TEDxOrlando 2015

September LIVE Ted Talk

We’re very pleased to announce that TEDxOrlando will return Saturday September 12 to the beautiful, historic Garden Theatre in Winter Garden.

At TEDxOrlando, an exceptional group of thinkers and doers from across Central Florida come together to experience an exciting, interdisciplinary program of short talks given in the celebrated TED format.

Tickets will go on sale to you beginning June 1 — because you are among our most valued supporters. Tickets will be announced to the general public on June 12.

We’re especially excited about this year’s event and hope very much that you’ll join us.

In the meantime, we welcome you to let friends and family know about TEDxOrlando, share your “idea worth spreading,” check out our volunteer opportunities, or participate in a TEDxOrlandoSalon event.

oh what a night!

Thank you for joining us at the Valencia Alumni Association’s first inaugural
“A Night of Celebration” event to network and celebrate our

Distinguished Alumni Award 2014 recipients:

(pictured L to R): R. McGill, K. Adams, W. Colwell, J. Kimberly, K. Walker, F. Beltrán
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Post Eblast

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Check out the photos from this year’s amazing event!

a night of celebration!

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

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

Info

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tedxorlandosalon at valencia!

tedAnnouncing TEDxOrlandoSalon’s next meeting on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.
Hope you can come!

When: Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Where: Valencia College Osceola Campus, Bldg 4, Rm 105
1800 Denn John Lane
Kissimmee, FL 34744
Register: http://www.tedxorlando.com/salon/
Email us: info@tedxorlando.com
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New! Book exchange! Bring a book, take a new one home. (Please remember to take unclaimed books home with you.)

Two TED Talk videos will be shown, each followed by a discussion break; the event program is determined by vote.

What we have planned for our next meeting:

  • Sarah Jones: What does the future hold? 11 characters offer quirky answers
  • Wendy Chung: Autism — what we know (and what we don’t know yet)
  • Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?
  • Amy Webb: How I hacked online dating
  • Stanley McChrystal: The military case for sharing knowledge

TEDxOrlandoSalon
TEDxOrlandoSalon meets every other month at Valencia College locations. A typical meeting draws approximately 50 smart, interesting, engaged people. Some will be regulars and some will be newcomers. Some choose to eat during the event, others choose not to. Two TEDTalk videos are shown, each followed by a discussion break. The event program is determined by vote, and discussions are open-ended.

TEDxOrlando
TEDxOrlando is a one-day conference featuring live speakers. Please stay tuned for details.

Code of Conduct
TEDxOrlando and TEDxOrlandoSalon are about the exchange of meaningful ideas and deep discussion, not selling. Opportunities do sometimes result from contacts made at our meetings and we encourage that. However, we ask that you refrain from using TEDxOrlando or TEDxOrlandoSalon primarily as a platform for promoting yourself, your personal political or religious views, your business, or your organization.

TEDx
TEDxOrlando and TEDxOrlandoSalon operate under license from TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share ideas worth spreading. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. http://tedxorlando.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=4065cf3354e5dbe3aa57ab169&id=771295dc95&e=dda8202fc9

TED
TED is an annual event where some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers are invited to share what they are most passionate about. “TED” stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design — three broad subject areas that are, collectively, shaping our future. And in fact, the event is broader still, showcasing ideas that matter in any discipline. Attendees have called it “the ultimate brain spa” and “a four-day journey into the future.” The diverse audience — CEOs, scientists, creatives, philanthropists — is almost as extraordinary as the speakers, who have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Frank Gehry, Paul Simon, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck and Bono. http://tedxorlando.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=4065cf3354e5dbe3aa57ab169&id=30542d058c&e=dda8202fc9

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making a difference

Pic 2 i really like this one

(L to R; Melissa Pedone, Barbara Shell and Katherine Pedone at
the Valencia College 9th Annual 5K Run, Walk & Roll)

BY JOY S. JONES

Barbara Shell teams with valued community partners and a host of volunteers in her role as the director of community and alumni relations. It’s a position where the sky’s the limit. After all, her goal of providing lifelong personal educational and professional growth for alumni and students of Valencia College can take many forms when dealing with a group as far reaching and diverse.

Just this week, two Valencia alums, Dick Batchelor, business and political consultant, and State Senator Andy Gardiner were listed in “Orlando Magazine’s” 2014 “50 Most Powerful List.” And new alumnus Angel Sanchez, Valencia’s 2014 “Distinguished Graduate,” is speaking at Blackboard World’s 2014 conference today.

It’s a huge responsibility and a welcome career for anyone who relishes no two days at work being the same, which is how she describes what she does.

“A true advocate of Valencia and our wonderful alumni, I’ve worked closely with Barbara the last few years and am always impressed with how well she works with so many different types of people and personalities,” says Michelle Matis, foundation vice president and chief operating officer. “She is very patient and compassionate and truly believes in developing authentic relationships with everyone she meets.”

Any wonder that Barbara’s work in alumni and community relations keeps her extremely busy with numerous meetings and events. “Many of these happen after hours and on weekends and she tirelessly keeps up with managing all of them and always with a smile on her face,” Michelle continued.

“The challenge is to find opportunities that will appeal to everyone — all different ages and interests, but fun. And any success that I might have is thanks to the many community volunteers with whom I work,” Barbara says. Those volunteers include current students and alumni.

One such opportunity is the TEDxOrlando partnership, with TEDxOrlandoSalons.

“TEDxOrlando has been very successful for over four years and held the organization’s TEDxOrlandoSalons monthly at a restaurant in College Park that closed down in December 2013,” says Barbara. “Many of our alumni, retirees, employees and students were involved and loved the TEDxOrlandoSalon experience, including me, and I was able to develop a partnership to bring the Salons to Valencia campuses. Now instead of offering them at only one location, it expands the opportunity for others to more conveniently participate,” she says.

One important factor that drives the success of her office is the database of alumni, now 25,000 members strong, including the 600-member Retiree Connection group. All receive “Vitae” magazine, a part of the glue that keeps alumni connected to the College and each other. They’re an industrious bunch, spread throughout the country and abroad. Barbara struggles to keep up with what’s new with them and their current contact information, to keep the relationships alive, which is something she invites faculty and staff to help her do.

“Whenever anyone is in touch with alums, if you just prompt them to be sure that the alumni office has their current contact information, it will help us a great deal,” she says.

Barbara readily confesses that the work itself isn’t difficult, given Valencia’s outstanding reputation in the community, and nationwide, as a result of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. What’s more, she frequently encounters those who contribute in some way who say they simply want to “pay it forward.”

“Seems that everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who has been impacted by Valencia in a positive way. Most everyone wants to be part of a good investment, which Valencia is,” Barbara says.

In turn, they make investments in the gifts of their time, talent and treasure.

“When a person provides an internship opportunity that will help a student succeed later in life, volunteers with our office or programs, or contributes to student scholarships, they’re making important and valuable investments,” she says. “And our impact as an institution is felt, not just in Central Florida, but in the world community. It’s just very exciting to be a part of it all.”

