Left to right: Superintendent Luciano and Kathleen Plinske
A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola and Lake Nona Campuses
On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, more than 500 community leaders attended the Education Foundation of Osceola County’s annual “State of Education” event. I appreciated the opportunity to present a brief update about Valencia’s partnership with the school district at the event and recognize Superintendent Luciano for her outstanding leadership. While Superintendent Luciano will retire at the end of this school year, I look forward to continuing our tradition of partnership and collaboration with the School District of Osceola County.
The State of Education provided an excellent opportunity to share our progress on our “Got College?” initiative, which launched several years ago in an effort to increase the college-going rate in Osceola County. Osceola County’s college-going rate in 2011 was 41 percent, ranking 57th in the state and lowest in the Central Florida region. Since 2011, Osceola County’s college-going rate has increased to 44 percent (as of 2013, the most recent state data available), and Valencia’s enrollment data suggests the positive trend continues.
While the purpose of “Got College?” is to increase the county’s college-going rate overall (not just Valencia’s enrollment), given that about three out of every four students who go to college in Osceola County attend Valencia, Valencia’s enrollment numbers serve as a good leading indicator for the county’s overall college-going rate, and I am so pleased to see the positive trend continue.
So what’s working to increase our college-going rate? I think it is difficult to isolate any one strategy, but it is clear to me that the complement of our “Got College?” efforts is making a difference. For example, about a dozen Valencia student leaders and recent Valencia graduates serve as “Valencia Ambassadors,” visiting high school classrooms to talk with students about what it’s like to be attend Valencia and about the challenges and obstacles that they faced and overcame to attend college. Our Ambassadors’ stories resonate with the high school students, because they currently face many of the very same challenges and obstacles.
Likewise, the Campus Express program, offered in partnership with the Celebration Foundation, will make tours of the Osceola Campus possible for 2,000 seventh and 12th graders in Osceola County this year. We recognized that it is difficult for students to envision themselves as college students without having visited a college campus, and the Celebration Foundation stepped forward to fund bus transportation to allow students to participate in a campus tour led by one of our student leaders.
Similarly, our partnership with Central Avenue Elementary is designed to help our younger friends start thinking about going to college very early in their educational careers. Principal Simmons has shared with me that this year she frequently hears her fifth graders talking about how they plan to go to Valencia when they grow up. Whether or not these students still have this plan in 2023, I’m thrilled that they’re thinking about the possibility of going to college and making plans for their future. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in this partnership when more than 200 third and fourth graders visit the Osceola Campus on Learning Day for a “mock college” experience.
The evidence suggests our “Got College?” efforts are working, and I believe they are making a true difference in our community. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to make college a possibility for the students in our community.