A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost
In this February 2019 Provost Update, I welcome our new Vice President of Academic Affairs Isis Artze-Vega, provide an update on our search for our new vice president of student affairs and share upcoming conversations on student learning outcomes, pre-majors and a collegewide model for the Honors program.
Welcome to Isis Artze-Vega, Our New Vice President of Academic Affairs
I am delighted to share that Isis Artze-Vega started as Valencia College’s vice president of academic affairs earlier this month. Isis comes to us from Florida International University (FIU), where she served as the assistant vice president for teaching and learning. Prior to joining FIU, Isis taught English Composition at the University of Miami. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and French from Duke University, a Master of Arts in literature from the University of Miami and a Doctorate of Education in higher education leadership from the University of Miami. To read Isis’ full biography, click here.
Update on Our Search for Our New Vice President of Student Affairs
We received more than 300 applications for the position of vice president of student affairs and are pleased with the depth of the applicant pool. The search committee is currently in the process of reviewing HireVue submissions from 36 applicants, and we expect to schedule finalist interviews in late March or early April. You will have the opportunity to meet our finalists for the position during campus forums that will be scheduled at our East, Lake Nona, Osceola, Poinciana, West and Winter Park Campuses — stay tuned for a more detailed schedule in the next few weeks.
Thanks to the more than 250 of you who participated in Big Meeting on Friday, February 8, 2019. At Big Meeting, we heard from our six Insight Teams who have been exploring some of the hypotheses that we generated together about the conditions that affect student learning and student outcomes at Valencia. At the next Learning Council meeting on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, we will review the feedback collected at Big Meeting and outline our next steps related to changing the conditions that affect student learning and student outcomes so that more students can experience success at Valencia.
You may remember that in December, students who had selected a pre-major received notification that their program of study had been updated to AA-General. This spring, we’ll convene a collaborative process to review our pre-majors, transfer plans, degree maps, academic blueprints and other tools that we have developed to better understand what model will work best for our students. Faculty and staff will be invited to participate in this design process — please be on the lookout for more information in an upcoming email.
As we look to develop a coordinated, collegewide model for Honors with local campus expressions, Robyn Brighton, director, curriculum initiatives, will convene conversations this spring to gather feedback about the elements of our Honors program that must be consistent across all of our campuses, as well as formulate a vision for the design of a new Honors model by which campuses can propose their own unique expressions of the Honors program. You can expect to see an invitation from Robyn within the next few weeks.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost
Isis Artze-Vega, Ed.D., Valencia College’s new vice president of academic affairs, comes to us from Florida International University (FIU), where she served as the first assistant vice president for teaching and learning. This role entailed oversight of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, including an embedded Online and Hybrid Teaching and Learning team, Writing Across the Curriculum and academic integrity initiatives.
Through cross-disciplinary and unit working teams, she provided leadership for university-wide teaching and learning initiatives, including a multi-year, comprehensive Gateway Project, funded with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU); a Provost Hybrid initiative; and the redesign of teaching evaluation. Isis provided leadership during two strategic planning cycles, facilitating five BeyondPossible2020 Strategic Plan Advancing Student Success and Career Integration subcommittees. She also partnered frequently with FIU’s development efforts to build relationships and secure external funding, most recently, a Mellon Foundation grant to support teaching and learning in the humanities.
Isis serves as a fellow with the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, supporting gateway faculty development and analytics in teaching and learning projects, and serves on a Lumina Foundation National Advisory Council on quality credentials.
Prior to joining FIU, Isis taught English Composition at the University of Miami (UM) and later taught Enrollment Management in UM’s School of Education and Human Development. She is a scholar of English composition and educational development.
As an active member of the national educational development community, she currently serves on the board of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network. Most importantly, she is the proud wife of visual artist Sinuhe Vega; the proud mami of Kamilah, 13, and Delilah, 11; and forever indebted to extraordinary parents, Mayra and Elias.
