By Claudia Zequeira
For Betty Blackburn, testing center specialist, Valencia feels like family.
In a literal sense, it is, as her husband, son and daughter-in-law all work at the College. But in another sense, that family is something she’s built for herself in her years here.
After taking a humanities class at Valencia, Betty left a full-time position at Orange County Public Schools to work part-time as a testing center specialist at the East Campus in 2010. Five years, ago, she became a full-time employee.
“I just loved the atmosphere. I felt I wanted to work here,” she said.
Today, she’s the calming voice students hear when they enter the testing center, where she is responsible for directing them to their exam rooms, assisting with technical needs and monitoring them as needed. The most rewarding part of the job for her is being able to reassure students who experience test anxiety and provide encouragement.
“I just talk to them, calm them down, tell them to take a breath, get a little tutoring first,” she said. “And when they’re excited because they did well, I give them a high five.”
Betty also loves that every day on the job is different. And, as a self-described extrovert, she does not miss an opportunity to interact with students.
“If I could sum up what I like best about working at Valencia into one word, it would be connection,” she said. “I love being able to get to know our students and staff, participating [and volunteering] in the Student Development events to encourage student engagement, and working with a tight-knit team,” said Betty, adding that she has bungee jumped on campus and rode a mechanical bull as well.
More recently, Betty participated in the We’re in This Together Call Campaign, an effort she’s most proud. The campaign was kick started by the College to reach students after many campuses closed due to the pandemic. Its goal was to reassure them, share resources, and encourage academic continuity. In a period of 37 days, Betty made over 1,812 phone calls, becoming Valencia’s top caller.
“This call campaign, it made me feel so connected,” said Betty. “Just being able to interact with students … I talked to some of the parents and they would say ‘thank you so much. This College really cares,” she said. “Being able to reach out to our students in their time of need and letting them know that we care about them really gave me a sense of fulfillment.”
Her supervisor, Alison Langevin, lab supervisor, learning support center, said Betty’s performance was stellar during the campaign.
“We spoke daily about the needs and gratitude of the students she contacted,” said Alison. “Betty excelled in careful and considerate conversations with hundreds of students and spent much of her time ensuring their needs were met. I am very proud of Betty and her sincere desire to encourage and assist our students. Her follow through exceeded my expectations and simply proved just how important it is to remind others how valued they are.”
That sense of belonging the College provides to its employees and students is what inspires her the most about working here. At Valencia, she said, we not only give students a “chance to grow,” but also a shot at a better life and at making an impact on the world.
“While some colleges do well at getting students into their school, we do well at getting students access to resources and services that give them a better chance at being successful and a place which they can call home,” she said. Similarly, employees here are given “an opportunity to use our strengths to make a meaningful impact on our students and truly inspire them to succeed.”
Prior to working at Valencia, Betty worked as a classroom paraprofessional and, later, as a discipline clerk, for Orange County Public Schools. In a previous chapter of her career, she was in the Air Force, where, among other things, she learned and used Morse code to aid in certain missions.
In her free time, she loves to spend time with her husband Mike, to whom she’s been married for 37 years. She also loves watching movies, spending time with her grandchildren and using FaceTime to connect with family.
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.