Deborah Howard: math, the struggle is real–and good!

D HowardDeborah Howard, math professor at the east campus, is using the Lockheed Martin chair in Mathematics this year in several ways, including bringing in Jeff Kosovich and allowing Professor Howard to attend the “Learning and the Brain” conference last winter.

Jeff Kosovich is a psychological researcher from the University of Virginia. He came to Valencia to conduct several cognitive interviews with Valencia students and front door math instructors on experimental design, growth mindset and motivation theory.

“We learned several useful procedural strategies that will assist us in collecting meaningful data,” says Howard. For example, their first attempt in recruiting students to participate in a focus group consisted of them contacting random Valencia math students. Only a few students attended even after they were called and reminded. “Jeff suggested we have the student’s math instructor make the contact with the student, since they already had a relationship with the student, and we were able to recruit a much larger sample of students.”  A protocol was created to ensure that each student’s experience in the focus group was as similar as it could be compared with other focus groups and that the interviewers did not influence the group’s responses.

The “Learning and the Brain” conferences Howard attended were “Shaping Student Mindsets” and “The Science of Imagination.”

“I learned that mastery-based goal orientation promotes a growth mindset, whereas performance-based goal orientation fosters a fixed mindset. Some effective strategies are to make the learning criteria known to students, emphasize productive struggle, and encourage students helping others which creates autonomy and resilience. In addition, passion for learning is sparked when students’ curiosity is engaged. I aspire to challenge my students to “Wonder Boldly”!”

Additionally, they were able to fund materials—including 40 jump drives for the secure data transfer of confidential and student-sensitive data, and two literature books, The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model for 21st-Century Schools” by Mariale Hardiman and “Mathematical Mindsets” by Jo Boaler and Carol Dweck.

Howard said, “Valencia wins! The teaching pedagogy of twenty-three East Campus front door mathematics faculty who participated in the growth mindset and motivation theory training were enriched. In turn, the students for these instructors for this year and future years will benefit with potential decrease in course drop-out rates, increase in math interest, and increase in overall course success rates. I have been approached by some of my own students who are so thankful that they now have the ability to believe in their own success in math. They are no longer afraid or believe that they can’t do math!”

Help Us Identify Distinguished Graduate 2016!

The Valencia Alumni Association needs your help!


The application process for the Mary Smedley Collier  Distinguished Graduate 2016 Award is in full swing.  Along with the distinction that comes with being selected, the Distinguished Graduate 2016 will serve as the keynote speaker at both the morning and afternoon Commencement ceremonies this year and will receive $2,000. We know from experience that many of our eligible students are too humble to see themselves in this role.

This is where you come in.

Don’t let your candidate slip by.  If you know an eligible applicant, please encourage them to apply today.  The deadline for accepting applications is February 19, 2016.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS: -Must have a minimum overall 3.5 GPA.

-Must be nominated by a member of the Valencia faculty or staff.  (The nomination letter is required as a part of the online application packet the student submits.)

-Must graduate during the academic year in which the scholarship is awarded. This includes Summer ’15, Fall ’15 and Spring ’16 terms.

-Must be available to attend both commencement ceremonies on May 8th and give their commencement speech at both.


Please contact the Alumni Relations office for more information at or 407-582-3217.


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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Alumni Update from Cece Burns, ’13

Chacoryia “Cece” Burns, Valencia’s 2013 Mary Smedley Collier’s Distinguished Graduate is currently a Broadcast Journalism major at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). Those of us that have read Cece’s triumphant story and may have also had the privilege of meeting such a kind spirit know that she has manage to persevere through all odds. She has proven that if you put your mind to it you can accomplish any goal.

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Cece shares “Recently, I’ve become the weather anchor for FAMU TV News-20 which broadcast live to over 8,000 Comcast viewers in the north Florida and south Georgia area. I am a Gospel Radio Personality for WANM 90.5 FM “The Flava Station” which airs on Sunday’s from 8am-11am. As I continue with my journey as a reporter, I plan to continue to work with FAMU TV News 20 as the lead desk anchor as well as intern for a local news station and print journalism company until my graduation on April 30, 2016. After that I plan to either move to Orlando or stay in Tallahassee and pursue a Masters in Fine Arts in Production as well as become a Multi-Media Journalist (MMJ) for a local news station or become a local Gospel Radio Personality.”



“My advice to the students is to continue to strive for your dream. Never let anyone deter you from being what you want to be in life. And also always volunteer and get internships in your profession. Be persistent and always be kind to others because you never know who you will meet and who will take you to the next level.”

Cece is a positive role model and is constantly giving back to the community, whether it be volunteering for children’s church or serving on the Transfer Student Association. Her story encourages us all.


Cece is doing big things and is truly an amazing Valencia Alum….Way to represent!

Check out Cece’s story here


William/Doris Paisley Memorial Music Scholarship

The William a2015-10-22 18.22.33nd Doris Paisley Memorial Music scholarship was established in 2012 with its first two scholarships awarded in October of 2013. Since then, it has funded three other scholarships—the most recent two awarded last week.

The scholarship exists to honor the contribution of Doris Paisley, a concert mistress violinist for years with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania. She was also the violin teacher for Valencia professor Neal Phillips; Mrs. Paisley took Neal in as her youngest student ever at age 6, and he studied with her for 14 years.

When Mrs. Paisley passed away in 2012, Neal wanted to honor his teacher, and with the help of Donna Marino and Geraldine Gallagher via the Valencia Foundation, he was able to establish the music scholarship. Professor Phillips funds the award through the Valencia Foundation at a goal of $1,000. As the award is given annually, notice is given to music students in September; students are eligible to apply if they are declared Music or Music Education majors and plan to pursue the degree at a four-year university upon graduation from Valencia. As part of the application, students must detail their histories of musical experiences, write an essay explaining how the scholarship would benefit them, and submit a 10-minute video of a solo performance on their primary instruments. Additionally, students must have a 2.0 GPA.

After the application period ends, the scholarship committee selects a winner, and fortunately, there has been enough scholarship money available for two winners in 2013 and also 2015. The five winners have received a total of $5,000 over the past three years. In more than one case, this has allowed a prospective music major to continue with schooling he/she may have had to postpone due to lack of funds.

Professor Phillips’ goal is to continue to fund the award as long as he works at Valencia and even after, so music students will be benefiting from this for many years to come. The scholarship is awarded as part of the Instrumental Music Scholarship, with Professor Phillips’ contributions made in honor of William and Doris Paisley.

This year’s scholarship winners are first, Vedda Kangalova, an international student from Bulgaria who specializes in violin. The picture (above) is of her tutoring Stenstrom Elementary (Oviedo) students with Valencia’s 3D printed electric violin, first of its kind.

The second winner is Khalid James, originally from the Caribbean, who specializes in both trombone and steel pan drum.

Khalid James



Know A Deserving Valencia Graduate?


“A Night of Celebration” is Valencia College’s annual signature event hosted by the Valencia Alumni Association. It provides an opportunity to celebrate noteworthy achievements of selected Valencia alumni. Ten Distinguished Alumni awards will be conferred this year to those individuals who meet the following criteria. Submit your nomination today! Nominees will then be notified and asked to complete a more detailed application to be considered for the award.

Nomination Criteria:

Graduate of Valencia College (formerly Valencia Community College).

Demonstrated significant accomplishments in their field.

Must be able to attend the awards presentation on Friday, December 18th between 7-9 pm in Orlando, Florida at Valencia’s West Campus Special Events Center.

Only online nominations will be accepted.

Nomination deadline – 11:59 pm on November 8, 2015. No exceptions.

Check out last year’s amazing award recipients.

Photos from last year’s event!

James Inglis, program director hospitality/restaurant management: taking a trip of a lifetime

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Another post in our series on endowed chairs and what they’re up to. Meet James Inglis.

James Inglis’ endowed chair project this year, funded by the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association (CFHLA) Chair in Hospitality Management, is to take 16 students to New York City to The Hotel Experience in November (previously The International Hotel Motel Restaurant Show).

“The [Hotel Experience] in New York City is one of the premier industry events in the United States. Over 1,800 vendors are there with their individual booths showcasing the latest industry technologies, products and services. We also do restaurant and hotel tours while we are there and attend breakout sessions in conjunction with the show. These are very educational, and the students can sign up to attend any of the topics that interest them,” Inglis says.

“The students are required to attend at least one breakout session while at the show; they then write a paper on the session and include a brief overview of the topic and specific issues discussed,” he adds. The students are also required to write an additional reflection for the Student Government Association (SGA) as part of the travel requirements. Students also speak to their classes when they return, highlighting various events that took place and any observations that relate to the learning outcomes for the course.

Professor Inglis has been leading similar trips for more than 14 years now. Many of the students have very limited travel experience and most have never been to NYC before. For the most part, the students couldn’t afford the room rates or partake of the restaurant meals Inglis and his team have negotiated. “There is always a tour of a hotel and kitchen and introduction of managers and kitchen personnel,” Inglis adds. So even the food is educational.

In all, for many of these students, the trip is a once in a lifetime – or a first in a lifetime – chance to be exposed to experiences they can’t have in Orlando (as great as those may be).

This is in addition to the other work that Inglis does.

He is on two boards of directors: One is the local hotel association, CFHLA, and the other is the local restaurant association, FRLA. He has been on the boards for more than 14 years, participating in such events as the Downtown Food and Wine Fest for the seventh year in a row. Last March, he and another professor, Craig Rapp, worked the Wine and Dine on 9, a VIP event, at the Bay Hill Golf Tournament.  As Inglis puts it: “This semester alone we are volunteering for 12 events in the community. It’s a tribute to the students and the leadership that we can get this type of participation.

Professor Inglis was born in New York City, so this is a bit of a return home for him – to the Jacob K. Javits Center, which is where the show is being held. He is the program director for the hospitality and restaurant management programs at Valencia’s West campus. With degrees from Paul Smith’s College in New York, Florida International University and Webster University, from which he holds a master’s degree in business, he draws on a lifetime of experience for his courses and his volunteer work.

What’s next for the program? Well, Inglis says the school has just hired a new faculty member to take the lead for the Osceola campus program—now they’re able to offer the same degree program in Osceola that they offer at West campus. In addition, they keep expanding the West campus program—they just added a new “beverage lab.”

Cheers to the new program and the trip of a lifetime for the students in his care.

Start FIT at Lake Nona

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Florida Tech is now offering a Bachelor’s degree in Logistics Management for students with an AA or AS! Classes accommodate working professionals by meeting once a week from 5:30-8:30pm at Valencia’s Lake Nona Campus. For more information, visit or contact Lauren Remenick at

Endowed chairs at Valencia: Olga Vazquez, M.S., and the Health Academy

This is first in a series about the professors who recently were awarded endowed chairs at Valencia College.

Olga Vazquez


Olga Vazquez, professor of biology, spends a lot of her time hanging around fifth graders.

No, that’s not how she spends her free time, although with a 9-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl at home, one could be forgiven for thinking that was a possibility.

Actually, it’s a big part of her Valencia Foundation endowed chair project.

Armed with a bachelor of science, and a master’s in microbiology and molecular biology from UCF, Professor Vazquez heads up the Health Academy, an educational awareness program designed to supplement the fifth graders’ biology content. It includes learning about healthy lifestyles and gives students a chance to get excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers.

The project particulars include taking Valencia College student volunteers to mentor Lawton Chiles Elementary School children. Vazquez says she chose fifth graders, not only because she was following the guidelines of the Anatomy Academy at UCLA, but also because kids of that age are “mature enough to grasp the biology content behind the activities while being conscious enough to influence their families.”

Twitter screen shot of the opening of Health Academy

Twitter screen shot of the opening of Health Academy


The Valencia students teach the LCE students about making healthy food choices, and inspire them to consider STEM, allied health, or education careers. The elementary students will share their newfound knowledge with family and community members.

They’ll also develop anatomy and physiology hands-on activities.

Part of the hoped-for outcome is to use the experience to encourage education majors at Valencia to become STEM teachers “by training them in the fields of anatomy and physiology,” Vazquez says. In addition, they’ll learn how to work with youngsters.

The Health Academy mirrors the Anatomy Academy, which was founded by Jonathan Wisco at UCLA (now with Brigham Young University), she says. He developed the idea of teaching fifth graders nutrition and health.

Wisco’s work inspired Vazquez to reach out to her community and teach science at the same time. She expanded the original activities to call it Health Academy. This is the first such organization of its kind in Florida.

This is Vazquez’s second term with her project. She still keeps in touch with several of the mentors from last spring—three are interested in participating again. She plans to continue Health Academy for several more terms and to expand the project to additional elementary schools.

One memorable experience from last year includes a student who, after seeing the difference between smokers’ lungs and non-smoker’s lungs, was immediately encouraged his grandmother to stop smoking.

Prof. Vazquez is married to Rafael Vazquez and has two children in elementary and middle school. Her children have both attended Lawton Chiles. She has been teaching at Valencia since 2008.

The Health Academy

Amazing Discounts for You!

Two Free Discount Programs for Valencia Alumni & Friends
Courtesy of the Valencia Alumni Association

Both discount programs are available to Valencia alumni, retirees and students.
And the best part……they’re absolutely FREE!

Join the Valencia Alumni Rewards Member Perks Program!

Valencia Alumni Rewards provides members with exclusive perks and over $4,500 in savings on everything from pizza and the zoo, to movie tickets, oil changes, hotels, and car rentals!

Popular Features Include:

  • Nearby Offers: Use our show & save mobile coupons to quickly access savings on the go.
  • eTickets On Demand: Save up to 40% with no hidden fees.
  • Show times: Find movies, watch trailers, and save up to 40% at a theater near you.
  • Monthly Giveaways: Win cash, movie tickets, electronics and more with our monthly contests.

And, with over 289,000 available discounts across 10,000 cities in the United States and Canada, you’ll never be far from savings!


Enjoy some great deals through Working Advantage!

Popular Features Include:

  • Amusement park tickets
  • Family events
  • Merchant gift certificates
  • Online shopping and service discounts with select partners


2) Click “Login” or “Register” at top of page
3) Click “Employees Click Here”(this includes alumni and friends)
4) Enter Valencia’s Member ID #278897230 to create your FREE account.

Working Advantage Customer Service: or call (800) 565- 3712

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.

College Night Sign-Up for Students

The 2014 Orange & Osceola County College Night programs for the state of Florida will be hosted at Valencia College. We are excited to share this opportunity with you.

Mark your calendars: College Night is Coming! Bring your students, the parents, grab some friends, and get your questions answered about college, and we’re not just talking about Valencia!

  • Start the college search process up close and personal
  • Visit with representatives from colleges and universities located across the country
  • Gather local and federal information regarding grants & scholarships

Sign-up online to attend College Night 2014:

College Night, Osceola CampusCollege Night Sign-Up
Valencia College
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
6:00-8:00pm (EST)

College Night, West CampusCollege Night Sign-Up
Valencia College
Thursday, October 9, 2014
6:00-8:00pm (EST)

Tips for attending College Night

If interested in bringing a group of 15 or more students please contact the Assistant Director of Transitions Planning, La’Tasha Graham:

Click here or view the list below for colleges that attended in 2013.


  • Yale University
  • Florida State University
  • Columbia College, SC
  • Columbia College, FL
  • Cornell University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Texas A&M University at Galveston
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • Universal Technical Institute
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Rice University


  • Ringling College of Art and Design
  • Rollins College
  • Rutgers University
  • Adventist University of Health Sciences (formerly Florida Hospital College)
  • Ana Mendez University
  • Anderson University
  • Armstrong Atlantic State University
  • Asbury Theological Seminary
  • Ashford Universtiy
  • Aveda Institute
  • Barry University School of Law
  • Belhaven University
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Bethune-Cookman University
  • Binghamton University- State University of New York
  • Catawba College
  • Clark Atlanta College
  • DeVry University
  • Drexel University
  • Eckerd College
  • Education Foundation of Osceola County
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Everest University
  • Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
  • Florida A&M University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy at UCF
  • Florida International University
  • Florida Memorial University
  • Florida Polytechnic University
  • Florida Southern College
  • Full Sail University
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Grand Canyon University
  • Morehouse College
  • Hawaii Pacific University
  • Herzing University
  • International Academy of Design and Technology
  • Jacksonville University
  • Johnson & Wales University
  • Johnson University Florida
  • Keiser University
  • Lenoir-Rhyne University
  • Liberty University
  • Lincoln Technical Institute
  • Lynn University
  • Mech Tech Institute
  • Monroe College
  • National Aviation Academy
  • National University
  • New College of Florida
  • North Carolina State University
  • North Carolina Weleyan College
  • Northwood University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Oglethorpe University
  • Orlando Tech
  • Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Penn State University
  • Piedmont College
  • Polytechnic University of P.R./Orlando Campus
  • Purdue University
  • Queens University of Charlotte
  • Radford University
  • Reinhardt University
  • Saint Leo University
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Seminole State College of Florida
  • Southeastern University
  • St. Joseph’s College, NY
  • St. Petersburg College
  • Stetson University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Stonehill College
  • Strayer University
  • State University of New York College at Cortland
  • Technical Education Center Osceola
  • The Art Institutes
  • The Baptist College of Florida
  • The Ohio State University
  • The University of Mississippi
  • The University of Tampa
  • The University of the Arts
  • Thomas University
  • Trinity College of Florida
  • Troy University
  • Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
  • UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
  • Union University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Florida
  • University of Florida/Mid-Florida Research & Education Center
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Medicine and Health Sciences, St. Kitts
  • University of North Florida
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Phoenix
  • University of South Alabama
  • University of South Florida
  • University of South Florida Saint Petersburg
  • University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee
  • University of West Florida
  • United States Coast Guard Academy
  • Valdosta State University
  • Warner University
  • Warren Wilson College
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Webster University
  • West Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Winthrop University
  • Workforce Central Florida

Sign-up online to attend College Night 2014:

College Night, Osceola Campus
Valencia College
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
6:00-8:00pm (EST)

College Night, West Campus
Valencia College
Thursday, October 9, 2014
6:00-8:00pm (EST)

If interested in bringing a group of 15 or more students please contact the Assistant Director of Transitions Planning, La’Tasha Graham:

Accommodations Information:

If you have any other disability that prohibits your participation in this event, please contact the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). OSD contact information can be accessed on their website at

New York Times Applauds Valencia’s Efforts to Cut Student Loan Default

While addressing the nation’s growing student loan debt — and the troubling default rate at some colleges — The New York Times editorial board recently applauded Valencia’s efforts to reduce the number of students who default on their loans.


Valencia students who received both Pell Grants and loans defaulted at a rate of 19 percent — compared with 26 percent across all of the colleges in the study and at only a slightly higher rate than their more affluent classmates. The same was true for students who took remedial course work versus those who did not. The overall default rate for the colleges in the study was 22 percent.


See below for the full article or visit online at:

New federal rules that penalize colleges for excessive student loan defaults offer a powerful incentive for schools to educate students on the complexities of the federal student loan program, including the crucial fact that they can delay or make partial payments if they get into financial trouble. Keeping loan default rates low, a new study of nine community colleges shows, is not rocket science: Schools can do it.

Colleges with default rates of 30 percent or higher in any given year are now required to develop a plan for keeping more students on track to repay their loans. Beginning in September, institutions that reach or exceed the 30 percent for three consecutive years will lose eligibility for both the federal loan program and the Pell Grant program, subject to appeal. This places schools with runaway default rates at risk of having to shut down.

The new rules provide important protection for students for whom default can mean a shredded credit history that makes it difficult for them to buy cars or homes and even shuts them out of jobs. The rules also protect taxpayers, who are on the hook when a loan goes bad.

Some colleges argue that the regulations unfairly target and penalize schools that serve “high risk” populations like the poor and young people who need remedial help. A study of nine community colleges carried out by the Association of Community College Trustees and the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit research group, rebuts that argument.

The study suggests instead that default levels for students of all descriptions depend importantly on the quality of the academic support and counseling they get from the schools. Valencia College in Florida is held up as an example of a school that does this well. Valencia students who received both Pell Grants and loans defaulted at a rate of 19 percent — compared with 26 percent across all of the colleges in the study and at only a slightly higher rate than their more affluent classmates. The same was true for students who took remedial course work versus those who did not. The overall default rate for the colleges in the study was 22 percent.

Valencia’s mandatory orientation process shows students from the beginning what it takes to succeed and what services are available to help them. The school also keeps in touch with delinquent borrowers, explaining important options like income-based repayment.

The most important predictor of default is whether a student completes the academic program. Across all campuses in this study, students who graduated defaulted at a rate of just 9 percent, as opposed to 27 percent for those who left college before receiving their degree. This means schools need to keep an eye on and intervene with struggling students before they get overwhelmed and drop out.

Identifying and reaching out to students with academic problems, counseling all students on their rights and obligations under the various loan programs — these are important tools for preventing defaults. But what is likely to persuade colleges to deploy these tools in the first place is the threat of losing federal aid if they do not.

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.

Scholars, music and scholarships…

On July 25, a collection of musically talented faculty, staff, and friends–-fondly called The Rogue Scholars–-have found a way to utilize what they have, talent and time, to raise funds for student scholarships at Valencia.

On July 25, a collection of musically talented faculty, staff, and friends–-fondly called The Rogue Scholars–-have found a way to utilize what they have, talent and time, to raise funds for student scholarships at Valencia.

Scholar, poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once said “Give what you have; to someone it may be better than you dare to think.”

On July 25, a collection of musically talented faculty, staff, and friends–-fondly called the Rogue Scholars–-have found a way to utilize what they have, talent and time, to raise funds for student scholarships at Valencia.

Please consider supporting these talented scholars and their musical efforts by attending the live rock ‘n roll sing along show.

When:  Friday July 25, 2014 at 7 pm

Where:  Valencia College Osceola Campus Building 1 Auditorium

Donation:  Give what you can. Perhaps a $5 contribution at the door of event?

What to expect:  Live rock ‘n roll sing along family friendly interactive show with the Rogue Scholars.  We will be playing your favorite songs through the decades.  There will be opportunities for you to bid and sing with the band!

Proceeds:  All proceeds benefit Valencia Foundation through the Jane Dewey/Monty Bilyue Emergency Healthcare Services Scholarship.

This scholarship was established to honor the memories of two individuals who spent their professional lives helping others in critical healthcare situations. It will provide tuition assistance to Valencia students seeking Nursing or EMT/Paramedic degrees.

To our Rogue Scholar friends I say thank you for what you have – both your time and your talents are appreciated!

For more information, please check the Rogue Scholars on Facebook at

An investment in knowledge

There are other ways to support Valencia, create student scholarships, and enhance education in our community. By naming Valencia College Foundation as a beneficiary through a will or amending a will with a codicil, you can make a commitment in support of education with your deferred donation.

There are other ways to support Valencia, create student scholarships, and enhance education in our community. By naming Valencia College Foundation as a beneficiary through a will or amending a will with a codicil, you can make a commitment in support of education with your deferred donation.

Valencia provides an authentic, learning-centered environment with giving, talented teaching and service-oriented professionals who care for and lead students to discover their greatest potential.

For more than 45 years, Valencia has swung open the doors of learning in Central Florida. We envision a day when no individual in our community is shut out of college because of family finances.

With your support, I believe this community can make this happen.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Philanthropy has built remarkable college institutions, cured deadly diseases and continues to fund research and facilities dedicated to our health and education.  This generosity also funds religious, environmental and social efforts globally and locally.

There are other ways to support Valencia, create student scholarships, and enhance education in our community.  By naming Valencia  College Foundation as a beneficiary through a will or amending a will with a codicil, you can make a commitment in support of education with your deferred donations.

 The truth is that while many are limited by the realities of a day-to-day budget, a little careful planning today makes it possible for almost anyone to do more in the future through a planned gift.

If you haven’t already, please consider supporting the Valencia Foundation with your learning legacy, your gift makes a real difference for the students we teach and serve every day.

If you would like more information on planned giving, sample bequest language or just have general scholarship questions please contact the Valencia Foundation at 407.582.3150 or e-mail


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.

taste recap

1M3A0037How do you take 100 and turn it in to 249,000? Take a look at what the 100 signifies and you will find the answer. That 100 represents the 25 sponsors that signed on as Taste for Learning benefactors and the 16 master chef and beverage donors who provided gourmet tastings and treats the night of the event. It includes the vintners and spirit producers that were on-site to pour their finest libations and the volunteers who gave tirelessly of their afternoon and evening. It was the more than 750 people who gathered in the Gatlin Ballroom on May 17 for Taste for Learning to make a difference in the lives of others. 100 percent of all funds raised at Taste will go directly to scholarships at Valencia and medical education at Orlando Health. Here’s how it looks:

Orlando Health Foundation proceeds: $83,000
Valencia Foundation proceeds: $83,000
Valencia amount eligible for match: $83,000

These numbers may still change slightly as they are finalized but we feel confident in saying that Taste 2014 will have an impact of $249,000 on education in Central Florida. Thank you once again to our sponsors below and to all who helped build that 100 percent to almost a quarter million dollars for local students.