A Message from Laura Blasi, Director, Institutional Evaluation
Valencia College students will once again participate in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) when course sections are randomly selected by the CCSSE researchers. The surveys will be administered on paper by proctors, who visit and direct students following a script during class-times scheduled in advance with instructors by campus coordinators. To learn more about the 2019 CCSSE, click here.
CCSSE results are used to inform evaluations across campuses, support grant proposals and track changes in student attitudes and experiences over time. Since we’ve started administering the CCSSE, we have used the information to make informed decisions about improving students’ perspectives at Valencia. Here are just a few of those examples:
African-American Males and Study Time Faculty and staff reviewed the 2017 student responses to the survey question that asked: “How much does Valencia encourage you to spend significant amounts of time studying?” They learned that 87 percent of African-American males on West Campus reported very much or quite a bit when asked that question, compared to 74 percent on East Campus and 71 percent on Osceola Campus. This may mean that outreach strategies from the West Campus may be useful for the other campuses.
Low GPAs and Course Withdrawal From an analysis of 2015 CCSSE data, we know if students’ term GPA is less than 2.0, they will likely withdraw within one year, even though, when they take the survey, they tell us they are not likely to withdraw. These students do not seem to be aware of this risk even when taking the CCSSE survey at the end of the semester when they should be aware of their low-term GPA. This may mean that students need to be more self-aware and better informed with prompt feedback including information about consequences.
Attendance and Assignments Student behaviors related to attendance and assignments remain at the same percentage over several years (CCSSE 2015 and CCSSE 2017). For example, 69 percent of our students report they come to class without completing assignments, and 48 percent of students say they skip class sometimes, often or very often. It is possible that change will be documented over time in subsequent CCSSE administrations, but, for now, we know that assignment preparation and stressing the importance of attendance are important messages to share in our New Student Experience course.
Lab Use of African-American and Hispanic Males and Non-native English Speakers
On the West Campus, African-American and Hispanic males and all non-native English speakers report visiting skill labs more often than those on the other campuses. On East Campus, African-American and Hispanic males more often report using tutoring when their responses are compared to students at the other campuses.
Non-native English speakers most often report being encouraged to spend significant amounts of time studying on Osceola Campus. They also more frequently report using tutoring on the Osceola Campus than those on the other campuses.
Modeling the outreach strategies from campuses with the highest percentage of use may be helpful on the other campuses.
Most students come to college with some kind of trauma. It isn’t a unique phenomenon to Valencia College, but a pervasive truth that affects students across the country, even around the globe. For some students, that trauma stems from years of repressed anxiety and depression. For others, it’s a result of socioeconomic status or disparities faced based on race, gender, religion or sexuality. In recent years, Lianna McGowan, faculty, New Student Experience (NSE), explains that far too many students face trauma from the gun violence perpetrated at Pulse and, just over a year ago, at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
All of these traumas, which weaken students’ feelings of safety and security, undermine their ability to learn. Sometimes, they manifest as a reluctance to engage in or even attend classes. Sometimes, shared traumas — like racial disparities — lead to the achievement gaps that Valencia has devoted itself to eliminating. In the case of trauma at the hands of violence, Lianna says she often notices these students seat themselves near a window and frequently avoid being too close to a door, and they — understandably — struggle to open up to their classmates.
An educator at Valencia for five years, Lianna knows it’s paramount that teachers acknowledge these traumas and their impact on students’ ability to learn, as well as create an inclusive community that promotes safety, confidence and self-awareness.
In doing so, Lianna relies on the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) Principles for How We Treat Each Other, which are embedded in her syllabus and used to preface class discussions and activities — effectively promoting key PJI ideals that encourage students to speak their truth, create a hospitable and accountable community, suspend judgment and so much more.
Embedding these principles in activities like ice breakers, journaling sessions, serial testimonies and other reflective assignments gives Lianna’s students an opportunity to actively create a hospitable learning community, forge relationships and transform the principles from theory into actual, real-world practice, which better equips students to manage the internal, interpersonal and social conflict they’re likely to experience in higher education and beyond.
