By Laura Knight
Kaitlyn Brooker began working at Valencia in 2011 on Osceola Campus as a student services advisor and is grateful to her “Osceola family” for teaching her everything she knows about working in higher education. She recently transferred to the East Campus in the same capacity.
“I love my job, [and] I want to spread my wings and get more involved … Valencia careers have [so much] to offer,” expresses Kaitlyn, who makes mention of the important work and opportunities for growth with the New Student Experience planning.
Kaitlyn was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and lived on a one-thousand-acre sugar cane farm until she was 9 years old. She moved to Orlando in 2000 and before that lived in Chicago for two years.
In 2009, she earned her associate degree from Valencia and attended the University of Central Florida (UCF) through the DirectConnect to UCF program — a pathway about which she now advises students about. While at UCF she made the dean’s honor list and graduated in one year with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
In 2013, Kaitlyn earned her master’s degree in career and technical education from UCF, and she graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She says that earning her master’s degree is one of her proudest accomplishments, and she credits the preparation she received at Valencia as an element of her success.
As a student, Kaitlyn’s college career experience began with developmental courses in both math and English, but she worked hard and took advantage of preparatory resources that Valencia provided to her and moved ahead to college level coursework.
Today, she is able to relate to students in developmental courses, while advising them by sharing her own journey as a developmental student who became a master’s graduate with a 4.0 GPA. She takes any opportunity available to encourage struggling students with her story and positive reinforcement through one-on-one advising and even with a video. She also enjoys presenting at new student orientations.
Kaitlyn says that the positive feedback she receives from developmental students who are working through their challenges is rewarding, and she is happy that she has a part in helping students to succeed.
During her master’s program, she interned with student success Professor Christy Cheney, who made a significant positive impact on her as a student and intern. Now, Kaitlyn is a mentor to students, and she looks to Christy as a model for that role. “She is pure ‘amazing-ness’ … she is the best mentor to me.” Kaitlyn now aspires to be a student success professor someday, and she is working hard to achieve that goal.
As a Valencia employee, she shares that Celeste Henry is an “excellent colleague” who inspires her and is someone she can go to for personal and professional guidance. She was honored that Celeste recommended her to be a featured colleague.
Kaitlyn is conversational in American Sign Language and often helps hearing impaired students. As a former student and now employee, she notes that diversity among students and employees is something that Valencia is known for in the community, and she’s proud to be a part of that mission.
Nicholle Trap, student services manager on the Osceola Campus and Kaitlyn’s former manager, shares that, “Kaitlyn is a person who serves with her heart and her mind. She is both knowledgeable and teachable [while] remaining flexible and adaptive to change and she is a team player.”
Kaitlyn is enthusiastic about her future at Valencia, “I love the connections I have made with faculty and staff and of course our students! I am excited to see where my career takes me.”
Outside of her work, Kaitlyn likes to try new foods and has her hopes set on traveling to Australia. She also enjoys spending time with her mom, whom she declares is her best friend and the “best mom ever.”