Among the most prized aspects of her job is coordination of the annual Alumni Achievers Reception held each June where Alumni Association scholarship awards are celebrated.
14396511362_28a686a1a1_o“What’s always fascinating to me is how surprised the recipients are to see themselves as ‘special’,” Barbara says. “With their families looking on, many with children and many more, first generation college students, it is just tremendous to see their level of gratitude that someone believes in them and their abilities. Their example of working to get an education and placing an importance on the value of an education goes a long way for everyone.”

While she shares that it’s a challenge to keep up with it all, she finds it all very rewarding.

“We have the entire spectrum of people who can tell you a compelling story about how Valencia was a significant factor in helping them achieve their educational goals — and the stories just keep growing.”

Barbara has been employed at Valencia since 2004. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington and a master’s degree in community health from Plymouth State University.

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.
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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

notes from the world classroom, endowed chair series

Centropa
guest author: Richard Gair, reading professor, East Campus
I attended the CENTROPA Summer Academy for Teachers, held in Berlin, Germany. The idea for attending the academy was that they use a unique approach to Holocaust education. While many institutions focus more on the horrors of what the victims went through, CENTROPA focuses on their lives before and after the Holocaust.

Many survivors have voiced concern that their identity is often tied to the fact that they are a survivor. They say the Holocaust does not define who they are. They had beautiful, rich and fulfilling lives before the horrors occurred. Likewise, they have rebuilt their lives with offspring and often many grandchildren, which they say is their greatest revenge against the Nazis. With that in mind, CENTROPA fanned out across Europe to find survivors who were willing to tell their stories. Instead of video recording their testimony, as most institutions do, they asked these survivors to tell their stories and show pictures of their families as they spoke. Recorders wrote down or audio taped their testimony, focusing on their life in the Jewish community before and after the Holocaust.

Using this material, CENTROPA works with educators to build instructional lessons for teachers to use, and places all information on their website. The philosophy is quite simple. “Nobody teaches teachers better than other teachers.” Through this process, the beauty and fabric of Jewish culture in these countries is expressed.

Students can then make their own video projects similar to the ones CENTROPA has on their website. Instruction in basic movie making with Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie is on the CENTROPA website in the form of video tutorials and a sample project.

Teachers can submit student or class projects that use the CENTROPA model for placement on their own website. This approach appealed to me because it was a chance to develop instructional strategies and content that focus more on life rather than death. The Holocaust as a whole is a difficult subject to teach in any case due to the sadness and horror that is such an integral part of it. Here was an opportunity to show more of the other side in my course and encourage students to pursue that line of thought in their required projects.

Those same tutorials are now on my website. Upon my return from Berlin, I added a new option for the final project in my Holocaust course syllabus: To use the CENTROPA material and style to create an original video slideshow telling the life-family story of a survivor in the CENTROPA archives and databases. A few of my students did video projects for their final in the fall. They can be viewed on the “Student Video Showcase” page of my website which is www.professorgair.com. This spring, several students will also be making similar videos which will go online when they are completed. Students are required to meet with me as they plan so I can guide them and suggest ways to make sure it is done well.

The endowed chairs are important and we at Valencia are quite blessed to have such a resource. They offer us an opportunity to hone our skills, further knowledge of our craft, and regenerate and broaden our commitment to the profession and thus directly influence student learning through better scholarships and teaching. The benefactors, as always, are the students sitting in our classrooms. The chairs give us an opportunity to enrich the already rich environment that Valencia is known for. It adds a dimension to our “learning centered approach” that the normal budgetary funds cannot cover. It adds to our skill set and makes us the leaders we are in the world of community colleges. I am so proud every single time I am a recipient of an endowed chair. My face lights up and I truly get excited with the new opportunity it provides me. Words are not adequate to express my deepest gratitude to Valencia Foundation and administration of the college for giving me the opportunity to be reborn each time my project is accepted for a chair.

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.

a closer look: commercial real estate women

crewlogoValencia Foundation’s successes are the direct result of successful partnerships with organizations and individuals who do their part to contribute, advocate and invite others to learn about Valencia. Partnerships with organizations such as Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Orlando take the important step in setting the philanthropic curve in today’s world – finding new and unique ways to bring funds to those who need it most and over an extended period of time.

CREW Orlando was formed in 1987 to attract the most powerful and influential professionals in the commercial real estate industry. Each chapter has its own unique structure and framework but every chapter follows the purpose of “advancing women in commercial real estate.”

Former foundation board chair, Helen Von Dolteren-Fournier, Esq., and former board member, Sarah Kelly, led the charge for Valencia’s partnership with CREW. The organization endowed a scholarship through Valencia Foundation and also partnered on an interactive program designed to introduce female high school students to career opportunities in the commercial real estate industry.

Every year since 2002, CREW Orlando has used dollars raised at their golf tournament to fund The CREW Orlando Scholarship at Valencia. In all, CREW’s golf tournaments have gathered $119,500 to benefit students in need.

Bill Mullowney, Brian Macon, Geraldine Gallagher and Jim Grumberg at CREW's annual golf tournament

Bill Mullowney, Brian Macon, Geraldine Gallagher and Jim Grumberg at CREW’s annual golf tournament

This year the CREW golf tournament is Friday, May 16 at Eagle Creek Golf Club. Sponsorships start at $250 and individual golfers can play for $175 per person. For more information, here is the brochure.

The CREW Scholarship was created to support students who seek a future in commercial real estate or a related industry, students such as Arzu.

Becoming a mechanical engineer was a childhood dream for Arzu, but that is all it was, just a dream. She came from a family of six with parents who tried to make ends meet with a very low income. When she came to the United States, she feels she was given a second chance to pursue her education.

Three years ago, she started attending Valencia and although it was a start, the road was still very rough. She felt alone and faced the problem of not knowing the language. Naysayers told her graduation would be very difficult, but she did not give up. She took English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and her hard work paid off. Today she is proud to tell of her 3.7 GPA.

In addition to being a student, Arzu is a wife and mother and she says that her marriage and birth of her daughter are the most satisfying and inspiring events in her life. Though it has been a struggle to manage all of these roles, she knows that education is important and feels it will make her a wonderful role model for her daughter.

Arzu is currently enrolled as a full-time sophomore in the articulated pre-major program for engineering. This course of study is based on an agreement with UCF and is designed for students who plan to transfer to UCF as a junior to complete a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

At UCF, she plans to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. She is passionate about her degree choice and enjoys building and construction and fabricating projects from scratch. She also plans to get a Professional Engineering license to increase her knowledge in her career and boost her position in the workforce.

When she found out she received the CREW Scholarship, she got very emotional. She was using Valencia computers and library services to learn, but now she could get her own books, a calculator and a laptop. These tools allow her to study anywhere and give her more time to help her daughter with her schoolwork.

She says she will always be appreciative to CREW because even though they didn’t know her, they helped make her dream come true.

For more information about CREW, please visit http://creworlando.org/.

endowed chair series

It started with a simple request to 2013-2014 endowed chair recipients, please provide further explanation of your endowed chair project. The response was amazing, growing to a series of articles over the next few months.

