Collegiate Academy 2020-2021 – A Year of Firsts!

Friday, April 16, 2021

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Every year since 2010, a group of approximately 50 academically advanced Lake Nona High School (LNHS) 10th graders have begun college at Valencia’s Lake Nona Campus. This early enrollment opportunity, called Collegiate Academy (CA), is in partnership with next-door neighbor LNHS. In eighth or ninth grade, LNHS students can apply to the CA, providing evidence of a high GPA and test scores along with multiple teacher recommendations. Students take as a cohort four college classes, two in the fall and two in the spring. Valencia faculty teaching in the program also provide advising and a welcoming introduction to college.

This past fall, students were enrolled with Joy Chambers, part-time faculty, NSE and CA coordinator, and Nicole Marsh, professor, speech, for fundamentals of speech. This spring, students are enjoying learning about environmental science with Rick Snyder, part-time faculty, geology, and exploring the humanities with Joseph Mifsud, part-time faculty, history. In addition to their class meetings, students in CA participate in a required weekly Friday workshop to introduce them to the people, places and resources of Valencia, teaching skills they will need for future college success.

When the pandemic hit in spring 2020, CA was already accepting applications for the coming year. Uncertain what 2020-2021 would look like, CA leaders faced a summer of planning for “firsts.” From the application process to courses to Friday workshops, all would transition online. While this school year has been a challenge for all new Valencia students who wanted to be on campus, these 10th graders have risen to the occasion. They pictured themselves in college classrooms daily, meeting professors and getting exposure to college life. How could Valencia make the same valuable experience for them without being on site?

In spring 2020, the annual welcome meeting became a “first,” with a live Zoom gathering, a pictorial tour, a PowerPoint presentation and encouragement from a former CA student.

In August 2020, the two-day CA orientation usually conducted the week before the fall semester classes became another “first,” with a virtual orientation module in Canvas. It involved video introductions of Lake Nona personnel, a virtual tour of the facilities and a recorded discussion among previous CA students. With that, CA was off to another “first,” with all courses online. Many students were taking high school classes online as well. Collegiate Academy Fridays, a Canvas Course, was developed as a weekly interactive set of modules, re-creating many of our Friday workshops and activities. Though it has been a challenging year, 52 new 10th grade CA students have embraced the “firsts!”

This spring 2021, of the 69 LNHS students graduating with their Associate in Arts from Valencia College, 33 are CA students who began with us in 2018. CA is especially grateful to the four Valencia professors and many employees who have contributed to making this “year of firsts” a success for our CA students. If you have questions about the Collegiate Academy, you can reach out to Collegiate Academy Coordinator Joy Chambers and Collegiate Academy Administrator and Campus Manager Jonathan Hernandez.

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