams family donates annually to Valencia, and the Williams Company can be counted on to support the foundation’s events and fundraising efforts.

 Bruce and the Williams Company have been giving to the foundation since 1987. In 2006, he made a $250,000 commitment to support scholarships for students with financial need.

He also supports the many networking relationships Valencia Foundation has with community organizations that help raise funds for student scholarships. The Williams Company has participated in several of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Orlando’s annual golf tournaments, and Bruce is always willing to leverage relationships with vendors to increase participation in fundraisers for Valencia.

Bruce’s innovative approach is also visible in his professional work.  Williams Company was awarded first place in the Florida Educational Facilities Planners’ Association Inc. 2006 Architectural Showcase, teaming with HuntonBrady Architects for their work as the builders of the Valencia Community College Health Sciences Building. The award was based on an innovative response to an educational program, aesthetics and use of materials, flexibility for community use, technology provisions and barrier-free accessibility.

Bruce and the Williams Company are instrumental to Valencia Foundation’s mission. His willingness to set, and attain, high goals and be an agent of positive change is a true benefit to Valencia Foundation and the community beyond.

Reprinted from: Valencia Foundation Biennial Report

florida citrus sports donates $1 million to take stock


Sandy Shugart, Elisha Gonzalez-Bonnewitz, Chuck Beverly and Chuck Olgilvy

Florida Citrus Sports Chief Executive Officer Steve Hogan announced today that the FCSports Foundation has made a $1 million donation to help Valencia bring Take Stock in Children (TSIC) to Orange County. FCSports, the founding partner, has committed to sponsor children for five years in the program at $200,000 per year.

Take Stock in Children is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing scholarships and mentors to qualifying low-income, at-risk youth in Florida. Since its inception in 1995, it has served more than 17,600 students through use of the Florida pre-paid college fund. Prior to the collaborative effort of Valencia and FCSports, Orange County was the lone county in the state without the widely successful program. Continue reading

campaign raises $27 million

Valencia Foundation recently celebrated the successful culmination of its first-ever campaign to support Valencia Community College (Valencia). With a mid-2004 kick-off, the campaign drew more than $27 million in community support, exceeding its $20 million goal.

This year, the college will serve about 60,000 students, many of whom will need financial assistance to learn, train and retool, particularly in this challenging economic environment.

“Our students need us now more than ever, and we are grateful to our friends and partners in Central Florida for their consistent and increasing support even as they face a tough economy that impacts their own families and businesses,” says Helen Von Dolteren-Fournier, Esq., who serves as the foundation board chairwoman and principal in AEGIS Law Advisers in Winter Park.

Since 2001, the foundation”s endowment has tripled, growing from $17.2 million in 2001 to $52.6 million in 2008. Continue reading

$1 million seneff family gift endows honors college

The foundation celebrated the successful culmination of its $27 million capital campaign, recognizing board members and major donors. Keynoting the event was Jim Seneff, chairman and chief executive officer of CNL Financial Group Inc., who explored the role of Valencia and philanthropy in the community, sharing the reasons his family had made the college a philanthropic priority. The foundation board also recognized the Seneff family for their capstone gift, which created the James M. and Dayle L. Seneff Honors College. Continue reading