Valencia faculty is top notch and no question they always strive to provide the very best environment for our students. The role of faculty can be critical in a student’s educational journey. Inside Higher Ed featured an article in August 2013, “Majoring in a Professor,” that found a correlation between choosing majors and experience with faculty in that field. A good instructor can garner interest for a certain major and likewise, a negative faculty experience can cause a student to drop a field of study.

Valencia’s endowed chair program seeks to fund projects that enhance student learning. Understanding more about these projects offers a glimpse at what innovative things faculty are doing in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Debra Hollister, psychology professor, was awarded the Freeda Louise Foreman Chair in Collaborative and Creative Problem Solving. Dr. Hollister’s goal was to design a method to best help students choose a path to reach their personal, career and professional goals. Assessments that help students evaluate their personal goals and learning outcomes are available.

Dr. Hollister shares that often, a college student thinks that a career path or major will be immediately decided on the first visit to a classroom. She knows that is not always the case, and students may not understand what type of degree they need, the cost of that degree or even where the degree is offered.

She shares, “As an instructor, it is important to me that the students in my classes are well prepared to be successful in the next class they take. They may not understand how each discipline relates to other classes at the college or how important the information may be for them to learn. Enabling each student to explore career options may help them make better decisions regarding future plans of study and prepare them to make the transition from student to employee.”

Dr. Debra Hollister

Dr. Debra Hollister

Dr. Hollister notes that students who have a career plan tend to be more focused in their classes and understand the importance of learning, leading to less frustration and greater motivation. These students acknowledge that class selection and studying is part of the larger picture and will lead to long-term career success.

Students are offered many different assessments, the first being a career exploration inventory that enables the student to see where their interest might be. There are also assessments covering learning style and organizational abilities. These assessments are done largely on the student’s own time, completion and a positive outcome is dependent on a student’s drive and determination.

As a complement to these assessments, Dr. Hollister hosts a speaker series, featuring professionals whose careers span various fields. Speakers have included lawyers, engineering researchers, civil engineers, psychologists, higher education administrators, finance majors, business managers, doctors, professional sports athletes and entrepreneurs. She asks the following of all speakers: What did it take for you to get where you are?

On the subject of endowed chairs, Dr. Hollister says, “Endowed chairs are a great resource because they provide funding to enable an instructor to offer opportunities in a classroom that may not be offered any other way. The funds allow an individual instructor to go ‘above and beyond’ what can be provided ‘budget wise’ in the classroom.”

When you think about study abroad excursions, the mind might conjure up images of art and literature. For Melissa Schreiber, professor of biology, different ideas comes to mind, in the fields of health and biology. Professor Schreiber received the Chesley G. Magruder Foundation Chair in Nursing and Allied Health. The endowed chair gave her the chance to take students abroad to learn about infectious disease, public health and epidemiology in Panama.

The students and Professor Schreiber visited an indigenous tribe known as the Embera. They were able to meet with the tribe’s botanist and discuss treatment of chronic and infectious disease by using medicinal plants and herbs.

Jennifer Robertson, director of Valencia’s study abroad and global experiences (SAGE) program, told Professor Schreiber that the foundation offered endowed chair opportunities to help fund international trips. For more on the SAGE program, check out this November 2013 article.

Professor Schreiber explains why these offerings are so valuable. “Study abroad is important so students can experience foreign cultures, learn other language phrases and understand global issues. My students learned about the importance of surveillance, prevention and treatment of infectious disease in a tropical, developing country.”

Their studies took them to research centers, a hospice center, the Embera tribe, hospitals, the ministry of health, UNAIDS and a university in Panama. She feels that these endeavors gave students an understanding of microbiology and epidemiology that far outweighs what could be gleaned from a textbook.

Valencia students visit the Embera tribe

Valencia students visit the Embera tribe

Look for more updates next month.

taste for learning update

taste-logo-rgbTaste invitations are on their way, but you don’t have to wait. Visit http://www.ATasteForLearning.com to get your tickets today. While there, you can book a room at Rosen Shingle Creek at a reduced event price. May 17 is just about six weeks away; let’s take a look at how things are coming together.

There has been unprecedented response to our call for gourmet tastings. Every craving will be satisfied with food from Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar, Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ, Cabin Creek Food Services Inc., Rainforest Cafe, Yak and Yeti, T-REX, Taverna Yamas and Shutters at Old Port Royale.

Rosen Shingle Creek’s eateries, A Land Remembered, Cala Bella and Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, will also provide delicious offerings.

Our other presenting sponsor, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, recently confirmed that a favorite will be back again this year; the Maker’s Mark personalized dipping station.

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The silent auction items are growing by the day and include hotel stays, spa packages, theater tickets and wine tastings.

The wine is the big draw and ABC has graciously agreed to give us a sneak peek at some of the vintners and spirits.

Wagner Family of Wine – Belle Glos Pinot Noir, Conundrum

Treasury Wine Estates – Chateau St. Jean, Beringer

Justin and Landmark Wines – Justin Sauvignon Blanc, Landmark Pinot Noir

Delicato Family Vineyards – Gnarly Head, Noble, Belle Ambiance

The Lergenmüller Wine Group Germany – Dornfelder, Müller Piesporter, Villa Riesling

Vine and Branches – Bogle, Hook and Ladder

Peter Mondavi Family – several selections from the Charles Krug portfolio

Campari America – Skyy Infusions, Appleton, Rusell’s Reserve, American Honey

Fish Hawk Spirits – Absinthia Rubra, Marion Black 106

These are just a few selections with many more to come. Usually there are between 50 and 70 stations offering libations.

The last six Taste events have raised $2.27 million for scholarships and medical education. Remember, 100 percent of all funds raised go directly to students. An investment in Taste is an investment in medical and allied health science education in Central Florida. Every Valencia allied health scholarship contribution is doubled.

In a word, the reason sponsors sign on year after year is “fun.” The event is a great time; it’s a jovial atmosphere with no formal program. We are grateful to all of our benefactors, both past supporters and new friends. Sponsorships are still available, call Donna Marino (407-582-3128) for more information.

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

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

Vintner – CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Martinez Manglardi PA, Orlando Health, Orlando Magic, Signature Systems of Florida, Valencia College

Cabernet – Charles Perry Partners Inc., Clancy and Theys Construction Co., HuntonBrady Architects, Orlando Health Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Universal Orlando Resort, Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants

taste for learning – the rosen connection

taste-logo-rgbTrue to their name, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits provide the wine, beer and spirits, but they need a place to take it. That’s where Rosen Hotels and Resorts and Rosen Shingle Creek come in. Since 2008, Rosen Shingle Creek has been home to Taste for Learning. The same is true this year for the May 17 event.

First, some history: In 1974, during an oil embargo, Harris Rosen decided to try his luck in the lodging and resort business, purchasing a 256-room hotel on International Drive. He personally traveled to places like New England persuading bus and tour companies to bring clients to Orlando. Today, his name is synonymous with the hotel and lodging industry, as well as long-standing philanthropy in our community.