You can find more event photos on our Facebook page – A Taste for Learning.

Sommelier sponsors: ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, Rosen Hotels and Resorts, Rosen Shingle Creek

First Press sponsors: Freeman Co., McCree General Contractors and Architects Inc., SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Walt Disney World Resort

Vintner sponsors: Jess and Betsey Bailes, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Coca-Cola, Jack Holloway Foundation, Martinez Manglardi PA, Orlando Health, Orlando Magic, Signature Systems of Florida, Valencia College

Cabernet sponsors: BIOTRONIK Inc., Charles Perry Partners Inc., Clancy and Theys Construction Co., Emergency Physicians of Central Florida LLP, HuntonBrady Architects, Orlando Health Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, PSAV Presentation Services, SeaWorld Parks and Resorts Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort, Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants

a closer look: 2+2+2 architecture program model

Student project
guest author: John P. Ehrig, FAIA, LEED AP, vice president, CASE project manager, HHCP/Architects Inc.

As a New Jersey transplant to the Sunshine State, I began my career in architecture at the University of Florida, graduating with a bachelor of architecture degree. I have been involved with American Institute of Architects for over four decades, first as a student and later serving in various positions throughout the Institute. In 1993, I became the youngest Florida architect to be elected to the AIA College of Fellows. After I moved to Orlando in 2000, I served as president of AIA Orlando in 2001 and that’s where the story about the 2+2+2 architecture program begins.

As background to AIA Orlando’s relationship with Valencia, in 2002, one of our members, CT Hsu, FAIA who was also a member of the Valencia Foundation board of directors, approached the chapter with the idea of joining forces in fundraising efforts to benefit both the chapter and Valencia Foundation’s scholarship program. As discussions unfolded, Valencia’s Geraldine Gallagher made a presentation to the AIA Orlando board of directors about joining forces and as they say, “The rest is history.” Over the past 12 years, AIA Orlando has been a part of generating over $240,000 for the foundation creating a strong connection between the chapter and the college.

Central Florida architects had been talking about having an architecture school in Orlando for decades and the last big push was way back in the 1970s. At that time, creating a new school or program required legislative approval as well as approval of the Florida Board of Regents.

In the fall of 2007, the AIA Orlando chapter, created an Educational Task Force (ETF) to spearhead this effort. During this time frame we discovered that Dr. Shugart was an “architect at heart.” I heard him say once “had he not gotten into education he would’ve wanted to be an architect.” CT Hsu and Alan Helman, FAIA, told Sandy about the work of the ETF in trying to get a professional degree program here in Orlando and he said he would try to assemble the right people to discuss the possibilities.

Around that time Valencia had worked out an “articulation agreement” with the University of Florida – School of Architecture where students would graduate with an associate of arts in architecture and would go right into upper division as juniors without skipping a beat. This was important to me because when I transferred to UF, I transferred in as a junior but I had to start over in all my design coursework. Ultimately it took me six years to get a five-year degree because of that “transfer gap,” something I did not want to see happen to students today.

The articulation agreement was working and students that were graduating from Valencia were heading off to Gainesville and elsewhere. Everything was going along fine except the openings in the upper division for transfer students were dwindling year after year. Competition was exceptionally tough because of the program’s notoriety. So, the task force believed it was time for a creative solution. We knew the university wanted to increase their focus on urban design in their undergrad and graduate programs. The ETF also knew that UCF had indicated an interest in creating an architectural program in the past.

So as things were starting to evolve the ETF developed a list of things that we wanted in a program and generated a formal White Paper. This paper included what the profession would do to help move this effort forward; like providing adjunct professors, employing students as interns in local offices and securing additional funding to support the program.

We called Dr. Shugart and said, “Here’s what we’d like to do.” And he said, “I’ll set up a meeting in a couple weeks to see where this may go.” Then one day I got a phone call inviting me to a meeting consisting of people from UCF, UF and Valencia. On meeting day, Dr. Shugart made some opening remarks and immediately looked at me and said, “Okay John, you asked for this meeting, what do you want to discuss?” This was the opportunity and audience I needed to present the white paper and openly discuss the need for an architectural program in Orlando.
Student project2

The current scenario was a student would go to Valencia and get a two-year degree then they’d apply to UF or other colleges. They were accepted at major universities across the country and once they received their degree, they would very seldom return to Orlando. So our goal was very selfish – keep the talent here in Orlando. We wanted the ability for students to get an education here, complete their internship here and stay here to design their professional life in Orlando where they started.

We knew that there was a really good working relationship between Valencia and UCF in several programs involving the DirectConnect to UCF program, so that was our roadmap. And if something could be worked out with UF to obtain a two-year graduate program that was all we needed for the professional degree. UCF became the critical link to what would be a unique architectural program with three separate institutions, hence the 2+2+2.

There are always up and downs in anything new but, the bottom line for the most part is we have the consistently strong Valencia portion with the first two years, we now have the third class of graduates from UCF, and this year we graduated our first class of UF students. Sixteen walked the stage in Gainesville on May 3 and of the 16 graduates, nine went through the 2+2+2 right here in Orlando.

Read the Valencia News article on the first 2+2+2 architecture grads

I know Sandy is a Christian leader and I appreciate his direction and passion in this entire effort. There are some things that we humans try to manage and manipulate to get what we want but, there are so many things that have occurred that I know are not “coincidences”. Too many things “fell into place” at just the right time for us mortals to take the credit for it. For instance the funding for the studio space in Building 9, the building of the UCF Joint Use Facility, UF’s support of the Orlando program, and the talented students that had the faith in signing up for a program with no previous track record, just to name a few.

The Orlando architectural program is now a proven, new educational model.

This year you have the special opportunity to support the 2+2+2 program through AIA Orlando’s 25th annual golf tournament June 20, 2014 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Non-members can play for $175 and sponsorships start at $250. Here is a link to more information.

Freshman Freebie: Valencia’s graduation gift to 2014 high school graduates in Orange or Osceola Counties

Start this fall and get one free class.apply now

Class of 2014, this is Valencia College’s graduation gift to you. If you are a 2014 graduate of a public high school in Orange or Osceola counties, we will pay for your first class (3-credit hours) at Valencia College. But hurry—you must enroll for fall classes by July 3.

To qualify:

  Be a 2014 graduate of a public high school in Orange or Osceola county.

  Apply to Valencia

  Complete steps to enrollment

  Complete new student orientation

  Enroll in classes by July 3, 2014

  Pay for classes by August 15, 2014


Assistance is available on a walk-in basis at the Answer Center, or contact Enrollment Services.
Phone 407-582-1507 or email

Oenophiles, wine aficionados and spirit connoisseurs : Taste for Learning May 17th is for you!

An evening of food, wine and spirits paired with an auction to benefit scholarships and medical education.
An evening of food, wine and spirits paired with an auction to benefit scholarships and medical education.

An evening of food, wine and spirits paired with an auction to benefit scholarships and medical education.

Save the date! Taste for Learning is scheduled for May 17, 2014. All oenophiles, wine aficionados and spirit connoisseurs welcome.

For those who are new to Taste for Learning, this is an evening of food, wine and spirits paired with an auction to benefit scholarships and medical education. The event marks the continuation of joint philanthropy efforts with Orlando Health and Valencia College foundations.

Vintners from around the world will donate and pour their finest wines, thanks to ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. With hundreds of wines available why would you miss this event hosted at the luxurious Rosen Shingle Creek?

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

100 percent of each dollar given for tickets, auction items and sponsorships goes to its intended purpose . Every item is donated – from the gourmet food to the international wines poured by their own vintners, and from the advertising to the decor.

An evening of food, wine and spirits paired with an auction to benefit scholarships and medical education.

For sponsorship opportunities please contact Donna Marino at 407-582-3128.

6 Valencia College students have been named top scholars to the All-Florida Academic Team

Six Valencia College students have been named top scholars to the All-Florida Academic Team.

Only 109 students statewide were selected for the team, which is comprised of high-achieving college students from the 28 state and community colleges in the Florida College System.

The students representing Valencia College are: Claudia Arbona Aguirre, Luis Lavieri, Sheri Lynch, Rita Maldonado, Sherin Mathew and Arabel Severe.

6 Valencia students named to All-Florida Academic Team

6 Valencia students named to All-Florida Academic Team

The All-Florida Academic Team recognizes outstanding students for academic achievement, leadership and service to the community. These students were also nominated to the All-USA Academic Team competition, which is sponsored by USA Today, the American Association of Community Colleges and the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

The members of the All-Florida Academic Team received the top scholar honor award during a ceremony held on April 24 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

Phi Theta Kappa is the honor society for students attending community and two-year colleges. Membership is based on high grade point averages and other criteria, with members focusing on scholastic achievement and service to community and campus.

Student art exhibition and award ceremony: April 18

Digital MediaThis week the Anita S. Wooten Gallery will be hosting their annual Student Art Exhibition. This show will include a variety of works from Valencia East Campus students who are studying Digital Media, Graphic Design, and Studio Fine Art. To celebrate the students success there will be a reception and award ceremony on Friday April 18, 2014.

This is event is open to the public. We encourage students, faculty, staff, family and friends to come see what some of the talented students here at Valencia has to offer!  The show will run from April 18 –  May 22, 2014.

The reception will begin at 6:30pm and run until 8:30pm. The award ceremony will begin at 7:30pm. Food and beverages will provided.

For more information and to see some of the work that will be at the show please visit the galleries Facebook page,

Location: Anita S. Wooten Gallery, 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, Florida 32825

Central Florida Fire Institute (CFFI) at Valencia College

Central Florida Fire Institute (CFFI) at Valencia CollegeIntroducing CFFI at Valencia College

Valencia College is pleased to announce the formation of the Central Florida Fire Institute (CFFI), in partnership with member agencies of the former Central Florida Fire Academy (CFFA).

Valencia’s Central Florida Fire Institute provides career pathways for the fire service community in Central Florida, nationally, and globally.

CFFI Programs Include:CFFI

Fire Science Degree

The Fire Science Technology A.S. degree program is approved by the Florida Division of the State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire Standards and Training, and provides an enhanced opportunity for current fire fighters and staff to pursue various professional opportunities in Public Safety with multiple educational pathways for promotion and career advancement.
Valencia’s Advanced Specialized Training Program for Fire Professionals offers a wide variety of training and learning opportunities for our community’s public and private sector fire service professionals. Our programs focus on the most recent updates, topics and equipment and are taught by experienced professionals from the field. In addition, Valencia can customize programs to meet the specific needs of any agency.

scholarship myths

downloadWe envision a day where no one has to worry about how to pay for college. We hope for a day where every student who wants to go to Valencia can, with no financial barriers. Scholarships are vital to achieve this goal.

Students only need to fill out one application to be eligible for the hundreds of scholarships Valencia Foundation offers. In an effort to maximize student participation in the scholarship process, scholarship coordinator, Jen Bhagirath, developed these myths about applying for Valencia Foundation scholarships.

I haven’t submitted a FAFSA; therefore I can’t apply for scholarships…
Most foundation scholarships require a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to be submitted. However, there are some scholarships that do not require students to submit a FAFSA.

I applied for federal aid but didn’t qualify for financial aid, so I won’t qualify for a scholarship…
Not all scholarships require financial need.

I have to be a “straight A student” in order to receive scholarship funding…
Not all scholarships are based on GPA. Some scholarships are given based on majors, career paths, personal hobbies, the community you live in or community service hours.

Applying for scholarships will reduce my federal aid eligibility…
We strongly encourage you to utilize scholarship funding prior to taking out any student loans. Scholarships DO NOT have to be repaid.

The scholarship application process is too much work…
The application requires you to answer a series of short questions and write a 600-900 word essay. All it takes is ONE application to qualify for multiple scholarships.

I don’t know where to apply…
Visit and click on the scholarship application link.

The essay is too hard… I don’t know what to write about.
The essay portion of the scholarship application is what allows the donor to really get to know you. Share your story, educational and professional goals.

I can’t reach my recommender… without their reference; I won’t be able to apply.
Recommendations are not required in order to submit your scholarship application. If you wish to submit a recommendation, we encourage you to connect with your recommender before listing their information.

Please help us spread the word. If you know a Valencia student, send them our way at Remember, one application = hundreds of opportunities.

a closer look – johnson scholarship foundation

Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to assist disadvantaged people obtain an education. They recently issued a challenge grant that brought together a number of local colleges and UCF to fund scholarships.

Valencia, Brevard Community College, Seminole State College and Lake-Sumter State College all signed on for this unique fundraising effort.

At the heart is something that we know works, the DirectConnect to UCF program. One out of every four UCF graduates started at Valencia. Valencia graduates are UCF’s number one source of transfer students.

The DirectConnect to UCF partnership is designed to help students transition from partner colleges to UCF. The program guarantees admission to students who have earned their associate degrees from a partner college and meet academic requirements.

The chance to strengthen this partnership with 2+2 scholarships that will travel with the student as they journey from Valencia to UCF was a very worthwhile endeavor to Valencia.

Simply put, each partner college has to raise a certain amount. These funds will be used for scholarships. Johnson Scholarship Foundation will match these funds, and that money will be used to create an endowment. This partnership is projected to raise $4 million in scholarships.

Students were identified; Osceola campus students who plan to receive a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from UCF. Students must demonstrate financial need and be enrolled in biology and chemistry courses.

Another unique aspect of this scholarship is that it will increase in amount over time. The amount of each award will increase each term as a student demonstrates academic success, growing from $500 to $1,500 in the fifth term.

Dr. Melissa Pedone, dean of math and science, offers her perspective on this unique partnership and its benefit to Valencia students. “The Johnson Scholarship is a very special opportunity to support students on the Osceola campus pursuing a STEM degree focused on biomedical sciences. It is unique in that it provides growing support as students make progress through the degree. STEM majors include many rigorous math and science classes that go beyond the standard math and science general education requirements. Sometimes STEM students run into problems when traditional forms of financial aid cannot accommodate the extra classes or time it takes to complete all of the requirements. The Johnson Scholarship takes this into consideration and provides the critical additional support necessary to help students reach their full STEM potential.”

The first of Valencia’s Johnson Scholars have been awarded, future doctors and researchers who will shape the landscape of tomorrow. In support of Dr. Pedone’s comments, each of these students is well on the way to their highest potential.

Duneishka Roman’s first patient was Mr. Cuddles, the teddy bear. She soon moved beyond the plastic stethoscope and is now in her first year at Valencia studying biology.

Valencia Johnson Scholar, Duneishka Roman

Valencia Johnson Scholar, Duneishka Roman

She started down an uncertain path in high school, influenced by the wrong people, but she soon got herself back on track, pushing her GPA up and taking part in scholastic clubs and doing volunteer work. Today, she maintains a 4.0 average by studying, handing in assignments on time and is sure to speak up if she doesn’t understand a concept in class.

She found out she was a Johnson Scholar mid-bite at a family meal. She pushed the food aside and thanked God for blessing her with this opportunity.

She hopes to one day be a pediatrician and says she wants to “give hope to those who find themselves weak and without hope, to be able to lift at least one person’s spirit.”

She hopes to take advantage of the education she has been given and use it wisely, “because I know for sure that all the building blocks I’m putting together now are to build my future tomorrow.”

She feels as long as she keeps her goals in mind, her dream will be realized and all of her passion and effort will pay off.

Mention of this scholarship kept finding its way into Ekaterina Karelova’s life so she thought she better take advantage of the opportunity. She heard about the scholarship in her chemistry class and then again, right after, in her biology class. On top of that, she received an email about the scholarship, and she decided to check it out.

Ekaterina grew up with her grandparents and they stressed the importance of learning English. “At the age of six they got me an English tutor and no matter what the financial situation was, we would always have money set aside for my English tutor.”

Ekaterina is from the Republic of Georgia and first came to the United States to study business. It was part of a foundation implemented by the then-president of her country, and she traveled with a group of seven kids for what was supposed to be one year, but ended up being much longer.

Curiosity brought her to biomedical science. She was doing research on what could be the underlying cause of an illness and “one day it just hit me. In order to see the big picture, first I have to understand the basics. That is when I enrolled at Valencia College.”

Today she juggles a full-time course load with a full-time job and admits sometimes she is not sure how everything gets done.

She said she felt a great feeling of accomplishment and relief when she found out she was a Johnson Scholar. She sums it up so well: “Education is not cheap. A lot of people with great potential might never attend a college or university because they cannot afford it. Scholarships give this amazing opportunity to everyone.”

Ekaterina brings an international perspective to what many of us may take for granted, access to education. “Schools in the United States have so many resources and opportunities to give students, to teach students and help them be who they choose to be, whether it is great lawyers, great teachers, great businessmen, great doctors.”

Daniel Salas doesn’t care about statistics; he firmly believes his mindset will carry him through any obstacle.

When Daniel’s grandfather passed away during an effort to find the right surgeon, he made a choice. “I chose to dedicate my life to make sure another member of my community would not have to go through that experience.”

He came to Valencia knowing his path, having shadowed medical professionals at both Osceola Regional Hospital and Good Samaritan Village and continuing his community service at Celebration Health.

Daniel chose Valencia because staff member Nelson Sepulveda made him feel “like an individual versus a number.” He was also swayed by the small class size. Unlike large, auditorium-seating classrooms, Valencia’s average class size is 23.6.

His roster of activity seems endless with active involvement in the Student Government Association and he is an active member of the Seneff Honors College, the Valencia Ambassadors Program and the American Medical Student Association at Valencia. He keeps his drive and determination by always asking himself a question when faced with a distraction, “Will attending that bring me any closer to my goals?”

A conversation with Dr. Kathleen Plinske, Osceola Campus president, made him aware of the Johnson Scholar opportunity. Daniel followed up with Dr. Pedone, who encouraged him to apply for the scholarship.

On the importance of scholarships, he says, “Personally, I believe that scholarships are much more than giving away money. They impact the lives of students by allowing us to focus more on our studies so that we can one day give back to those who believed in us.”

5.17.14 food, wine and spirits to benefit scholarships and medical education

On Saturday, May 17, from 7pm to 10pm at  Rosen Shingle Creek vintners from around the world will donate and pour their finest wines, thanks to ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. Hundreds of wine and spirits options will be available. Please join us by inviting friends and colleagues, sponsoring a table and contributing auction items.

On Saturday, May 17, from 7pm to 10pm at Rosen Shingle Creek vintners from around the world will donate and pour their finest wines, thanks to ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. Hundreds of wine and spirits options will be available. Please join us by inviting friends and colleagues, sponsoring a table and contributing auction items.

a closer look: 1st united bank scholarship

1st United Bank presents a check for $5,000 to Valencia Foundation for student scholarships at Valencia College.  From left to right: Michelle Matis, COO, Valencia Foundation; Sam Miles, Sr. VP, 1st United Bank; Jennifer Hinkle, Business Development Officer, 1st United Bank; Donna Marino, CFRE Valencia Foundation Manager

1st United Bank presents a check for $5,000 to Valencia Foundation for student scholarships at Valencia College.
From left to right: Michelle Matis, COO, Valencia Foundation; Sam Miles, Sr. VP, 1st United Bank; Jennifer Hinkle, Business Development Officer, 1st United Bank; Donna Marino, CFRE Valencia Foundation Manager

It used to be thought that people provided charitable donations for some pretty broad, single-focused reasons – they gave because of a religious calling or for the tax deduction. However, now we know that there are a myriad of reasons why people give. Just as each of our students has a story, so too do our donors. The tapestry of each life has been woven and we are grateful to be a part of it.

Relationships are a big part of our work, and it is the same for 1st United Bank, who builds successful relationships with customers, investors and business leaders.

To further promote financial literacy, 1st United Bank established a scholarship program in all the bank’s assessment areas, which includes Orange County. In support of this program, the foundation was gifted $5,000 for scholarships. Senior vice-president, Sam Miles, and Jennifer Hinkle, business development officer at 1st United Bank, delivered the check personally to the foundation. (See photo.)

The scholarship is for low-and-moderate income students who meet the requirement for federal financial aid. They must have a 3.0 or above GPA and be studying banking and finance, nursing or teaching.

These funds will provide 50 credit hours of support and is roughly equivalent to 16 classes at Valencia.

The first of these scholarships have already been awarded and are helping students in need. From Marie, a recent recipient: “It is because of your generosity that I am able to go to class with academic worries instead of financial worries. The 1st United Bank Scholarship has made a huge difference in my life. I appreciate everything that the scholarship has done for me this semester. I will do my best to make this another successful semester.”

And from Ashley: “I would like to sincerely thank you for your generous gift. The scholarship for spring 2013 came to me at a time when I needed it most. With your kindness, I was able to afford my tuition. This scholarship allowed me to focus on my studies without financial concerns.

I currently have an additional two years of school ahead of me. Once I have completed my education I will become a registered nurse. My ultimate goal is to work on a cardiac unit and take an active role in saving lives. From a very young age, I have always wanted to help others. Your generosity has brought me one step closer to reaching my goal.”

And let me add the thanks of Valencia Foundation as well. We count on generous partners to fund scholarships and make education a reality for students who might not otherwise be able to afford an education.

7th Brazilian Film Festival at Valencia College Osceola

View a selection of the best current Brazilian films moderated by renowned producer Elisa Tolomelli.
View a selection of the best current Brazilian films
moderated by renowned producer Elisa Tolomelli.

Valencia College will hold its 7th Brazilian Film Festival from Feb. 13 through Feb. 21, with free showings of six Brazilian films. The week-long film festival is one of only two Brazilian film festivals in Florida. Admission to the film series is free and open to the public. All films will be shown in Portuguese with English subtitles.

The films will be shown on Valencia’s West Campus, located at 1800 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando, and at Valencia’s Osceola Campus, located at 1800 Denn John Lane in Kissimmee.

For more details, including film trailers, visit 

The Brazilian Film Festival at Valencia College is presented in partnership with the Central Florida Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce and the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies. The films were selected by Valencia Professor Sansone and renowned Brazilian filmmaker Elisa Tolomelli, who will moderate each film and hold a question-and-answer with audience members following each film.

Below is a partial listing of films for the full listing, locations and times please visit 

BuddiesFeb. 13 at 7 p.m., Valencia College, West Campus, Building 3, Room 111
“Colegas” (“Buddies”)
Cinematic stars rarely portray as much charisma nor evoke as much sympathy as the Down syndrome heroes do in “Colegas,” an adventure-comedy road movie that shines a poetic light on the simple things in life. ence along for a fantastic ride. The film will be shown in Portuguese with English subtitles. Appropriate for audiences ages 10 and older.

CocoFeb. 17 at 6:30 p.m., Valencia College, Osceola Campus, Building 1, Auditorium
“Coco” (“Coconuts”)
This five-minute short feature from documentary director Luciano Mota Reis Filho captures the traditions surrounding coconut production in his adopted community of Camaratuba. The short film celebrates the

Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., Valencia College Osceola Campus, Building 1, Auditorium

Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., Valencia College, West Campus, Building 3, Room 111
“Faroeste Caboclo” (“Brazilian Western”)

Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m., Valencia College, West Campus, Building 3, Room 111

Feb. 20 at 7 p.m., Valencia College West Campus, Building 3, Room 111
“Disparos” (“Auto-Exposure”)

Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., Valencia College West Campus, Building 3, Room 111
“Minha Mãe é uma Peça” (“My Mom is a Character”)

For more details, including film trailers, please visit

For more information, please call 407-582-1383.

bloom n grow scholarship

Bloom N Grow Scholarship

The Bloom N Grow Scholarship, an affiliate of Florida Federal Garden Clubs, Inc., was organized by a group of West Orange County women sharing a common interest in gardening and horticulture. The purpose of this scholarship is to support educational opportunities for students who have an interest in gardening and horticulture. All applicants must meet these requirements:

  • Must be Enrolled Full-Time or Part-Time.
  • Preference for graduates of West Orange High School.
  • Must be enrolled in Horticulture Science, Landscape or Horticulture Technology

The scholarship will pay toward tuition, books and fees. To apply please complete the Valencia Foundation Scholarship Application found HERE.

Apply TODAY!

the mercury marine scholarship

Mercury Marine Scholarship 

The Mercury Marine Scholarship is seeking an applicant who is the son, daughter, current spouse of a Mercury Marine employee or of a former employee of Mercury Marine who had contributed to the scholarship fund.  Applicants must also meet these additional requirements:

  • Submit a complete FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
  • Demonstrate Financial Need.
  • Maintain a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

The scholarship will pay toward tuition and books. To apply, please complete the Valencia Foundation Scholarship Application found found HERE.

Don’t let another minute pass by, apply today!


