You’re Invited To Become a Horizon Scholars Mentor

Friday, August 5, 2022

We know the barriers to education — socioeconomic status, racial disparities, being a first-generation college student. And we — as an institution and as individuals — can do something about it.

The Valencia College Horizon Scholars (VHS) program is one way the College breaks down these barriers. As the Orange County affiliate of Take Stock in Children, VHS provides low-income Orange County students in grades 9 through 12 with the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with a mentor and to participate in co-curricular programs that help them grow personally, professionally and academically. Upon successful completion of all program requirements, students receive a two-year scholarship that, combined with the skills they’ve learned through mentoring and other programming, enables them to break the cycle of poverty.

Already, VHS has served hundreds of local students — helping them to successfully graduate high school and transition into higher education or continuing education programs — but the program needs your help to continue this work. With hundreds more students about to graduate middle school and officially enroll in the VHS program, Valencia College is seeking new mentors to serve the incoming class of high school freshmen.

Fortunately, while this is a high-impact volunteer opportunity, it’s not an extensive time commitment.

Mentoring sessions typically take place at the students’ respective schools twice per month (15 meetings over the academic year) for 30 minutes each. In addition to meeting in person at the students’ high school, Horizon Scholars offers virtual mentoring platforms for additional scheduling flexibility.

Sessions may be conducted as part of Valencia work hours for both exempt and non-exempt employees (with approval from your supervisor). That means that you can make a difference in a big way by volunteering only 10 hours in an entire academic year.

Interested in joining VHS as a mentor? To become a mentor, complete the application on the VHS webpage.

August 2022 – Hellos and Goodbyes


Poroshat Yazdanbakhshghahyazi, extension professor, math, Orange
Sidi Baba, extension professor, math, Orange
Kendra Hogan-Fawibe, coordinator, career program advisor, East Campus
Ulysses Gonzalez, security officer, East Campus
Ruth Martinez, security officer, Poinciana Campus
Coretta Cotton, assistant director, equal opportunity, District Office

July 2022 – Hellos and Goodbyes


Winston Warren, professor, EMS, West Campus
Ernest McDaniel, groundskeeper, Osceola Campus
Mario Disla Chestaro, air conditioning technician, Osceola Campus
Brenda Wright, interim AVP, financial aid & veteran affairs, West Campus
Wayne Watson, groundskeeper, Osceola Campus
Adrian White, academic advisor, bridges, West Campus
Myeisa Campbell, staff assistant II, Downtown Campus
Hezekiah Watson, security officer, Osceola Campus

June 2022 – Hellos and Goodbyes


Danielle Akers, coordinator, college transition, East Campus
John Suarez, staff assistant II, Davis, security officer, Winter Park Campus
Lancelot Gooden, provost, Osceola and and Poinciana Campuses
Timothy Flagg, talent acquisition partner, sr, District Office
Miguel Oliveras, security officer, Osceola Campus
Alene Diaz, security officer, Osceola Campus

Save the Dates: Welcome Back Events

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Make sure to mark your calendars for Academic Assembly, campus-based Welcome Back Bashes and our first-ever Fall Kick Off as we begin the new academic year!

Academic Assembly
Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Time: 9 a.m., Continental breakfast will be available at 8:30 a.m. in the Black Box Theater.
Location: East Campus, Performing Arts Center
RSVP here

Faculty and academic leadership are invited to Academic Assembly to kick off the 2022-2023 academic year and prepare to welcome our students. This annual assembly is a chance to recharge, recognize good work, unite and learn about the strategic focus for the year.

A live stream will also be available for those who cannot travel to East Campus. Please click here to attend Academic Assembly via Zoom.

For more information on Academic Assembly, click here.

Welcome Back Bashes

Welcome Back Bashes will take place on Thursday, August 18, 2022.

Please plan to attend your home campus event. If you do not report directly to a campus, you are more than welcome to attend the events at any of our campuses. If your home campus is the School of Public Safety, we invite you to join us at East Campus.

Downtown Campus

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 9:30 a.m., Continental Breakfast will be available at 9 a.m. 
Location: UnionWest, 5th Floor Lobby and Beverage Lab
RSVP: Downtown Campus RSVP

East Campus

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 9 a.m., Continental Breakfast will be available at 8:30 a.m.
Location: Performing Arts Center
RSVP: East Campus RSVP

Lake Nona Campus

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 2 p.m., Snacks will be available at 1:30 p.m.
Location: Library
RSVP: Lake Nona Campus RSVP

Osceola Campus

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 2 p.m., Snacks will be available at 1:30 p.m.

