By Dani Moritz-Long
Career Advisor Cassandra Haley believes that God has a divine plan for all of us — a path perfectly suited for our needs, talents and values. In her case, she says God’s plan for her is to make a difference in others’ lives, which makes her role at Valencia the perfect profession.
“I feel in my heart that working at Valencia allows me to connect with and serve my neighbors and my community to make a difference in their lives,” she said. “Sometimes all it takes is to listen carefully to their stories and concerns to provide reliable resources to them. I describe my job as a light that will guide their steps during their journey through Valencia and beyond.”
Specifically, Cassandra’s role, which she’s held for 13 years, is to empower students to dream up and execute their career and life ambitions — whether that means facilitating conversations about career exploration or helping students develop a pathway to achieving a life-long dream.
For one student in particular, that meant helping her gain experience in nursing to decide whether or not that was the right career for her. While in this student’s case it turned out that plan B (health services administration) was a better fit, Cassandra was happy to help the student in the discovery process.
Recalling that student, Cassandra said, “Later on, she transferred to the University of Central Florida and, believe it or not, when it was my time for my annual medical check-up at the hospital, guess who was there assisting the patients with paperwork and records? It was her! She was so happy to see me and was very grateful for attending Valencia and being able to discover her true career path. It feels great to see our students achieving their goals and knowing that we all played an important role in their lives.”
In addition to career advising, you can find Cassandra, who has a bachelor’s degree in human resources and management, participating in an array of other Valencia activities — from mentoring English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and New Student Experience (NSE) faculty, inspiring NSE students with career development presentations and consultations, creating Career Center special events and an array of other career-oriented activities.
Clearly, she finds no shortage of inspiration at the College.
“It is amazing to see so many people working together with one common purpose,” she said. “You feel great at the end of the day because you have helped so many lives.”
What inspires her most, she says, is her colleagues’ dedication.
“We all know that our main job is to remove barriers for everyone,” she said. “No matter who the student is or where they are from, we all serve them with respect and enthusiasm.”
Likewise, Cassandra’s colleagues deeply appreciate her dedication and passion for transforming lives at Valencia.
“She has been with Valencia for many years, and you can truly see that she loves what she does,” shared Laura Skelton, staff assistant II. “Students often come back to our office asking to speak to her, as they feel comfortable with her and know that she is looking out for their best interests. Cassandra shows her students just as much care as she would with her children.”
Career Development Services Coordinator Cindy Oakley added, “She has a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to share with students. She is a lifelong learner who takes every opportunity for professional development. From assisting students in career exploration to coaching them in developing their employment readiness skills, Cassandra is dedicated in helping students along their career journey. Students return to see her throughout their college years because she relates well with them and is so dedicated to giving them the tools to help them succeed. In fact, when Cassandra was a student, she moved to Florida from Puerto Rico, so she encountered some of the challenges and language barriers that transfer students may experience firsthand. In addition to advising, she delivers creative and engaging presentations to students in the EAP and the STEM program each semester. Our entire staff agrees that Cassandra’s positive attitude and delightful sense of humor make her a joy to work with.”
In Cassandra’s free time, you can find her watching her children on the soccer field, hitting the beach with her family and participating in church activities, like EMAUS, which is a Catholic women’s group that coordinates retreats and helps feed the homeless.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.