A Valencia Welcome for the President of the United States

Friday, March 21, 2014

It was my pleasure to have welcomed President Barack Obama to Valencia College on March 20, where he kicked off the first of five regional summits on women’s issues.

During his visit, the president was keenly interested in hearing first-hand from working students and women who have returned to college seeking greater income-earning opportunities for themselves and their families. In addition to addressing a crowd of 300 students, faculty, staff and invited guests, the president met with a small group that included culinary student Carolyn Verno, Valencia West Campus President Falecia Williams, and Lynn Desjarlais, an adviser who works with students in Valencia’s Hospitality and Culinary program. Verno graduated from high school in 2007 and worked in retail in what she describes as “a dead-end” job. Discouraged by the low pay, she enrolled in Valencia in 2012 and will soon graduate, with the prospect of almost doubling her income once employed.

We were happy to be joined that day by Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin, and Congressman Alan Grayson. While the event was not open to the public, video can be viewed here and photos are also available.

In 2010, at a White House Summit of Community Colleges, President Obama announced the new Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which he hoped would shine a spotlight on community colleges truly delivering exceptional results, yet seldom getting accolades for it. The next year, in December 2011, Valencia was named the first winner of the Aspen Prize from a pool of more than 1,000 community colleges.

It is a tribute to our students, faculty, and staff that President Obama recognizes that Valencia is at the forefront of higher education’s greatest challenges and opportunities. I share the pride of our whole team in Valencia is being showcased, once again, on a national stage.

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