Alumni Update from Cece Burns, ’13

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

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

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

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

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

Check out Cece’s story here

 

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valencia alum louis gray ’98 making a difference

From “the Projects” to Gray’s Project: A Profile of Louis Gray
By Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications

Louis Gray is the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships “go-to” person in USF Registrar’s Office, helping OCEP fulfill its mission to support the service-learning curriculum on campus. Gray, the Registrar’s Office’s Academic Services Administrator, has been working behind the scenes, under the leadership of his supervisor Tony Embry and USF Registrar Angela Debose, coding each service-learning class offered on campus in Banner, the university’s administrative information system.

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Once the courses are coded, students are able to easily find service-learning offerings in OASIS; and OCEP can calculate the number of service-learning course sections and students enrolled. During the last academic school year, there were 188 sections of service-learning courses coded in the system, and over 4,000 students enrolled in these courses, which is a significant increase thanks to outreach efforts by OCEP and the Registrar’s Office.

And, it is no surprise that OCEP can count on Gray to help with these efforts, because he “gets it,” and he lives it. A natural connector, Gray said, “I’m the type to bring the community together.”

To that end, Gray started a Tampa-based nonprofit called G.R.A.Y.S. Project Inc. (Granting At-Risk Adolescents and Youth Sustainability), to provide the kind of support system for young people that he wished he had growing up in the Lake Mann Housing Project in Orlando.
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Through his eponymous nonprofit, Gray devotes evenings and weekends to tutoring young people of all ages with their schoolwork and to helping high school students with their college entrance exam preparation. Gray’s Project also partners with Second Chance Center for Boys & G3 Life Applications to provide tutoring, life coaching, and ACT Test prep to the local high school students.

Soon, he plans to expand the reach of Gray’s Project to Orlando to strengthen his partnership with Orlando’s Parramore Kidz Zone, one of eleven sites to receive a Promise Neighborhood Grant through the National League of Cities, in conjunction with the White House’s black male achievement initiative. Parramore Kidz Zone is a model program in an historically black neighborhood that has been making a difference. Additionally, the local Housing Authority has requested that he return to his roots in Lake Mann to tutor and mentor the youngest residents at its onsite Kids Café.

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(USF student volunteers with Gray’s Project)

He mused, “the projects…think about that word,” while remembering his childhood in Lake Mann.  His first eighteen years living in government-subsidized housing, often referred to as “the projects,” was challenging. There was a police presence there, but he called it a “mirage.” He said, it was more about “getting to know you to arrest you,” than to protect and serve the residents.

Gray’s work is completely self-funded, but he also relies on the help of others to keep his programs going. “When you give, give, give, people go above and beyond.”

Gray has enlisted a corps of volunteers, including twelve USF students and ten working professionals, to tutor and mentor young people.

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(Gray’s parents)

He credits his parents with giving him the support and structure that kept him on the forward trajectory that eventually led him to earning his MBA and working in academia. He said, “Family is key. Studies show family support and structure in the house [determine whether] you succeed or fail in life.”

He said that his father, who worked as a sharecropper as a child and drove a truck throughout his adult life, was home every night with his ten children. Gray’s dad told his son stories of working hard in the fields, only to get “scraps” from the owners of the farm. This made him wary of the predatory lending schemes often marketed to minority communities and informed his decision to raise his family in government-subsidized housing.

Gray is the youngest and his family refers to him as “baby boy.” He said, “We had to be in the house by the time the street lights came on or we would get in trouble.” He said that his father was both stern and playful with the large and loving family.

His mother, who worked as a housekeeper, and his father valued family dinners, getting eight hours of sleep, and a nutritious breakfast every morning before school. He said that wasn’t the case for many of his contemporaries who were often allowed to stay out late and/or would go to school hungry, which made it difficult for them to concentrate in school.

As part of his school district’s efforts to integrate the local school system, Gray attended middle school eight miles away and high school ten miles away from his home. He said, “I really think it was successful. It broke down a lot of barriers, [e.g.,] how you relate to different races as you get older.”

He was an enterprising young person, starting a small candy store and a cookie and juice stand marketed to other children. He believes he had an “internal drive to overcome his situation.”

Even with his family’s support, however, he realizes that in many ways the deck was stacked against him. He said that his lens was always “that’s just the way it is.”

After graduating from high school, he said he “stumbled across a job at Valencia Community College delivering mail from campus to campus.” He got free tuition, so he started taking one or two classes at a time over a fourteen-year period and obtained an Associate of Arts degree. Then, he completed his Bachelor of Arts at Columbia College, Orlando branch, and went on to earn an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management, while working in different administrative roles at Valencia Community College. In 2012, shortly before finishing his MBA, he began working at USF.

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Gray said he has seen “so many struggles in our country and how people just gave up and settled.” Gray’s Project, he said, is designed “to uplift, give promise and hope to all individuals.”

“I look like them,” he said; and he tells them, “I’m from where you are.” He hopes to inspire young people, “not to say, look at me, I’ve got so much, but [to show] what you can be if you stay focused.”

Gray takes time away from his own family to work with local children, which can be difficult. But as soon as he reaches them, and connects with them, it makes it worthwhile. When they ask, “Mr. Louis, are you coming back next Saturday?” he knows he is making a difference in their lives.

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In addition to his work mentoring and tutoring, Gray educates young people about the “school-to-prison pipeline.” When children are expelled, the rate of those going to prison increases tremendously. He said that he wants young people to be aware that they need to be very careful; because discipline can be meted out in a biased way impacting minority communities.

Gray is also very active on campus, including serving as the Vice Chair of the Student and Presidential Advisory Committee on Black Affairs (COBA), which advises the President on matters affecting Black faculty, staff, and students of the University.

In the fall, Gray plans to begin a Post Master’s Leadership in Higher Education graduate certificate with a goal of working toward a PhD.

He will also begin teaching Academic Foundations; and he plans to add a service-learning component into the course. Students will be able to volunteer with Gray’s Project or with the Moffitt Center.

He will incorporate his strong will to persevere into the course. “That will be a story that I can share with incoming students.”

To learn more about how you can get involved, go to Gray’s Project.  For more about the Parramore Kidz Zone, click here.  For more on the school-to-prison pipeline, click here for “Demanding Zero Tolerance for Florida’s School- to-Prison Pipeline.”

 

Faculty and staff giving at Valencia

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

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

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

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

2014 Faculty and Staff Giving Committee Members

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

Scholars, music and scholarships…

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

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

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

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

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

When:  Friday July 25, 2014 at 7 pm

Where:  Valencia College Osceola Campus Building 1 Auditorium

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please check the Rogue Scholars on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/roguescholarsband

Valencia employees give back

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

Scholarships change lives.

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

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

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

Reasons Valencia College employees give where they work:

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

Sharing the Reasons

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

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

 

Valencia employees share “Why I Give Where I Work”

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

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

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

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Gustavo Morales, professor, geology, West Campus:

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

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James Thomas, professor, English, East Campus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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