Remembering 10 Years of Valencia’s Sustainability Department: Recyclemania

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Message from Carrie Black, Director, Energy Conservation and Sustainability 

As part of the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Office of Sustainability, we’re remembering some of the remarkable actions Valencia College has taken to improve sustainability in operations.

Valencia was the winner of Recyclemania Waste Minimization category from 2012 through 2014 — three years in a row. By reducing our overall waste generation, Valencia produced the least amount of both recyclables and trash on a per person basis when compared to more than 500 colleges and universities competing.

As a winner, Valencia received an award made out of recyclable materials — Mr. Pin Man — including the right to host the category’s special traveling trophy for three years.

Winning the competition consecutively during years of tremendous growth, demonstrates Valencia’s commitment to waste diversion. Since then, we have also moved to standardized side-by-side waste and recycling bins, ensuring that both landfill and recycling bins are close and convenient to high traffic areas.

To celebrate our 10-year anniversary, don’t miss Valencia College’s Sustainability Conference: People + Planet + Prosperity on Tuesday, October 12 through Thursday, October 14, 2021. Click here for details.

Ask Nurse Jessica: Are Freestanding Emergency Rooms Covered by Valencia’s UnitedHealthcare Plans?

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison 

Welcome to my monthly column, Ask Nurse Jessica. Since joining Valencia College as your full-time UnitedHealthcare (UHC) nurse liaison, I’ve received numerous questions about how I can help you and your family make better healthcare decisions, provide support and clarification on UHC benefits; demonstrate how to navigate UHC tools and resources; refer you to appropriate wellness programs and services; provide support for chronic illnesses. 

This column is designed to answer those questions. If you would like to ask a question, simply email me with “Ask Nurse Jessica” in the subject line. Submissions will be anonymous in The Juice and The Grove and will be addressed monthly as they are received. 

You may have noticed freestanding emergency rooms popping up in many of our Central Florida communities. I’ve been asked, do our Valencia College United Healthcare (UHC) plans cover a visit to a freestanding ER? Yes, the Valencia College UHC plans include the freestanding ERs, as long as they are in-network providers. You can find in-network providers by signing in to, selecting Find Care and Costs, and filtering your search to include emergency room locations.

A freestanding ER provides emergency medical services at a place outside a regular hospital campus. It is not attached to a hospital or even located near one, but it can treat any of the conditions a hospital-based ER can. Both freestanding and hospital ERs are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The staff at both will include emergency medicine doctors, emergency nurses, laboratory technicians and radiology technicians. They can both handle potentially life-threatening conditions, including bleeding, fractures, respiratory problems, heart attack and stroke.

Freestanding ERs are owned either by a hospital or a private organization/company. Although a hospital-owned ER is not physically attached to the hospital that owns it, the hospital operates and staffs the freestanding ER. In contrast, an independently owned (private) ER is not part of a hospital or health system. The doctors, nurses and other personnel are private employees.

Keep in mind, a freestanding ER is not the same as an urgent care center. A freestanding ER can treat any of the conditions a hospital-based ER could. An urgent care can only treat minor injuries and illnesses.

Here are frequently asked questions and answers about freestanding ERs:

What is the cost? Is it the same as a regular ER visit?
Your cost is dependent on your specific UHC plan, but yes, it is the same cost as if you were to visit an emergency department located in a hospital setting. Again, you can sign in to to find out your copay or cost for emergency care.

What happens if you’re admitted at a freestanding ER, if its affiliated hospital is not nearby?
At a freestanding ER, an ambulance will need to transport you to the hospital if you need to be admitted as an inpatient to the hospital. These facilities usually have agreements with local hospitals to transfer patients who need inpatient care. These transfers can happen very quickly, even for emergencies like a stroke or heart attack.

When they first started, freestanding ERs filled a need for emergency services in rural areas. Today, they are popping up in suburban areas and neighborhoods. There are actually freestanding emergency rooms located near shopping centers, which makes it much easier to visit for a lot of people. Plus, they are also able to provide speedier care, since they have no long lines unlike traditional hospital emergency rooms.

What are the advantages of a freestanding ER vs. a traditional hospital emergency room?
Shorter waiting times are commonly found at a freestanding ER. Traditional emergency rooms have earned themselves a bad reputation for making patients wait in line for too long. In freestanding emergency rooms, the staff are always on hand to serve the patients streaming in, and the wait times are generally shorter.