Forward to 2007, when converging forces led Jonni Kimberly, Rosen Hotels and Resorts director of human resources, to Valencia, where she now serves as foundation board chair. At the time, Jonni was working with Rosen’s fledgling employee charity committee to hone its philanthropy and relationships with local nonprofits. Meanwhile, in his role as Valencia Foundation board chair, Alan Helman of HHCP Architects invited the Rosen organization to become more involved with Valencia, which was a primary source of its workforce.

Jonni was the obvious choice.

During her first year on the Valencia Foundation board, Jonni attended Taste. She was inspired by the notion that every single expense is covered, so that every dollar given is directed to scholarships and then matched by a challenge grant.

She proposed to her charity committee the idea of hosting the event at Rosen Shingle Creek, acknowledging that completely underwriting an event was unprecedented – not to mention inviting other hotels, restaurants and theme parks to join the collaboration on site. But Jonni was convinced that Rosen should lead the partnership with Valencia and ABC Fine Wine and Spirits. “I was impressed with the amount of money Taste brought in, and the fact that it all goes 100 percent to the purpose. The promise that every penny that would come from Taste would go to scholarships for students was a big seller,” she recalls.

Committed to providing more than just a venue, Rosen employees leverage their vendor contacts to get additional services donated to the event. Additionally, the chefs and culinary experts at Rosen Shingle Creek donate food to the event, hosting a food station and providing a beautiful display of desserts.
Rosen-Color

In 2012, Orlando Health Foundation joined the event and the purpose grew to include medical education, as well as allied health science scholarships. 100 percent of auction proceeds, tickets and sponsorships will directly benefit students. Every Valencia allied health scholarship contribution is doubled.

Tickets are $125 each and can be purchased at http://www.atasteforlearning.com. And Rosen’s hospitality doesn’t end when the event is over; rooms are available on the event website at a special reduced group rate for Taste attendees.

Thank you to Rosen and here is a look at all of our generous sponsors:

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

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

Vintner: CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Martinez Manglardi PA, Orlando Health, Orlando Magic and Valencia College

Cabernet: Charles Perry Partners Inc., Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services of Orlando Inc., Universal Orlando Resort and Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants

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 http://www.valencia.org 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 http://www.valencia.org. 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.”

a special date – feb.14

Feb-14-Valentines-Day-690x431According to NPR, it has rather barbaric origins with the ancient Romans. Chaucer and Shakespeare sweetened it with their prose, with popularity eventually bringing it to America. In 1913, Hallmark Cards produced the first cards for the holiday.

Wait just a minute! We are not discussing Valentine’s Day, but instead another special occurrence that happens on Feb. 14. For this is the last day of our special couple pricing – two tickets/$200 – for Taste for Learning.

Taste will be Saturday, May 17 at Rosen Shingle Creek. Purchase tickets at www.ATasteForLearning.com. And on the site, you can also book a room at Rosen Shingle Creek at a special-event price.

After Feb. 14, each ticket will be $125, which is still a bargain for all the event has to offer.

This year will feature spirits and you can even expect some craft beers, but the emphasis is wine with vintners from all over the world pouring the finest they have to offer.

Wine and the celebrated Valentine’s Day do have something in common, both can trace their roots to ancient times. The New York Times tell us that wine “is as old as civilization itself.” 6000 B.C. dates the first evidence of fermenting grapes for juices. Wine permeated society and gained popularity in the Roman era. It was during that era that something wonderful was born – the wine bar.

wine corks

As time moved on, giving us new empires and ages, the method and consumption of wine changed. By the 18th century, the wine market boomed and came to the New World and Australia in the 19th century.

It was many years later, in 1936, that ABC Fine Wine and Spirits was born. Jack Holloway, a cigar store manager, thought the end of Prohibition brought an opportunity to expand from cigars into spirits.

No doubt some of you drive or walk by that first store on a daily basis, Jack’s Friendly Neighborhood Bar, at the corner of Orange Avenue and Wall Street in downtown Orlando. Growing to a half-dozen stores during the next decade, it was the year 1950 that the name ABC Liquors was chosen. Company legend has it that Jack wanted a name that folks would remember, and one that would show up first in the phone book!

The 70s brought the addition of lounges to retail stores and the 80s brought an expansion to the northern part of Florida.

The updated name, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, came in 1993 and today the company is celebrating 75-plus years in business with stores all over Florida.

ABC_3D_LOGO_HI RES2

It was when Jess Bailes, executive vice president at ABC, crossed paths with Valencia that Taste was born. The year was 2005 and board members agreed to the event only if all event proceeds went directly to scholarships. That is still in place today – 100 percent of all sponsorships, ticket sales and auction proceeds go directly to the intended purpose.

But time does bring some change for Taste. The event was blessed with another special presenting sponsor, Rosen Shingle Creek. Next month we will take a look at Rosen’s impact on Taste and Valencia.

2012 saw a new partner for the event, Orlando Health Foundation. They are again our partner for the 2014 event and plan to use their portion of the funds for medical education.

What will Taste bring next? The best way to find out is to purchase your tickets today. Hope to see you there!

taste – where does the money go?

new Taste logo

new Taste logo

Have you bought your tickets to Taste for Learning at www.ATasteForLearning.com? Well, you can be proud of the fact that 100 percent will go to scholarships and medical education.

From the ticket holder to the presenting sponsor and all the auction items in between, all of the money goes to the cause. And it has always been that way. The last six Taste events have raised a total of $2.27 million for educational support.

Money for the event comes from ticket sales, the silent auction and, of course, sponsors. With the addition of McCree General Contractors and Architects Inc. and Universal Orlando Resort, here is a look at our generous benefactors.

Sommelier level: ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and Rosen Shingle Creek
First press level: McCree General Contractors and Architects
Vintner level: Orlando Magic
Cabernet level: Charles Perry Partners Inc., Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services, Universal Orlando Resort, Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants

In order to maximize recognition, we ask sponsors to sign on as soon as possible. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please contact Donna Marino at 407-582-3128 or dmarino@valenciacollege.edu.

While our partner, Orlando Health Foundation, will fund medical education efforts, Valencia Foundation will put the money toward scholarships for first-generation college students.

Just last year, the foundation completed a successful First One campaign and raised $200,000 for first-generation scholarships. During that time, we got to know students, faculty and staff who are first-generation scholars.

Dr. Joyce Romano, Valencia’s vice president of student affairs, put it best when she said, “When you are a first-generation college student, your ideas of what is possible are so limited because you just don’t know what you don’t know.”

Unfortunately, first-generation students are not always set up for success. Not knowing about the college experience, families may be unprepared to offer support when it comes to education after high school. Maybe college was so out of their realm of thinking that they neglected to take core college-prep classes in high school. If the going gets tough, do they have a support network or role model who can offer real-life inspiration that college is attainable?

Being a part of that support network, that is what these scholarships hope to do. Scholarships offer not only financial support, but the belief that someone cares and wants them to do well.