Special kudos: 1st United Bank

1st United Bank recently contributed $5,000 towards student scholarships at Valencia College. These funds will provide for 50 credit hours of support and is roughly equivalent to 16 classes at Valencia.  Now, that’s an ROI worth supporting!

1st United Bank presents a check for $5,000 to Valencia Foundation for student scholarships at Valencia College.  From left to right: Michelle Matis, VP Valencia Foundation; Sam Miles, Sr. VP 1st United Bank; Jennifer Hinkle, Business Development Officer, 1st United Bank; Donna Marino, CFRE Valencia Foundation Manager

1st United Bank presents a check for $5,000 to Valencia Foundation for student scholarships at Valencia College. From left to right: Michelle Matis, VP Valencia Foundation; Sam Miles, Sr. VP 1st United Bank; Jennifer Hinkle, Business Development Officer, 1st United Bank; Donna Marino, CFRE Valencia Foundation Manager

The Johnson Foundation Scholarship for Biomedical Sciences

The Johnson Foundation Scholarship is intended to provide scholarship funding to Valencia-Osceola DirectConnect students enrolled in (or already completed) entry level Biology and Chemistry courses and intend to continue on to earn their Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida as a Johnson Scholar.

The 2+2 component of the Johnson Scholarship starts with 1-5 semesters, each semester increasing the scholarship value at Valencia College from $500 in the Spring of 2014 to $1500 in the fifth term. As a 2+2 scholarship, students qualify to receive Johnson Foundation scholarship funding at the University of Central Florida with the condition that the meet all of the original scholarship requirements.

Qualifying candidates must be first year Valencia College students with less than 15 college credit hours completed, demonstrate Financial need (verified via FAFSA), be enrolled in BSC1010C, CHM1025C or CHM1045C at Osceola Campus and intend to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida after successful completion of an Associate’s Degree from Valencia College.

Potential for renewal available to students who maintain a 2.75 GPA, follow precise educational plan for Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida, meet with an Academic Advisor/Faculty/Johnson Scholars Osceola each term, participate in Undergraduate Research and attend University of Central Florida Johnson Scholars events once a year.

In order to apply, please complete the Johnson Foundation Scholarship Application. Submission addresses are listed on the cover page of the application.

For more information this scholarship and more, visit: Valencia College – Scholarship Bulletin Board today!

SGA campus leaders send appreciation for student scholarship support

Student Government Association (SGA) presidents gathered across multiple Valencia campus locations to express appreciation for student scholarship support. The result? A heartwarming note of gratitude!

Your support is key to our success

Your support is key to our success.

On behalf of Valencia College and the students we serve, please accept our appreciation for your contributions which provide deserving individuals access to education in our community.

As Valencia College student government leaders, we represent driven and motivated students. Unlike the college generation of years ago, most of our peers are often balancing family, work and community commitments.

The combined efforts of our donors help students through funding for essential and key needs like scholarships, books, tuition and supplies. All Valencia students greatly benefit from the support they receive, no matter how large or modest the award.

We appreciate your support of students like us!

Valencia Student Government Association Presidents

foundation mash-up

It’s a little of this and a little of that as we kick off this new year. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and great memories were made.

While we enjoy the Florida “winter,” there is one Valencia student who remembers a more frozen landscape.

Megan Morrison’s journey to Valencia took a long road, all the way to Alaska! She was recruited to play volleyball for the University of Alaska. She says she was “a Floridian looking for an adventure.” Memories of the Sunshine State soon won over the incredible cold and darkness and she came back to Florida and to Valencia.

Her start at Valencia was smooth and she immediately received help with submitting appeals for credit transfers and staff made sure she got right back into classes. Now she is exactly on track as a sophomore planning to graduate at the end of spring and begin her junior year at UCF. She recently made the decision to study speech therapy.

She found out about scholarships through her college email and recently applied for funding. Hopefully, we can add another chapter to her story – as a scholarship recipient!

Scholarship coordinator, Jen Bhagirath, shares, “It takes the submission of one scholarship application to obtain a grand opportunity. I encourage all Valencia students to submit a Valencia Foundation scholarship application. This grants our team the ability to seek scholarship funding opportunities that will lessen the financial burdens they may face as students. This is wonderful and possible with the submission of just one scholarship application.”

At our core is helping students. Every scholarship application is a chance to change the life of a student in need. It is something that is always reflected on at this time, when the spirit of giving surrounds us and hope springs eternal with the new year.

And speaking of spirit, or should I say spirits? Please don’t forget that tickets to Taste for Learning are on sale now. It is a celebration like no other and a ticket purchase would be the perfect post-holiday pick me up!
The event is May 17, 2014 at Rosen Shingle Creek. Now through Feb. 14, two tickets are on sale for $200. Individual tickets are $125. You can get yours today at

And we ring in the new year with another new sponsor, Orlando Magic. Here is a look at our sponsors to date:
Sommelier – ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, Rosen Shingle Creek
Vintner – Orlando Magic
Cabernet – Charles Perry Partners Inc., Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services and Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants

All have sponsored past Taste events and we are so very appreciative for their continued support. To find out more about sponsorships, contact Donna Marino at 407-582-3128 or

discussion with a scholar – a valencia scholarship recipient story

(l to r) Jen Bhagirath, Valencia Foundation scholarship coordinator, and Elizabeth Rodriguez

(l to r) Jen Bhagirath, Valencia Foundation scholarship coordinator, and Elizabeth Rodriguez

Elizabeth Rodriguez is special; she has the drive and determination of someone twice her age. She was a speaker at our November board meeting and agreed to spend a few extra minutes with us to share more about her story.

She knew early exactly what she wanted to do. In 7th grade, she decided she wanted to study psychology and from that beginning she hasn’t thought of anything else. She did round out her goals by adding education to her list of future majors.

So ready was she to start her college career, she graduated from high school early with the help of online classes and dual enrollment. She says of her decision, “I wanted to do something better and greater, start my education already.”

When she met with her guidance counselor she knew two things, that she was graduating early and that she wanted to go to UCF. Valencia’s DirectConnect to UCF was “it” and with the automatic transfer offered through our partnership with UCF, the decision was perfect for her.

The fact that education is important was constantly reinforced at home. She remembers that ever since kindergarten her parents were making sure she was reading and doing her homework. Achieving high marks can be hard, but she says that she is grateful to have someone there to tell her she should do better.

And to make it even more fitting, her mother is a Valencia alumna and studied accounting at the Osceola campus. Her mom remembers when the campus was portables and is amazed at how much the campus has flourished through the years.

While she was ready for her start at Valencia, she acknowledges that coming into the college environment from high school can be shocking and there are so many things going on. The advice she would give to students is “to put themselves out there to look for scholarships and to definitely apply for a Valencia Foundation scholarship because it is easy and so straightforward. Scholarships are there and ready to be given away.”

Elizabeth found her way to scholarships by asking during her registration process. She was directed to our website, filled out an application and was chosen as a recipient of the Foreman Family Scholarship.

When she found out about the scholarship, she thought, “What? Is this real?” Then she talked to her mom and they confirmed the good news and excitement ensued. She was so thankful for the scholarship because it meant she could go to school over the summer, taking the financial burden off of her parents.

Elizabeth extends her heartfelt thanks to the Foreman Family, from her family to theirs a big thank you. Isn’t it wonderful how the actions of one family provide an opportunity that affects another entire family? That is the truth of scholarships, far more than simply a donation; your gift has the potential to have a positive effect on a family. Not just financially, but in terms of being a role model for siblings or cousins and proving the fact that there are people out there who are willing to help fund dreams.

Elizabeth is so grounded and easy to talk to; she is well-fitted for a career in psychology. When she envisions her private practice, she hopes to help adults, those that just don’t know how to cope with illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder. She has a respect and understanding for those who have a mental illness, acknowledging that it is not something a person has control over. Embarrassment and stigma might stop people from getting help and that can be much worse.

As for her other area of study, education, that came from having such a passion for education growing up. It is a gift she wants to give to others. “I’ve had many great teachers that have influenced me and made me the person that I am today. I thought that would be something amazing to experience and hopefully be that person for a student.”

She remembers her creative writing teacher in high school, Justin Helm, and how his own studies fueled her passion for psychology. At Valencia, she enjoyed Dr. Lubold’s abnormal psychology class because the focus was on learning.

Through talking with academic advisors and professors, Elizabeth has her education plan in place and her goal is to have her doctorate by the time she is 25. I have no doubt this amazing scholar will do just that, reaching her goals and beyond.

a closer look – grainger tools for tomorrow scholarship

(l to r) Rhonda Fensterer, market manager at Grainger's branch in Orlando, and Gabriella Johnson

(l to r) Rhonda Fensterer, market manager at Grainger’s branch in Orlando, and Gabriella Johnson

Scholarships are a step among the path. They help students to enroll, or stay enrolled, at Valencia. Another step along the path is completion. Through Valencia’s A.S. degree programs, learners are able to immediately join the workforce.

When we measure the college’s impact on our local community it is vital to remember that we provide training and tools that lead to a better workforce, which benefits all of us who work and live in Orange and Osceola counties, and even beyond.

It is this path, from scholarship to completion to workforce, which leads us to companies like W.W. Grainger Inc. (Grainger), North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products, with expanding global operations.

We work closely with businesses like Grainger to make sure that we are graduating students with the highest level of ability, and from these partnerships we know there is a need in the workforce. Many businesses that rely on skilled workers report difficulty finding qualified individuals to fill open jobs. In fact, skilled trades have been the hardest segment of the workforce for employers to staff for the last three years, according to ManpowerGroup.

It seems that part of the challenge in finding trained workers comes from misperceptions of the skilled trade industry. To promote the innovation of careers in the industrial skilled trades, Grainger, in conjunction with the American Association of Community Colleges, launched the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship for 129 students at 70 community colleges in the U.S., with one-half of the scholarships targeted to U.S. Armed Forces veterans. In addition to a $2,000 scholarship, each student receives a Westward tool-kit upon graduation to help jump start their career.

“Grainger is investing in the future industry and communities through the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship program,” said Rhonda Fensterer, market manager at Grainger’s branch in Orlando. “We are proud to partner with Valencia College and believe business and college partnerships are one solution to building a stronger workforce.”

For consideration, Valencia students must be in their last year of study and in good standing to graduate from their technical education program in 2014. And we found a perfect fit with Gabriella Johnson, who is studying toward her A.S. in drafting and design technology.

She heard about the opportunity through a professor and was so surprised and grateful when she received the scholarship, as she had tried for other scholarships but never heard back.

She shares that the scholarship will help her take her last classes and keep her motivated to maintain good grades. She thinks scholarships are important because applying for scholarships helps one reflect on their goals and the level of motivation they have to pursue an education. And she says they help financially of course, alleviating the responsibility and worry of paying for classes. “Instead, said responsibility is focused on education outcomes and accomplishments.”

Gabriella was drawn to industrial trades because she is interested in the function of things. She enjoys learning how to create, work and improve machinery and design.

Her career aspirations are “to demonstrate creativity, commitment and quality in drafting.” She hopes to work in a career where designing skills are used to develop and innovate.

What a perfect addition to the trade, and it was all made possible through Grainger’s Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship. The foundation is ever thankful for these relationships, as they help so many students forge ahead on their own paths with an ultimate destination that makes the community stronger.

bachelor’s degree in logistics management from Florida Tech at Valencia’s Lake Nona campus, fall 2014

Florida Tech, Valencia College Partner to Offer B.S. in Logistics Management at Lake Nona Campus.

MELBOURNE, FLA.—A recently signed memorandum of agreement initiates the offering of a bachelor’s degree in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology at Valencia College’s Lake Nona campus in Orlando, beginning in the fall semester of 2014.

“Partnering with Valencia College Lake Nona Campus is a great opportunity for Florida Tech to reach potential students and returning veterans interested in logistics management,” said Ted Richardson, senior associate dean of extended studies, Nathan M. Bisk College of Business, Florida Tech. “We currently offer a bachelor’s degree in logistics management at remote campuses near Eglin Air Force Base in the Panhandle and at our Hampton Roads, Va., site.”

The degree is a 2+2 program, designed for students who earn an associate’s degree at Valencia with a pre-major in logistics management.

Valencia College has agreed to provide classroom space to students who enroll in the program. The Florida Tech Extended Studies Orlando Site will be the main point of contact for this program.

The logistics management program requires 60 additional credits to complete, which includes courses such as corporate finance, marketing principles and business ethics.

The bachelor’s degree in logistics management is popular with veterans and current military, but Florida business leaders also look to the logistics field for future job growth.

“Valencia College Lake Nona Campus is proud to partner with Florida Tech on this degree in logistics management,” said Mike Bosley, executive dean of Valencia’s Lake Nona campus. “This program will create additional 2+2 options for our students and will help meet the growing needs of our returning veteran population.”

Prospective students may contact the Florida Tech Extended Studies Orlando site at (407) 629-7132. For more information about the program, visit

spirit of the season

In this season of giving and thanks, what better time to share a heartfelt student scholarship thank you. Valencia student, Christopher, shares what it means to receive the Raymer and Dean Maguire Scholarship.

Saying thank you time and time again couldn’t nearly express my gratitude. I am writing this due to your generosity in extending a helping hand to someone in need, me.

Ever since high school ended and my college life began, it has been a constant struggle staying in school. Whether it was a family ordeal or lack of resources, I was not sure if I could continue attending classes. Recently moving out on my own and taking on more adult responsibilities put a lot more than just financial stress on me. The emotional stress was very taxing and I was not sure I could make it to the following semesters, but then you came along – an answer to my prayers. Just knowing that someone cared enough to help someone like me in such a big way is still awe-inspiring.

I could go on about my life story and my personal trials and errors, and how you helped me out in a time of need, but I won’t. You have given me a future to focus on, a new drive and hope that I will pursue until I succeed. There is no need to dwell on the past because I have been given an opportunity and I will not be taking it lightly. I can’t express my sincere gratitude through words alone and I hope and I pray that I will make you proud in achieving my goals. Thank you again so much for this wonderful blessing you have bestowed on me and I look forward to sharing my achievements with you in the near future.

For everyone that supports Valencia Foundation, thank you. You truly make a difference in the lives of our students. Best wishes for a wonderful new year!

winter blessings

This holiday season is a special time of year, one when we focus on friends and family; our gifts express generosity and love to those we care about.

This winter I’m reflecting back on the blessings received in 2013.  There have been many in my life including travels, new family members, additional professional accomplishments, budding friendships and visits to and from long time friends.

One of the most profound blessings is the work I do for the Valencia  and the students that are served because of our mission.

Valencia students are more determined than ever to improve their opportunities in life, and perhaps change the future of their family for generations.  This is where your generosity makes a huge difference.

I have witnessed how our student’s lives are impacted by the kindness of our donors. Without foundation scholarships, many would not be able to attend college. Your support continues to make a tremendous difference in the lives of these students.

This holiday season is a special time of year, one when we focus on friends and family; our gifts express generosity and love to those we care about.

If you are considering extending your generosity and want to make a difference in the lives of others this year, please consider a donation in support of Valencia College and the students we serve.

If you wish to make a donation please visit us online at and click on >>Give Now for our secure website.  You may also send your contribution to Valencia Foundation 190 S. Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801. Checks dated on or before December 31, 2013 will be marked as a 2013 donation.

I trust that you will give as generously as you can to provide the opportunity for a life-changing learning experience for a Valencia students.

And I wish many blessings to you and your family in the New Year.

Happy holidays!

ingredients in chef’s stellar career

Chef SimonHard Work, Dedication Are Ingredients in Chef’s Stellar Career – Linda Shrieves Beaty

Today, Russ Simon is a  a globe-trotting chef, a man who dashes from London to Los Angeles, from Singapore to Las Vegas, opening new restaurants for celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

But 13 years ago, Simon was a business management major at the University of Central Florida student, enjoying fraternity life, when he realized that his future career path wasn’t going to make him happy.

So Simon, who’d grown up in Davie, Fla, as the eldest of four kids, signed up for culinary classes at Valencia.  He already felt at home in kitchens, having served as the chief cook when his parents weren’t at home.

At Valencia, Simon spent his first semester cooking in the small cafeteria kitchen on East Campus, and was in the first class of students to move into the new culinary facilities on West Campus that fall.  Simon, along with chefs Ken and Pierre and the students in the class, unpacked the new pots and pans and stocked the new kitchen. To this day, Simon loves a new kitchen, with shiny new equipment.

“I think that’s why I love opening new restaurants – I think it dates back to that,” says Simon, laughing.

At the same time that he began taking culinary classes, Simon also started working at Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. The small, fast-casual restaurant, which made pizzas and roast chicken and quick meals, proved to be the perfect proving ground for a hard-worker willing to learn.

“While I was working in the Express, I was basically going through all the basic (culinary) classes, learning sauces, pastry, garde manger,” Simon says.  “Then at nighttime, I’d go to this restaurant and work in a very high-volume environment — and I could see where the skills I was learning during the day would pay off.”

It was also the start of a very happy and lengthy relationship between a budding chef and his employer.  Soon, Simon was promoted to work as a cook in the Wolfgang Puck Café at Downtown Disney – a sit-down restaurant where he would learn more about sauces and soups and a wider variety of kitchen skills.  It was time, he says with a laugh, to start doing “big-boy cooking.”

Before long, he was helping to open new Wolfgang Puck Express and Bistro locations around the country.  So in 2004, when he met Puck in person – and the famous chef asked where Simon would like to work — the recent Valencia grad had a ready answer: Spago Beverly Hills.

“If I was going to go anywhere, that’s where I wanted to go – to Los Angeles to give it a shot,” he says.  During Simon’s tenure there, the executive chef won a James Beard award and the Beverly Hills Spago earned a two-star Michelin rating.

Since then, Simon has been jet-setting around the globe, opening a Spago in Colorado, a new steakhouse, CUT, in Las Vegas, then to Singapore to open a CUT there, followed by a stint in London, where he opened a new CUT in a boutique hotel. And there have been more forays in Los Angeles, where he helped open a new Puck restaurant in the renovated Hotel Bel Air.

Over the years, he has worked with famous chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Santi Santamaria, Mario Batali and Thomas Keller.

“I was very fortunate,” says Simon, who’s 35. “A lot of times, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. My hard work had something to do with it, I worked hard, but so did a lot of other guys.” In fact, he says, he and a band of other cooks who started with him as line cooks at Spago in Beverly Hills are now executive chefs and chefs de cuisine throughout the fast-growing company.

Now he’s back in Las Vegas, now at the helm of Postrio, a 15-year-old Italian themed restaurant that the Puck group operates in the Venetian hotel. And now Simon is reaching out to Chef Ken Bourgoin and Chef Pierre Pilloud, to see if there are any young, hard-working chefs on the rise, who would like to work in Las Vegas.

“We’re looking for new talent,” says Simon, ” and I thought I’d call Chef Pierre and see what kind of talent is there.”

For for students seeking career guidance, Simon dispenses some simple advice: “At the end of the day, hard work does truly pay off. If you take the time not to just study and learn, but spend time in the kitchen to perfect our craft, it will pay off.”

preparing for tomorow’s generations

When economic prospects look dismal it’s natural to focus on short-term, rather than long-term, goals. Our foundation board is committed to keeping both horizons in our line of sight so that we can serve today’s deserving student and prepare for tomorrow’s generations. 

We imagine a community in which family finances
never stand in the way of earning a college education.

As you plan for your family’s future, I invite you to use our new web site tools at, which may spark some creative thinking about how to maintain your legacy forever.

  • Make a bequest pledge that costs you nothing during your life.
  • Give a contribution that provides you lifetime income.
  • Preserve your estate for your heirs and provide years of income to Valencia.
  • Convert surplus life insurance coverage into an endowment.
  • Donate appreciated securities and realize larger tax savings than if you had used cash.

We welcome your feedback on our new online resources, designed to help you chart your charitable intentions, which can be found at If you would prefer, our foundation team would be delighted to meet with you to discuss your philanthropic objectives and to explore how you and your family can benefit.

P.S. If you have already made Valencia Foundation a planned giving priority please let us know so that you can become a founding member of our new Legacy Society. Feel free to contact Donna Marino, CFRE at (407) 582-3128 to learn more.

continuing series – discussions on completion and returning students

This month we are checking in with a few more of our returning students to find out what brought them back to education.

Tanja Schreivogel is no stranger to education. She completed a college degree in South Africa, but found the credits did not transfer. As such, she started over at age 28, receiving her LPN license from the Technical Center Osceola. She chose that program because it was a fast avenue to stable employment.

After taking a year off, she started attending Valencia. Her reasons are two-fold. First the simple truth, it costs less than UCF and all credits transfer. But she says there was another reason as well. “I started Valencia in 2009, right after the birth of my first child. Having a child changed my perspective on life and made me realize that I need stability and consistency in my life.”

Today she is an online student who is taking all her pre-requisites at Valencia before transferring to UCF to receive a master’s degree in health information technology. She says that scholarships, Pell Grants, price and online course availability are all important to completion at Valencia.

Amy Garland attended Indiana College for approximately three years, right after college graduation. She admits: “I wasn’t prepared to go to college. I went to school as a way to ‘get out of the house.’ Not knowing what I really wanted to go to school for kept me changing my major several times, pushing my graduation date further and further away.”

While in college, she met Daniel and they married in 2000 and decided to move to Florida shortly thereafter. She found that moving to Florida and being newly married necessitated her to work full time for financial support and the thought of going back to school was put on the back burner. The same was true after her daughter, Katelyn, was born – she still felt like she could not afford to return to school and pursue her education.

With the assistance of financial aid, she was able to return to school this semester. She says it is great that her daughter is now in 2nd grade and understands that “mommy is attending school just like her!” She is studying to get her AA in general studies with a secondary AS in hospitality and tourism management.

Amy cites an outside influence with helping her focus on completion. She says it helps to have a supportive work team who has encouraged her to complete her education. Not to mention, her degrees will help her be eligible for promotions at work.

Patrice Hawkins is a returning student after a 20-year break. She attended the University of Miami but had to stop attending due to some family issues. Then, she shares, “Once I started having children, I just never found the time to return.”

But it was one of those children, her oldest, that gave her motivation to return to college. Her daughter graduated from high school and had a baby in the same month and is now a freshman at Valencia. Patrice always wants to set a good example for her children and realized, “It’s hard to preach college to her, when I am a college dropout. Plus, I didn’t want her to get her degree before me!”

She chose Valencia because it was affordable and she will have her AA in a year from now. She says, “So far, this has been an awesome experience and I thank Valencia for giving me another chance!”

We still have a few more students to hear from so we will check back in with our returning students next month. If you have an idea about another series, or story idea, just let us know. Contact Jill Wileden at 407-582-3158 or

violin instructor’s fermata: legacy through music

Pennsylvanian music lover Doris Paisley took a chance on young Neal Phillips when she agreed to teach the preschooler violin. Neal became her youngest student ever.

Doris Paisley’s life was dedicated to performance violin. She joined the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra at the age of 15, where she played a total of 40 years and achieved first violin. Doris was a graduate of State Teachers College at Indiana, now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with a B.S. in education. Her passions were education and music.

When Doris Paisley passed away in 2011, Valencia faculty member Neal Phillips found a way to honor his childhood violin teacher: by providing scholarship funds for musically inclined students to attend college.

Last week, two Valencia College students each received a $1,000 Instrumental Music Scholarships in memory of Ms. Doris Paisley. Both students have a passion for music; the scholarship funds will provide students the resources to explore their love of music while at Valencia and still afford core classes.

Pictured here are students Melody Cook and Jim Reyelt. They are joined by Neal Phillips (wearing a violin tie in honor of Doris Paisley) and Troy Gifford, program director and music professor at Valencia College.

Pictured here are students Melody Cook and Jim Reyelt. They are joined by Neil Phillips (wearing a violin tie in honor of Doris Paisley) and Troy Gifford, program director and music professor at Valencia College.

Pictured here are the first students to receive the Doris Paisley scholarship: Melody Cook and Jim Reyelt. They are joined by Ms. Paisley’s former student and Valencia professor Neal Phillips (wearing a violin tie in honor of Doris Paisley). Pictured also is Troy Gifford, program director and music professor at Valencia College.

bringing the community college mission abroad

Instructors from Valencia College's Criminal Justice Institute help train instructors at Puerto Rico's Ana G. Mendez University.

Instructors from Valencia College’s Criminal Justice Institute help train instructors at Puerto Rico’s Ana G. Mendez University.

Valencia received national publicity for several international partnerships, including one that is aimed at developing a women’s community college in Saudi Arabia and another that is helping to transform Puerto Rico’s criminal justice system. See the story in Community College Times:

sage – study abroad opportunities at valencia

SAGEmainPageBannerValencia students can experience the soul-changing study abroad experience through Valencia’s Study Abroad and Global Experiences (SAGE) program. Scholarships provide access to those who might otherwise be sidelined by finances.