Location: Building 1, Room 123 (multi-purpose room)
RSVP: Osceola Campus RSVP

Poinciana Campus 

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 9 a.m., Continental Breakfast will be available at 8:30 a.m. 
Location: Room 125 (multi-purpose room)
RSVP: Poinciana Campus RSVP

West Campus

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 9 a.m., Continental Breakfast will be available at 8:30 a.m. 

Location: Special Events Center
RSVP: West Campus RSVP

Winter Park Campus

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 6:45 p.m., Snacks will be available at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Rooms 225-226
RSVP: Winter Park Campus RSVP
Click here to attend via Zoom

Fall Kick Off

Date: Friday, August 19, 2022
Time: 8 – 9 a.m.
Location: Zoom. Password: 696141

Join your colleagues for this virtual, collegewide welcome back event for all employees. You’ll hear from College President Kathleen Plinske and college leadership about our strategic priorities for the year as we prepare to welcome students back to campus.

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your colleagues and celebrate the start of the fall term.

We look forward to celebrating the beginning of the new academic year with you and welcoming our students this fall!

Kudos to Our Class of 2022 Culinary/Baking and Pastry Students

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Congratulations to the 28 Valencia College culinary management and baking and pastry management students who were recognized during the Class of 2022 Culinary/Baking and Pastry Graduate Medal Ceremony held on Thursday, July 28, 2022, at the Walt Disney World Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality in our Downtown Campus.

This tradition began on West Campus in spring 2018 to honor students completing Culinary Management and Baking and Pastry Management programs. The medal symbolizes that they completed the program with an A.S. in culinary management or an A.S. in baking/pastry management, and they are now on their way to becoming chefs.

Kim Lopdrup, former chief executive officer of Red Lobster — the world’s largest seafood restaurant company — was the guest speaker at the event.

Valencia College Cybersecurity Grad Works for U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Orlando Business Journal (OBJ) recently featured the story of Geovanny Perez, a Valencia College graduate who is now working as a digital forensics analyst for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Geovanny studied cybersecurity and digital forensics at Valencia College’s West Campus and is now assisting in tracking down child pornographers, sex traffickers and drug dealers.

“I love what I do,” said Geovanny, 39. “It’s a good feeling, getting these guys off the street.”

His job, he says, is to help piece together evidence.

“It’s like being a detective. You have to put pieces together and find out what happened. You build that story, and then you can tell that to the case agent.”

Perez, who’s originally from Ecuador, wanted to attend Valencia College shortly after he arrived but didn’t have the money when he immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 21. He worked as a lifeguard at an Orlando resort hotel for several years and then enlisted in the Army in 2010. After basic training, Perez was sent to Germany for six months and then to Afghanistan for a year. After he returned to the U.S., he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when he experienced a career-ending leg injury.

To read the article, visit the OBJ website.

You’re Invited: Red, Black and Boundless — An Evening for Excellence

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Valencia College Foundation cordially invites you to Red, Black and Boundless — An Evening for Excellence. This inaugural gala fundraiser will take place on Saturday, September 17, 2022, at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort.

Date: Saturday, September 17, 2022
Time: 5:30 p.m. VIP Cocktail Reception; 6 p.m. Cocktail Reception; 7 p.m. Dinner and Program
Location: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort

The evening’s program includes a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by dinner, special performances and dancing.

The last day to purchase tickets is Monday, September 12, 2022.

Proceeds from the gala support the mission and strategic priorities of Valencia College. With over 200,000 alumni and an enrollment of more than 70,000 students, our region’s success and prosperity are closely tied to the College’s success. Our students’ potential is boundless, and their opportunities should be boundless too.

Learn more on the Valencia College Foundation website, or contact Angela Mendolaro, chief philanthropy officer, at or 407-582-3011.

Share Your Favorite Book for National Book Lovers Day

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

As a higher education institution, it’s no secret that books are an important part of boosting memory and imagination, sharpening intellect, and improving knowledge, vocabulary, focus, writing, speaking and analytical skills.

To celebrate National Book Lovers Day on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, we want to hear from you! What is your favorite book?

Whether you love the classics, fantasy, historical fiction, action, chick lit, crime, mystery, self-help, leadership or another genre, email the title of your favorite book along with why you love it to by Friday, August 5, 2022.

We’ll share your submissions in The Grove and in the August 9 issue of The Juice.

Rally Mission of the Month Is Back: Stay Hydrated

Monday, August 1, 2022

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison

With our launch of Rally, on the first Tuesday of every month, I will share a Rally Mission and Recipe of the Month — a fun and healthy suggestion on an activity and recipe that we can all enjoy and participate in together.

This month’s Rally Mission of the Month is: Stay Hydrated

We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” But did you know that you are what you drink, too? The human body is about 60% water, and H2O plays an important role in everything from keeping your temperature regulated to lubricating your joints.

