A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola and Lake Nona Campuses
Please join me in congratulating Emmy Torres who was selected as the Valencia Alumni Association’s Mary Smedley Collier Distinguished Graduate for 2016. Emmy is a student at the Osceola Campus, serves as the vice president of the Osceola Student Government Association and as a staff assistant I in our Internship and Workforce Services Office.
When Emmy graduates this spring with an Associate in Arts, the commencement ceremony will be extra special for her and her family (and not just because she will be the speaker). As a high school student, Emmy became pregnant and dropped out. While raising her son, she emphasized the importance of education, while keeping the fact that she had dropped out from high school a secret from him. When her son was in his senior year of high school, Emmy decided she could no longer keep her “secret” from him; she revealed to him that she was a high school dropout. While her son was incredibly disappointed, he insisted that she complete her GED so that they could graduate from high school together.
In order to graduate from high school at the same time as her son, Emmy needed to complete a six-month GED refresher course in only two months. While working full time, Emmy did so at East Area Adult School in Auburndale, successfully passing the GED exam and earning her high school diploma. When she received her diploma, she immediately called her father to celebrate. She also made a copy of her newly minted high school diploma and sent it to her mother in Puerto Rico to show her that, albeit 17 years later, she had indeed reached her goal. Unfortunately, because she was concerned that graduation photos might appear in the newspaper, Emmy chose not to participate in her GED graduation ceremony, because she did not want to reveal her “secret” to her employer. Instead, she celebrated vicariously through her son’s high school graduation ceremony. While she was not able to don her cap and gown or move her tassel from right to left, she was able to exclaim with her son, “We did it!”
After completing her GED in 2013, Emmy decided that nothing could stop her academic momentum. She enrolled at Valencia in fall 2013, and this May, Emmy will finally have the opportunity to participate in her own commencement ceremony, this time as a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious honor society for two-year college students, and as Valencia’s Distinguished Graduate.
Congratulations, Emmy! We are so very proud of you!!