The mission of SAGE is to prepare students to live, work, and collaborate effectively in a global community by providing learning experiences that promote an understanding of cultural diversity, increase language acquisition and fluency, and develop intercultural competency.

What used to be about learning a foreign language in a “real” setting has grown to produce students who are much more reflective about their career path and how that path fits into the world community.

And an October Chicago Tribune article about Stacie Berdan’s book, “A Student Guide to Study Abroad,” says that those skills learned during international study can have lasting effects in the workplace as well, helping set the world traveler apart from their peers in the search for employment.

The SAGE process is started by a faculty member who would like to incorporate a study abroad component in their course. Faculty do research and select a destination that will best meet the course learning outcomes. Jennifer Robertson, director of SAGE, encourages faculty to do a survey prior to finalizing their proposal to ensure that the location is of interest to students.

Even with scholarship support, these programs can be costly. Currently, the committee expects to approve ten to 12 programs each year, but this will depend on the level of scholarship funding available. Interest and faculty involvement in SAGE is growing, but the reality is the program can’t afford to fund all of the expected 18 proposals for the upcoming year.

The SAGE office is currently accepting applications for 2014 short-term study abroad programs to England, India, Brazil, China, Germany and France, Poland and France and Belgium.

Trips to Italy, Panama and Italy and Greece have closed the application process and are scheduled for February and March of 2014. Chef Pierre Pilloud is leading the tour to Italy where students will have the opportunity to learn about various Italian cooking techniques at the Apicius Center School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy.

Biology professor Melissa Schreiber will take students to Panama City to learn about public health awareness in Panama related to infectious disease. Students will attend lectures at the USMA University and spend time at a UNAIDS facility, as well as spending time with patients and their families at a hospice center and local hospitals.

Professors Tammy Gitto-Kania and Caroline Cully are heading up the trip to Greece and Italy. This humanities course will examine dominant areas in Greco-Roman culture as expressed through government, art, literature, music, philosophy and religion.

Jennifer cites funding support as an integral factor in student involvement. “I have found that if students do not have scholarship dollars then they do not participate.”

To make sure that more programs would run and be successful, the SAGE committee decided to award bigger scholarships to fewer students. Even with the $1,700 scholarships, students can still incur costs for a study abroad experience. It is a fact that keeps Jennifer and her staff always on the search to identify new funding sources for the program.

It is an effort that is most worthwhile and students reap the benefits of a successful SAGE program. Jennifer says, “There is a lot of research already published on the benefits of study abroad, and they have been able to conclude that study abroad increases a student’s ‘global-mindedness’ to sum it up in just a few words. While we cannot really create ‘global citizens’ with just one short-term study abroad experience, these programs open up the minds of our students to the unlimited possibilities that are out there. They come back with a whole new perspective on life and are forever transformed.”

Additionally she shares that study abroad has been linked to higher retention and graduation rates.

Danielle McArdle traveled to Beijing and Shanghai to learn about business in China and feels that she learned so much while she was there. “Study abroad opportunities are important because they broaden your perspectives and open your mind to the fact that the world you live in is not just your immediate surroundings but the whole world.”

Sharon Chacon is a student on Valencia’s Osceola Campus and she traveled to England for a leadership course. She feels it was an incredible experience that allowed her to expand her horizon and immerse herself in a different culture. She says the course changed her life.

“I feel that this study abroad experience and similar opportunities are important because they allow us to grow as people in areas of communications, relations and personal knowledge.” And she echoes the remarks of the Chicago Tribune, citing that study abroad sets her apart from her peers and looks “amazing” on college applications – to have explored beyond America and shown the responsibility and skillfulness required to function in another country.

Sharon is grateful to the scholarship donors who made her trip possible. “The fun and memories I made, along with the friends and partnerships I made in England are priceless. The knowledge and opportunities granted by their donations allowed me to grow as a young adult as well as providing information and experience in the real world. All these things aren’t something that can be taken from you and they will live forever in your heart and mind, thus making the thank you never-ending and completely sincere!”

For more information, you can find SAGE on YouTube:

You can also join the Valencia College Study Abroad group on Facebook:

a new series – discussions on completion

Valencia was the inaugural winner of the 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, cited as “the best community college in the nation.” The prize was based on measurable achievements in graduation rates, workforce placement and innovative programs.

Near the bottom of state funding per FTE (Full Time Equivalent) from among the state’s 28 community colleges, Valencia nevertheless achieves a graduation rate nearly three times the national average for similar institutions.

But how does that translate to students and what they experience at Valencia? There is an audience at Valencia that has a unique view on completion – those that are returning students. What can those that tried in the past teach us as they embark once again on their educational journey?

The response from students has been great and we will be sharing a few insights each month as part of this discussion.

While each story is unique, returning students seem to fall in two groups – those that started college in the past and stopped before attaining a certificate or degree and those that graduated from other programs, and came to Valencia to deepen their education.

Kyle Pietila is in the second group, attending and graduating from a culinary arts program in Minnesota in 1995 and the Disney culinary program in 1998. He is back to get his AA with hopes of becoming a culinary teacher. He chose Valencia because it has a good reputation and it is close to where he lives. He says as a returning student, “I am working full time and I am going to school and just trying to get back into the swing of things.”

Kimberly Chemente started down the path of a typical student. She began studying at Valencia in 1999 as a dual-enrollment student and then continued until 2002. Pressures felt from her young age and working full time led her to take a break from school. “And then life happened,” she says.

She relocated to Jacksonville in 2004, got married in 2007 and had her son in 2008. During this time, she felt her dreams for college slipping away. It was a job that brought her back on course, a recent position at Nemours Children’s Hospital that brought her back to Central Florida.

“Nemours takes education very seriously and part of my employment agreement was that I finish my schooling and degree.” After an 11-year break, she came back to Valencia in May of this year. She will receive her AA in May 2014 and then plans to continue her studies at UCF.

Valencia student Kimberly Chemente and her son

Valencia student Kimberly Chemente and her son

And it is the hope to be a role model to her son that drives her to succeed. “I want him to see that college is hard work but worth the time and effort.”

Marlene De Tour started her educational journey far from the Sunshine State, at Hastings Community College in Nebraska. She stopped attending when her daughter was born premature, “that changed everything,” she says. When her daughter was 18 months, they relocated to Florida.

She wanted to come back to school to push herself professionally and in order to do that she needed a degree. Marlene is very frank about the benefits of a degree, “I also want to make more money.” And like Kimberly, she hopes to be a good example for her child.

Her choice of Valencia was a pragmatic one, citing the partnership that allows for a two-year degree here and then transfer to UCF for a four-year degree. And expense was another factor, she found Valencia to be a more cost effective option.

Today she is a sophomore and she eventually hopes to get her bachelor’s degree in marketing.

I asked her what factors are important to make sure you complete your education at Valencia. “Since I am a single mom, financial aid and scholarships are important, as is cost of tuition, and having classes that meet my work schedule as I work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Plus I have a daughter in middle school so I need to be able to attend her activities from time to time.”

Her answer hit so many important facets and I’m sure echoes countless students juggling work, school and family and sometimes struggling for ways to pay for college. This series will continue to uncover what makes completion a reality for our returning students.

a special blog post – katherine’s story

In doing research for another project – a great series about returning students that will start in our November newsletter – I learned the story of Katherine. Hers is an inspirational and important story, all the more poignant because this month is domestic violence awareness month.

I didn’t want to wait to tell her story so I hope you will read it and share with people you know.

She was attending college in Miami, this was back in 2002, and she met a seemingly nice guy and they began dating. After a year and half, the abuse started. It started first with verbal abuse, calling her names that made her feel worthless. Then he began to exert control over many facets of her life, such as demanding she wear clothes over a bathing suit, whether at the beach or at the pool, and telling her what to wear.

Soon, the beatings started. After he had bruised her body, he started on her face, leaving her with broken vessels in her left eye and a black eye.

The next part is chilling, and I want to make sure I explain it exactly as she did: “One night after 3 months of abuse, verbal and physical, we arrived home from a night out and he started fighting with me. He choked me three times and I passed out each time. The third time I woke up he was sitting on top of me and had poured rubbing alcohol on my chest. He whispered to me, ‘I want to burn your heart,’ then proceeded to light me on fire.

Since I was on the floor, I rolled but that didn’t work, it just burned my left arm even more. When I got up, he was staring at me, surprised at what had happened. I ran to the bathroom and tried to turn the shower on, but when I leaned forward the fire on my chest began to creep under my chin and burned my eyebrows and eyelashes. He ran in and turned on the shower. Skin began to fall off my chest as the water ran down, my chest still had the feeling of being on fire.

I begged him to call for help. He refused and offered to heal me, and locked the front door so I couldn’t go out. Eventually I convinced him to let me call for help. He agreed so long as I told them I burned myself smoking a cigarette. I agreed and did so.

When I got to the emergency room, I was questioned by a nurse and she brought over a detective. They didn’t believe the initial story and I told them the truth about what had happened.”

Katherine spent a month in the hospital recovering but her spirit and emotions are still recovering. Diagnosed with PTSD, she refuses to allow her mind to take over and continue being in fear.

Her abuser received a 34-year sentence for attempted murder, arson, kidnapping and assault. But what could be the end of the story was just a beginning for Katherine. An inspirational survivor, she is determined to work on behalf of other abused women.

“I told myself I have to go back to school because it is too common how much domestic violence actually occurs, and I want to help women live and understand that regardless of your situation, kids or not, you can always leave and walk away.”

For Katherine, evil has a face, and some days are harder than others. But she refuses to let the bad days get her down or deter her from her goal of getting a master’s degree in sociology. Why? Because every day that goes by, women are being hurt and Katherine knows she can help. She wants to be as knowledgeable as possible so she can help as many women as possible

Katherine is working on writing a book about her experiences and serves as director for domestic violence at an international nonprofit for abused men, women and children.

As for her decision to return to school, she shares, “I’m tired of letting time pass by so I had to do something and enroll in school again, and God willing, soon I can change part of the world.”

Yes, I believe that. Katherine demonstrates the very definition of strength and serves as a beacon of hope that life can be lived, and can thrive, even after the most sinister abuse.

Locally, help can be found at Harbor House of Central Florida (407-886-2856) or Help Now of Osceola County, Inc. (407-847-8562).

Please keep Katherine’s story in mind this month and beyond. I want to thank her so much for trusting me with her story. She also shared the attached photo, a testament to her beauty both inside and out.
Katherine - Blog

consulate awards scholarships for valencia students of mexican origin

IME BECAS Scholarships Funds Awarded: The funding is part of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME) “BECAS for a Better Life,” a fundraising program that was created by the Mexican government in 2005 to support the development and well being of Mexican migrant students living in the United States. The program’s ultimate goal is to help develop a more educated and better-trained work force by supporting underserved students to continue or begin their academic development.

IME BECAS Scholarships Funds Awarded: The funding is part of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME) “BECAS for a Better Life,” a fundraising program that was created by the Mexican government in 2005 to support the development and well being of Mexican migrant students living in the United States. The program’s ultimate goal is to help develop a more educated and better-trained work force by supporting underserved students to continue or begin their academic development.

The Mexican Consulate in Orlando awarded Valencia College $4,000 in scholarships to benefit Mexican-American students. Together with matching dollars from the Valencia Foundation, the college will award four students each with a $2,000 scholarship. Recipients must be current Valencia students who are Mexican or of Mexican descent.

A total of $28,000 was awarded by the consulate to three Florida colleges and two nonprofits during a ceremony held earlier today at the consulate. Each award will be matched by the recipients’ foundations to provide $56,000 in scholarships to benefit more than 160 students.

“We are very grateful to have the opportunity to partner with the Mexican Consulate to provide scholarship support to students of Mexican descent,” said Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses. “One of our strategies to increase the number of students who pursue a higher education in our community is to reduce the financial barriers they face, and this scholarship program will help several of our students to realize their dreams at Valencia College.”

Hispanics make up the largest minority group at Valencia at 31 percent. In the last five years, Hispanic enrollment at the college has grown by 37%, or 4,959 students.

This is the second year that Valencia has received these funds, after awarding scholarships last year to four Mexican-America students, including:

  • Ashley Vasquez, a first-generation college student, member of Phi Theta Kappa, who dreams of becoming an optometrist and plans to complete her A.A. then transfer to UCF for her bachelor’s;
  • Daisy Mondragon, who’s pursing an A.S in Radiology Technician and is hoping to graduate in December 2014;
  • Carolina Lopez, married with small children, will be the first in her family to graduate from college. She’s studying for her A.S. in nursing—a highly competitive and rigorous program—and plans to complete her bachelor’s in nursing at UCF.

The funding is part of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME) “BECAS for a Better Life,” a fundraising program that was created by the Mexican government in 2005 to support the development and well being of Mexican migrant students living in the United States. The program’s ultimate goal is to help develop a more educated and better-trained work force by supporting underserved students to continue or begin their academic development.

Information on how students can apply for the scholarships can be found here:

note from the “Tina’s Heart” scholarship committee

The endowed scholarship created in memory of Valencia student Christine “Tina” Collyer will begin distributing to Valencia College students in 2014.  Family and friends of Tina celebrated her memory in the following letter that thanked community members and contributors of this learning legacy.

Thank you so much for your donation to Tina's Heart Scholarship. Your generosity made this scholarship possible. Most donations came through the 2011 and 2012 Tina's Turn Out events at Lake Eola, the support of Valencia's Alumni Association, and through the 2013 graduating class at Valencia College. We are so very grateful to all of you.We are happy to announce that the Tina’s Heart Scholarship in memory of Tina Collyer is now endowed!

Starting in 2014, Valencia will award one scholarship every year to a freshman student who will attend Valencia. EVERY YEAR!!! Although the specific criteria for eligibility to receive the scholarship has not been finalized, it will be awarded to a student who has participated in the Fire Department Explorer program and wants to pursue a career as a firefighter/EMT.

The Orlando Fire Department Explorer program was at the center of Tina’s heart, and she inspired the Explorers that she guided through the program. Tina’s legacy will live on in our memories and this scholarship will extend that legacy to future Explorers!

Thank you so much for your donation to Tina’s Heart Scholarship, as your generosity made this scholarship possible. Most donations came through our 2011 and 2012 Tina’s Turn Out events at Lake Eola, through the Valencia Alumni Association, and through the 2013 graduating class at Valencia College. We are so very grateful to all of you.

Please celebrate Tina whenever you think of her – when you take a walk around Lake Eola, or when you hear a fire truck, or just whenever you think of her crazy antics.

With heartfelt thanks,

The Tina’s Heart Scholarship Committee
Janice Collyer, Bill Collyer, Shannon Omark, Suzanne Rhodes, Barbara Shell, Randy & Genie Tuten

P.S. If you would like to provide input on the eligibility and selection criteria prior to the 2014 Scholarship season, please contact Shannon Omark at or Suzanne Rhodes at prior to March 1, 2014.

Christine ”Tina” Collyer’s lifelong dream of becoming a fire fighter was ignited by an AS degree in Fire Officer Technology, an AS in Emergency Medical Service Technology and a certificate in Paramedic Technology from Valencia Community College. In January of 1996 she joined the Orlando Fire Department and also served as Paramedic and instructor for the department and citizens of Orlando.

Tina was the Explorer Advisor for many years and proudly served on the Honor Guard. Her contributions to the Orlando community extended as a volunteer with Burn Camp, Dream Flight, and the Winnie Palmer Secret Santa.

Friends and family are honoring Tina’s commitment to learning and her giving spirit with a scholarship in her honor.  The family wanted to create hope with Tina’s Heart marking one year since Tina’s passing in October 2008.

For more information about the efforts of this committee in memory of Valencia Grad Tina Collyer please read the blogs In memory of Tina Collyer and The results are in: Tina’s Turnout for scholarships.

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

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 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.

new partnership connects parramore residents to nursing careers

The first ten students to benefit from this program began their Practical Nurse training at Orlando Tech last week. At the same time, they also began pre-requisite courses at Valencia for the nursing program.

The first ten students to benefit from this program began their Practical Nurse training at Orlando Tech last week. At the same time, they also began pre-requisite courses at Valencia for the nursing program.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando Commissioner Daisy Lynum and officials from area hospitals and schools launched an ambitious plan today to bring new job opportunities in health care to low-income residents of West Orlando.

Speaking at Orlando Tech, Mayor Dyer said the city’s growing biomedical and healthcare industry offers the “opportunity for nearly 30,000 jobs and $7.6 billion of economic impact in the next 10 years.”

The Orlando Medical Careers Partnership is designed primarily to help Parramore’s residents take advantage of those high-paying job opportunities by equipping them with the skills they need to become future nurses, doctors, medical assistants and lab technicians.

Led by the city’s Blueprint Employment office, other partners in the project include Valencia, Orlando Tech, the University of Central Florida, Florida State University, Orange Country Public Schools, Florida Hospital, Orlando Health and Workforce Central Florida.

Last week, the first ten students to benefit from the program began their Practical Nurse training at Orlando Tech and at the same time, also began their pre-requisite courses at Valencia for the nursing program. After a year, they will enter an accelerated nursing program at Valencia that will allow them to earn their Associate in Science degree in nursing and take the exam to become a registered nurse.

“We offered them a pathway that allows them to reach their potential,” said Falecia Williams, president of the college’s West Campus where the program will be offered.

Students will have a dedicated advisor, faculty member and tutoring, as well as clinical training opportunities with the three hospital partners. Workforce Central Florida will cover the costs for tutoring.

“Once you get ‘RN’ behind your name, the number of opportunities will just multiply,” said Ebony Thompson, one of the students involved in the program. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

discussion on philanthropy

This month we are going full spectrum, featuring both a donor and scholarship recipient perspective.

Patti Riva is a true friend of Valencia Foundation. She has been an active donor for 15 years. She is a planned giving donor and member of the Legacy Society as well as a member of the Jeffersonian Society (formerly the President’s Circle).

Born in Orlando, this Florida native attended University of Hawaii for her master’s degree and also worked there for six years. She then moved on to Los Angeles and worked at the University of California for ten years.

She came back to Florida in 1996 and became a Valencia employee in 1998, working in the marketing department coordinating the production of the continuing education course booklet. She then secured a position overseeing a grant funded program for single parents, followed by her role as evening/weekend manager for the Winter Park campus. In July 2011, she began a new adventure as operations manager, energy education with a focus on energy savings college-wide.

Her definition of philanthropy is simple: “As part of my job and how I hope each day of my life allows, I would define philanthropy simply as helping make a positive difference for someone or some group.”

She feels it is important to support Valencia scholarships as it is all about giving back. “I always say we are in ‘this’ together. ‘This’ represents so many aspects – the Valencia family, my own friends and family; and yet however one defines ‘this,’ we do it together. It’s exciting to see what a difference a scholarship can make for someone,” she says. It shows that someone believed in them and cared enough to invest in their future. “What do we know about their circumstances? How big of a difference did this make for them? What message does it send to their family and friends about how you are valued and we gladly support you? I can’t say enough about the value of giving.”

Valencia student Fleck Cadeau has been on the receiving end of this giving as a foundation scholarship recipient. Fleck has always been fascinated with the unknown and drawn to science. With the goal in mind of becoming a doctor, he chose to major in biomedical science, which combines his passion for science with his interest in medicine. His short term goal is to earn an undergraduate degree from UCF and then gain entrance to medical school, hopefully at UCF’s College of Medicine. His long term goal is to become a licensed surgeon working at one of Orlando’s hospitals.

Fleck Cadeau

Fleck Cadeau

He takes a global view of philanthropy. “My definition of philanthropy is showing compassion for your fellow human being; whether it is through donation, volunteering or just making steps towards improving life for others who are less fortunate. I believe that through philanthropy, we are able to care for and help improve parts of the world that have less than we do. For example, when we donate money and nourishment to poverty-stricken countries we are helping improve these countries with philanthropic acts.”

He believes it is important to support scholarships as they provide aid to students who are in need and serve as accolades for students who have persevered and excelled throughout their educational journey. He uses himself as an example, not being from an affluent background made it difficult to afford school. He found himself working a lot, “which complicated my education because now I had to balance work and school. However, with the help from the scholarship I received, I am able to work less and place greater focus on school.”

Fleck feels that supporting education will benefit Valencia as a whole. “When Valencia awards scholarships to deserving students it indicates to that individual that his/her hard work actually does pay off. This trend will filter to the rest of the school’s population, increasing performance in education.”

This month gives us interesting perspective from two active audiences at the foundation – the student who has big plans for the future and the benefactor who makes it all possible.

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!


5K to benefit student scholarships for emergency responders

Valencia College Osceola Campus will host a Family Walk/Run for Heroes with a 5K run & 2.5K ‘fun’ run
on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

All proceeds go toward the Rotary Club of Lake Nona’s Sept. 11 Memorial Fund to support Valencia College student scholarships for emergency responders.

ONLINE race registration or MAIL IN registration

For sponsorship opportunities, call 407-582-3426 or email Barbara Shell at


Valencia College – Osceola Campus
1800 Denn John Lane
Kissimmee, FL 34744

Map of Location

This event is a 5K two loop course around campus.  The 2.5K ‘fun run’ is a one loop course.  The 5K will be the only officially timed event with age group awards, whereas the 2.5K will be timed but but for fun, not award eligibility.  Results for the 2.5K will be done in overall format only.

General Entry:
$25 through August 31
$30 September 1 through September 5
$35 Day of Race (cash or check only)

Valencia Student:
$20 through September 5
$35 Day of race (cash or check only)

Valencia Alumni / Retiree
$20 through September 5
$35 Day of race (cash or check only)
Day of race registration opens at 5:00PM

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ONLINE (processing fees do apply)


Mail in completed entry form to race headquarters at:Race Time Sports
478 E. Altamonte Drive, Suite 108-716
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
Checks payable to: Valencia Alumni

All per-registered participants are guaranteed a special event day t-shirt.  Shirt sizes are not guaranteed for day of race registrations.

Pre-event packet pick-up:
Pre-event pick up of race number and t-shirt will be at Valencia College, Friday, September 6 from 4pm to 7pm in building 4.  Packets will also be available on race day at the race site starting at 5pm.

Awards and Timing:  5K
Awards are given in overall and age group categories.  Overall male and female, overall masters male and female and 3 deep in the following age groups:  14 and under, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70 and over.

Timing: 2.5K
This event is electronically timed but for FUN ONLY.  There are NO AWARDS for this event.  All participants will received their time in an overall results format.

All proceeds will go to the Rotary Club of Lake Nona’s September 11 Memorial Fund to support Valencia College student scholarships for emergency responders.

For safety reasons, in-line skates, bicycles, and pets will not be allowed on the race course.  Headphones are discouraged.

Baby joggers and strollers are welcome to participate, however will be required to start at the back of the starting corral.

For additional race questions please email

Registration: All registration fees are non-refundable and non-transferrable.

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

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

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

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.

discussion on philanthropy

This month I am turning the keyboard over to scholarship recipient Angela Bardwell-Owens. She shares with us her definition of philanthropy and explains the importance of scholarships.

Angela Bardwell OwensEasily defined as an inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, usually through monetary donations, philanthropy is more than just a financial endeavor. Philanthropy begins from a frame of mind that sometimes, people need a little assistance. This benevolence extends into donations of services or self as well.

As a sophomore studying psychological sciences, I am exposed to numerous theories and abstract ways of thinking. I am often asked why I stay after class or stay up late to help classmates with class materials. My reply is always the same, “I am able to do the right thing by offering myself as a service to students who are struggling, because someone else has offered their assistance to me.”

I have been the fortunate recipient of nine scholarships since my arrival at Valencia in the fall of 2011. These scholarships have alleviated some of the financial burden I have placed myself and my family under for the pursuit of higher education.

My dream is to lead my own lab as a research scientist creating new research, overseeing graduate student research, undergraduate activities, managing multiple projects and continuing to provide leadership to institutional and community organizations.

I am active in several student organizations on campus, in the community, as well as interning at a research lab at UCF. The philanthropists who have generously offered funding to scholarships inspired me long ago to give something of myself to Valencia College. The act of giving is philanthropy, in which I am able to give my assistance to anyone who needs it.

Scholarships have made a significant impact on me financially, which I have now transformed into service to my college. I will continue to offer my late nights for student services until I am financially able to increase the well-being of humankind, specifically the student scholarships at Valencia College. Without having received scholarships through Valencia Foundation, I may not have had as many opportunities to give myself in service to others, who sometimes, need a little assistance.

student pin up highlighted in valencia vitae


Ryan Dey assembles his project for UCF’s pin-up review.

Valencia architecture students pin up their work–and their hopes for admission to architecture school. — By Linda Shrieves Beaty

The temperature in the room is rising. So is the level of stress and excitement. Architectural models, foam board and pins are scattered all over the floor at Valencia’s Special Events Center. Nearly 80 architecture students are painstakingly pinning their favorite models, sketches and paintings to a 4-foot-by-8-foot board. For the students, the boards represent more than a three-dimensional portfolio of their work.

