Honoring our Graduates’ Dreams

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Commencement–my favorite day of the academic year–was Saturday, May 7 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. We had a wonderful speaker in our distinguished graduate, Steven Crist.

This will be our final commencement as Valencia “Community” College and we tried to make the occasion feel special to our graduates, including a very interesting Lynx “busboard” which was parked just outside the arena and was emblazoned with the names of all 7,192 graduates.

And this year’s graduating class is doing a fundraiser to endow a scholarship–very commendable. By texting the words “VALENCIA” TO 20222, you can make a $10 donation to the scholarship fund through May 15.

Commencement reminds me that for all the challenges our community and our neighbors have faced in recent years, Valencia is still a place that can deliver dreams to our students, if they are willing to work hard in partnership with us.

Just recently, I had an unannounced visit from an alumnus I hadn’t heard from in a couple of years. He came to invite me to his graduation at USF where he was to receive a Masters in Architecture.

He represents who we are now in so many ways–family from Haiti, where he hopes to return and make a difference some day; highly unlikely first-generation college student, urging his six siblings to come to Valencia; challenged initially by math, but able to overcome it and flourish with the help of several key professors and tutors; completing a program in a pathway almost unheard of for a community college student; ready to go to work now…and still facing challenges, but with the confidence that he can persist and ultimately succeed–a truth about himself he learned while at Valencia.

For his dream, and for all the other dreams we saw sparkling in black and gold regalia on Saturday, thank you!

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