Drinking up may even help you eat healthier: In one study, most people who increased their water consumption by just 1% also consumed less saturated fat, sugar, sodium and dietary cholesterol.

Fluids prevent dehydration, leading to fuzzy thinking, mood changes, overheating, constipation and kidney stones. And drinking water instead of sugary beverages can help control weight by eliminating empty calories.

Diabetes and hydration

Drinking enough water is especially important for people with diabetes. That’s because dehydration can increase blood sugar levels. People with diabetes also dehydrate more quickly.

Physical activity is important for managing diabetes. To stay healthy while you exercise, drink plenty of fluids during a workout. Also, test your blood sugar before and after exercise to determine its effect on your blood sugar levels, especially if you take insulin. You may need to eat a snack before you exercise if your blood sugar is too low or skip the workout if it’s too high.

Making hydration easy

Plain water trumps other beverage options when it comes to health. It gives your body everything it needs without the extra sugar, calories and caffeine you’ll find in other options. To make sipping H2O second nature:

  • Keep a water bottle with you when you’re on the go — having water handy can make you more likely to drink up.
  • Order water when you eat out. You’ll keep extra calories and sugar out of your diet and more money in your wallet.
  • Drink water at each meal. That guarantees you’ll have at least three glasses of water each day. Many people confuse thirst and hunger signals, so drinking water may help ensure you don’t eat more than your body needs.
  • Flavor your water with lemon or lime wedges. Citrus won’t add many calories or sugar to your drink and can make sipping more enjoyable.
  • Alternate with a non-water option. If you really love drinking iced tea, for instance, try switching between that and plain water throughout the day to work more plain water into your diet.

How much is enough?

You may have heard that you should drink about eight glasses of water a day. In fact, how much your body needs depends on a lot of factors, like how your age, your health, the weather where you live and your lifestyle.

Most healthy people get enough fluids by responding to thirst and drinking with meals. There are actually no specific recommendations for the amount of water healthy people should drink since we get fluids from all kinds of beverages and many foods. About 80% of our fluids typically come from drinks, including coffee, tea and soft drinks, and about 20% come from foods. There are recommendations for how much total fluids we should have:

  • The daily recommendation for women is 11.5 cups of fluid or 2.7 liters daily.
  • The daily recommendation for men is 15.5 cups of fluid or 3.7 liters daily.

Sometimes you need more. On days when you’re exercising, for instance, you’ll want to drink before, during and after you work up a sweat. If you’re going to be outside in the heat, drinking enough fluids can help prevent heat-related illnesses like heatstroke. You also need more fluids when you’re sick or have a fever.

Foods with high water content that also count toward your hydration needs include soups, smoothies and water-rich fruits and vegetables like celery, tomatoes and melons. Eating rather than drinking your water can make it harder to track ounces. If you have questions about how much you should drink, check with your doctor.

Staying hydrated isn’t a one-time task. You naturally lose water throughout the day when you sweat, cry and flush the toilet. Take care to replace it.

Want to participate in this mission? Simply follow these directions to track your recommended fluid intake to earn 315 coins that can be used to register for prizes.

  • If this is your first Rally visit, go to and select “See if you have Rally.” Then sign in with your UnitedHealthcare username and password. You will be directed to create a separate Rally username and password as well.
  • Following your initial registration, you can go directly to this mission here. Then click join.
  • The mission will encourage you to drink enough water to stay energized.

To earn coins, log your progress after your activity four times a week for four weeks. You’ll earn 10 coins for completing a day, 30 for completing a week and 105 for completing the entire mission.

Rally is available at no additional cost to members, as part of health plan benefits with UnitedHealthcare. For more information, view this flyer and Grove post.

This Month’s Recipe of the Month Is: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Sometimes I’m in the mood for an easy, cheesy family favorite casserole, and this chicken enchilada one is always on my radar. It can be made in advance, is perfect for leftovers, and is easily customizable.

This version calls for layered whole wheat tortillas with chicken, pinto beans, peppers, sweet corn and red enchilada sauce, but here are some suggestions on how to change things up to keep things interesting and meet your taste preferences:

  • Try corn tortillas instead of whole wheat
  • Try black beans or omit the beans if you’re not a bean fan
  • Sub in lean ground turkey, chicken or beef instead of shredded chicken
  • Use just beans and leave out the meat (I’d go for three cans total)
  • Try different veggies or add bell peppers, spinach or zucchini
  • Use green enchilada sauce instead of red, or make your own
  • Alter the amount of jalapeno you add based on how spicy you like things

Here’s how to make it.

For UnitedHealthcare or Rally questions, contact me at or 407-866-8134.