“When a student has been affected by something traumatic, when they feel they can share that with a group of people from a personal perspective and talk about their shared experience, I think that’s going to help the student become more successful as a student, because they have let that come to the classroom,” Lianna explained. “For me, it’s the personal story — students being empowered to share that.”
Lianna has experienced the power of personal stories in her classroom and witnessed countless transformations as a result of those stories being shared.
“Students have shared with me that this has changed the trajectory of their lives — that they came to Valencia with a story that was no longer serving them, and this class showed them that they can have a new story. They don’t have to be the same person as when they came in.”
For example, she’s had students who decided to go to rehab after taking the class; she’s had students change their major after they had the opportunity to re-evaluate their own values and passions. She’s even had students embrace their personal calling to engage in social justice issues, and she’s supported Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students who have navigated immense personal and family challenges in recent years.
“Another example [of the success of integrating PJI into the classroom] is when you see students bring this outside of the classroom when they’re having difficulties with their friends or partners,” Lianna said. “They’ll share, ‘it got really hard and I had to turn to wonder.’ They’re actually using these phrases outside of class. That’s a huge moment, because you know students are doing this in their life and finding it transformational.”
This kind of curriculum based on self-work is a natural fit for NSE courses, which are designed to facilitate the growth our students needs as they enter college, but Lianna believes Valencia faculty should embed PJI into as many courses as possible.
“Once you get involved with PJI, you realize how meaningful it is,” she said. “Sometimes there’s a misconception that it’s too therapeutic or soft, that it’s not academically rigorous. It’s easy to make those assumptions, but we can use this to become better teachers. Whether we’re teaching economics or nursing, our students are human beings [and they can benefit from using these practices]. Any class is going to have a community of learners, so the ways these principles can be used to create that community is endless.”
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.
What happens when one of our students is working on his or her homework at 2 a.m., has a problem grasping the subject matter and the tutoring centers are closed? They can turn to Smarthinking, a 24/7 online support service. And it is quite easy for faculty members to integrate Smarthinking into their curriculum.
Offered on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 1 p.m. and on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, at 3 p.m., Pearson is offering two webinars, called Smarthinking Integrated Tutoring, to provide faculty with strategies on how to weave online tutoring into their curriculum for both online and face-to-face courses.
With online tutoring services from Smarthinking, our students can receive on-demand, individual instruction and support from expert online tutors on subjects that include writing, reading, mathematics, science, business, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Spanish, nursing, allied health, computers and technology. All Smarthinking tutors encourage student-centered learning by helping students think through problems, examine their ideas and improve performance.
To register for the upcoming workshops, click here. After you register, you will receive a confirmation email with information for joining your selected session.
By John Niss, President, Collegewide Faculty Association
It hard to believe that we’re almost at spring break, but the calendar doesn’t lie. Before you know it, we will be at Commencement and then we’ll start the whole thing over again.
I’ve got three big items I would like to make sure faculty are aware of and not coincidentally, Commencement is the first of those. If you have not already done so, please answer the survey from Sonya Joseph, interim vice president, student affairs, and indicate if you will be attending or not. If you will be attending, also indicate which session, and, if needed, order your regalia. If you are not attending and you are on contract for Summer Term A, the standard is that faculty should submit a COA for a half day (3.5 hours).
Speaking of regalia, please only order regalia if you are really going to attend the event. Regalia rental is paid with student activity fees so waste affects students even more directly than waste in other funds. Last year, 360 faculty/staff RSVP’d for the morning ceremony and only 180 attended. The afternoon was even worse with only 87 attendees out of 213 positive responses. At approximately $15 per rental that could be as much as $5,000 wasted. Perhaps not all of the no-shows ordered regalia, but that’s still a whole lot of programming that we cannot deliver to students.