The other advantage of freestanding emergency rooms is that they are often located closer to neighborhoods and are therefore accessible to most people. In the past few years, the only real option one had in case of an emergency was the hospital’s emergency department, and a lot of hospitals were a fair distance out. This meant that a lot of medical emergencies ended up unreported. Thanks to freestanding emergency rooms coming closer to the people, reporting medical emergencies has become easier than ever. People can access the medical care services whenever they need them, and this has consequently improved the health standards in the country.

The beauty of a freestanding emergency room is that you won’t have to worry about finding it closed at night or during national holidays, like you would an urgent care center or your primary care provider. These emergency rooms are staffed and equipped to operate for 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year long.

Freestanding emergency rooms, are staffed by board-certified physicians and registered nurses. At all times, you are guaranteed of seeing a physician and getting high-quality medical care. These emergency rooms are also properly equipped and have the necessary medical facilities and equipment to handle every possible medical condition.

And so, when comparing a freestanding emergency room and hospital emergency room, you can be assured that they are relatively similar, as they are able to provide the same benefits to patients – from doctors, to the facilities, to the technology, and to the quality of care.

In summary, for serious or potentially life-threatening injuries or illnesses, an ER is the safest choice for medical care. When deciding whether to go to the hospital’s ER or a freestanding ER, it really comes down to distance. The purpose of a freestanding ER is to provide potentially life-saving care closer to home. When hospitals are not nearby, this can mean faster care for you and your loved ones when minutes matter.

For a comparison of when to visit your primary care provider, urgent care, the emergency room or use a virtual visit, click here.

If you have any questions, contact me at or 407- 866-8134.

Valencia’s Dependent Verification Review Guidelines for 2022 Medical, Dental and Vision Plans

Monday, October 4, 2021

In January 2022, Valencia College will conduct a verification of new dependents and re-verification of select dependents enrolled in the medical, dental and vision plans for 2022. The review will be conducted to ensure that only eligible dependents are enrolled in appropriate plans.

As a political subdivision of the state of Florida, it’s crucial that we are in compliance with our insurance plan documents, and one way to ensure this is to confirm that all covered dependents are truly eligible to participate in our plans.

Reverification of spouses, domestic partners and some child relationships

Any active employees with these dependent relationships will be required to participate in the eligibility verification review again if they are enrolled in Valencia benefits for 2022 and were previously verified before Thursday, July 1, 2021. Dependents from these relationships will be re-verified as they have the possibility of changing due to divorce, change of status or other reasons. The following dependent types will undergo re-verification:

  • Spouse
  • Domestic Partner
  • Adult Child (age 26-30)
  • Stepchild
  • Child of Domestic Partner
  • Disabled Child
  • Foster Child
  • Legal Guardianship of Child
  • Child Under Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO) or Other Court or Administrative Order
  • Grandchild

Verification of newly enrolled dependents

All newly enrolled dependents added to the medical, dental and vision plans for 2022 will go through an initial dependent eligibility verification review.

If you do not respond or send the required documents, any of your dependents who are not verified or re-verified will be terminated from any benefit that they are enrolled in and not eligible for coverage. The termination will be retroactive back to Friday, December 31, 2021.

Consova, a third-party firm, will administer the verification review. In January 2022, those employees affected will receive a mailing from Consova via the U.S. Postal Service. Delivery date to your home address is dependent upon your local mail carrier.

This mailing will include letters from Valencia and Consova, frequently asked questions, the list of verification document(s) requested for each dependent type and instructions on how to submit the documents. Depending on the type of dependent, you may need to provide more than one document to verify the dependent is eligible.

Documentation will be submitted directly to Consova and will only be used for the purpose of conducting the verification. Employees are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which regulates the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information.

For questions, contact the Total Rewards team at, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-4748.

October Is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Message from Patrick Criss, Director, Information Security Operations

Held every October, Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. We are using new technologies and spending more time online. Our growing dependence on technology, coupled with the increasing threat of cyberattacks, demands greater security in our online world. From mobile devices and computers to Alexa, we are almost always connected.

Here is a link that provides 20 ways to avoid cybercrime, no matter where you are.

Additional resources are available via the Office of Information Technology (OIT) Knowledge Base to help you understand cybersecurity risks and how to protect your information and data at work and at home. You may also take advantage of the following courses in the Valencia EDGE.

If you have any questions, please contact the OIT Service Desk at or by phone at 407-582-5555.

College Update: Missing Student Miya Marcano Has Been Found

Saturday, October 2, 2021

A Special Message From Kathleen Plinske, Valencia College President

I am deeply saddened to share that Valencia College student Miya Marcano‘s death was confirmed today by local law enforcement officials. We offer our deepest condolences to her family.

