By Joy S. Jones
“As long as Valencia is around, there’s hope,” says Fontella Jones. “All of the initiatives, services and programs we have in place for — not just students — but faculty and staff to be educated, they all provide hope.”
In essence, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
“You have your S.O.S. funds when students have no aid or when something drastic or traumatic has happened in their lives,” Fontella shares. “There is hope to be found in the many types of resources that staff members know about that can make a difference, depending on a person’s circumstances, to be there for them. The bottom line is we do all we can to try and eliminate barriers to education.”
The latter is one of the College’s strategic goals.
Fontella joined Valencia in 2006 as a student services specialist, a position she held for four years before becoming an academic advisor in 2010, the position she holds today. She shares that the collaborative work environment in academic and student affairs is an ever-present source of motivation and that LifeMap is the philosophical foundation that cements it all together, something she discovered while completing the LifeMap certificate.
“LifeMap is the core and foundation of student affairs, and it was interesting to learn about how and why we do what we do to serve our students,” Fontella says.
As a contributor to the Pathways grant, she, along with her work group consisting of faculty members and counselors, designed a “30-hour orientation,” an advising course that provides students with the necessary tools to continue their educational experience as they transition from Valencia to the university level or the workplace. Curriculum topics include career and educational planning, community engagement and professional/leadership enhancement while completing their next 30 credit hours.
Now being piloted, the 30-hour orientation is a curriculum with several scenarios that teaches students how to find common program prerequisites at the Florida Virtual Campus and research degrees they want to pursue at the university level. A cohort of business and nursing students are currently completing online advising sessions via the 30-hour orientation that must be completed before they register for their next courses.
Fittingly, the continuous learning and performance improvement culture at Valencia is one in which Fontella flourishes.
“I really like the fact that Valencia offers so many opportunities for professional development for staff and faculty,” Fontella says. “It really makes the environment ripe for innovation.”
She has used SPD (Staff and Program Development) funds, available to all full-time employees after six months of employment, to become a certified DISC trainer through Valencia’s continuing education and to become a notary. Fontella also participated in the leadership academy (now Pivot 180) and became a facilitator in 2011-2012.
“This sparked my interest in becoming involved as a staff development and leadership facilitator. During our staff meetings I have been given opportunities to facilitate certain staff activities, leadership development and team-building activities, and I hope to do a DISC training with all advisors and counselors,” she says.
All of her training comes in handy when interacting with the students.
“Sometimes students may feel intimidated about advising. I go the extra mile to give them additional information they’ll need to have in the long run. They leave me with much more than simply knowing what courses to take,” she says. “When students walk out of my office with tears of joy or with a smile and a feeling a sense of relief because I’ve helped them make sense of what they’re to do, they inspire me to go the extra mile to meet their needs. I try to understand who they are, what they want and who they hope to be.”
“Fontella exudes professionalism, empathy and dedication to student success. She always delivers excellent service in great quantity and is definitely a rock star in the department,” says her colleague, Adrian Manley, a counselor on West Campus who also nominated Fontella as a Featured Colleague.
Fontella earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Arts in educational leadership, in the student personnel track, both from the University of Central Florida.
Know of someone doing great work at the College, who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name, along with what makes him or her standout, to The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu so he or she can be one of our featured colleagues.