The other impact is that those faculty/staff seats were reserved and so were not available to our graduates. Three-hundred extra seats would go a long way toward not needing three ceremonies to serve our graduates in the near future, not to mention the fact that all those empty seats just looked tacky.
I’ve heard some questions about when faculty with fewer than 26 pay periods will have the option to change their payroll frequency. Please note, first of all, if you like your pay as it is, you can just ignore the upcoming communications. A Qualtrics survey link will be emailed Wednesday, March 27, 2019, and you will receive ample communication about your options. The window for changing your payroll frequency election will close on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Again, if you want a change, submit the electronic form; if you’re happy with what you have, just leave it be.
The third item is just a reminder (I hope) to check out the opportunities for service to the College that you should have seen earlier this week. Full-time faculty should have received an email from me on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, with committees in need of faculty members. In any case, opportunities and links to the nomination forms are below. Nominations will close Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
While all of this work is important, I hope you will consider the big commitment to serve as the Faculty Association vice president and then president. This has been a great experience for me both personally and professionally; the opportunity to be a member of Senior Team over the last two years has dramatically changed my view of the College and our work. And while I seriously miss the student interactions of my regular teaching duties, I must admit that there is a certain charm to a year without grading.
Often, the most powerful educational experiences occur outside of the classroom, which is what makes extracurricular learning experiences so important. Rebecca Newman, professor, mass communication and journalism and Valencia Voice advisor, embraces this fact and was pleased to welcome Orlando City Social Media Manager Ryan Martinez to East Campus for a workshop designed to support Valencia students.
Sponsored by the Valencia Voice and the Valencia Tech Club, the workshop was held on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, and Valencia Voice writers, as well as students from New Media Communication, the Valencia Tech Club and students in other media classes, were encouraged to attend.
According to Rebecca, students learned about the importance of building a portfolio, creating a professional brand and social media presence, as well as building a professional network through volunteer opportunities and industry events.
In summarizing the importance of these types of events, Rebecca says students develop realistic expectations about their careers, as they’re able to connect with people who were once in their shoes.
“They get to know what the expectations of a social media job are,” Rebecca explained. “For example, simply using Instagram or Snapchat does not qualify you for a social media position.”
Likewise, she noted, students learn about the day-to-day requirements of a social media role and how people navigate their careers to achieve aspirational positions.
“Students begin to realize from events like these that the first job is not the dream job; it is a stepping stone to a greater aspiration,” Rebecca said.
A Message from Page Jerzak, Director, Online Teaching and Learning
Canvas has released multiple updates this month. Check out those updates, as well as how to access Canvas help, in these five things to know about Canvas:
1. Final Grade Override in the New Gradebook Instructors can replace a student’s final grade calculated in Canvas with a manually entered grade. This works with courses using the new Gradebook configuration. (See the comparison chart to compare the old and new gradebooks).
2. Reopen Student Assessments and Restrict Results in Quizzes.Next Instructors can now reopen an assessment using the Moderations page. This allows students access to their most recent attempt for that assessment. The assessment timer will resume by using the remaining time from the previous submission.
The Restrict Student Result View option in Quizzes.Next supports additional options to display or hide points, items, questions, responses, correct answers and feedback. Click on or off the ones you want to show students to help them learn from their quiz responses.
3. Canvas Commons Favorites Importing and Filtering Instructors can view and import content from their Commons Favorites list directly in the Rich Content Editor within Canvas now. When searching for new content, make sure to choose content that you can embed within Canvas pages (documents, videos, audio and images).
Filter by “Valencia College” and you will be able to see what local resources we have on the Canvas Commons. You can also now filter Commons resources based on the following categories: most relevant, latest, most favorited and most downloaded. Using these filters can help you quickly narrow down the best resources for your work.
4. Thumbnail Images and Learn More Accessibility Text in the Rich Content Editor When you embed an image into the Rich Content Editor, the Canvas files folder structure will now display a thumbnail image of it. This should help you visualize what the image looks like before you embed it.
