Featured Colleague — La’Tasha Graham

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By Wendy Jo Moyer

“La’Tasha’s passion shines through in her work with students and families. She can work a room of fifth graders, high school seniors and even jailed inmates — and convince them all that college is possible and that Valencia is a pathway to their dreams,” shared La’Tasha Graham’s supervisor, Niurka Ferrer, director, transitions planning.

La’Tasha added, “Under the leadership of Niurka, she has led the team to new heights through innovative and meaningful methods to engage prospective students and families. Niurka has her finger on the pulse of national, state, and local initiatives, which drive the work we do to ensure students are receiving the best resources and access to Valencia College. It is inspiring, challenging and rewarding to work with someone who is just as passionate about transitions planning as you.

In her role as assistant director, transitions planning, La’Tasha provides collegewide support for services that ensure that all prospective students and families have access and can successfully transition into Valencia.

Helping students transition into college is nothing new to La’Tasha. Before this role, which she began in 2014, she first joined the College in 2010 as a coordinator, transitions planning. Prior to Valencia, she worked at the University of Central Florida as coordinator of the College Reach-Out Program, where she directed, managed and supported the program’s grant for middle and high school recruitment.

“If I can be of service to anyone in need of assistance in making their transition to Valencia College smoother, I will try my best to do it,” La’Tasha noted. “I place myself in their shoes; how would I want to be treated?”

She explained that transitions is not always about the student who attends College Night, an information session or a high school presentation. “It is also about the student who can’t physically access us for multiple reasons, one of the reasons being incarceration,” she said.

During her six years at Valencia, she has spoken to many probation and alternative programs; however, the opportunity to work with prospective students who are incarcerated was different for her. “It was a chance to speak to offenders prior to release at the Central Florida Reception Center – FL Department of Corrections. I gladly accepted the invite, and as I look back, it was an accomplishment for me to advocate that college can give you that second chance.”

In her presentations, she used Angel Sanchez’s story to display the potential they all possess if they are “willing to change, people, places and things” as Angel quoted in his story. She reflected, “I am extremely proud of this type of outreach and the opportunity to reach those who have no way to access us except by a written letter.”

La’Tasha considers transitions planning to be the “First Impressions” team of Valencia.

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“How we serve our prospective students, on and off campus, is vital to the community’s image and perception of Valencia,” she said. “This is a task I try to accomplish daily, because I understand the potential of a young and possibly at-risk student from Evans High School, Memorial Middle School or Hope Community Center is at stake. Valencia may be their only option, and they don’t even know it until they meet a transitions planning team member at their school, during a group visit or at one of our signature events like College Night or Open House. I enjoy the opportunity to partner with colleagues, like Enrollment Services Advisor Chase Forth, to present for OCPS Teach-In 2015 at Evans High School to discuss ‘College Lessons’ and the things you should know to not only transition from high school, but transition into a college scholar.”

La’Tasha has been inspired by Tanisha Carter, director, Bridges to Success program. “We both served as College Reach-Out Program coordinators; I served UCF and she served Valencia,” she explained. “Partnering to provide our students with programs and opportunities to promote college readiness, we found we shared the same passion for our youth.”

It was Tanisha who encouraged La’Tasha to apply to Valencia. “I did not know then that this position would take me to a level of gratitude that I can reflect on daily,” she disclosed. “Nor did I know she would later move into a director’s position at Bridges to Success. But what I did know is that our passion and unwavering commitment to prospective students helped us both grow personally and professionally.”

She is also inspired by Susana Garcia, a West Campus culinary student, who is going to school while she raises a family. La’Tasha first met Susana in the lobby of SSB as she toted one of her own original paintings. Since then, Susan visits La’Tasha on campus (and even made La’Tasha a painting for her office of her favorite thing: butterflies). In a recent visit, Susana shared an article that was written about her in the Valencia Voice.

“I read the story and was immediately in tears,” La’Tasha admitted. “You would not know her storm if you looked at her smile.”

She wanted to help Susana, so La’Tasha reached out to the Valencia Foundation to ask if there were any scholarships that could help her. “Not only did I receive a response, but they granted her the Betty House Palmer Scholarship,” she exclaimed.

To La’Tasha, “Valencia signifies students who ‘never let the hardship of their journey overshadow the glory of reaching their destination.’ Although Valencia College is not the final destination for many, for some it is the destination they never imagined reaching, and we are great at making sure they feel the ‘glory’ in reaching that achievement.”

La’Tasha has an Associate degree in social and behavioral sciences from Butte Community College, a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from California State University, Chico and a Master of Science in strategic leadership from Mountain State University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring new restaurants with family and friends, concerts, going to the beach, traveling and anything football with her husband and son.

Know of someone doing great work at the College, 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.

1 Comment

  • Laura Skelton said:

    I tried to leave a message here before and it didn't save. I am wishing you all the continued success. I'm happy to see that you were featured. All of my best! 🙂

    PMWed, 18 May 2016 16:44:31 +0000Wed, 18 May 2016 16:44:31 +0000pm16,4:44 pm

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