Here are the thoughts and thanks of some of our first-generation students.

Qunesha is the oldest of three and no doubt a big inspiration to her siblings. She said, “Not only will your scholarship help me in obtaining my degree here at Valencia, it will continue to encourage me as I enter the workforce, knowing that I have supporters that believe in my success by investing in my future.”

Bobi shared that education was stressed at her house, but only through high school. She is a mom, working and going to school full time. From her: “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity and for helping students who have a vision of bettering themselves through education.”

Jazmine’s career goal is to be a nurse. She plans to continue her education at UCF after Valencia. She acknowledged, “Being the oldest of eight kids puts me in a role model position and I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to prove myself and set an example for my younger siblings.”

And Jerome shows us that any time is a perfect time to start at Valencia. He loves computers and looks forward to having a career working with them. He shared, “Because of your generous donation, this third-generation, native resident of Orlando will be able to achieve his dreams and become the first in my family to obtain a college degree.”

Again, tickets can be purchased at www.ATasteForLearning.com. You can truly make a difference in someone’s life.

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.

valencia graduate- michael maguire

 

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By Joy S. Jones

For Michael Maguire, operations manager, video productions, Valencia represents access to opportunity, which he experienced first as a degree-seeking student majoring in theater in 1992.

“Prior to Valencia, my future prospects were dim and the idea of getting into and affording college seemed impossible,” said Michael, a first-generation college student. “No one in my family had ever gone to college, few had even graduated high school, and because of a series of hardships, they were often caught in a vicious cycle of low-paying jobs, living check-to-check, and under constant threat of homelessness.”

Graduating from Valencia in 1995 enabled him to break this cycle. “It transformed my life in countless ways, both personally and professionally. It opened doors of opportunity and life experiences that I would have never had access to without it,” he said, enabling him to build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that would help him, and future students, to be successful.

Over time, he would come to see the College through many lenses.

From 2007 through 2008, he taught two courses — electronic imaging and digital video and sound — as an adjunct professor for the graphics technology program. “Fostering student learning and witnessing their growth over the semester was incredibly rewarding and gave me unique insight into the many challenges instructors face.”

Now, those classroom insights come in handy as he uses his skills as a video producer to help students develop a richer understanding of their subjects via instructional videos.

The student becomes the master.

Michael managed a full-scale, five-year renovation of the West Campus video production studio when the mission of the department shifted from broadcast to educational video production, resulting in a user-friendly, state-of-the-art studio with robust teaching tools.

valencia-productions-collage-grove-568x256

“This facility is positioned to handle instructional video needs better than ever before and provides a host of options for instructors to make their videos more dynamic and engaging for students,” he said.

A collaborative effort, the studio represents the culmination and refinement of rich conversations with faculty and input and support from numerous areas of the College including OIT, plant operations, learning support services and others.

Michael values the joyful experiences he shares daily working alongside colleagues who radiate a strong sense of purpose and who give freely of themselves, because they know their work here is meaningful and has the ability to positively impact a student’s life. He shares that it’s the strong sense of community, shared passion for learning and the culture of inquiry and collaboration that keeps him motivated; and it’s something he brings to each project he undertakes.

He’s carried this sense of community with him ever since professors Celine Kavalec-Miller, now faculty director of the Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA), and Elizabeth Eschbach, professor of humanities, sparked a flame in him for learning that continues to blaze white hot. After graduating from Valencia, Michael would go on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in communications from Florida State University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Rollins College.

“There just is no substitute for that gratifying feeling of creating an ‘aha’ moment in a student’s life. Creating videos that help students develop a richer understanding is very rewarding, and in some ways, is the most significant work I have ever done.”

 

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!
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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 www.ATasteForLearning.com.

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 dmarino@valenciacollege.edu.

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.

valencia graduate mehdi khoumassi

Mehdi-Khoumassi-fc-grove

 

Mehdi Khoumassi, information technology manager of Campus Technology Services at West Campus, was challenged by his father, who was on the verge of retirement at the time, to complete his bachelor’s degree so that he could retire without worrying about his son. Mehdi not only completed his bachelor’s degree, but around that same time he became a U.S. citizen and his son was born.

In early 2000, he enrolled at Valencia as an international student from Morocco — he is fluent in French and Arabic, but at the time did not speak much English. While completing his associate degree at Valencia, he worked as a student assistant in the Audio Visual Department.

“Since coming to Valencia I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with a variety of people. In fact, beginning my full-time tenure at Valencia was considerably easy because I had met so many of the faculty and staff of the West Campus in my roles of student and student assistant.”

In 2004, he became a permanent resident of the United States and was hired as a classroom technology support specialist at West Campus, a role that he thrived in for seven years.

“Mehdi has a ‘can-do’ type of attitude that perfectly balances out his technical abilities,”  says Carmine La Pietra, director of Campus Technology Services on West Campus, and Mehdi’s manager.

In 2011, Mehdi was promoted to IT manager of Campus Technology Services for the West Campus. As manager, he oversees the daily operations for the campus technology office that provides technology support for all classrooms and special events for the West Campus.

“I met Mehdi Khoumassi when he arrived at Valencia as an international student in 2000. I have followed his academic and professional progress since that time. Mehdi is an exceptional young man who is genuinely happy, caring and compassionate. To say that I am proud of Mehdi is an understatement, I believe he is a living example of Valencia’s “start right” philosophy,” shares Bliss Thompson, senior coordinator of international student services on West Campus.

Mehdi shares that he has “always been fortunate to work for and with good people.” He mentions mentors and friends, Karen Blondeau, Carmine LaPietra and John Watson as people who have helped him to achieve success at Valencia, but also notes that the culture here has promoted a collaborative environment and great teamwork among his whole department and beyond.

“All the part- and full-time staff of the department — these, and others I may not even be aware of — have always helped me to realize the potential in me and have continued to support all of my personal, academic and professional goals.”

Mehdi explains that he has the opportunity to see community, partnership and collaboration in action regularly while supporting technology components for community events sponsored by Valencia. “While the word community is no longer in the name of the College, the spirit of community lives [on],” he notes.

Mehdi has an associate degree from Valencia and a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Central Florida. He feels he has enjoyed great success, but says his most significant accomplishments are “as a husband and father.”

 By Laura Knight

taste for learning tickets on sale

new Taste logo

new Taste logo

Guess what arrived, just in time for the holidays? Taste for Learning tickets! These tickets make great gifts for friends and family, and definitely for yourself. Here is a wish item you need on your list: a pair of Taste tickets at a discount price of $200 and a special room rate at Rosen Shingle Creek. Visit www.ATasteForLearning.com today and make plans to join us on May 17, 2014.

This year we are offering the discounted couple ticket price of $200 only through Feb. 14. And yes, these tickets also make a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift for the special someone in your life.

Single tickets are always available at $125 and even at that price it is a great deal. For those of you who have been, you know it is an event like no other. And for those of you who have never been, you really have to experience it – the plethora of wine and spirits, the scrumptious food offerings and the amazing auction items.