When you click on the Accessibility Checker within the Rich Content Editor, the “Learn More” text has been expanded to include a fuller description about the issue. This should help you streamline the changes you may need to make your course fully accessible for all learners.
5. Don’t forget about our many options for Canvas support:
Canvas Essentials course (LTAD 1118; register on the EDGE for the next online courses that run 3/18 – 4/15 or 5/9 – 6/7)
Canvas Help (click on Help on the main left-hand menu when logged into Canvas)
Our Circles of Innovation On-demand course for advanced Canvas topics (PRFC3168) has great upcoming webinars. Registering for the webinars — by clicking on each of the webinar titles below — will also give you access to the resources in the Circles On-demand course. Try a webinar and see what advanced things you can learn to do with Canvas. Webinars include:
Thursday, February 21, 2019, was a proud day for five students as they completed Valencia College’s eighth cohort of the Electronic Board Assembly program.
This 10-week, 250-hour, short-term program provides skill-based training on soldering, wire harnessing and cabling and is designed to prepare students for an entry-level career as an electronic or solder assembler.
“Our students come in without any previous experience with precision measurement, soldering, wire harnessing or cabling,” explained Joe Lamberty, assistant director, Advanced Manufacturing Training Center. “On day one, they begin their OSHA-10 [Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace safety training] certification. They continue their studies with soft-skill training on business ethics and working in a diverse environment, and then they begin hands-on assembly training.”
In addition to the OSHA-10 certification, participants receive four, IPC [the association for circuit board and electronics manufacturing] certifications, all globally recognized within the manufacturing community.
“These certifications provide students with multiple opportunities in the electronics industry,” shared Phil Conduff, instructor, advanced manufacturing, who created the Electronic Board Assembly program and led the five students on their 10-week journey.
Phil explained that companies are waiting for students to complete this program to hire them, as Valencia provides the students with the foundational technical skills they need for an entry-level role. Currently, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Tri-Tech Electronics, Inc., MtronPTI, C4ATS, Kaman Fuzing and Precision Products, Aircraft Engineering and Installation Services, Inc., and Jiracor recruit these students heavily, so much so that a list of these employers are on the classroom board throughout the cohort’s experience.
“And this list of companies will be growing,” Phil explained, “as the program becomes more popular and expands.”
Four of the five students have been interviewed by three of these companies so far. The fifth student is in-demand as well and is considering career opportunities with some of the other program partner companies.
Left to right: Advanced Manufacturing Instructor Phil Conduff, Student Angel Manuel Rivera and Assistant Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Program Ken Lockhart
For example, student Angel Manuel Rivera had two job offers before the program ended. Angel moved to Orlando after Hurricane Maria destroyed his 22-story high-rise home in San Juan.
“I lost everything,” he said.
Fortunately for Angel, when he moved to Orlando for refuge with a friend, his employer, Walmart, allowed him to transfer to a Central Florida store. After some recovery took place in San Juan, he quit his Walmart job to return to his former home.
But to Angel, after he returned to his old stomping grounds, he found that it was no longer fulfilling for him, and he determined that his new home — Orlando — was where he really wanted to be for the next chapter of his life. Two months later, he returned to Central Florida, this time without a job. He attempted to find work in his trained field — makeup artistry — but, at the time, there were no open positions. Then, he discovered Valencia’s Electronic Board Assembly program that could help him quickly find work in a new field. And he’s excited about the new challenge and what’s to come.
“I like working on my own and paying attention to details,” he said. “I think I made a great decision.”
If you’re wondering how a makeup artist turns an electronic assembler, CareerSource Central Florida’s Advanced Manufacturing Career Service Consultant Nikesha King explained to the attendees, “We find that those with artistic backgrounds, as they often like to work with their hands and have excellent attention to detail, make excellent candidates for our Advanced Manufacturing programs. The skills are transferable.”