These are their tickets to architecture school. How well they present their work on those boards—known as pin-ups—is crucial. Their admission to architecture school hangs in the balance. The excitement in the room is palpable. So is the exhaustion.

“We haven’t slept in, like, three days,” said Valencia architecture students Angel Almanzar, 19, and Juan Diaz, 20. Working side by side, they have been fueling themselves with energy drinks like Monster and 5-Hour Energy.

Held at Valencia’s Special Events Center on April 17 and 18, the UCF “pin-up” is an annual ritual for Valencia’s graduating architecture students. Valencia students who want to be admitted to the University of Central Florida’s architecture program present their best work—and then display it for a team of judges who will decide which students get the 38 seats in next year’s junior class at UCF.ShowtimeBut the Valencia students are not alone at the pin-up. Students from 10 other colleges and universities are also competing, just as eager to get admitted to the UCF architecture program. At UCF—and at architecture schools around the country—admission to the upper division (or junior and senior classes) in the architecture program is limited. This year, more than 80 students are competing for the 38 seats in the UCF program. Last year, only 44 students applied for admission to UCF’s architecture program, so the competition is getting stiffer, says Lynn McConnell Hepner, associate dean of UCF’s College of Arts & Humanities.

And that’s just the beginning. When the Valencia students take their work to the University of Florida’s pin-up—held only a few days after UCF’s—they’ll face even more competition.

“It’s competitive, but that’s a good thing,” says Valencia architecture professor Allen Watters. “The competition is a friendly competition and it brings out the best in the students.”

At the UCF pin-up, students have seven hours to pin-up their boards. When the doors to the Special Events Center open at noon, students stream in, carrying the models and work they’ve done during their first two years in architecture design classes.

They also come bearing tools—scissors, X-Acto knives and lots of pins—for pinning their models and work to the large foam boards, which will be the canvas that holds all their work.

“It’s always been a fantastic event,” says Watters, who gets excited by the energy the students generate. “There’s always been a lot of excitement, but the event gets better each year.”

Mauricio Zamora and Sara Ramirez at pin up. They are part of nearly 80 architecture students who painstakingly pinned their favorite models, sketches and paintings to a 4-foot-by-8-foot board to create a three-dimensional portfolio of their work.

Mauricio Zamora and Sara Ramirez at pin up. They are part of nearly 80 architecture students who painstakingly
pinned their favorite models, sketches and paintings to a 4-foot-by-8-foot board to create a three-dimensional portfolio of their work.

While other students are buzzing around the room, Paola Munoz, 21, is busy in one corner, carefully pinning models and sketches up on her board. “I think I got about four hours of sleep last night,” says Munoz. “I was up until 5 a.m. figuring out how and where to pin everything.”

There are many rules, both written and unwritten. The top quarter of the board must be devoted to work done in a student’s first year, so that judges can see the students’ progression. And though they don’t have to, most of the students display their best work at eye-level to attract the judges’ attention.

But it’s tricky, says Valencia student Chris O’Beirne, who is working next to Munoz. “You can’t have too much white space, but you don’t want too much clutter,” says O’Beirne, 22.

Like many of Valencia’s architecture students, Munoz took a circuitous route to architecture school. She started her college career at UCF as an engineering major. When she discovered she didn’t like engineering, she transferred to Valencia to study architecture. “I wanted to do something more creative,” she says. “Besides, it runs in the family,” she adds, noting that her uncle is an architect in Ecuador and her cousin is currently studying architecture too. While Munoz wants to attend UCF—and hasn’t applied elsewhere—Juan Diaz is aiming for admission to the University of Florida’s architecture school. So when he takes apart his pin-up board, taking down the models and sketches and artwork, he’ll drive to Gainesville and start all over again the next day, for UF’s pin-up. “For me, this is more of a practice for UF,” Diaz said. But the process—the nights without sleep and the madness of producing a 3-D portfolio in a matter of hours—is nerve wracking.

Even the professors, most of who went through the same process as undergraduates, remember pin-up vividly. “You didn’t sleep for weeks beforehand,” says Valencia professor Jennifer Princivil. “This was Show Time. If your board didn’t sing, forget it.”

Adds Professor Christine Daelo: “This process is extremely nerve-wracking. Even if the air conditioning is cranked down to 30 degrees, you can feel the heat in the room.”

Valencia’s reputation heats up

The day after the students finish pinning their work to their boards, the judges—local architects and architecture professors at Valencia, UCF and UF—converge on the Special Events Center to score the students’ work. Judges hand out scores from 1 to 10 for each board.

“I look at the density of the board, meaning almost the entire board is covered, the work is pretty well laid out and the content is interesting,” says Daelo. “I always look for ones that are doing something different. Are they experimenting with different materials, for instance?”

The pin-up process even attracts former students, eager to see what this year’s crop of graduates has produced. This year, one of the visitors is Charles Green, who graduated from Valencia’s architecture program in 2011 and is graduating from UF’s architecture program in May. Now he’s headed to the University of California- Berkeley for graduate school. Green applied to Harvard, MIT, Columbia University, University of Florida and Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Berkeley for graduate school—and was thrilled to get into Berkeley. He—and many other Valencia graduates who’ve been accepted to top-flight graduate schools—is proof that Valencia’s architecture program is producing excellent students.

“I strongly believe in Valencia’s program,” said Green, 23, who transferred to Valencia after growing frustrated in an engineering program at the University of South Florida. “Wherever students want to go after this—whether it’s UF or UCF or Berkeley—Valencia gives you a good base of design knowledge. The work here is comparable, if not better than, UF.”

As Valencia students spread out to architecture schools around the country, they are discovering that word about the program is spreading. At the University of Michigan—one of the top architecture schools in the country—professors are offering encouragement to applicants from Valencia. “Some of our students went up there and the professors were raving about them because they already have two Valencia students there who are doing quite well,” said Valencia professor Kourtney Baldwin.

“They already know the reputation of our program.” Here in Orlando, the architecture community is supporting—and noticing—the progress at Valencia’s program. “I’ve been to three pin-ups now and I think that the quality of the work for pin-up is improving,” said Dr. Frank Bosworth, director of the University of Florida’s Citylab architecture program, an Orlando master’s level program that has partnered with Valencia and UCF. Bosworth believes the

Valencia program is maturing rapidly, thanks to contributions from Orlando’s well-established architecture community and the value of the 2+2+2 partnership between Valencia, UCF and UF. The partnership doesn’t guarantee Valencia students admission to UCF and UF, but is a transfer agreement that ensures a student is taking the right classes for a seamless transition. The growing maturity of Valencia’s architecture program, says Bosworth, is demonstrated at pin-up events and by the large number of Valencia students being admitted to the University of Florida’s architecture school. “Getting into the University of Florida is not easy. It requires a certain level of attention to detail, and to the quality of the work,” Bosworth says. Meanwhile, back on the floor of the Special Events Center, the Valencia students are relieved to finish their pin-up boards, but anxious to hear the results.

Jamie Connell, for instance, has applied to UCF and the University of South Florida architecture programs. And though she has already been accepted to USF’s program, she’s waiting to hear from UCF. “I really love Orlando and would like to stay here,” says Connell, 22. But whether she lands at UCF or USF, she’ll be content. “There’s a lot of competition every year because there are only a few seats available. Architecture is a competitive program.”

endowed chair sparked recent TEDx ValenciaCollegeLive


Valencia’s East Campus recently hosted TEDxValenciaCollegeLive.
This photo of Valencia College students and faculty made an appearance on the TED global stage in Scotland during the TEDGlobal 2013 Live Stream.

Dr. James S. May, Professor of English as a Second Language, expresses his appreciation for the 2012-2013 Maguire Family Teacher Endowed Chair:

“It is with the support Valencia Foundation and the Maguire Family Teacher Endowed Chair, that Valencia College was able to take part in the recent global collaboration as part of TEDGlobal 2013 Live Stream.

Valencia students, faculty and staff  had the opportunity to experience these enriching TED talks, presented in time-delayed simulcast from the TED Global in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Last February, thanks in large part to the Valencia Foundation and the Maguire Family Teacher Endowed Chair, I had the honor of attending TEDActive2013. There, I experienced the true power and wonder of TED. An outcome of the endowed chair was this participation with TEDGlobal 2013. “

Valencia Foundation Endowed Chairs for Learning Leadership program has been established to recognize and promote academic excellence at Valencia College. The program honors outstanding members of the Valencia teaching faculty and provides resources needed for advancement of instruction at Valencia.

At Valencia College the endowed chair program recognizes and supports the Valencia faculty. In contrast to endowed chair programs at four-year institutions, which aim to attract preeminent researchers, Valencia Foundation endowed chairs fund a faculty proposed learning experiences.

These proposals that supports the mission, vision, and values of Valencia College and has a connection to student learning.  Endowed chairs also provide funding for projects that enhance learning-centered activities and/or foster professional development departmentally, college wide, within a discipline, or within the central Florida community.

Additional photos of Valencia’s day-long event are posted online.

welcome back – admission fee waived for former students at open house

Former Valencia students, attend a Welcome Back Open House event and meet with representatives from admissions, advising and financial aid to find out everything you need to know about coming back to Valencia.

Students drop out of college for lots of reasons: Work. Family. Bills.

But if you dropped out of Valencia College at some point, it’s a great time to pick up where you left off.

That’s because Valencia is currently offering former students a financial incentive to come back to college: Attend one of Valencia’s Welcome Back Open House events and Valencia will not charge the $35 admission fee.

At the Welcome Back Open House, representatives from admissions, advising and financial aid will be on hand to answer questions.  In addition, a $500 scholarship will be awarded at each open house. Former Valencia students will be entered to win.

The open house events will be held:

■ Thursday, June 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Building 11 on Valencia’s West Campus, 1800 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando;

■ Tuesday, June 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Building 5 on East Campus, 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando.

To RSVP for the open house events or learn more about re-enrolling, please visit

If you cannot attend the open house events, but are interested in returning to Valencia, you can ask for an advisor to contact you. For more information, go to

welcome back – admission fee waived for former students at open house.

financial aid event scheduled this summer

Valencia College is hosting their biggest financial aid event on June 13. Students and parents can receive expert help to complete the free application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) form for college funding.


Osceola Campus
East Campus
West Campus

June 13, 2013
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Atlas Lab – Building 2, Room 131

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June 13, 2013
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Atlas Lab – Building 5, Room 213

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June 13, 2013
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Building 11, Room 133

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spotlight story: elizabeth fulcher

Elizabeth Fulcher

Elizabeth Fulcher

This story started easily enough, a colleague sent me a story idea about one of Valencia’s great students who was doing good work and gaining recognition through Phi Theta Kappa, Valencia’s honor society. I met with the student, Elizabeth Fulcher, and after our discussion I realized this story was about so much more. It is about starting over but never giving up, a story about leaving a wonderful legacy through scholarships and a powerful tale about bullying and what can be done to stop it.

At the center of it all is Elizabeth. So let’s start with a little bit about her and then see where the story takes us.

Elizabeth Fulcher is currently a sophomore working to get her associate in science in paralegal studies. She plans to continue on at UCF and get a bachelor’s in legal studies, taking the transactional path of litigation to be a paralegal.

Elizabeth actually started her post-secondary education at Winter Park Tech studying court reporting. The program was downsized and at the same time, she had an accident and required back surgery. The surgeon told her to pick a sedentary job. She decided to completely start over at Valencia. “I remember I was lying in bed after surgery and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to Valencia.’ So I got up the next day and I took my time and I went to the registration office. They told me what they needed and I got it all taken care of. I just started slowly and I had to do remedial courses but so what? It will pay off in the long run.”

She acknowledges it was difficult to completely start over but says that it made her stronger and made her have more self-discipline. “Things happen, but I can pick myself back up.”

Soon she was approached by Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and she was inducted as a member of the Alpha Gamma Omega chapter. She became involved with the “Honors Study Topic.” Every two years there is an “Honors Study Topic” and it is a theme for which essays for awards and projects are done to develop and create activities, experiences and service. The theme during Elizabeth’s involvement was called “The Culture of Competition.” Her and her fellow PTK contributors called it the anti-bullying project. They felt that bullying has a direct effect on competition and is particularly relevant to the college student population, who might be bullied for being smart or acting different.

Their investigation and research led to two things. First, they proposed a buddy system for children transitioning from middle school to high school. Each middle school student would be linked to a high school student who would be their resource and offer guidance. Additionally, they found an anti-bullying application for tablets and smart phones that would make reporting bullying much easier. To raise funds for their project, they held a prom for those who never got to go to their traditional prom. While a largely social event, it still supported their anti-bullying campaign by offering a prom for those who may have felt too scared or out of place to attend their high school prom.

The group worked with a few schools, but in the end the schools did not want to use the app due to increased liability issues. But Elizabeth didn’t stop, she spoke with Sheriff Demings and he gave her some insight on who to contact. She also wrote to the National School Board Association and the Florida Department of Education, as well as Representative Joe Saunders and Representative Darren Soto. Representative Soto did respond favorably to her idea, and during our chat she reminded herself to follow up with his office.

Elizabeth worked so hard for this effort because for her, this was a personal battle. She suffered at the hands of a group of “mean girls” and found that reporting it did little to stop the problem. Things escalated from verbal abuse to physical harm and she dropped out of school in 12th grade and got her GED. The project “had a big impact on me because I would recount the days that I was affected…it just brought back a lot of memories and I was so adamant, I just wanted to do something about it.”

Although Elizabeth is reluctant to admit she is a role model, which she most certainly is, one doesn’t have to look far at all to find people who will praise just how awesome she is. Professor Keith Malmos is the advisor for Elizabeth’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Right off the bat he shares, “She’s very appreciative and very modest but she is an amazing student and deserves what she gets.”

And as a testament to her modesty, it was Professor Malmos who filled me in on all the accolades Elizabeth has achieved through Phi Theta Kappa. She won an Elaine Turner Service Award through her Alpha Gamma Omega chapter. The anti-bullying essay was submitted to the Florida region for awards and helped her chapter receive a Distinguished Chapter of the State, recognizing the top 10 in the state. The chapter also submitted a Distinguished Member Award application on Elizabeth’s behalf and she won regionally and also won national recognition as a distinguished member.

Elizabeth credits her dad and her sister for helping to instill the drive to succeed. Her father told her, “Get a good education, you can take it anywhere you want.”

But for Elizabeth, it was her setbacks that really got her mindset focused on herself, not just because someone else says that education is important. “I truly feel in my heart if you don’t learn you are not doing anything. Success has no age limit and learning does not end at college. Learning is infinite in my opinion. Life is an education.”

In talking with Elizabeth, it is clear that the camaraderie and fellowship of PTK means a lot to her. “It’s just amazing how nice they are. I never knew people were that kind and caring and I’m so glad they graced my path.”

It was through Phi Theta Kappa that she learned about the Justin Harvey Alpha Gamma Omega Scholarship. She submitted an essay for consideration and was ecstatic when she found out she received the scholarship. She was moved by Justin’s story and incorporated how he inspired her in her winning essay.

I too was very moved when Elizabeth and I met and I decided to find out more about this wonderful young man and the legacy he left.

Justin’s mother, Sharon Skoloski, is a professor at Valencia in the social science department. She recounted stories of a young man who was successful but very humble, extremely talented and generous but quiet about his good deeds. Professor Skoloski remembers Thanksgiving, when dinner would have to wait until Justin returned home from feeding the homeless. “He would load up his car and just hit the road for different areas of Orlando and hand out dinner to the people on the railroad tracks or wherever they might be on the street so that they could have Thanksgiving dinner. That was my son.” And it wasn’t until after he passed that she found out the true extent of his gifts to others: There was the time he saved a friend during a river excursion and the many times he would take a homeless person to dinner while in downtown Orlando.

Justin graduated from Valencia in 2005 and continued on at UCF to study sports medicine. But his involvement with Valencia was not over; he served on the board of directors for Valencia’s alumni association.

Justin Harvey

Justin Harvey

He spearheaded efforts to start Valencia’s 5K event. Unfortunately, he passed away before the first event, but the event is still held each year and his memory is a part of each one. Also due to his good work and in the spirit of partnership, it is because of Justin that UCF’s sports medicine students are involved with the 5K event.

Justin was a classic violinist. He played since kindergarten and won many state awards in both Florida and West Virginia. While he had no problem performing in front of large audiences, he sometimes became shy when his mother would ask him to play for family or friends. “Truly, really humble,” Sharon remembers.

Justin was in Phi Theta Kappa and so was his best friend, Abeer Abdalla. Abeer wrote an article about Justin that shares even more of his community involvement and good deeds. He was committed to living the ideals of servant leadership and served as senator of membership for the Alpha Gamma Omega chapter of PTK, the same chapter Elizabeth is involved in now. He was recognized as a Fall 2004 Distinguished Officer, a Spring 2005 Distinguished Officer and the Fall 2004 Officer of the Semester.

While at Valencia, Justin was named a 2004 Coca-Cola Scholar and was most proud of winning the 2004 Florida Region’s Original Music Composition Award. And the support he gave to the local community was above and beyond, serving as a longtime volunteer for the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, Habitat for Humanity, Harbor House, Project Graduation and the National Kidney Foundation.

It was through the efforts of Phi Theta Kappa and the alumni association that the Justin Harvey Alpha Gamma Omega Scholarship was named and endowed. Sharon says, “It is an honor every semester to give out that scholarship.”

Sharon loves being an educator and interacting with Valencia students and as a professor she knows the importance the foundation and scholarships can make. She is grateful that the college remembers Justin’s legacy and considers it “an honor for me that Valencia carries it on as they do, so I’m always very grateful for Valencia.”

In putting this all together, I am struck by the humble nature of both Justin and Elizabeth. They both do good without needing accolades or recognition, and it is these quiet leaders that can change the world. Justin certainly did in the time he was here and Elizabeth is a wonderful representative of his spirit and legacy. I am honored to have been able to share their stories.

a closer look – femmes de coeur and let us entertain you

What started out as a fundraising group for the American Heart Association has grown into a wonderful group that raises important nursing scholarship funds for local areas colleges and universities.

The group started as Coeur de Coeur in 1980 and raised more than $2.5 million for the American Heart Association. They reorganized in 1998 as Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) and have raised another million dollars for local charities. The group is made up of 50 members who are women volunteering time and sharing a common goal to serve the needs of the community. Part of their uniqueness is that they partner with existing organizations to accomplish their mission. The sharing of resources allows Femmes de Coeur to provide help to a larger community audience.

Each year, Femmes de Coeur hosts an event, Let Us Entertain You!, a dance challenge full of dancing and music. Funds raised at the event go to support Adventist University of Health Sciences, Seminole State College, UCF College of Nursing and Valencia College. The event features a professional dance show including a dancing challenge by local celebrities. Additionally, faculty from each participating school are paired with a dance professional for the challenge.

People vote with their dollars and competitors do quite a good job fundraising and collecting donations. These donations, as well as the judges’ score, produce the winners of the celebrity and faculty dance challenges.

The current president of Femmes de Coeur, Judy Conrad, shares how the event was created. Six years ago she was the event chairwoman and wanted to include all of the four teaching colleges in their fundraising efforts. Judy and her co-chairs, Doris Holiday and Betty Wilson, were ballroom dancers and after the popularity of televised dance competition shows, they decided to approach some of the professionals in the dance community and the event was launched. The faculty challenge was added in the second year.

Not to brag, but Valencia seems to produce some great talent. For the past four years, our dancing divas and dudes have been the ones to beat! Past winning competitors include Dr. Paula Pritchard, dean of nursing, Manny Ramos, professor of nursing, Dr. Mike Bosley, executive dean at Lake Nona Campus and dear foundation friend and donor Dean Maguire.

This year’s event was held on June 2 and our competitor was interim dean of science on West Campus, Dr. Bob Gessner. He was chosen as a result of his friendship with Valencia’s nursing division and their dean. “Paula asked if I could dance and I said of course.”

But he didn’t know it was ballroom dance, which he had never done before. He credits his dance pro, Jennifer Caminas, with helping him get competition ready. “It has been a lot of work, but the time has been well spent doing this for our nursing division and for the scholarships this will fund for our nursing students.”

Last year, Valencia’s nursing students were so touched by Femmes de Coeur generous $12,500 donation that they did the photo below, “You have our heart.” Those funds are earmarked to support Valencia College nursing students through the Femmes de Coeur Nursing Endowed Scholarship. We add our thanks to that, Femmes de Coeur is an organization made up of women who bring great help and hope to our community and we are so happy for our long-time partnership.
Nursing Students

And in breaking news…Valencia continues the winning streak! Last night, Dr. Gessner was crowned as this year’s winner. Congratulations and keep dancing!

every drop counts: the courtyard fountain

Tucked away in a courtyard on Valencia’s Osceola Campus, this fountain is surrounded by embedded bricks engraved with warm wishes by community members. These bricks have been placed around this special water feature with proceeds from each sale supporting Osceola student scholarships.

Your small change makes a big difference! Donations to this fountain benefit student scholarships at Osceola Campus through the Valencia Foundation.

This fountain is located in the courtyard of Valencia’s largest building,
the state-of-the-art building 4, which opened at Osceola Campus in 2013.

Recently, Valencia’s facilities team noticed this water feature had begun to collect change, much like a wishing well. Perhaps students and employees reliving nostalgia of childhood by tossing in spare change?

No matter who made the first toss–or how the loose change appeared–Valencia’s Osceola administration wanted to make sure the contributions really did help someone’s wish come true.

Thanks to the coins of those first optimistic tossers, a purpose has been identified for those contributions: they will be included into the “etch your name in someone’s future” Osceola Campus scholarship fund.

This May, a plaque was installed on the Osceola Campus foundation that reads:

Your small change makes a big difference!
Donations to this fountain benefit student scholarships at
Osceola Campus through the Valencia Foundation.

If you are interested in helping to lay the foundation for a student’s future, please consider purchasing a brick to be embedded in the courtyard around the Osceola Campus fountain.

The cost of a personalized memory brick is $100.  The proceeds from these courtyard-bound bricks will be used to support scholarships for Osceola Campus students of Valencia College.

For more details or to place your order, please visit

Click here to purchase your engraved brick and etch your name in Valencia's legacy.

Click here for more information on the Osceola Campus engraved bricks.

congratulations graduates


On Saturday, May 4, about 1,200 Valencia students received their associate degrees as Valencia College celebrated its 44th spring commencement at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

But another 20 Valencia students made history at this commencement ceremony – becoming the first students to earn their bachelor’s degrees at Valencia College.

Eleven of the graduating seniors earned bachelor’s degrees in radiologic and imaging sciences, while nine students earned their bachelor’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering technology.

To recognize this year’s graduates, the college has posted the names of all 7,515 Class of 2013 graduates on a Lynx bus. After commencement ceremonies, the bus will be used on Lynx bus route 15, which travels from downtown Orlando to Valencia’s East Campus, on Econlockhatchee Trail.

The Orlando Sentinel has some great photos from the day here, including a photo of foundation staff member Susan Ambridge and her service dog Binx. Congratulations Susan and to all of our Valencia graduates!


watch graduation live


Click here on May 4 at 10 a.m. to watch Valencia College graduation live!

Valencia College’s Commencement Ceremony will be streamed live on Saturday, May 4 at 10 a.m. and will last about two hours. Limited technical support will be available at 407-582-1872.

Watch live on May 4 at 10 a.m. – click here!

2012-2013 Valencia Commencement Program

Please note: The broadcast will only be viewable until the ceremony’s conclusion. No other video recordings of the ceremony will be made available.


a closer look – valencia students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angel and Dr. Shugart at the scholarship donor breakfast

Angel and Dr. Shugart at the scholarship donor breakfast

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

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

spotlight story – lynn desjarlais

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

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

Lynn Desjarlais

Lynn Desjarlais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

making history: navy vet earns one of valencia’s first bachelor’s degrees

MaryMiller72On Saturday, May 4, Mary Miller and 19 other Valencia students will make history, becoming the first students to earn their bachelor’s degrees from Valencia College.
But when Mary was graduating from high school, she chose another direction — one that ultimately led her to Valencia.

After high school, Mary enrolled at the University of Central Florida in the late 1980s, and followed her passion: music. A trombone player, she majored in music performance, minored in voice and even served as the marching band president for the Knights.

But along the way, Mary began wondering how she’d be able to make a living as a music teacher. With those doubts troubling her, she dropped out of UCF and joined the U.S. Navy – as a musician. After going through the Navy’s Virginia training camp for musicians, she was assigned to, of all places, Orlando. And here she played in the Orlando Naval Training Center’s band, playing for the base’s weekly graduations, playing Fourth of July events, playing at Disney and at UCF football games.