This event is possible through the efforts of our sponsors and donors, and ABC Fine Wine and Spirits leads the pack. Jess Bailes, executive vice president at ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, was the visionary and he brought the idea to our board who agreed only if 100 percent of all funds raised could go to its intended purpose. The event continues to grow and evolve, and we are honored to again welcome Orlando Health Foundation into the fold as event partner. But at the root, the event remains the same: 100 percent of all funds raised will go directly to support scholarships and medical education in our community.

ABC Fine Wine and Spirits is also a constant at Taste. They are focused on worldwide wine and spirits, which will be reflected at the event. Craft beers are popular right now, so expect to see some special offerings on May 17.

Here’s a little secret, want to know why foundation staff looks so happy to be there? It is because they are. Each year it is such a treat to be able to stay at Rosen Shingle Creek. It is a beautiful location and accommodations are beyond compare.

Rosen’s involvement came from another Valencia board member, now board chair, Jonni Kimberly. Jonni is the director of human resources at Rosen Hotels and Resorts. She attended a Taste event and thought it would be a great idea to have it at Rosen Shingle Creek. Rosen had never done anything like that before, completely underwrite an event, but the facts and figures of Taste sold them and they have been on board ever since.

Just in typing this I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. These two board members, and many early supporters, led the way and did something not for their own gain, but to truly impact education in our community. This season, and always, I am so thankful for the wonderful friends we have.

I asked foundation staff for a sneak peek at the silent auction and there has already been a great response and items are coming in! There will be spa visits, travel packages, hotel stays, show tickets and more. So far we have items from WonderWorks; the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes; Orlando Magic; Central Florida Zoo and Botantical Gardens; Panera Bread; Arabian Nights; Canvas on Demand and Euro Day Spa and Salon.

If you have any connections for great auction items, please let us know (407-582-3150 or foundation@valenciacollege.edu).

And sponsors have signed on early too. In addition to ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and Rosen Shingle Creek, we are so happy to welcome three Cabernet sponsors: Charles Perry Partners Inc., Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services and Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants.

If you know of anyone who may be interested in a sponsorship, please contact Donna Marino at the foundation (407-582-3128 or dmarino@valenciacollege.edu). Donna is once again our fearless event leader and she can help you with all things Taste!

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 jwileden@valenciacollege.edu.

a closer look: national philanthropy day

Earlier this month, the Council for Resource Development (CRD), a national association of community college fundraising professionals, selected Paul Jr. and Deb Mears to receive its 2013 Benefactors of the Year award. The annual award recognizes the outstanding contributions and service of donors who have made a difference to a community college. They were honored in Washington, D.C., as the top philanthropists for an urban, public college.

The Mears family and Mears Transportation Group have been involved with the foundation for more than a decade and their contributions include an endowed scholarship to benefit students in Valencia’s hospitality management program. Deb has been a valued board member since 2008.

In 2010, the Mears family pledged $1 million to create the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. Established in memory of Paul Mears Sr., the fund supports educational opportunities through the Orange County Take Stock in Children program, which is administered at the college. Take Stock helps promising at-risk children succeed through mentoring and a guaranteed college scholarship. In recognition of the gift, the college renamed its West Campus Student Services Building the Paul Mears Sr. Student Services Building.

On the morning of Nov. 22, it was a pleasure to join colleagues and friends at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Florida Chapter’s National Philanthropy Day at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes. The event acknowledges the entire spectrum of services that the nonprofit and civic service sectors provide, as well as the profound impact that philanthropy has on the fabric of society.

Our dear friends from The Retired Air Force, Marine, Army, Navy (RAFMAN) Club received an award for outstanding civic and service group. RAFMAN Club was started in 1974 to unite retired military personnel as a brotherhood and become more actively involved in the community.

Member Arthur Jarvis observed a troubling trend in his church and in his neighborhood: Young African-Americans wanted to go to college but simply couldn’t afford it. Mr. Jarvis brought this to the attention of his fellow members, and, in 1996, RAFMAN Club partnered with Valencia Foundation to begin offering the RAFMAN Club Scholarship. To date, 26 students have received financial support through RAFMAN’s scholarship.

Members of RAFMAN Club at National Philanthropy Day

Members of RAFMAN Club at National Philanthropy Day


Improving access to a higher education through scholarships is a solution that RAFMAN believes in from the top down. Shares club president, George Jordan, “Education is such a simple word with a powerful impact. Education not only opens doors but it breaks barriers and evens the playing field, it increases personal confidence, it boosts morale, improves effectiveness and allows for endless possibilities. Education begins with us, we are the ones who instill the importance of this simple word, we are the ones who tell the young why education is important, we are the ones who encourage and motivate the young to seek education and to utilize it. We set the example for this generation as they will set the example for the next. Our legacy should include our commitment to such a simple yet powerful word, education.”

Mr. Jordan was on-hand to receive the award and told the crowd, “We love giving back to the community.”

Sue Foreman received honor as the outstanding volunteer fundraiser. Sue’s passion for giving back and making a difference has benefited this community through 40 years of service to at least a dozen non-profits. As she demonstrates the power of volunteerism in making a difference to solve community challenges, Sue inspires others to donate their time to local nonprofits.

Sue got involved with Valencia in 1976, as part of a Junior Woman’s Club group working in partnership with the college to create the Parent Resource Center, a family education and support center. She also has volunteered her time and talent to Valencia Foundation as a board director since the late 1980s. And after nearly 30 years on the Valencia board, Sue continues to raise her hand to support every project with her time, talent and resources.

Her continued and innovative commitment to Valencia demonstrates a stellar example of individuals who have made a remarkable difference in the life of this college. But she doesn’t think of herself as a fundraiser. In reality, she is an expert at building authentic relationships.

It was this model of friendraising not fundraising that Sue spoke of while accepting her award. She talked about the joy of a being a donor in this situation, where she is tasked to have fun and talk about these great successes.

Sue and Steve Foreman at National Philanthropy Day

Sue and Steve Foreman at National Philanthropy Day


Sue accepted her award with her trademark verve and soon had the entire audience laughing and smiling with her. She commented that each recipient is doing what they love, and today they are getting an award for it!

The morning was, as always, so moving and inspirational. It is timed perfectly, ushering in our traditional season of thanks and giving. From all of us at the foundation, we appreciate you and wish for you a happy and healthy December.

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: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB9F7378CCA172DE9&feature=plcp

You can also join the Valencia College Study Abroad group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_192350680814167

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 closer look: taste for learning makeover

Who doesn’t love a good makeover? Senior public relations manager Carol Traynor, senior art director Marty Csercsevits and their talented team at the college’s marketing and strategic communications department brought a new look and new life to our Taste for Learning event.

The next Taste event is scheduled for May 17, 2014 at Rosen Shingle Creek.

The event started in 2005 when foundation board member Jess Bailes and his team at ABC Fine Wine and Spirits partnered with Valencia Foundation. Our board of directors agreed to host the fundraiser only if we could ensure that every single dollar donated went directly to support education.

