By Stephanie McMillen
Celeste Henry, counselor on the Osceola Campus, is approaching the 37th year of her career in education. “It’s hard for me to believe,” she said, reminiscing about the road that brought her here.
Celeste explained that she was “always very curious about the world of work, and had an intuitive knowing at an early age that I would be involved in the education arena in some way.”
As a child, she would interview relatives and neighbors, asking what they did for a living, how they liked it and if they would change their livelihood given the opportunity. “Looking back, I could have been a Junior Reporter for Studs Terkel as he drafted his book ‘Working,’” Celeste said.
Celeste’s first job in education came to her when she was an undergraduate, art education student at the University of Wisconsin (UW). Early on, she secured a student employment position in the office of the president of the UW system.
“I used to pinch myself,” she exclaimed. Working for the president of such a large educational system, with its 13, four-year institutions and 13, two-year institutions, was a bit scary for Celeste to say the least.
“My little world exploded – you can imagine,” she said. In this position, Celeste was able to fulfill her need for learning about others’ career paths and was even able to speak with and interview people from all over the world. This opportunity only solidified her desire to pursue a career in education and so, after completing her bachelor’s degree, Celeste went on pursue a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate in education.
Prior to joining Valencia in 2007, Celeste had wide variety of educational experiences in the K-12 setting, as well as in public and private higher education institutions. “My career journey has found me wearing different hats,” Celeste explained. She has served in positions ranging from a residence hall director and program coordinator, to an associate dean and professor at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
A move to Florida prompted Celeste to check-out the community college setting, and whereupon one of her investigative days, she stopped by the Osceola Campus for a quick tour. After meeting with a student leader named Caleb and many questions later, Celeste left Valencia thinking “Wow! This institution cares about the success of their students.”
Soon after that visit, Celeste obtained a job at the college as a coordinator of student development and a year later became a counselor. In addition, she presently serves as the Osceola SkillShop coordinator, and in just a short amount of time has been able to make an impact on students and colleagues alike.
“Being an art educator in a previous life she brings creativity to the office through inspiration and decoration,” said Heidi Shugg, Atlas Access Lab coordinator and one of Celeste’s colleagues. “Her strength and support to coworkers and students is paramount. Students feel that Celeste goes above and beyond to assist them with their academic planning.”
The “absolute best” part about her job at Valencia, Celeste explained, is that she is in an environment where she is able to exercise her purpose statement: I am a creative, curious, compassionate woman, whose purpose is to live a life of EDventure and serve others in their discovery.
In her free time, Celeste enjoys art projects, reading, and spending time in the water. “I prefer to be in the water,” she joked, “near the water, on top of the water and/or under the water.”
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