But in 1994, when the Navy announced it would close the Orlando base in 1995, Mary found herself at a crossroads.

Although her Navy superiors encouraged her to enter officer training, she had been recovering from back surgery and didn’t feel ready. Besides, her mother – a breast-cancer survivor — lived in south Florida and moving to Jacksonville would take Mary even farther from her mom. Ultimately, “the band went to Jacksonville and I stayed here.”

For a while, Mary managed a music store, but the pay was discouraging. “I thought, ‘I need to find a career that’s going to enable me to survive on my own,’ “ she recalls. After doing some research, she discovered that Valencia College offers an associate in science degree in radiologic and imaging science.

She was intrigued by the field, particularly by the array of possible jobs in the field, from x-ray technician to CT (computed tomography)-scans to MRI technicians. So she signed up and, in May 2001, graduated and landed a job at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital.

There, she worked her way up from X-ray technician to lead X-ray tech before cross training to become a CT scan technologist. Today, she’s the hospital’s lead CT scan technologist.

And though most of the people in the field have two-year, associate in science degrees, Miller wanted a four-year degree. “Some people have asked me why I want it, and I always said, ‘I want it for me.’ I wanted a four-year degree when I was a music major – and I want one now,” she said.

However, money remained a factor. When UCF offered the four-year radiography degree, the cost of the tuition was higher. So Mary put off enrolling, wondering if the investment of money would pay off in the long run. But when Valencia took over the four-year Radiologic and Imaging Sciences program that UCF had shuttered, Mary was one of the first to sign up.

“I was already familiar with the school and the staff. I knew that the instructors want us to succeed,” she says. “As soon as (Valencia) announced that they were taking over the program, I jumped on it like I was a dog on a bone.”

Valencia’s online program enabled 46-year-old Mary, who works three 12-hour shifts each week, to take classes and do homework at her convenience.

Along the way, she discovered that taking bachelor’s degree coursework changed her outlook about her job. “It broadens your perspective,” Mary said. “Before, it was just a job, not my career. Now I don’t think just about what we’re doing at my hospital. Now I think, ‘Where do we fit inside the community of radiology?’ ”

Still, earning her bachelor’s degree hasn’t been easy. During the past two years, Mary had major surgery and four family members passed away. Yet she persisted.

“It’s been a battle to get this far,” she said. “I’ve learned to be so tenacious. I made up my mind that I will not be defeated by the other obstacles that life is putting in front of me.”

And on May 4, she will walk across the stage at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, and will start a new chapter in Valencia’s history, as one of the first students to earn a bachelor’s degree from Valencia.
Nothing, she says, will prevent her from participating in this commencement.

“You could not stop me,” she says, laughing. “After all this, believe me, I’ll be sprinting like FloJo across the stage.”

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

donor spotlight: Universal Orlando and Diane O’Dell

Tourism drives Orlando’s economy, and partnerships with our community’s hospitality titans are a natural extension of Valencia’s role in Central Florida. Our relationships build scholarships, endowed chairs, internships and a cadre of well-trained employees to hire.


Universal Orlando Resort began their Valencia College giving in the ’80s, and their philanthropy has grown to include an endowed faculty chair and a $1-million-dollar scholarship endowment.

Universal Orlando Resort is a perfect example. Valencia’s nationally recognized film production technology program, with selective admission and limited enrollment, trains students for entry-level positions in six major cinema creation areas.Part of the hospitality and culinary division, Valencia’s bakery and pastry management program draws on Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort chefs to instruct students and provide a broad view of career opportunities and the real-world skills required to succeed.

Universal is a business partner in the restaurant management program, and involved with the Hospitality and Tourism Institute. Universal employees serve on Valencia’s advisory councils for electronics engineering technology and restaurant management.

In 1996, Universal Orlando Resort committed $30,000 to support Valencia’s Hospitality and Tourism Institute and to enhance Valencia’s educational offerings in arts and entertainment.

The Universal Orlando Chair in Arts and Entertainment serves fine and performing arts, graphic arts and graphic design technology, theater and entertainment technology, and film production technology. It also supports educational outreach activities of the Hospitality and Tourism Institute, and expanded Universal’s work with the college in the development of a technical apprenticeship program.

In the ’90s, Universal Orlando Foundation established a $1 million dollar scholarship endowment through the leadership of Jan Stratton. The Universal Orlando Scholarship is awarded to graduating high school seniors from Dr. Phillips, Olympia, West Orange, Jones and Evans high schools. Universal Orlando scholars who are accepted to the UCF Rosen School of Hospitality are eligible for up to an additional two years of scholarship awards. In 2011-2012, $39,000 was awarded to students from the Universal Orlando Scholarship.

This year’s Universal Orlando Scholarship recipients share their gratitude:

Thank you so much for awarding me the Universal Orlando Foundation Scholarship. It is truly an honor to be chosen. Your organization’s generous scholarship award means so much to me and my family. I’ve heard a lot about how much college textbooks cost and this scholarship will go a long way toward keeping that burden off my mind. Were it not for these funds, I would not be able to go to school this semester.

— Martin Cherenfant

I promise I’ll make the most of this scholarship. Thank you again, Universal Orlando Foundation, because this scholarship will indeed change my future and help me succeed in life.

— Carlos Powery

While I attend Valencia College full time, I also have a part-time job at a real estate investment brokerage office as an administrative assistant. It is sometimes difficult to juggle between work and school, as working too much may cause my grades to suffer. But not working enough hours over the course of a semester might make my financial situation that much more difficult the next semester. That’s why I so greatly appreciate this scholarship, as it allows me to focus on what’s really important, and that is college.

— Angel Monroy


“If I were to give Valencia’s commencement speech, my advice would be: Be open to where life takes you. Proactively seek opportunities. Make a point to be happy, and enjoy the journey.” – Universal Orlando Foundation executive director, Diane O’Dell

Today the Universal Orlando Foundation is led by executive director Diane O’Dell, who has served on the Valencia Foundation board since 2008. Diane was responsible for committing Universal Orlando Resort’s A Taste for Learning support.

Diane is moved by a Mark Twain quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did.”

She lives this philosophy through her community service to the boards of Harbor House, City Year Orlando and the Orlando Health Foundation.

She believes in Valencia because education is so critical in the lives of youth. “For many, education is truly a life changing experience.”

Her favorite Valencia experience was awarding scholarships in support of foster children. “It was a wonderful experience to see the impact the scholarship program makes overall,” she explains.

Diane takes her foundation board responsibilities seriously, believing that she should be a champion for Valencia. Her plan in this upcoming year is to “continue to share the great news about Valencia being the No.1 community college in the nation.”

best student artwork on display at east campus gallery

juried-student-art-2012-300x199What’s the best artwork that Valencia students produced this year? Come see now at the Anita S. Wooten Gallery on East Campus. An award ceremony was held last week and recognized outstanding work that includes drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and design as well as graphic design and interactive design.

From over 300 submitted entries, 120 were selected for display. The jurors for the fine art selections were: Kevin Haran, a professor in the art department at the University of Central Florida, and Rick Lang, who heads the photo department at Crealde School of Art in Winter Park. Eleven graphics professionals from the Valencia Graphics Advisory Board selected the works for the graphics area.

The exhibition will run through May 17. The Anita S. Wooten Gallery, which is on Valencia’s East Campus in Building 3, room 112, will be open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (excluding college closed breaks), and is free to the public.
Valencia’s East Campus is located at 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail.

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

design from valencia students fits IEEE to a T

Valencia's student chapter of IEEE won first place at IEEE Southeast Conference for their student T-shirt design.

Valencia’s student chapter of IEEE won first place at IEEE Southeast Conference for their student T-shirt design.

Valencia College students recently attended the annual IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference, SoutheastCon 2013.

At the conference, Valencia’s student chapter of IEEE won first place for their student T-shirt design.

IEEE’s core purpose is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. The t-shirt designed by students reflected the advancement of education in technology for students at Valencia college.

IEEE’s vision is to be essential to the global technical community and be universally recognized for the contributions of technology and of technical professionals in improving global conditions.

The SoutheastCon conferences attract approximately 500 students and 300 IEEE professionals annually.

1st Place Winners of IEEE Southeast Conference 2013 T-Shirt Design Competition

1st Place Winners of IEEE Southeast Conference 2013 T-Shirt Design Competition

Valencia College students at IEEE conference sporting the winning t-shirt design.

Valencia College students at IEEE conference sporting the winning t-shirt design.

scholarship recipient photo shoot

Are you a Valencia Foundation scholarship recipient? If so, your help is needed!

Valencia Foundation is working on a photo gallery of scholarship recipients. These photos will be used in our annual report and other printed and online materials.

Photo shoots have been scheduled for East and West campuses and models are needed. If you are interested in being a model, please contact Jill Wileden at 407-582-3158. I will schedule a photo time and give you the exact location of the shoot.
East Campus: Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
West Campus: Wednesday, April 17, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Only 16 students will be booked per location so be sure and call as soon as possible. I am in the office Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Please bring a copy of your thank-you letter to the photo shoot. Or, write 2 to 3 paragraphs on what you would say if you met your scholarship donor and bring that with you. You will be asked to sign a photo release so that the foundation can use the images.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Jill Wileden
Resource Development Manager
Valencia Foundation

a closer look at valencia’s nursing program

7725816912_f1ed8c870f_bDuring the tour for City of Life, there was one word used repeatedly in describing Valencia’s nursing program: intense. However, there was one word used more often: passion.

The nursing, generic track at Valencia is a limited-access program. Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to become registered nurses. Students can also continue on as a junior at any Florida public university to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The courses in this track are progressive in nature, with one course building on the preceding course.

Here is a look at the areas of study:

  • Nursing I – fundamentals
  • Nursing II – applying what is learned in a hospital setting
  • Nursing III – women’s health, ob/gyn and pediatrics
  • Nursing IV – advanced health, intensive care unit (ICU), preventative care unit (PCU)
  • Nursing V – a hybrid of online and face-to-face interaction, management, leadership and pharmacology

In Nursing VI, students demonstrate their abilities to independently perform Valencia’s nursing program educational outcomes in a variety of patient care settings. This is a practicum course, done in the hospital working directly with a registered nurse. In Nursing II through V, students get to choose their clinical sites each semester, working in varied specialties – cardiac, gastrointestinal, neurology, surgery, etc. Through these semesters, a student can hone in on what their interest is and by the time they reach Nursing VI, they usually are in the facility and area they hope to be hired in. This experience can be compared to the more traditional internships done in teaching, business and other fields.

Students also must take a pharmacology and clinical decision making course which addresses the use of critical thinking in making clinical decisions related to pharmacology.

There is much more learning going on beyond those fundamentals. Dr. Louise Pitts, retired Valencia dean of health sciences, explains that in addition to the science of nursing, the ‘what to do when,’ the art of nursing, communication and caring, is also being taught. She shares that students are learning how to be a nurse holistically in life, not just in a clinical setting.

Dr. Pitts admits that it is a hard program, probably one of the more difficult ones you can enter into in college. But there is a plethora of opportunity for these students once they graduate. Not just in the area they choose to work – pediatrics, cardiology, women’s health, etc. – but also in the setting – doctor’s office, hospital, etc. And nurses can continue their education and go on to administration, and even back to the field of education to teach.

Deb Spaulding, senior instructional assistant for Valencia’s nursing program, agrees. “I would have never guessed thirty years ago that there would be so many opportunities. Nursing opens this door and then there are these little trails that you can take to go on and do all kinds of things. And you will know if you really love it because it will come naturally to you.”

It is also a field that has an excellent placement rate. With a nursing degree, you will find a job. Dr. Pitts has never known of a nursing graduate who wanted a job and could not get one within three to four months after graduation.

Students learn in rooms like these, with simulators and set up just like a hospital setting.

Students learn in rooms like these, with simulators and set up just like a hospital.

Another thing that sets the nursing program apart from other areas is the real-life experience early in the program. When you choose the healthcare field, by the second semester you are getting actual experience in a hospital setting. Up to ten students per faculty member work directly on-site, seeing and laying hands on patients. Students can also work with a registered nurse who is an employee at the facility.

Simulation is an important tool in teaching nurses. This ranges from simple mannequins to simulators that can breathe and make cardiac and bowel sounds. Valencia’s nursing program is currently in the process of upgrading these, offering an experience that is identical to a human experiencing a medical condition. Valencia nursing students practice with babies who can burp, adults whose stomachs come apart and have pads exactly at the anatomical places to give injections. Everything at the bed side is just like it would be in a real hospital so there is not a culture shock when students leave the lab and are at the facilities. Feedback from students and faculty help to keep these techniques and learning methods up to date and new things are incorporated frequently to make the experiences as realistic as possible.

Valencia’s nursing program also relies on tutors. They are an invaluable tool to student success and instructors find that students are more likely to open up and work through a problem with a tutor because they are peers. Nicole Witek is currently a nursing tutor and hopes to work in women’s health. She shares that the nursing program is not easy, but feels that nursing faculty provide so many things that will lead to success. “They give us the foundation and the resources, you come with the motivation and the passion and they will teach you.”

Echoes Deb, “As long as you have the desire to learn, we can teach you.”

And Valencia’s nursing students have a consistently high pass rate for the NCLEX-RN. It was something that Deb noticed even 30 years ago, that Valencia graduates seemed better prepared to sit for the exam. And it still holds true today, Valencia’s 4th quarter NCLEX-RN pass rate was 100 percent.

According to the 2012-13 program guide, the current estimated total cost for the nursing, generic track program is $10,000. This includes tuition, special course fees and associated expenses such as background check, immunizations, uniforms and certifications. This total does not include textbooks, which can be costly for this program. For Nursing I alone, books can run between $721 and $1600, depending on the costs for brand new books.

Realizing these costs can be a hindrance, Valencia Foundation is happy to be able to offer a number of scholarship opportunities for nursing students, such as the Dr. Sara Page Scholarship. Dr. Sara Kerr Page was a career nurse who was a nursing instructor at Valencia for several years before her death in 1985 after a valiant battle with scleroderma. She inspired many to continue the tradition of compassionate nursing and the scholarship was established in 1986 through the generosity of her many friends and relatives.

Other scholarships include the Adelina O. Parker Scholarship in Nursing, Central Florida Kidney Centers Inc. Scholarship, Connie Kay Gwizdala Memorial Nursing Scholarship, Florida Hospital Kissimmee Auxiliary Scholarship, Health Education Technologies Scholarship, John S. and Carolyn T. Lord Scholarship and more. Students need only to fill out one application to be screened for these and hundreds of other scholarship opportunities. Students can submit a scholarship application online here.

The foundation also subsidizes the cost for the NCLEX-RN exam for Valencia nursing students, saving them a total cost of $404.

Nursing is truly a calling, and nurses are invaluable to our community. We are so proud of the nursing program at Valencia and are honored to be able to help fund the education of these special men and women.

young money live: financial literacy week

Financial Literacy Week Presents “Young Money Live
Monday, April 8 at 9:30am to 3:00pm
East Campus, Bldg 5, Room 112 & Great Hall
701 N Econlockhatchee Tr.Financial Learning

Along with special sessions like Young Money Live, Student Financial Learning Ambassadors promote financial literacy and responsible money management through peer-to-peer skillships and by presenting at campus events.

Many of the Ambassador presentations occur in the classroom through Valencia’s Student Success course, which is a class teaching strategies for success in life and college and is an appropriate platform for introducing the topic of financial responsibility.

It is with the support of USA Funds over the last 2 years that the Financial Learning Ambassador program has grown and expanded college-wide.

Mounting student debt to cover rising college costs is creating a challenging environment for a number of students pursuing a college degree. A college degree is an avenue to financial success and long-term stability and most college graduates experience more stable employment, higher income, security through assets, and an overall better quality of life than non-graduates.  One mechanism to work toward higher graduation rates and lower default rates is by way of financial literacy strategies and initiatives like the USA Funds supported Financial Learning Ambassadors at Valencia College.

valencia uses simulators to train cardiovascular tech students

How do you teach students to insert stents and balloons into arteries, so they’re ready to work on real patients when they graduate?

At Valencia College, students in the college’s Cardiovascular Technology (CVT) program learn by using training simulators that deliver a virtual-reality experience. Valencia’s CVT program educates and prepares students to become Invasive Cardiovascular Specialists known as a Cardiovascular Technologists (CVT).

Using a state-of-the-art Simbionix simulator, students gain hands-on experience placing guidewires, stents and balloons, but they also learn the intricacies of cardiac rhythm management, BTK (below-the-knee) procedures designed to save the lower leg, particularly important for diabetics.

“Ultimately, the use of simulation in the health science programs at Valencia is critical to the student’s training, said Penny Conners, Dean of Allied Health at Valencia College. “In our cardiovascular technology program, with the aid of the Simbionix simulator, our students are able to replicate the exact procedures that they will be performing in the hospital setting. In this regard, simulation helps the students to understand and put safety first for the patients so they can give the best care possible while working in their field.”

Click here to watch a video of Valencia students using the simulator.

The ANGIO Mentor provides experience with basic/advanced guidewire and catheter skills, familiarity with endovascular procedures, and immerses them in the cath lab team experience. Using the simulator, students also learn how to operate the C-arm, patient’s table, fluoroscopic screen, as well as how to read the hemodynamic monitoring and administer medications due to complicated treatment. The simulator offers hands-on training that is designed to enhance manual dexterity and improve appropriate instrument decision making. Because of the simulator’s high-end haptic, students learn a realistic sense of touch needed for learning how to insert guidewires, balloons, stents and other interventional devices.

“The ANGIO Mentor has been widely embraced by medical colleges in the education of surgical residents and fellows,” said Inbal Mazor, vice president of marketing for Simbionix. “Now, our portable haptic simulators and vast library of modules and cases have been embraced by community college CVT programs.”

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

new lake nona rotary supporting valencia students

Valencia Osceola President Kathleen A. Plinske, (L), Valencia Foundation Manager Donna Marino (C)  and  Lake Nona Rotary President Michael Valenzeula

Valencia Osceola President Kathleen A. Plinske, (L), Valencia Foundation Manager Donna Marino (C) and Lake Nona Rotary President Michael Valenzeula

Special appreciation is extended to Lake Nona Rotary; this group modeled service above self with a recent contribution of $4,000 for Valencia student scholarships.

The March 2013 donation is earmarked for first responder student scholarships.

At the same meeting, Lake Nona Rotary members honored the good work of local students in the Civil Air Patrol, US Air Force Auxiliary.

This Civil Air Patrol unit collaborated with Valencia College and Lake Nona Rotary to implement the 9/11 memorial flag display on Osceola Campus.

Valencia Osceola President Kathleen A. Plinske, (L),  Student Leaders from  Civil Air Patrol, US Air Force Auxiliary (C) Valencia Foundation Manager Donna Marino (R)  and  Lake Nona Rotary President Michael Valenzeula (R)

Valencia Osceola President Kathleen A. Plinske, (L), Student Leaders from Civil Air Patrol, US Air Force Auxiliary (C) Valencia Foundation Manager Donna Marino (R) and Lake Nona Rotary President Michael Valenzeula (R)

2013 rafman scholarship banquet

This past Saturday was the 18th annual RAFMAN Club Foundation and Valencia College Foundation’s Scholarship Banquet. (RAFMAN stands for Retired Air Force, Marine, Army, Navy.) The theme was “Continuing our Commitment to Education” and the guest speaker was Dr. Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools. Leslie “Ms. B” Brockington once again dazzled the crowd as mistress of ceremonies – it was a great event!

scholarship recipient Marcellus Hagler

scholarship recipient Marcellus Hagler

Congratulations to our student scholars: 2013 RAFMAN Club Scholarship recipients Alton Mercer and Marcellus Hagler. And kudos to the incentive award recipients, Chavion Collins and Rose Pierre.

scholarship recipient Alton Mercer

scholarship recipient Alton Mercer

We are proud to offer the RAFMAN Club Scholarship to Valencia students. Through this scholarship, we are positively impacting the lives of the future leaders of our community. We are honored to have RAFMAN Club as a partner in philanthropy.

mentor program provides 49 high school students with full college scholarships


A college education can be life-changing – “a golden ticket to a better future” – and it’s a dream that’s about to come true for 49 graduating Orange County high school seniors.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, Take Stock in Children of Orange County awarded $30,000 college scholarships to 49 students who have participated in the organization’s unique mentorship program for five years.

At a ceremony held at Full Sail University, community leaders, volunteers, corporate sponsors and mentors — as well as the Orlando Magic dancers and the Magic mascot Stuff — cheered for this year’s high school seniors – the first group of students to graduate from the program.

Each graduating senior will receive a 2+2 Florida Prepaid $30,000 scholarship from the Orange County Take Stock in Children program, paid for by corporate sponsors. The scholarship pays for two years at any Florida community college and two years at one of Florida’s state universities. Altogether, the 49 students will receive $1.47 million in college scholarships.

“This opportunity from Take Stock in Children and our community partners is your ‘golden ticket,’ students, and your new door,” Elisha Gonzalez, executive director of Take Stock in Children of Orange County, told the graduating seniors. “Open it, and run. Run and enjoy the journey.”

In addition to the graduating seniors, 25 new middle-school students were inducted into the program, bringing the number of participating students to 150.

Take Stock In Children is a statewide initiative that helps underserved children succeed. The mentorship program starts when the children are in seventh grade. All are academically promising students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds: Some have parents who’ve been in jail; others have parents who have struggled with addiction, while many have been raised by single moms who are struggling to keep their families afloat financially.

Take Stock In Children provides volunteer mentors, early intervention and long-term support. If the children meet with their mentors weekly, keep their grades up and stay away from drugs and alcohol, they will earn a four-year college scholarship.

For scholarship recipient Cristian Rivera, the program has been “a powerful experience.” Cristian’s mentor, Orlando Magic executive Lucas Boyce, helped Cristian get his driver’s permit by letting Cristian practice driving his Jeep Cherokee. Boyce bought Cristian’s first suit, his own business card and taught him the art of making small talk.

Cristian’s goal is to work at Disney in a management position. He plans to start his college education at Valencia College and then study business management at the University of Central Florida.

Take Stock in Children was started in 1995 and has been successful in other parts of Florida. Valencia College brought the program to Orange County in 2008, thanks to a $1 million gift from the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation and another $1 million donation from Mears Transportation. Full Sail University was also one of the first sponsors to sign on.

Other sponsors include: Orlando Magic, the Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation, the Haddock Foundation and the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.

Speakers at this year’s event included: Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports; Garry Jones, president of Full Sail University; Dr. Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Bill Sublette, school board chairman, Orange County Public Schools; Bob Kodzis, Flight of Ideas Inc.; and Dr. Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College.

Guests at the event included: Bo Outlaw, Orlando Magic Community Ambassador; Nancy Robbinson, Orange County Public Schools board member; Susan Fernandez of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office; Jill Mickle of Florida Citrus Sports Foundation; Deb Mears of Mears Transportation; Linda Landman Gonzalez, vice president of community relations for the Orlando Magic and former president of the Valencia College Foundation; Stephanie Allen, executive director, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation; T. Picton Warlow, vice president of the Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation; Alberto Fierro Garza, Mexican consul; Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson; and Daisy Lynum, city commissioner, City of Orlando.

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

a closer look – valencia’s culinary management program

Ken Bourgoin's Culinary classMany dream of donning a white chef’s coat and for those in Central Florida, Valencia offers the only two-year degree-granting culinary program in Orlando. Valencia’s unique program is housed in the Walt Disney World Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Opened in 2002, this 61,000 square-foot facility contains dual-purpose classrooms/banquet rooms, a high-tech demonstration kitchen with 20 fully equipped student workstations and a state-of-the-art production kitchen.

The program cultivates winners. Trina shared her love of competing in the story above, and she is part of a talented, award-winning team. The student culinary team won the gold medal representing Valencia and the state of Florida at the Culinary Regional Competition in 2011.

Program chair Chef Pierre Pilloud started his career at Valencia in 1996 as a curriculum writer for the then newly formed hospitality institute. In his time at Valencia, he has been acknowledged locally, recognized as a Top Chef in 2006 by the Central Florida Restaurant Forum magazine, and nationally, nominated for the American Culinary Federation National Culinary Educator of the Year in 2004.

Chef instructor Kenneth Bourgoin, 2010 Southeast Regional Chef Educator of the Year, took a few moments to share with us just what makes Valencia’s culinary management program so special. “We are not training these students how to be cooks, we are training them on how to be chefs that are great cooks. We teach what the industry demands, and believe it or not, the industry demands for you to be passionate about what you are doing and to have a positive attitude in everything you do in the kitchen. When you have that, you are apt to do better and promotions happen quicker. We will teach you how to learn for life!”

The culinary management track at Valencia will cost a student between $8,000 and $9,000. While this is a bargain, especially when compared to other local programs that can run in upwards of $40,000, cost is still a prohibitive factor for some of our current and would-be students.