But, Angel will not be throwing his previous career aside. He’s looking forward to his new manufacturing career with four, 10-hour workdays that will allow him to still pursue his makeup artistry on the weekends, when business is busiest.
Although tuition for the program is $3,500, most students, like Angel, receive a full scholarship from community partners such as CareerSource Central Florida or Lockheed Martin. The average placement rate in jobs for Valencia’s program is nearly 80 percent. Starting salaries range from $11 to $14 per hour, but some are hired as high as $18 per hour.
Between the scholarships, placement rate and starting range, Joe added, “For some of these students, this is a life-changing experience.”
Currently, the Electronic Board Assembly program has been offered at the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and the West Campus. The program will expand to the Downtown Campus as well.
Phil, who was emotionally wrapping up his last class before moving on to new endeavors, left the students with one last word of advice at the end of the celebration. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. As you go out there, get engaged in other courses. You have the foundation and you can grow on that now.”
In 1954, after countless efforts to eradicate school segregation, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case finally ruled segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. Yet, more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruling, communities across the United States — particularly those in the south — continued to resist de-segregation efforts, clinging to long-held racist beliefs and radical ideals regarding race and privilege.
Though now known as a place of diversity and acceptance, Orlando, too, played a role in this dark chapter of American history. In one example of this, when Ed Uhl, vice president of the then-called Martin Company (now Lockheed Martin), approached Orlando Junior College (OJC) with a $1 million-dollar check to fund vocational and technical training programs, OJC refused as the Martin Company’s offer would force the institution to overturn their policy prohibiting minority students and Jews from attending OJC.
And then there was Valencia. Established under the guidance of Valencia Junior College’s first college president, Albert T. Craig, Valencia College opened its doors to those of all races and religious preferences — ushering in a new worldview, when others embraced the destructive and alienating status quo.
“Our College was born in response to there not being education for African-Americans,” explained West and Downtown Campus President Falecia Williams. But, she continued, “our work is not done.”
We may have opened our doors to students of all colors and religious backgrounds, but barriers to success still perpetuate a divide among us — wreaking havoc on the stability of communities and families and enabling a vicious cycle of poverty. That’s why we continue to partner with communities, like Parramore, to build new campuses, break down barriers and enable brighter futures for all. “This is the DNA of Valencia,” Falecia noted.
Below, you’ll find a story of this exact effort — of Valencia’s commitment to serving everyone in our community — as we explain the history behind the development of Valencia’s new Downtown Campus and what makes this campus so important to Central Florida.
Established in the 1880s by former Orlando Mayor and confederate soldier James B. Parramore, Parramore was created as a segregated community to house African-Americans working in white households. Division Street — which, today, serves as a reminder of Parramore’s history — literally divided the downtown community, with whites living on the east side of town and those of color residing on the west side.
Further cementing the divide between whites and African-Americans, most of Parramore’s land was zoned for industrial uses, offering white land owners flexibility in land management, while simultaneously undermining the stability of the African-American residents who resided there. According to the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, Parramore residents were also plagued by infrastructural shortcomings, like unpaved streets and lack of indoor plumbing, long after their white neighbors enjoyed infrastructural enhancements like city-managed water and wastewater services and paved roadways.
The Golden Years Despite its dark beginnings, Parramore’s history hasn’t always been grim. By the early 1900s, Parramore was a prosperous black community, home to booming businesses, like tailors, barber shops and attorneys’ offices, and professional residents, like doctors, educators and creatives.
In 1929, Dr. William Monroe Wells established the Wells Built Hotel — which served as one of the areas only sources of lodging for African-American patrons — before constructing the South Street Casino next door. Unlike casinos of today, the casino served as a community center, and it would become a staple in the Parramore community. Throughout the mid-20th century, the South Street Casino welcomed prominent African-American musicians from Louis Armstrong to B.B King.
