Bridges to Success Hosts Second Night of Distinction

Valencia College’s Bridges to Success (BTS) program held its second Night of Distinction Award Ceremony on Thursday, November 7, 2019, on the West Campus. This event recognized individuals, including former Bridges scholars, for their accomplishments in their career fields and significant contributions to their community.

Award honorees included:

  • For Public Service/Law Enforcement, Jerry Demings, Orange County mayor, who is the first African American to serve in the role.
  • For Community Outreach, Monica May, host of the Tom Joyner Show, as well as news/community affairs director at STAR 94.5.
  • For Business/Entrepreneur, Casey Preston, a former Bridges scholar who is the co-owner of The District Gastrobar, one of the newest establishes in Downtown Orlando.
  • For Health Science, Rachel Appoo, a former Bridges scholar, who is a family nurse practitioner for the Orlando Health Urology Group.
  • For Law Enforcement, Eric McIntyre, the lieutenant of the Eatonville Police Department.
  • For Legal, Wendy Toscano, Valencia’s professor, paralegal studies, who prior to her role at the College, served as general counsel for Central Florida Educator’s Federal Credit Union.

The Bridges team added a new category this year, the Ones to Watch: Next Generation Award, which recognizes individuals, including BTS alumni, who are emerging leaders and have already made an impact in their field of study or the community. Recipients included:

  • Fanzo Chery, a former Bridges scholar who is a motivational speaker, mentor and social media influencer devoted to making an impact through his speaking.
  • Adolfo Alvarado, a former Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) scholar, who now works for Kennedy Space Center for the Launch Services Program and a part of the Flight Structures Branch.

This year’s Exemplary Community Service Partner Award went to AdventHealth. This award was established to honor one of our community partners for its outstanding work with individuals and families and the greater community, and for its contribution to the growth of Valencia/BTS students by providing volunteer and educational opportunities. This award was accepted by Gerry Sanabria, who is the health services manager of AdventHealth.

“The honorees were all uplifting and powerful examples of how one person can make a difference,” shared Gerry Sanabria. “Thank you and Valencia for this award, we will continue to do what we can to assist in your students path to greatness.”

It is evident from the feedback we have received that our students, honorees and attendees enjoyed the evening.

Student and volunteer Destiny Oguike was especially inspired.

“Being able to recognize and celebrate those honorees as individuals who are committed to making a difference in our community made it a marvelous evening,” she said. “For me personally I plan on becoming a nurse practitioner and seeing Nurse Practitioner Rachel Appoo who was recognized as one of the honorees in the field of health inspires me to continue to pursue my degree to the best of my abilities. I believe for other students as well it gives us a glimpse that hard work does pay off, and I am personally grateful to have started my college journey at Valencia College through the Bridges to Success Program that creates activities such as this one where we are able to not only interact and network with our peers but also with professionals within our desired profession.”

She added, “With the conclusion of the event, I left feeling encouraged and empowered to dive into my profession and create work that will impact the community positively, and maybe someday I can be recognized as an honoree.”

Thank you to the many employees involved to make this a successful program.


  • Nicholle Trapp said:

    Congratulations to Dr. Carter and the Bridges to Success team for such an amazing event!!! It looks and sounds like students were inspired and empowered hearing from and meeting some of our community leaders and influencers! The the Ones to Watch: Next Generation Award is such a great idea, gives current students hope to see that their success matters to us after they've graduated.

    PMTue, 19 Nov 2019 15:43:52 +0000Tue, 19 Nov 2019 15:43:52 +0000pm19,3:43 pm

  • Stanton said:

    Congrats Bridges to Success team! Keep on raising the bar.

    PMTue, 19 Nov 2019 18:47:44 +0000Tue, 19 Nov 2019 18:47:44 +0000pm19,6:47 pm

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