The good news is that there are plenty of scholarship opportunities available through Valencia Foundation. Students need only fill out one application and they are reviewed for hundreds of potential scholarships. Scholarships like the Michael Jon Dreams and Passions Scholarship, started by Sandy Bove in honor of her brother, a graduate of Valencia’s culinary program. Other scholarships for culinary students include the Clara A. Walsh Scholarship. Ariana Costas is a recent recipient of the Clara A. Walsh Scholarship. She graduates in May 2013 and credits Valencia with helping her to master the necessary skills needed for the workforce. She chose culinary management because she loves to cook and believes cooking is one of her callings. If she could meet the person responsible for her scholarship, she would explain how important education and “my craft” are to her. “I am beyond grateful. I would even cook for them!”

Perhaps the best advertisement for a program at Valencia is its graduates. Through our wonderful alumni connections, we were thrilled to speak with Dawn Viola. Dawn received her certificate in culinary management in Spring 2011 and also has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from UMass, Dartmouth. She is currently working on her master’s in holistic nutrition.

Dawn’s work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications such as,,,, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Dessert Professional magazine, The Orlando Sentinel and Edible Orlando magazine, and been published in several cook books. She has appeared on Food Network, Cooking with Emeril, Martha Stewart Radio and is a frequent guest chef on Fox News and The Daily Buzz.

Dawn is currently the executive chef and kitchen director at Second Harvest Food Bank. In order to better meet the needs of the community, Second Harvest built a 100,000 square-foot facility and within that building is the 2,000 square-foot commercial kitchen, the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen. Dawn oversees the prepared meal services program, in-house catering program and the culinary training program. The training program serves 20 students with rolling admission every eight weeks.

Dawn chose Valencia’s culinary program for cost and convenience. The program worked well with her schedule and allowed her to be a part-time student while working part-time. It was also the most affordable program in the area accredited by the American Culinary Federation.

“Valencia’s culinary program provided me with an outstanding foundation and support system that has allowed me to excel in my career.”

Be sure to follow Dawn on social media and enjoy her recipe for lavash crackers below.

On her blog:
On Facebook:
On Twitter:

Dawn Viola’s lavash crackersDawn Viola - lavash2
(This recipe is adapted from Valencia’s Baking II Class with instructor Jason Stricker.)
Lavash is a Middle Eastern-style flatbread that is rolled thin and baked in clay ovens. The softness of the bread depends on how thin it’s rolled. In stores, you’ll see a thicker, softer version often used for sandwich wraps. My favorite way is rolling paper thin and baking until nutty and crisp. And with the simple ingredients, it’s an easy and quick dough to make and bake.

Yields: approximately 24 crackers
Prep time: 10 minutes + 32 minute rest
Cook time: 7 minutes
Allergy information: soy-free; contains wheat, gluten
Fancy equipment: standing mixer with dough hook, mister

1 lb. all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 ounces olive oil
7 ounces warm water
coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper (optional)

In the bowl of a standing mixer with dough hook attachment add water and oil. Add flour, salt and baking powder. Mix three minutes on medium speed until smooth; if mixture is dry, add 1/2 teaspoon of additional water at a time until a smooth ball forms. Remove dough from mixing bowl. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Remove dough from refrigerator; divide in half. Stretch each piece of dough over the back of a sheet pan; edges should be hanging off the sides. Let stand two minutes; trim edges flush with pan. Using a mister, lightly spray dough with water or oil; sprinkle desired toppings (coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper).

Place pan in oven. Bake seven minutes or until lavash is light golden brown and crisp. Remove pan from oven; let stand five minutes. Break lavash into small pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store lavash in an air-tight container up to three days.

arbor day event on east campus

Valencia College has received the Tree Campus USA designation from National Arbor Day Foundation for the 2nd year. You are invited to celebrate with a planting event on Feb 19, 2013.

treecampususaCollege students, faculty, staff and community friends are invited to celebrate with other Valencia supporters at the Arbor Day event on East Campus, Building 4.

The event will take place on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 12 p.m. on Valencia’s East Campus, in front of and behind building 4 (library) and will include information tables, music and a tree planting at 1:00 p.m. behind the library.

The Tree Campus USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes excellence in campus tree management, as well as student and community involvement across the nation.

The five standards required to obtain the Tree Campus USA designation include: campus tree advisory committee, tree care plan, a program with dedicated annual expenditures, Arbor Day observance and service learning projects.

valencia, ouc partner to help employees earn degrees

Sometimes the path to a college degree isn’t always a straight road.

For Rich McCoy, the route to his Valencia degree took him through disaster zones, construction sites and two decades of work.

But last fall, the Orlando Utilities Commission employee earned his associate in science degree in industrial management, thanks to a new partnership between Valencia and OUC.

McCoy wasn’t new to the college scene. He started at Valencia several years after high school, working nights at United Parcel Service, while spending his days in classes at Valencia. But when he landed a job at OUC in 1992, he couldn’t juggle the classes and a full-time job that included many hours of overtime.

“Once I started working, it took so much of my time,” McCoy said. Just training to become a line technician was arduous; OUC’s rigorous line tech program takes about eight years to complete. Meanwhile, McCoy’s family was growing. As a dad and a full-time employee, he didn’t have time to squeeze college courses into the mix.

“The thing about this job is we’re on call 24-7. If a storm arises, or an emergency comes up, we get called in,” McCoy says.

In addition, Orlando’s once booming construction business kept McCoy and other OUC employees working lots of overtime hours. But when the recession put the brakes on the construction business, McCoy found himself with more free time. So two years ago, when Valencia and OUC unveiled a program that would allow OUC employees to earn college credits for the on-the-job technical training they receive, McCoy jumped at the chance.

Shortly after OUC announced the program, McCoy and other OUC employees came to see Valencia advisers to find out how many credits they’d need to graduate. McCoy was surprised to learn he only needed to take six classes.

Still, he had reservations. He hadn’t been in college for nearly 20 years. So he and a colleague, Glen Massari, decided to try taking one class, a computer science class, to see how they did.

As luck would have it, disaster struck during his first semester. In April 2011, a band of killer tornadoes hit Cleveland, Tenn., and McCoy and other OUC teams were sent to Tennessee to help restore power. Determined to turn in a class project, McCoy worked on his laptop during the drive up to Tennessee. Once there, he emailed his Powerpoint presentation to the professor, and though communication was difficult, he called his professor from the hotel to make sure he’d received the project.

Undeterred by the interference of Mother Nature, McCoy plowed on, taking one class at a time. Eighteen months later, he earned his associate in science degree in industrial management, becoming the first of the 10 linemen in the program to graduate. With a degree in hand, McCoy and OUC’s line technicians will have more opportunities to advance into management positions.

As for McCoy, the program’s first graduate, he’s not sure whether he’ll eventually go to the University of Central Florida to earn a bachelor’s degree. For now, he’s happy to have graduated with an associate in science degree.

“As with any degree, it always benefits the person, no matter what the degree is in,” he said. “But I’m happy to have that piece of paper. And if it opens doors for me later, so much the better.”

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

valencia veteran students benefit from wells fargo grant

Valencia College Foundation recently received a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo to support veteran students8431246514_4d0dc878e6_k. This contribution will provide Valencia veteran students the chance to acclimate their academic and leadership skills by providing scholarships for veteran-only speech classes, online preparatory classes and veteran-specific leadership opportunities.

Valencia students who have served will benefit from this partnership with Wells Fargo, enhancing our veteran student’s access to education and easing transition from military to college life.

The latest donation of $10,000 will add to Wells Fargo’s total contributions of $60,000 within the last year.

The May contribution of $50,000 encompassed a two-fold Wells Fargo partnership: providing access to education for students in need while creating a vital source of permanent scholarship funding. Wells Fargo support provided scholarships for first-generation students now, and created a Wells Fargo Endowed Scholarship for future students.

the rafman (retired air force, marine, army, navy) club scholarship

RAFMAN Club Scholarship (F547)

The RAFMAN (Retired Air Force, Marine, Army, Navy) Club Scholarship is currently seeking a High School Graduate and resident of Orange and Seminole Counties.  Applicants must also meet these additional requirements:

  • Submit a complete FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  • Must be enrolled Full-Time or Part-Time
  • Active in African American Student Association and Community Service
  • Completed High School with 2.5 or higher GPA
  • Demonstrate Financial Need
  • Graduates of Jones, Evans or Edgewater high school.

In order to apply for this scholarship, please visit and complete the 2012-13 Valencia Foundation scholarship application today!


the herb society of central florida scholarship opportunity for valencia culinary students

The Herb Society of Central Florida was founded in 1992 by a small group of Central Florida residents who met regularly to exchange information and share their passion for herbs. In addition to expanding their personal knowledge of herbs, they are dedicated to educating the public concerning the many aspects of growing and enjoying herbs.

The Herb Society of Central Florida Scholarship is for Valencia College culinary majors. Eligible candidates are required to have the following:

  • Program of Study: Culinary Arts
  • FAFSA Established Date > Saturday, January 01, 2011
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Complete the 2012-13 Fall/Spring Valencia College Foundation Scholarship Application

In order to apply for this scholarship, please visit and complete the 2012-13 Valencia Foundation scholarship application today!

scholarship thank you

It is a wonderful part of my job, reading scholarship recipient letters. They are full of thanks and gratitude. Often, it is not just the money, students are grateful that someone cared enough to support their journey. The letters are filled with personal stories, some hardships, but always with a hopeful look to the future. These students know that their Valencia education will lead to a better life.

Valencia student and scholarship recipient, Michelle Morales-Pineda, writes a personal note of thanks upon receiving the Josephine and William Chen Family Scholarship.

I am honored to have been chosen as a recipient for the Josephine and William Chen Family Scholarship. Your generosity has further inspired me to continue on my current path toward acquiring a degree in elementary education.

Your decision to go back to school after being married and raising your children is very dear to my heart, because I too decided to go back to school and get a college education after being married and raising my children. Among my five other siblings, I am the very first to attend college. Not only do I strive to be a mentor and positive role model for the children I am given the opportunity to work with, but also for my two sons. My husband was recently unemployed for almost three months, which makes your scholarship truly a blessing.

What I have experienced here as a student has instilled the encouragement and skills needed to fulfill my goal of becoming an outstanding citizen and leader in the community through working with children. During this time, I have been on the President’s List every semester, with the exception of the fall 2011 semester when I was on the Dean’s List. Currently, I am part of the inaugural class of the James M. and Dayle L. Seneff Honors College and am also a member of Phi Theta Kappa. My future plans include continuing to work toward a master’s degree in education, serving on the board of education and eventually acquiring my PhD.

My family and I sincerely thank you with all our hearts and your generosity is appreciated beyond words.

valencia sga leaders send appreciation

Valencia College student government association presidents recently sent thankful words to community members who donated in support of Valencia College students through a contribution to Valencia Foundation.

Valencia SGA thanks to donors_Page_1

“Please accept our appreciation for your generous support and thank you for opening access to college in our community!”


“Our peers are bright, motivated and often balancing work, family and community commitments. All Valencia students greatly benefit from the support they receive, no matter how large or modest the scholarship.”

The note was signed by student leaders from Valencia College area campus locations:
Jose Abastido, Osceola Campus; Mike Acevedo, East Campus; Andrew Johnson, Winter Park Campus; Evan King, West Campus; and Paula Santos, Lake Nona Campus.

Valencia SGA thanks to donors

who gets more curious with age? research scientists, says shugart

Importance-of-Research40If you’re the kind of person with “blazing curiosity,” chances are that you’ve got the right stuff to become a research scientist.

“You’ll wake up in the middle of the night, wanting to know the answer to a question. You’ll read books that cause people to say, ‘You’re crazy to read that stuff,’ ” Dr. Sandy Shugart, Valencia College’s president, told a group of honors students and members of the East Campus Student Research Community on Thursday, Jan. 24. Speaking before more than 80 students and faculty members at the East Campus Performing Arts Center, Shugart told them that if they decided to pursue a career in scientific research, they’ll discover a fascinating career — and an engaging life.

Even students who don’t become scientists, however, can learn to think like researchers. “Research isn’t just a tool; it’s a way of engaging, of asking better questions,” Shugart said.

As a freshman in college at the University of North Carolina, Shugart said he didn’t have a particular major or career in mind. Instead, he focused on figuring out the answers to the questions and issues that intrigued him. The question forefront in his mind, he said, was basic: “How do we know the ‘truth’ is true? That question grabbed me when I was 18.”

Inspired in part by Jacob Bronowski’s 13-part BBC documentary series, “Ascent of Man,” — in which Bronowski traced the history of civilization through man’s understanding of science — Shugart decided to pursue chemistry.

“I did not go to college to get a job. I went, hoping to avoid it altogether,” he told the audience. “I became a chemistry major — but I should have become a philosophy major.”

Along the way, he gravitated toward thought-provoking books such as Lewis Thomas’s “Lives of a Cell,” Bronowski’s “Science and Human Values” and anthropologist Loren Eiseley’s “The Immense Journey.” And, like many college students embarking in their own career paths, Shugart’s route was meandering: Though he started in chemistry, he ended up in higher education.

Although he never became a research scientist, Shugart learned the basic tools of a research scientist: observation, awareness of your own biases, the ability to find patterns in data, understanding outliers, generating hypotheses, how to test hypotheses.

It may sound boring, but he says it’s essential, he told the students, many of whom are students in Valencia’s Seneff Honors College, and are interested in participating in research projects as undergraduates.

“If you’re serious about research, you’ll put in the hours of drudgery,” he said. Learning to play a musical instrument may be tedious in the beginning, he noted, but allows musicians to play wonderfully complex music later on.

And for students who aren’t quite sure what majors or careers to pursue, Shugart offered words of encouragement.

“Wandering,” he noted, “is an important part of wondering.”

Source: Linda Shrieves Beaty, Marketing and Strategic Communications, Valencia College; Valencia News;

mentors, scholarships and hope

Orlando Magic Youth Foundation Gives
Orange County Take Stock in Children $100,000 Check Take Stock 2

There were lots of cheers at the Amway Center Thursday night as the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation presented 17 Central Florida non-profit organizations with checks totaling $1.05 million. But there may have been few people happier than Elisha Gonzalez Bonnewitz, who leads Valencia College’s Take Stock In Children program — which was one of four organizations to receive a $100,000 check.

“It is an exciting day at Valencia! The Orlando Magic has committed to being legendary on and off the court, and their commitment to our community  is unprecedented. Their financial support allows us to continue to provide mentors, scholarships and hope to so many underserved students,” said Bonnewitz, who will use the grant money to offer more scholarships to more at-risk children.

Valencia’s Take Stock In Children program pairs community leader mentors with students starting in the 8th grade. The program rewards students with a 2+2 Florida Prepaid scholarship opportunity to students who successfully graduate from high school. Students can attend a two-year community college and state university of their choice.

Over the past 22 years, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation has distributed more than $17 million to nonprofits in Central Florida.

“To raise so much money for the children of Central Florida and for organizations, many of which are working with disadvantaged youth in our area, is amazing,’’ Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “For a third consecutive year we’ve been able to give away $1 million, which we’re incredibly proud of and we’re proud of the work these organizations are doing. For us to be able to give back to the community and help the lives of kids who need our help, it’s so gratifying.’’

Four organizations received $100,000 in grant money. They were: Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida ($100,000), The Early Learning Coalition ($100,000), Hope CommUnity Center ($100,000) and the Valencia College Foundation’s Orange County Take Stock in Children Program ($100,000).

The other 2013 grant recipients were: Adult Literacy League ($30,000), Beta Center ($76,000), Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida ($50,000), Elevate Orlando ($50,000), Florida Senior Programs ($50,000), Foundation for Foster Children ($25,000), Foundation for Orange County Public Schools ($60,000), Foundation for Seminole State College of Florida ($50,000), Hebni Nutrition Consultants ($49,000), Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando ($50,000), Orange County Library System ($60,000), The Gift of Swimming ($25,000) and the University of Central Florida Foundation ($75,000).

The recipients were chosen after a five-stage process that began in July of 2012. The beneficiaries were recommended by the OMYF  “VIP” Committee and approved by the McCormick Foundation’s Board of Directors. The McCormick Foundation, which operates the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund, matches all donations to the Orlando Magic Youth Fund at 50 cents on the dollar. With the Orlando Magic and the McCormick Foundation paying all campaign and administrative expenses, 100 percent of all donations, plus the matching funds, is given to qualified nonprofit organizations

The grant money is raised through donations by the Magic’s corporate partners, the Black Tie and Tennies Gala, the OMYF Open golf tournament, 50/50 raffles during games and online and in-game memorabilia auctions.

“There has always been a focus with the Magic on the youth and how we can assist them. There are a lot of challenges out there and we’ve always thought it is important for the youth to be well taken care of because they are the ones who are going to become productive members of our society,’’ said Dan DeVos, chairman of the Orlando Magic. “There is a lot of joy of seeing this event. The organizations here are proven successes and they will take the funds that they receive to expand or offer new or different services that will definitely have an impact on Central Florida. So it’s great to see the good that they are doing, the results they are getting and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they see the checks they are receiving.’’

Take Stock in Children of Orange County began in 2008 with 50 student participants from the three Orange County middle schools considered to be the most in need (Lockhart, Lee and Howard middle schools). Today, there are 155 children in the program. This spring, 49 of the students — the first ones in the program — will graduate from high school this year and begin their journey to college.

To be awarded college scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime and drug free, and meet with their mentors. Students are held accountable; if they do not fulfill our program standards, they risk losing their valuable college scholarship.

college prep day open to high school students and parents


Valencia College Prep Day will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Special Events Center (Bldg. 8, Rm. 111) on Valencia’s West Campus, located at 1800 S. Kirkman Rd. in Orlando.

Geared toward helping high school juniors and seniors prepare for college, this free event will offer guidance on how to choose a major, applying for financial aid and navigating the enrollment process, as well as special sessions for parents and guardians.

A light breakfast and lunch will be served. Door prizes include a chance to win two $500 scholarships to Valencia. Admission is free, but space is limited: please go to to sign up.

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

legislative update: a plan to double the number of FL college graduates

Legislative Update

Florida state colleges unveil
ambitious plan to be best in the nation

Shugart: Florida state colleges unveil ambitious plan to be best in the nation

When the state legislature convenes, legislators will receive a new, headline-grabbing proposal from the presidents of Florida’s 28 state colleges: A four-year plan that will double the number of college graduates in Florida by the year 2020.

The plan, which has been dubbed Florida First, calls for Florida’s state and community colleges to lead the nation in job placement, affordability and accountability. Florida First also calls for the state’s public colleges to be the nation’s best at accelerating students, through partnerships with high-schools and universities.

The idea grew from discussions that state college presidents, including Valencia College president Dr. Sandy Shugart, had with Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year. To pay for the changes, the college presidents will ask for a 35-percent increase in state funding during the next four years.

“I think [legislators] will probably blink when they first see the pricetag,” said Shugart. “But it’s not a one-year price-tag.”

To be first in the nation in job placement, the proposal includes investing in programs that need workers, including careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and health and life sciences.

The state colleges would also promise to hit certain benchmarks on graduation rates and certificate awards. Those that don’t would see a 10 percent cut in their state funding.

To remain affordable, Florida state colleges would tie tuition increases to rises in the cost of living—so tuition increases would not outpace the rate of inflation.

“We think in Florida we have an opportunity to establish ourselves as the best college system in the country,” said Shugart. “We’re very close now.” Half of the state’s twoyear colleges were among the 120 colleges in the running for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence—and two, Santa Fe College in Gainesville and Broward College in Fort Lauderdale—are finalists. Valencia won the inaugural Aspen Prize in 2011.

Florida’s two-year colleges already have a three-year graduation rate that’s nearly double the national average. In Florida, 38.2 percent of community college students earn their associate degrees in three years, while nationally, only 20.4 percent of community college students graduate in three years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

For updates throughout the legislative session, go to

Reposted from Vitae Issue 10

the best we have to offer


One of the very favorite parts of my job is reading student scholarship applications and their thank-you letters. Nothing brings the mission closer, and at the end of the day, nothing makes me more grateful to work for the foundation.

The applications and letters do not always tell happy stories. In my time here, I have read about homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, illness and too many other tragedies to count. But even in the saddest of stories, there is hope. These students hope for the day when they walk across the stage and receive a diploma or certificate. Their journeys to commencement are different, but one thing is the same – they believed in themselves enough to make this journey, overcoming obstacles and never losing hope.

The scholarship donor becomes a member of an elite community who help a student along their path. Countless thank-you letters from students share appreciation for more than the monetary scholarship, they are thankful that someone believed in them enough to invest in their journey. This belief spurs them to remain committed and gives them the belief-in-self needed to be a success.

As you consider your year-end giving, please consider Valencia Foundation and scholarships.

On commencement day, amidst the cheers and smiles, is the gratitude for all the scholarship benefactors who made these journeys possible. And each donor should be proud, knowing that these students are the very best we have to offer. Truly, they are the leaders of tomorrow.

To become a part of our elite community and support scholarships, please visit

scholarship spotlight: fleck cadeau – 2012-13 ella b. sadler scholarship recipient

The Ella B. Sadler scholarship is a longtime and dedicated supporter of Valencia College and our students. For the 2012-13 academic year, this scholarship fund has generously gifted 15 students scholarship funding for the fall and spring terms.

Fleck Cadeau, presently a sophomore student with Valencia College, was one of the 2012-13 Ella B. Sadler scholarship recipients. Currently, Fleck holds a 3.81 GPA and has participated in the Valencia Student Government Association, Valencia Volunteers, and was an Orlando Regional Teen Volunteer where he helped prepare meals for patients of the hospital. In addition, Fleck participated in several community service events offered by the National Honor Society and National Science Honor Society. In his free time, Fleck enjoys volunteering at local blood drives as well as Caps for Chemo, a program that teaches volunteers to knit caps for patients who have experienced hair loss due to chemotherapy treatments.

With a love for science and helping others, Fleck plans to earn his Bachelor’s degree in Biology and continue on to apply to medical school with the University of Central Florida.

I began discovering new aspects about myself at Valencia. My tremendous passion for science and medicine led me to major in the expanding filed of biology. I received a very generous gift from the Ella B. Sadler scholarship fund that allowed me to pay for my books and purchase a new laptop for school. The Ella B. Sadler fund made it possible for me to do things I would not have been able to otherwise do. In 10 years, I see myself beginning a promising career as a surgeon for one of Orlando’s amazing hospitals. I will never forget how my education began at Valencia and how the generous donation of the Valencia Foundation and Ella B. Sadler Scholarship helped enhance and motivate my journey to success.” – Fleck Cadeau

The Valencia Foundation partners with many generous donors who are excited to contribute to the education of the leaders of tomorrow. If you haven’t already, there is still time to apply by visiting: and applying for the 2012-13 Valencia Foundation Scholarship Application.

there’s still time to vote for nicholas dijkoffz for grainger!

One of our very own Valencia students, Nicholas Dijkoffz, is a nominee for the upcoming Grainger Industry Innovator Contest. With your help, Nicholas may be a resilient finalist and earn the opportunity to attend the 2013 show.

“I have always been interested in studying engineering. In particular the word engineer describes a problem solver, which I consider myself to be. I feel a drive to search for solutions to today’s problems. That is what motivates me to work harder every day. Of course along the road there are bumps and setbacks, but as long as you have the will to move forward I believe everything will end well. With the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship I was able to fund my studies during my second year in college, helping with my tuition and book expenses. All I am thankful for having the opportunity of to educate myself, and be a part of the future of this country.” – Nicholas Dijkhoffz

All Facebook users are eligible to cast one vote per day, per person through November 30, 2012. The five Finalists receiving the most votes will win the Grand Prize, a trip to the 2013 Grainger Customer Show in Orlando.

Vote now by visiting: and clicking Nicholas Dijkhoffz – Valencia Community College.

Your vote matters and with your help, Nicholas can potentially win the opportunity to attend the 2012-13 Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Industry Innovator Contest. Please vote today!

2012-13 valencia foundation spring scholarships available now!

Have you applied for spring 2012-13 Valencia Foundation scholarships? Applications are now being accepted!

One application is needed per academic year. If you have not already applied for the 2012-13 academic year, apply today by visiting:

If you have completed a 2012-13 Valencia Foundation scholarship application, you may login to your scholarship manager to update, add or edit your application and resubmit for spring scholarship reviews and selections.

Some scholarships offered through the Valencia Foundation require a student to demonstrate need by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Valencia encourages all students to complete the FAFSA early each year by visiting

Don’t let another minute pass by, apply today!

sweating it out to support valencia student scholarships

The Valencia Alumni Association continues to build its team as it gears up for its 8th Annual Valencia 5K Run, Rock & Roll scholarship fundraiser on Valencia’s West Campus on Saturday, March 30th.