The entire Valencia College community is grieving the loss of one of our own. Miya’s English Professor Nick DeArmas shared that “Miya was a dedicated, capable student who had an unstoppable drive, and held her family above all things.”

If you have been impacted by this loss, we encourage you to use our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for support during this difficult time. Students who may have been impacted can reach out to Valencia’s free counseling services through Baycare Student Assistance. The contact information for these resources is listed below.

Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Valencia College’s Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free, confidential, short-term counseling to both full- and part-time employees to help you cope with these types of life events.

Phone Numbers: (24 hours a day, 365 days a year)
Full-time: 866-248-4094
Part-time: 866-342-6892

Online: and use the access code.
Access Code: Valencia

BayCare Student Assistance Services
Students who are enrolled in credit classes at Valencia can receive counseling services by contacting BayCare directly, or by visiting a counselor in the Student Services Department on any campus. BayCare information is also printed on the back of all student Valencia ID cards.

Confidential Helpline: 1-800-878-5470
Online portal:

If you have any questions about the resources available to you, contact the Organizational Development and Human Resources team at or call 407-582-HR4U (4748).

Thank you to each of you who shared messages about the search for Miya through your social media networks, assisted with the search in any way, or provided information to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

May we continue to draw strength from each other and our collective Valencia community during this time.

Pooky’s Pantry Is Fully Stocked Thanks to Donations

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

In late August, Valencia’s collegewide Student Development team initiated the “Restock to Reopen Challenge” to assist in restocking Pooky’s Pantry that had been empty for the past year and a half. After a month of collecting, Pooky’s Pantry is now fully restocked with a large number of canned, boxed, packaged goods and hygiene products. Thank you to all who donated and helped reach the goal!

We are still accepting donations, however, the pantry is just about full at the moment.

Faculty and staff are encouraged to promote this free and essential service to Valencia students. Students can visit the Student Development office, Osceola Campus, building 2, room 150.

For questions, email Trinity Tresner, student development, program specialist, at

Event Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Osceola Campus, between Building 4 and the Clock Tower

Student Development will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with an event on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will be held on the Osceola Campus, between Building 4 and the Clock Tower.

Featuring dancers and activities, with music by DJ Orlando, the event will offer an opportunity to learn about Hispanic heritage and culture.

FUN FACT: Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968, as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE: How much do you know about Hispanic heritage and culture? Take this Washington Post quiz, and let us know in the comments what you learned.

LGBTQ+ Activist to Speak on Lessons from Pulse, 5 Years Later

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Time: 1 – 2 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Brandon Wolf, an activist on issues of LGBTQ+ equality, gun safety and progressive politics, will speak next week, in a virtual event hosted by Mark McMeley, professor, humanities.

A survivor of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Brandon has committed his life to honoring victims of injustice with action. He is a frequent face on MSNBC and CNN and a featured voice in CNN digital, Newsweek, USA Today and others.

Brandon Wolf is a nationally recognized advocate for LGBTQ+ issues and gun violence prevention. In this talk, he explores his passion for social change following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in 2016.

He has been recognized as one of Huffington Post’s 30 LGBTQ Influencers under 30, Business Equality Magazine’s 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40, and a Monette-Horwitz Trust Awardee. Brandon was a national surrogate for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign and an advisory committee member for President Biden’s General Election bid. He is a co-founder, board member, and current vice president of The Dru Project, a nonprofit organization that creates safe spaces in schools for LGBTQ youth, provides college funding and enables champions in the fight for equality.

SAT, ACT Testing Dates Are Coming Up for High School, Dual Enrollment Students

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Orange County Public Schools and the School District of Osceola County will be hosting SAT and ACT tests on their high school sites for 11th- and 12th-grade students on Tuesday, October 5 and Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

Faculty are encouraged to work with students who might need to miss class to partake in these test days. For many of our students, it is the only opportunity to test at no cost.

For questions, contact Mike Bosley, executive dean, Lake Nona Campus, and interim director dual enrollment.

Art Show Highlights Student and Faculty Work

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

The Osceola Art Gallery is hosting the “Welcome Back! Student and Faculty Art Show.” This art show focuses on welcoming back students and faculty, with art created by students and faculty from the Osceola Campus.

The art show will be available for viewing in person from Monday, October 11 through Monday, December 13, 2021, in the Osceola Art Gallery, Osceola Campus in Building A. Virtual access is also available through this link.

For more information contact Karen Owens, professor, humanities, or call the Humanities Department at 407-582-4108 or 407-582-4904.

Visit the Humanities Digital Venue for additional opportunities.