Featured Colleague: Courtney Demings Turns Dreams Into Reality

By Dani Moritz-Long

In sixth grade reading class, few of us selected literary masterpieces for our book reports based on the caliber of an author’s writing or our passionate interest in a novel’s themes and narratives. On the contrary, most of us quickly counted the pages of available books or defaulted to a novel we had read over the summer.

Courtney Demings, now a coordinator, program advisor, wasn’t much different. Recalling her sixth grade book report selection process, Courtney says she chose Martin Luther King, Jr. for her book report topic, but not because of a genuine desire to learn more about him or a deep-set appreciation of the movement he’s famous for. In actuality, Courtney explained, she chose Dr. King because she thought it would be an easy task to regurgitate historical facts and analyze his well-known “I Have a Dream” speech. What she discovered, however, was inspiration and a passion that would change the course of her life.

“By the end of sixth grade, I believe I read 20 to 30 books on his life,” she recalled. “His leadership, quiet spirit and love for people captivated me.”

This interest continued and followed Courtney into her adulthood. She expanded her studies to include his wife and co-laborer, Coretta Scott King, Ambassador Andrew Young, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and she found opportunities to share her research and passion with others.

In March 2018, she joined her aunt on a civil rights pilgrimage. Led by civil rights icon and leader Congressman John Lewis, she and others traced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s steps from the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, to the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

“There were students, athletes, business leaders and civil rights leaders engrossed in this experience,” Courtney said. “It changed my life. For the young girl who lived and breathed books on the civil rights movement, it was a dream.”

Recalling one particularly powerful experience, Courtney said, “In Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, a gentleman, John Suttles, and his wife sat next to my aunt and me. My aunt introduced me to the couple. During our introduction, I found out that this man was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, on Bloody Sunday. As we were leaving the sanctuary, Mrs. Suttles turned to me and said, ‘You’re my future. I’m depending on you.’ I have to admit that I was shocked and unsure of what to say at this moment. Mrs. Suttles gave me a charge, a call to action. It was an honor to be surrounded by giants of humanity, people who bled, sacrificed, marched for millions of individuals that they would never meet. Such a pilgrimage is awe-inspiring and life changing! I desire to live up to Mrs. Suttles’ call and make a difference in society for the betterment of humanity.”

One way she’s answering this call is by changing lives at Valencia — an institution devoted to equity, access, diversity and inclusion.

Specifically, Courtney, who has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in educational leadership, changes lives for West Campus students studying engineering by building bridges from Valencia to the University of Central Florida. Through this role, she participates in developmental advising and creates campus events and other opportunities to help students refine their skills and develop academic and career pathways.

She also channels her commitment to inclusion by developing workshops, like Seeing and Being, Finding Value in the Workplace.

“Our department is actively engaged in the concept of building morale,” she said. “I think that building morale can also emerge as a deeper exercise within a department. At the core of building morale is value, validation and acknowledgment. It’s a way of saying, seeing and being. It’s a way of saying the South African expression, Sawubona —  the acknowledgment is that we see each other. Orland Bishop, founder and director of the Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation in Los Angeles shared this quote in the Global Oneness Project, Sawubona video, ‘That becomes an agreement … Seeing has empowered us to investigate our mutual potential for life.'”

Overall, Courtney explains, she finds inspiration for her work in her ability to serve and make a difference in the lives of students. Perhaps more aptly put, Courtney finds inspiration in the realization of dreams.

“I am always amazed by our students resiliency and humbled by their stories,” she said. “I meet students who have relocated to the United States from other countries and successfully acclimated to our higher education system. I meet parents who are working full time and pursuing a degree. I’ve met a stay-at-home mom who is coming back to Valencia after 15 years of not being enrolled in school. Our students are dreamers, achievers and, yes, overcomers. Their drive inspires me to continue to pursue excellence in my career, education and life.”

Commenting on her ability and passion, Assistant Director of Advising Lynn Desjarlais said, “I am always impressed with Courtney’s ability to make a student feel like that they are the top priority when meeting with her. Courtney is always looking for creative ways to help students navigate difficult educational situations with compassion and empathy. Courtney works hard to ensure that the information that she is providing to students is in alignment with information from the University of Central Florida. Her ability to make connections with faculty, staff and students strengthen her knowledge base making her an expert on the West Campus and within her division. Courtney is an incredible asset to the program advisor team.”

Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? 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.

12 Comments

  • Terry Demings said:

    To my daughter…..

    Today and every day of your life you have been the beam of light that God has called you to be for your mother and I. Now you are illuminating the world with your light. Continue to let your light so shine that others may see God though you.

    Dad

    PMTue, 11 Dec 2018 20:22:30 +0000Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:22:30 +0000pm18,8:22 pm

    • Courtney Demings said:

      Thank you, Dad! Any good that I am is because of you and Mom. Thank you for always being the example and instilling God as well as a love for people in me. I love you and Mom beyond words.

      AMWed, 12 Dec 2018 09:41:04 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:41:04 +0000am18,9:41 am

  • Sally Leslie said:

    Courtney is an amazing person and an honor to work with. So glad to see her recognized in The Grove for all she does.

    AMWed, 12 Dec 2018 09:33:00 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:33:00 +0000am18,9:33 am

    • Courtney Demings said:

      Sally, thank you so much! I truly appreciate all that you do. It is an honor to know you. Also, thank you so much for co-facilitating "Seeing and Being"! I can't wait for round 2!

      AMWed, 12 Dec 2018 09:43:00 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:43:00 +0000am18,9:43 am

  • Kristol said:

    To a humble, kind and inspiring change agent Congratulations Courtney! So happy to see your amazing contributions featured and celebrated!

    AMWed, 12 Dec 2018 09:42:16 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:42:16 +0000am18,9:42 am

    • Courtney Demings said:

      Thank you so much Kristol! I truly appreciate your very kind words!

      PMWed, 12 Dec 2018 16:07:43 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:07:43 +0000pm18,4:07 pm

  • April Montallana said:

    What a wonderful story. Thank you for your dedication to the spirit of Dr. King and for shining your light at Valencia!

    PMWed, 12 Dec 2018 15:18:35 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:18:35 +0000pm18,3:18 pm

    • Courtney Demings said:

      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! Greatly appreciated!

      PMWed, 12 Dec 2018 16:51:22 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:51:22 +0000pm18,4:51 pm

  • Renee Demings said:

    I’m so proud of the young lady you have become and the lady you are becoming. You are beautiful inside and outside. Always seeing the best in others and pushing others into purpose! Your gift will make room for you. Just you wait and see the best is yet to come! Love Mom

    PMWed, 12 Dec 2018 22:04:34 +0000Wed, 12 Dec 2018 22:04:34 +0000pm18,10:04 pm

  • Courtney Demings said:

    Thank you so much, Mom! You are my role model. You have always taught to do my best and try to make a difference in the world. If am 1/10th of the person that you are, I think I'm doing pretty good! 🙂 I love you beyond words!

    AMThu, 13 Dec 2018 08:23:08 +0000Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:23:08 +0000am18,8:23 am

  • Miguel Naranjo said:

    Courtney! I'm so happy to see you as our featured colleague. You are truly an inspiration. Keep up the incredible work.

    PMWed, 19 Dec 2018 20:53:20 +0000Wed, 19 Dec 2018 20:53:20 +0000pm18,8:53 pm

    • Courtney Demings said:

      Thank you so much, Miguel! It's a privilege to work with an amazing colleague like you!

      PMTue, 08 Jan 2019 16:01:39 +0000Tue, 08 Jan 2019 16:01:39 +0000pm19,4:01 pm

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