Parramore’s entertainment anchor, coupled with profitable business, neighborhood schools and prominent places of worship, contributed to Parramore being the vibrant home of approximately 18,000 residents — despite the community’s disparate roots. Parramore’s Decline Unfortunately, Parramore’s success would soon be shadowed by the post-World War II economy and the subsequent infrastructural changes that once again benefited area whites, while destabilizing communities of color. For example, while funds were channeled into white suburban housing, African-American communities faced discrepant investment, often victim to so-called urban renewal projects that meant demolishing unsightly, but often much-needed, housing projects.
Additionally, the Interstate 4 (I-4) project was constructed in the 1960s through Parramore as to not disturb predominately white communities. The project not only solidified the barrier that separated Parramore from bordering white neighborhoods, but it also led to the destruction of more Parramore homes, businesses and places of worship — in effect, not only demolishing physical structures, but the cultural and social fabric that once connected the neighborhood’s residents, leaders and patrons.
The Parramore Community Neighborhood Plan summarizes further damage to the community: “Already torn by expressway construction, the neighborhood faced encroachment by non-local businesses, government buildings and regional social service agencies. As an example, in the 1980s over 100 homes were demolished to construct the former Amway Arena in what is now the planned Creative Village area. Transformation of the physical landscape, in turn, weakened the more important, intangible, not-so-visible sense of African-American community that had sustained black people through the dehumanizing decades of segregation.”
Adding to the effects of Parramore’s institutionalized decline, the community also mourned the loss of the South Street Casino — once an iconic Parramore monument — and the later abandonment of the Wells Built Hotel (which now operates as a museum).
Parramore Today This steep economic decline — a result of years of systemic racism — eventually resulted in loss of population, decreased personal economic and career outlook and increased crime. Per the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, in 2015 the once thriving city had a 23.8 percent unemployment rate (when most of Orlando’s unemployment rate hovers under 3 percent) and a $15,493 medium household income (compared to $42,418 in Orlando). Also, in 2015, one in five Parrramore homes stood vacant.
But, Dr. Williams, who also serves Parramore as a pastor for the Hurst Chapel in Parramore, notes that in many ways Parramore is very much the same place it once was, strengthened by community, faith and perseverance.
“Parramore is strong and resilient,” she said. “We are achievers and overcomers.”
That’s why, despite years of neglect, the community, in many ways, continues to thrive through cultural efforts like the establishment of the Wells Built Museum and the refurbishment of Z.L. Riley Park (named after a 1950s Parramore businessman, Zellie L. Riley, who founded the Negro Chamber of Commerce, now the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida). The community has also retained its focus on its children, with a special focus on Parramore schools, like Parramore Kidz Zone, the recently-opened Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) and Jones High School.
A Community’s Rebirth
The Parramore community’s commitment to education is also where Valencia College and the University of Central Florida come in. Part of a broader effort to revitalize Parramore, Valencia and UCF have joined Parramore leaders and residents to support residents’ goals, all of which fall under five, key pillars: health, jobs and employment, affordable housing, safety, and education.
“Education was considered a catalyst most ready to be deployed as a functional strategy,” Dr. Williams commented, regarding the establishment of the new Downtown Campus. Continuing, she explained, “We know that higher education has the transformative impact for middle and upper-level classes … but can we do the same thing in the bottom quartile?”
This is the question Valencia seeks to answer, and hopefully with a definitive yes. By building a campus while supporting other functional goals of Parramore residents through the Parramore Community Engagement Council, Valencia aims to support Parramore former and current residents. This will be accomplished via short-term training, through programs like Valencia’s Accelerated Skills Training programs, that will quickly provide income stability, as well as through a long-term, cradle-to-career strategy that will deeply ingrain educational aspirations for new generations, who will now have access and visibility to a thriving educational ecosystem right in their backyard.
Together, as one community, Valencia looks forward to the future of Parramore, the return to its vibrant roots and the continued contributions of those who call Parramore home.