This year’s 5K funds will once again support criminal justice, firefighter and EMS student scholarships at Valencia in honor of former Alumni Association board member, Justin Harvey.

Over 300 Valencia supporters came out last year where they ran, walked and rolled their way to raising more than $7,000 in student scholarship funds.  The race brought together Valencia alumni and employees; students, including those from Valencia’s Criminal Justice Institute, Paralegal, Respiratory Care and Bridges programs; as well as community participants, many of them from local law enforcement agencies. An energetic team of students and instructors from Boone High School’s criminal justice program also participated in the race for the first time.

Discover the many ways you, your organization or someone you know can invest in Valencia students’ pursuit of higher education as part of the Valencia 5K team.  For more information about 5K sponsorship and other opportunities, contact the Alumni Relations office at or call 407-340-3426.

SAVE THE DATE! See you on Saturday, March 30th!


valencia college alumni association scholarships are going electronic

The first of several electronic Valencia College Alumni Association scholarships for students, the Bill Castellano Civic Leadership Scholarship, was launched just last week and 13 students have already begun their online applications. The deadline to submit applications is midnight on Monday, December 3rd.

The Bill Castellano Civic Leadership Scholarship is awarded each year to a student who exhibits leadership skills and an overwhelming desire to become a future civic leader in memory of Bill Castellano. Professor Castellano’s ability to encourage students to share their true talents for the common good of their community is his legacy. He was a guiding force for students and the Valencia College family for over 40 years. In remembrance of his outstanding contributions to our community, this scholarship allows those who will never have the opportunity to meet him the ability to carry on his passion and love of government and true civic leadership.

As one of the first students to attend Valencia College, Bill always took an active interest in government and his community. From serving in the Student Government Association and as a founder of the Valencia Alumni Association after graduating, to retiring as one of the most admired and respected government professors, he always challenged the next generation he met to rise and meet the challenges of the man who inspired him to be a true civic leader.

Tax deductible donations to the Bill Castellano Scholarship can be made online at Castellano Scholarship Donation. Please select the scholarship from the drop-down box in the “Designation” field.

Veteran Gabriel Nickle (pictured below) from the West Campus was the 2010 recipient. Amy Walker from Valencia’s East Campus was the 2011 recipient.


Left to right: Dr. Ruth Prather, former Provost of East and Winter Park campuses; Gabriel Nickle, Bill Castellano Civic Leadership Scholarshi​p 2010 recipient; Michael J. G. McLaughlin​, Valencia Alumni Association President; Barbara Shell, Community/​Alumni Relations

2012-13 grainger tools for tomorrow scholarship and customer show!

If you haven’t already, there is still time to apply for the 2012-13 Grainger Tools for Tomorrow Scholarship and apply for the chance to attend the 2013 Grainger Customer Show!

Apply TODAY by completing the 2012-13 Valencia Foundation scholarship application found here!

Industry Innovators Facebook Contest

This year Grainger is conducting their first annual “Industry Innovators” contest for all past and present Grainger Tools for Tomorrow® scholarship winners. Five scholarship recipients will win admittance to attend the 2013 Grainger Customer Show!  After the last show, five community college foundations received a special technical education grant in support of their student’s or alumni’s participation at the 2012 Grainger Customer Show.  

“Industry Innovators” Facebook Contest Entry

The contest is open to all past and present Grainger Tools for Tomorrow® scholarship winners. Five scholarship recipients will win admittance to attend the 2013 Grainger Customer Show! Winners may:

  • meet and greet more than 5,000 Grainger customers, including Fortune 500 companies
  • attend the Grainger Show tradeshow
  • represent the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow® scholarship program at the technical education booth
  • participate in professional seminars and networking sessions provided for personal career development and
  • and attend social events!

Industry Innovators Facebook Contest

To submit entries: “Industry Innovators” Facebook Contest Entry

  • Submit entries now thru November 9, 2012
  • Winners announced on December 7, 2012

View official rules and regulations for participation.

And don’t forget to LIKE Grainger Tools for Tomorrow® Scholarship Program, on Facebook!

have you heard of directconnect to ucf?

If you’re planning to transfer to the University of Central Florida after completing an associate degree, DirectConnect to UCF is the best way to get there. Just enroll in the program when you submit your Valencia application, and you’ll be ensured a smooth transition to UCF when you graduate.


  • Guaranteed admission to a bachelor’s degree program at UCF.
  • Preferential admission to select bachelor’s degree programs at UCF.
  • Joint advising from UCF and Valencia help ensure a smooth transition.
  • UCF staff available on-site at Valencia’s West and Osceola campuses to help
    with advising, admissions, financial aid and academic support.
  • Take your UCF courses at the main campus or on Valencia’s West or Osceola campuses.

For more information, vist or

2012 valencia homecoming update


To kick off Valencia College’s 2012 Homecoming, Team Valencia joined other members of the Central Florida community to raise funds to help make a difference in the lives of families living with Spina Bifida.  The Spina Bifida Association of Central Florida’s 2nd Annual Walk-N-Roll Fundraiser event took place on Saturday, October 27th at Blue Jacket Park in the Baldwin Park area of Orlando.

Valencia College was a supporting sponsor for the event.


Valencia Homecoming 2012 wrapping up. Still time to get your $20 discounted UCF Homecoming game tickets for this Sunday’s game.For Tickets visit:

valencia foundation student feature opportunity!

The Valencia Foundation, in partnership with our generous donors, offer and award scholarship funding throughout the academic year. If you are a 2012-13 Valencia Foundation scholarship recipient, we would love to hear from you! Please email Jen Bhagirath at for a chance to be featured on our blog, Facebook and Twitter sites!

Please feel free to share the following in your email submission:

  • Your story
  • Educational goals
  • Career goals
  • Academic progress
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Scholarship information
  • Donor recognition / gratitude
  • Photographs

If you haven’t already, that’s ok! There is still time to APPLY by visiting: and completing the 2012-13 Valencia Foundation Scholarship Application.

We look forward to sharing your inspiring stories!

valencia students benefit from a taste for learning

More than 800 people came together on Sept. 15 to support education in our local community. A Taste for Learning, an international wine sampling and auction, was held at Rosen Shingle Creek to benefit Valencia Foundation and Orlando Health Foundation.

Making this event unique, 100 percent of all sponsorships, tickets and auction receipts are given directly to student health care scholarships at Valencia and medical education at Orlando Health. The Valencia portion of the funds will be matched by a challenge grant.

For this year’s tasting and auction, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits invited vintners from around the world to donate hundreds of bottles of their finest wines, as well as providing exceptional auction items. Nearly 100 come to Orlando from throughout the country, as well as Australia, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Proceeds for this year’s event total $290,000 (including match). In all, six Taste events have raised $2.26 million for student support and education.

The numbers reflect the successful partnership between the two organizations, Valencia Foundation and Orlando Health Foundation, but also reflect the lives transformed for those receiving a scholarship at Valencia.

Every dollar raised makes a difference in a student’s life. It offers opportunity to students like Edinson. Edinson was raised in a country where education was a luxury. Those who could afford the expensive tuition were able to increase their knowledge, while low income families like his were denied access.

Edinson was a student speaker at a recent foundation event.

He came to America and quickly overcame the language barrier, knowing this knowledge would provide new opportunities. Once he was able to communicate, he felt he was a part of his new country. But alone in this country, with no friends or family to guide him, Edinson still struggled and spent months with no place to sleep. Often he would escape to the safety of the public library, and he soon met people at a local homeless shelter who encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Edinson found a mentor, and eventually secured a job washing dishes. He is still grateful to the employees of the small diner in Philadelphia for instilling a strong American work ethic.

Next on his list was an education. He enrolled but soon found himself overwhelmed juggling his work and school schedules. Additionally, he was supporting his mother, back in her native Peru. Edinson faced a heartbreaking decision: should he stay in college continuing his dream while his mother suffers? After three months of trying to do it all, the economic responsibility overcame Edinson and he gave up his dream of an education – temporarily, because he knew he would always go back to college one day.

Summer 2010, Edinson came to Valencia and resurrected his dream of a higher education. Since arriving at Valencia, he has been in the honors program and has maintained a 3.5 GPA. Almost finished with his associate degree at Valencia, he plans to continue on at UCF with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Of his dream and his journey, Edinson shares, “I hope that our present and future generations realize that education is the only way to be successful. I plan to teach not only basic education to my elementary students, but also that diligence to your dream will make it come true.”

This year’s generous sponsors for A Taste for Learning were ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, Rosen Shingle Creek, McCree General Contractors and Architects, Freeman Co., Orlando Magic, Walt Disney World Resort, Bright House Networks, Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services of Orlando Inc., Orlando Health, Valencia College, Betsy and Jess Bailes, Baker Hostetler, Charles Perry Partners Inc., Clancy and Theys Construction Company, Dr. Jay and Mrs. Randye Falk, Jack Holloway Foundation, Old Florida National Bank, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, Signature Systems of Florida, Skanska USA Building, Terra Firma Construction Management Inc., UCF – Regional Campuses, Universal Orlando Resort and Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants.

finding your path in life — with the help of a bright green rv

The big green RV pulled onto the lawn just past the clock tower at the Osceola Campus on Thursday morning — right in the line of sight for hundreds of students attending Osceola’s Spirit Day festivities.

Just past the balloon artist on stilts and the photographer taking pictures of students in a giant chair, Christina Mitchell and her team of “roadies” from the PBS TV show Roadtrip Nation began talking about a serious subject: What message should college students send to politicians during an election year?

The answer from many of the students who stopped by was simple: Education opens doors, provides opportunities and is invaluable.

“Usually we talk about what ‘Roadtrip Nation’ is all about. We also get students’ stories and see if they want to be part of Roadtrip Nation,” says Mitchell. “But this year — because it’s an election year — we’re partnering with the College Board to remind political candidates not to forget education. We call it the ‘Don’t Forget ED’ tour.”

The bright green RV (nicknamed “Carl” by the Roadtrip Nation crew) arrived in Kissimmee on Thursday, fresh from a visit to Emory University in Atlanta, where students there were keenly aware of how budget cuts were impacting their education, Mitchell said. The next stop on the tour will be Miami-Dade College, followed by a conference to be held in Miami.

On the PBS series, teams of college students tour the country and interview successful people in many fields, from astrophysicists to beer makers. “We’ve interviewed everybody, from the president of Dell Computers to the Naked Cowboy in New York City,” says Mitchell. “The main question is: How did you figure out where you were going in life?”

During the off-season,when the crew isn’t filming the PBS TV series, teams of recent college graduates roam the country in the mammoth green RVs, stopping at college campuses to talk to students about finding their passion and a field they love.

At Osceola Campus, Mitchell and her team asked students to write messages to politicians on small chalkboards — and pose for pictures beside their messages. Those will later be posted on the Roadtrip Nation blog and website. The students left a variety of messages for lawmakers to ponder: “Flipping burgers just doesn’t cut it,” and “Education is power.”

The burgers comment resonated with Felipe Oyarzun, 25, who’s studying electrical engineering. After graduating from high school, Oyarzun took a break from his education — and wound up working as a manager at a sub shop in Miami, before he finally decided to get back in school.

“Nobody really likes flipping burgers,” says Oyarzun. But he admits that after he was making money, it was hard to walk away and return to being a full-time student. After some nudging from his little sister — who wants to be a pediatrician — he signed up for classes at Valencia.

“I got a little too comfortable working at a job that I didn’t like,” he says. Now he knows he needs to follow his heart — and challenge himself.

“If you want to be happy,” Oyarzun says, “you’ve got to do what you love.”

Source: Linda Shrieves Beaty, Marketing and Strategic Communications, Valencia College; Valencia News;

valencia alumni association moves forward


The Valencia Alumni Association Leadership Board guides the planning and activities of the association. Members represent the diversity of Valencia College and build enthusiasm for college and association programs, provide opportunities for involvement, and recruit new members and volunteers. Association president Michael J.G. McLaughlin ‘03 and leadership board members recently elected committee chairs to coordinate a broad array of activities/programs for the upcoming year:  Zia Ansari ’10, Membership; Julie Bennett ’00, Learning and Growing; and Marcy Porter ’05,  Fundraising.  Contact the Alumni Relations Office for more information and to get involved.

wec scholarship recipients

As mentioned last week, our CFO/COO was recognized during the Women’s Executive Council’s 40th Annual Women’s Achievement Awards Luncheon. Also at this event, the foundation awarded two endowed scholarships.

Janice Knapp has overcome countless obstacles and become a champion of violent-crime victims. She realized that a college education was necessary for her to achieve her dream of a career as a psychologist, but each time she got started a more compelling issue arose. She cared for her ill mother and grandmother, and her and her husband were victims of a violent home invasion. Her husband endured numerous surgeries and Janice was his primary caregiver. When they relocated to Florida, Janice worked while her husband earned a degree, paying for his college and paying off most of their medical debts.

In fall 2011, Janice took those long-awaited steps and enrolled at Valencia to start her education in psychology. Her goal is to complete her master’s degree and become a counselor.

Ashley Shealey attended Evans High School and was very active in school and her community. She was a member of the National Honor Society, a JV cheerleader, captain of her soccer team in her junior year and captain of her tennis team her senior year. She graduated from the International Baccalaureate Program with a 4.3 GPA and attended Valencia this summer on a Bridges to Success scholarship. Her volunteer projects include Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Pine Hills Community Cleanup, the Breast Cancer Walk at Lake Eola, Disney Special Olympics, the Maitland Art Festival, clean-up on St. Johns River and helping at Matthew’s Hope.

Ashley is the very first one in her family to attend college and she is dedicated to making them proud. She leaves at daybreak every morning to take three buses to Valencia’s campus. She is studying to be a nurse, impacted by the difference she saw these healing professionals make in her mother’s life.

Ashley Shealey and her mom at the 40th Annual Women’s Achievement Awards Luncheon

valencia – serving our veteran students

Please enjoy the following sample of the good work being done at Valencia College for veteran students:

Valencia College has made the 2013 Military Friendly Schools list, honoring the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans, and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus.

Valencia is home to the second largest enrollment of veterans among Florida’s 28 state colleges, second only to Florida State College at Jacksonville, home of the Mayport Naval Station.

Valencia provides veterans services on all of its campuses, including assistance with VA benefits, student support, workshops and activities. There’s also a student veterans club, a veterans-only speech class, and professional development to help faculty recognize the unique challenges of veterans in integrating into the college environment.

flag display to honor 9/11

Osceola Campus to Honor 9/11 Victims with Massive Flag Display

KISSIMMEE — To honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Valencia College’s Osceola Campus has teamed up with the Rotary Club of Lake Nona to stage a dramatic display of flags on its expansive lawn — one flag for each of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on that tragic day.

The installation of the flags in Kissimmee, which will be on display from Sept. 8 – 14, was the idea of Dr. Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses.

Dr. Plinske taught weekend classes at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. last fall – and was impressed by Pepperdine’s annual memorial for Sept. 11, which is called “Waves of Flags.”

“It was that display – one flag to represent each victim of 9/11 – that helped me to get my mind around the magnitude of the tragedy,” Plinske said. “When you hear 2,977 people, it’s obviously too large of a number to fully comprehend its magnitude. But to see all of those flags, knowing that each one represents an individual who was lost and whose family and community was forever impacted, really touched me.”  She believes the memorial will be a way for current Valencia students, many of whom were only six or seven years old on Sept. 11, 2001, to learn about the events of that tragic day.  The campus will host a number of events throughout the week, including an Interfaith Panel, intended to help students learn about different religious faiths and develop a deeper appreciation for diversity, peace and acceptance.

In addition to honoring the victims of 9/11, the Osceola Campus flag display will also serve as the site for Osceola County’s Sept. 11 county-wide memorial service, which will include participants from the Osceola County’s Sheriff’s Office, Osceola County Emergency Services, Kissimmee Police and Fire Departments, St. Cloud Police and Fire Departments, and the Osceola County Veteran’s Council.  In addition, Gina Marie Incandela will perform the national anthem and the chorus from Denn John Middle School will perform “God Bless America.”

The ceremony will be held at on Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m., near the Clock Tower at the Osceola Campus.

To install the flags, the Rotary Club of Lake Nona has assembled a community-wide team of volunteers. Between Aug. 27 and Sept. 6, volunteers – including Rotarians, cadets of the Civil Air Patrol, members of the U.S. Fire Department Reserve Corp and U.S. Navy Future Sailors program, members of the Osceola Sheriff’s Explorers, volunteers from local churches, and Valencia students, faculty, and staff – will install the 2,977 flagpoles on the campus grounds.  To install the poles, organizers anticipate that they will work seven nights in three-hour shifts.

The Rotary Club of Lake Nona secured sponsors to raise the money to buy the supplies for the flag display. The primary sponsors are Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) and Clancy & Theys Construction Company. Other sponsors include Hoagland Electric LLC, Insurance Office of America, Sonu Shukla, CPA, Sweetwater Car Wash, and Williams Company Management Group.

“We feel like this will serve as important recognition for our local emergency responders, as well as a way to honor those who were lost on September 11,” said Michael Valenzuela, president of the Rotary Club of Lake Nona.  “Rotary International’s theme this year is ‘Peace Through Service’ and we believe this project will build bridges of friendship and acceptance among our diverse community.”

The Rotary Club of Lake Nona has continued to raise money and has pledged that any additional funds raised will go toward a scholarship with the Valencia Foundation to help pay for continuing education for men and women who are currently police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

View the Orlando Sentinel video on the project.

valencia’s president appears on jobs panel at GOP convention

RNC Panel112

Valencia College president, Dr. Sandy Shugart, participated in a high-powered panel discussion on jobs creation on Aug. 29 at this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. The debate, sponsored by The Huffington Post, was livestreamed on NBC News video.

To access video from the event, follow this link:

defying the odds: angel’s story

Another amazing student story!

get started

In honor of the first day of class, please enjoy this video:


a taste for learning video

Great work by Valencia student Wally Argueta. Our students are the best!

scholarship recipient thank you letter

I would like to take a moment to personally thank you for providing me with a scholarship to continue my education at Valencia College. This scholarship really means a lot to me because it allows me to pay for my education without putting a financial burden on my family. I feel like I have always been a financial burden to them because I have always had one medical problem right after another. At age three I was diagnosed with asthma, and at age 11 I was diagnosed with leukemia. I battled cancer for two and a half years and chemotherapy isn’t cheap. My father passed away from a heart attack when I was 14 and ever since then it has been really hard on my mom to pay the bills. I got a job at 15 and have been working ever since to help her with the bills. It feels like one thing after another with us because in 2004 when Charlie hit, we had to get a new home. This was and still is a financial burden.

After everything, we still keep a really positive view on life. I volunteer at Florida Hospital in the children’s unit and I play with kids that have a terminal illness. We also participate in American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life raising money for cancer research. Ever since I was diagnosed with leukemia I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. I want to be the nurse that is compassionate to a child newly diagnosed with a disease, I want to be the nurse that can save someone’s father from a heart attack, and I want to be a nurse that can just do it all! I decided to enroll in the nursing program at Valencia and after being accepted into the program, I realized I cannot work a full-time job anymore. My full-time job has to be my education.

My mom understands and supports my education choice but I know the amount of money I make now isn’t helping as much as it used to. She became unemployed during my time completing the prerequisites for nursing and I was starting to get concerned with the fact that I may not be able to afford all the nursing supplies I will need for the program. My mom always tells me, “We will make it work.” And though I am in the nursing program and doing well, I can’t help but feel like you never know what is going to happen to us this year. I got a student credit card and that is how “we have been making it work” so far, but I hate having debt and I just want to know that every time class registration comes up I don’t have to worry about how I will pay for tuition and this year’s set of $80+ books.

With this scholarship I am very grateful and I know it will help a lot. I feel truly blessed to be chosen and accepted in receiving the scholarship and I just want you to know that it is going to a good cause. Thank you again, I wish I could put into words how much this really means to me. I just hope that this letter at least half-way expresses it. I can’t wait to be a nurse and go out into the field and save lives, maybe even save yours.

scholarship recipient thank you letter

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

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

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

donor spotlight: mears family and mears transportation group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

smart phone access to college information

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

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

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

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

For more information, please visit:


a taste for learning: international wine sampling and auction

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

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

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

wanted: new, original plays by Florida playwrights

The Valencia College East Campus theater program is accepting plays from Florida playwrights for its annual Florida Playwrights Competition, which has been held annually since 1991.

Scripts must be original, previously unproduced, full-length plays that are at least 90 minutes long. Scripts that have received staged readings may be submitted. Collaborations are eligible, but children’s plays, musicals and adaptations are not eligible.

The deadline for entries is Oct. 15, 2012.

The winning play will be announced in early December and will be staged in April 2013, as part of Valencia’s regular theater season. The playwright will be invited to develop and workshop the play, beginning in January. The playwright will also receive a stipend to cover travel and other expenses related to the production.

Valencia requests that playwrights submit their manuscripts by email. Playwrights residing in Florida are invited to send the first 15 pages (of no more than two scripts per person) to Valencia’s artistic director, Julia Gagne at For further submission information or a mailing address, call 407-582-2296.

Wanted: New, Original Plays by Florida Playwrights

scholarship recipient thank you

To start the week on a gracious note, here is a thank you from scholarship recipient and Valencia student, Yolande McKay.

Thank you for selecting me as the recipient of the Ella B. Sadler Scholarship. I am truly appreciative of the opportunity that this will give me.

I am currently a sophomore in the honors program at Valencia College and am working toward my associate degree in general studies. I hope to graduate in Fall of 2012 and transfer into the political science program at the University of Central Florida. My goal after that is to attend and graduate law school.

As a single parent of four, I am currently working full-time, while attending Valencia as a full-time student. At 38, I am the first in my family to attend college and so it brings me great joy to be a positive role model for my children. I am truly grateful of the financial assistance you have provided, as it is not always easy to manage family, school and work. This scholarship will help pay for my educational expenses, and give me some financial freedom that will enable me to concentrate more on my studies.

Thank you again for your generosity and support. This gift was a wonderful present to me, and I promise that I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals in the future.

valencia leaders committed to keeping tuition low

Valencia to Freeze Student Tuition for the Fall

During a visit to Tallahassee last February, Valencia President Sanford Shugart told lawmakers it would be a mistake to raise college tuition rates at a time when federal financial aid is constrained by the budget problems in Washington.

Today he made good on those intentions, when he presented Valencia trustees with a budget overview for the coming year that holds tuition at current levels. While trustees approved the plan, they will still need to formally approve the college’s operating budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year when they meet on June 19.

At $99.06 per credit hour for Florida residents, Valencia’s tuition is currently less than five other Central Florida community colleges, including Seminole State College and Polk and Brevard community colleges, and is about half the cost of a state university.

“Valencia has held the line on student costs, even at some pain to the college,” said Shugart.

While good news for students, employees of Valencia will not see a salary increase under the new proposal. The college also plans to cut $3.8 million in expenses through reductions to travel, supplies and the number of adjunct faculty and part-time staff.

Valencia leaders have declined to raise tuition although authorized to do so by the Florida Legislature, which gave colleges in the Florida College System—including Valencia—the option of implementing a 5 percent tuition hike.

Valencia’s trustees applauded the administration’s budget outline.

“I think it is a thoughtful and considered approach to trying to solve a number of problems,” said trustee Lew Oliver.

Shugart said that the budget scenario presented is a short-term solution and cannot be sustained indefinitely.

“We really need to start moderating tuition and investing in the system again,” said Shugart.

In the past, state dollars funded about 75 percent of a student’s education at Valencia, with students funding the rest. But in recent years that model has shifted. The state now pays about 40 percent of the cost with students paying 60 percent.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, trustees expressed frustration with the way the state funds two-year colleges. Over the last decade lawmakers have cut financing or not allocated enough to keep pace with growing enrollment, while expecting colleges to make up the difference by increasing tuition. In 2011-2012, Valencia was next to last in state funding per full-time student – and yet the college leads the nation in the number of associate degrees awarded.

Not only is the college committed to keeping tuition as low as possible, it is also looking at other ways to hold down costs for students, including discounting textbooks and exploring textbook alternatives.

In the last two years, students took advantage of a 20 percent discount on textbooks sold through the college’s bookstores. The total savings to students fell just shy of $2 million at $1,975,000.

new study: valencia boosts local economy by $1 billion a year

A Press Release from Valencia’s Marketing and Strategic Communications Department

Orlando, FL – At a time when Florida’s unemployment rate is 9.4 percent and public funding for higher education is being cut, a new study finds that Valencia College boosts the economy of Orange and Osceola counties by $1.05 billion a year.

The study, conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI) on behalf of the college, calculated the college’s total economic impact, based on the 70,000 students enrolled at Valencia, and includes alumni earnings, student spending and expenditures related to college operations.

The impact study also examined the college’s return on investment, for both students and taxpayers.

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