Featured Colleague — Jorge Valladares


By Joy S. Jones

Jorge Valladares, coordinator, disability support services, in the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), is tasked with ensuring Osceola Campus students with documented disabilities have the appropriate accommodations and modifications to succeed at the College.

“I don’t work with disabilities. I work with people who have them and have found that the keys to students’ success actually lie in their abilities,” Jorge said.

Having “high diversity awareness” is one of the most important personal qualities needed to succeed in his role, he says. “It’s dangerously easy to impose limitations based on perceptions, but one thing this job has taught me is that anything is possible.”

Jorge feels that there are quite a few misconceptions about his work. Namely, he challenges the impression that students registered with OSD are held to a different set of academic standards.

“Students using accommodations are meeting the College’s academic standards and requirements. They aren’t going through a specialized program and are earning the same degrees that all other students earning.”

Examples of common accommodations can include the use of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services, modified testing conditions — including modified testing time — alternate test setting, assistive technology solutions such as screen-reading software and magnification tools.

Jorge has a deep connection to his work and a personal narrative that drives him in serving students and their families. In fact, he feels that his career chose him.

After dropping out of high school in ninth grade, Jorge didn’t go to school for a while, believing that it wasn’t for him. Upon earning a GED, he was encouraged to attend the local community college in Brooklyn but quickly became overwhelmed and quit.

“I think back on that experience and know that if I had the resources we provide, such as our remarkable Answer Center advisors and the great care we give to new students, my life would have been different.” Now that he’s in a position to help students navigate college, he says he’ll never let one fall through the cracks on his watch.

“It is the student and the student experience that motivates Jorge, said Deborah Larew, director, students with disabilities. “He’s intensely passionate that each student receives the best he can give. Those characteristics have helped to build the new OSD team on the Osceola campus into a well-trained and deeply caring team.”

Jorge attributes his own alienation from college to what he refers to as being culturally undocumented. “Though I was born a U.S. citizen, my parents and my sister weren’t, which presented several challenges. Being undocumented in this country is a hard way to live — for everyone in the family.”

Things like education, professional employment and home ownership seemed foreign and completely inaccessible to him; and it took some time for him to recognize that all were in his reach.

When asked his source of inspiration, Jorge points to his mother, who, at age 21, immigrated to the United States from Honduras, Central America.

“With a two-year-old daughter in tow, she took a notoriously treacherous journey through the desert and across rivers because she decided to change the circumstances for her young family. With such a great role model, I am sometimes embarrassed by how long it took me to realize that I could change too,” he confesses.

Once he came to that realization, Jorge sought to redeem the time.

He earned an Associate in Arts degree in general studies from Valencia in 2005 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational behavior from Rollins College in 2009, all while working full time and raising a family. “I’m as non-traditional as they come.” In May 2014, Jorge will earn a master’s degree in general psychology from Nova Southeastern University.

“I am proud to be a part of Valencia College and what we represent. We do a nice job of being a community college,” Jorge reflects. “We show that professional and academic successes are accessible to many that consider these things out of reach. And while I can articulate what we do in the community, at times I don’t think I can fully articulate what we mean to the community.”

Know of someone doing great work at the College? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu so he or she can be one of our featured colleagues.


  • Kristol said:

    I am so excited that you are the Featured Colleague Jorge! I learned new amazing aspects of your story.
    Very inspiring!

    PMTue, 25 Feb 2014 15:01:40 +0000Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:01:40 +0000pm14,3:01 pm

  • M Morrell said:

    I had the privilege of working with Jorge for a short while and I must say that he has a heart of gold for ALL students and their desires to further their education. He is as dedicated as they come. You are definitely a keeper!

    PMTue, 25 Feb 2014 15:44:52 +0000Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:44:52 +0000pm14,3:44 pm

  • Adele said:

    Well deserved recognition. Jorge is a wonderful asset to the Office for Students with Disabilities. Keep up the good work!

    AMWed, 26 Feb 2014 10:16:11 +0000Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:16:11 +0000am14,10:16 am

  • Donna Deitrick said:

    Impressed Jorge and I love that you really get what working in the Office of Disabilities means…life changing for you and the student. Congrats to you!

    PMWed, 26 Feb 2014 13:05:35 +0000Wed, 26 Feb 2014 13:05:35 +0000pm14,1:05 pm

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