Today, we are still so blessed to have ABC’s involvement, as well as the support of Rosen Shingle Creek. Throughout the years, the logo stayed the same, with a graduation hat symbolizing the funds that went to support scholarships and grapes representing the wine that was served.

But now, as the event evolves, it was time for something new. First, the liquor landscape is always changing and ABC recognizes not just wines, but worldwide wine and spirits. Craft beers are currently very popular and that will be reflected at the event. As the event progressed, we came to realize that we had outgrown the grapes.

previous Taste logo

previous Taste logo

Additionally, we began partnering with other organizations for the event. First we partnered with UCF Foundation and now for the second year with Orlando Health Foundation. While we don’t share an identical mission with Orlando Health, we both place a priority on education. Funds raised at the event support student scholarships for us and medical education for Orlando Health Foundation.

Everyone is competing for fundraising dollars and these unique partnerships offer an opportunity to support more than one effort in our local community. What also sets us apart is the fact that still, eight years later, 100 percent of all funds raised goes directly to the cause.

We could not make that claim without the support of ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, Rosen Shingle Creek and our other sponsors. Our supporters work diligently to make sure that everything is donated, even down to the electrical drops for the event. The college generously underwrites the printing and creative costs.

Which brings us to the new logo – here it is!

new Taste logo

new Taste logo

Our new tagline is: An evening of food,wine and spirits paired with an auction to benefit scholarships and medical education.

The new logo gives a well-rounded representation of the spirits that will be at the event and the bright colors bring a sense of fun and liveliness, which is what Taste is all about.

Again, this year’s event will be on Saturday, May 17. In addition to ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and Rosen Shingle Creek, we are thrilled to have two early sponsors, Charles Perry Partners Inc. and Wolverine Anesthesia Consultants.

Stay tuned to the event website for updates WWW.ATASTEFORLEARNING.COM and if there is someone you would like us to send a sponsor packet to, please reach out to Donna Marino at 407-582-3128 or dmarino@valenciacollege.edu.

Mark your calendars – we will see you there!

alumni networking – the osceola county connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

checking up on the dental hygiene program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a closer look: valencia’s paralegal program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

spotlight story: valencia board member takes a life-changing journey

Brad with planeSometimes the journey is not just about the destination. Valencia Foundation board member Brad Pierce found that out when he took a recent trip to Haiti. Describing some parts as “hell on earth,” he was nevertheless impacted by his journey.

Brad Pierce, Valencia alum, has been interested in flying from a young age. He saw a helicopter take off as a part of a tour near International Drive and was hooked. He worked for that tour company at the age of 16, doing sales and learning to fly. At 18 he decided to get his pilot’s license and he has been soaring the skies ever since.

Even early on, he used his talents for good, volunteering for Angel Flight. Angel Flight is a nonprofit organization of pilots, volunteers and friends that arranges free transportation to medical treatments. He still volunteers his time with Angel Flight and recently transported a baby to Miami for eye surgery.

It was this philanthropic sense of using his gifts and talent to make the world a better place that took him to Haiti. He came across a post from Dr. Richard McGlaughlin (Doc McG) on the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association website. Doc McG and fellow pilot, Luke Lyson, were looking to raise some money, buy medical supplies, and enlist a group of volunteers to fly a relief mission to Haiti. His post ended with the profound sentiment: “We will make sure you get down and back safely. You may not come back quite the same.”

Soon 32 volunteers and 15 aircrafts took to the skies with $100,000 in medical supplies, plus school supplies, clothing, musical instruments and toys. The group convened at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport and then headed for Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
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Arriving safely, the group boarded buses and traveled to the heart of Cité Soleil, one of the poorest and dangerous slums in the Western Hemisphere, and made the first stop at St. Mary’s Hospital. It was here that he was introduced to the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, led by Father Rick Frechette, who lives by the mantra: “Do the next right thing and something good will come of it. Next day, do it again.”

The foundation (http://stlukehaiti.org/) is a Haitian run organization started by Father Frechette and an inspired group of young Haitian leaders. Programs focus on providing medical care, humanitarian aid and employment opportunities to the least served Haitian communities.

The group battled rainy weather and moved on to St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, a facility that also included an orphanage. “Upon driving through the front gates, I knew this was a very special place,” shares Brad. “A place where children could feel safe, secure and comfortable while getting much needed care.”

From there they headed to St. Luc Family Hospital, the site of the gastroenterology lab that Doc McG built. Brad was impressed. “Here we are in the middle of a third world country and there’s a fully functioning hospital complete with an intensive care unit and operating rooms. It’s incredible to think of all the effort that went in to building such capable facilities where they’re able to treat conditions that previously would have been death sentences.”

The trip ended on a very somber note, the group attended a funeral for several that had passed away the day before. It was an emotionally wrenching experience, but Brad was moved by the respect and honor given to the dead.

Throughout the trip, it seemed as though this father of two young boys was most moved by the children he witnessed and encountered. There was the boy in the slums, playing alone with rocks in the rain. The two small children who interacted with the group and the larger group of children who posed for pictures and followed behind the bus when they left, waving goodbye. And there was the young boy at the orphanage. Brad engaged him by playing an improvised game of catch with a shoe.
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The story is emotional and would be depressing were it not for something else that Brad found on his trip – hope and kindness. “I was overwhelmed with emotion, saddened by the things I’d seen, yet inspired by the acts of kindness and good work that’s been done to change the country for the better.” And he was a part of that good work. In the end, he was able to smile, “knowing there was hope for the future of these resilient people.”

When he is not flying around the world doing good, Brad serves as president of Restaurant Equipment World, a leader in the restaurant equipment sales and installation business for over 35 years. The company is known on an international scale. In fact, it was Brad’s international work that gave rise to another company, Critical Supply World, a general procurement supply company that specializes in quick and reliable delivery to the “most troubled” regions of the world.

To keep up with Brad and his travels, visit his personal blog, Brad in Motion (http://www.bradim.com/).
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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.
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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

spotlight story – donald gibson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

discussion on philanthropy – dr. kathleen plinske

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a closer look – a conversation with dr. joyce romano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

spotlight story – city of life

Our board members’ stories are so interestingly woven into Valencia’s tapestry. They interact with and impact Valencia in many different ways.

Pat Buffa is a long-time foundation board member and has two sons that graduated from the college, but his Valencia story goes deeper than that. A few years ago, we polled board members to see what their first acts of philanthropy and volunteering were. Pat recalled when he was 23 and offered service and charity to an orphanage in Saigon. The reason: “These kids deserved a better fate.” It is a sentiment that has stuck with him through the years and shapes his philanthropy even today.

It was a little over ten years ago, and the college had a new president, Dr. Sandy Shugart. Pat approached Dr. Shugart with an idea of putting together a grass-roots community-action group to assist the child welfare system with the preparation of foster care youth when they turn 18 and have to go out in the world and make it on their own. From that meeting, Valencia became an early partner for City of Life, a 501(c)3 organization focused on the needs of foster youth who “age out” of the system at 18. Says Pat, “Valencia, and in particular Dr. Ruth Prather were instrumental in getting us started and helped us build credibility in the community.”

Dr. Ruth Prather served as campus president at East and Winter Park campuses and she recalls, “In the early days of City of Life, I attended many of Pat’s meetings and had numerous conversations about how Valencia could support the college education of foster children. Education is so important for all young adults in this competitive work world, and most foster children were on their own after high school and had little knowledge of higher education. They needed direction and opportunity. Valencia was a perfect fit to support the education of these youth. We looked at models from other cities and looked at possible grant opportunities. The mission of Valencia and the needs of these young adults were a perfect match. Valencia has always cared greatly about the community we serve, and many of Valencia’s programs and services were already in place to provide support. I invited other Valencia employees to learn about City of Life and the relationships grew. It was important to connect these students and those in the community who work with foster children to learn about Valencia and for Valencia to learn about the needs of foster children.”

So what exactly happens when a youth in foster care turns 18? Bethanie Barber, Esq., Guardian ad Litem program litigation coordinator at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County Bar Association, provides us with some background: “Most youth who ‘age out’ of foster care are generally eligible for financial assistance, but the assistance is tied to their educational and career goals. Youth who ‘age out’ of foster care are eligible for exemption from paying tuition and fees at a Florida public state university, public Florida College System institution or public postsecondary career and technical program. This exemption remains valid until the young person reaches the age of 28. It allows youth to receive an undergraduate degree.”

Allan Chernoff, executive director at City of Life, explains that these young people face a roadblock when they “age out.” The best case scenario is if the young person is in school and has a job, but all too many of these children are turning 18 with no high school degree, no job, and no plans for higher education. This is a group without a support system, lacking not only the plan to get a college degree, but also needing guidance on even reaching out and exploring opportunities. These young people come out of the system with no birth certificate, nowhere to live. When faced with these daily struggles, getting an education can seem like an insurmountable task.

And so City of Life is hard at work today, leveraging community resources to make a difference in the lives of these young people. City of Life currently leads a community coalition of partners that includes case management organizations and many other organizations. In addition to Valencia, Westside Tech is an educational resource and offers tours to prospective students. The Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Guardian ad Litem program, Workforce Central Florida, all work together to provide these young people with a hand up and a good start. When 11 young people did not have the appropriate identification, City of Life partnered with IDignity and got seven of them the paperwork needed.

In support of City of Life, Valencia recently held a tour on West Campus to highlight the nursing program. Pat Buffa reports that “Valencia got special compliments not only for this visit but also for the positive attitude Valencia staff has demonstrated to the DCF folks who have interfaced with Valencia over the past number of years.”

Deb Spaulding, senior instructional assistant for Valencia's nursing program, leads the City of Life tour.

Deb Spaulding, senior instructional assistant for Valencia’s nursing program, leads the City of Life tour.

Foundation staff were present and encouraged the young people to apply for scholarships. Even if they receive a subsidy for tuition expenses, scholarships can help to pay for the cost of textbooks and supplies.

Foundation board members and Dr. Louise Pitts, retired Valencia dean of health sciences, were also at the tour. We share some of Dr. Pitts’ insights in the nursing article below. Deb Spaulding and Nicole Witek served as great ambassadors for the nursing program, and a very special thank you to Angie Riquelme who coordinated the effort!

And because of that tour, something amazing happened – a connection was made, an interest in higher education was sparked. One of the students followed up with the foundation to get more information on financial aid and scholarships. We hope to keep you posted on this young lady’s journey. And remember, when you donate to the foundation, you are helping make those connections, helping to ignite a spark that can truly make a difference in someone’s future.

For more information on City of Life, visit http://cityoflifeorlando.org/

philanthropy – different definitions, same message

For this month’s conversation, we will check in with Betty Palmer and Michael McLaughlin and get their thoughts on philanthropy and giving.

Betty Palmer is a Valencia retiree, alumni and scholarship donor. In words, her definition of philanthropy is a combination of financial contributions and time. Her actions support that and more, so let’s take a look at some of her good work.
Her first encounter with Valencia was attending lectures and workshops at the Center for Continuing Education for Women at the downtown Orlando location. She began working for the college and retired in 2002 after “26 wonderful years.”

A graduate in 1980, she has been active on the board of the alumni association. While she was a student, she served as president of the Winter Park chapter of Professional Secretaries International. Her chapter, with the help of Dr. Michael Hooks, then a dean at the college, presented a proposal to the college trustees that would allow the college to grant college credits in certain curriculum areas for a student pursuing an AA or AS degree after successfully passing the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) Examination. Betty herself was the first student at Valencia to utilize the CPS rating toward her AS and AA degrees.

Betty strongly believes in the community college system providing education to a diverse population of students. In that spirit, she endowed two scholarships: the Betty House Palmer Scholarship and the Gera Lee Wilson Scholarship for a Valencia student attending Rollins College. Of her scholarships, she shares, “I feel staying connected is an important part of life because I can continue interacting with students who can use some financial help.”

Betty is pictured with the Rev. Eric Turner and Bishop Gregory O. Brewer.

Betty is pictured with the Rev. Eric Turner and Bishop Gregory O. Brewer.

Her commitment to help those around her extends beyond Valencia. She serves as parliamentarian for the Palm Bay Garden Club and Friends of the Library Association. She currently serves as the Episcopal Church Women Southeast deanery director and also participates in the Family Promises Group, pastoral care, Missions Resource Team and is a facilitator for Stephen Ministry. She served two terms as vice president on the Episcopal Church Women Board, Central Florida Diocese and was selected to be their Distinguished Woman of the Year, honored at the triennial convention in Indianapolis last year.

Thank you Betty for continuing to give back to Valencia and our community!

For Michael McLaughlin, his first connection to Valencia was as a student. “The Valencia experience for me was extraordinary and gave me the opportunity to really learn. I appreciated the intimate class size with professors who knew who I was and cared that I was grasping the content.”

Today, Michael serves as president of the leadership board for Valencia’s alumni association, as well as serving on the foundation’s board of directors.

Michael McLaughlin

Michael McLaughlin

Philanthropy and service are a part of his daily life, serving as the senior manager of corporate relations at Heart of Florida United Way. He works with United Way’s partners to provide support to address Central Florida’s pressing issues such as poverty, homelessness, low graduation rates and other serious problems.

When asked about his definition of philanthropy, Michael reflects on a quote that embodies what he hopes to achieve in his giving, work and volunteerism: I shall pass through this way but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. For Michael, “It is about doing what you can, when you can, to make a difference.”

Michael offers more wonderful insight on why it is important to support Valencia scholarships: “The most rewarding parts of my current connections to Valencia are hearing stories of students who are looking to learn more and do more. It is inspiring to see how motivated many of our students are to tackle the challenges that life throws their way. They come to Valencia committed to getting a great education. I’m continually impressed with the goals they are setting for themselves and the achievements that they are making. Providing students with better opportunities through Valencia scholarships is an honor and a true investment in the future.”

Well said, Michael! We will check in with a few more of our friends in the next issue.

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.