Holiday Gifts Delivered to OCPS ACE Students

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

This year, in lieu of toys, the Orange County Public School Academic Center for Excellence (OCPS ACE) asked to help raise funds for the purchase of T-shirts for their students. These shirts will help foster a sense of community and school pride and will be something that the children can wear repeatedly now and in the future.

The United to Promote Cultural Awareness (UPCA) committee, in conjunction with Valencia College Downtown Campus and the Parramore Education and Innovation District (PEID), helped raise approximately $2,500 this year.

The day before the last day of fall term classes, representatives from UPCA, PEID and the UCF Police Department helped the administration of OCPS ACE to deliver these holiday gifts to each classroom and the students.

Learning Support Update — January 2022

Tuesday, January 11, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

The Computer Access Lab, on the first floor of the Library on West Campus, has more than 100 computers for student use. On a daily basis, students print out thousands of papers, check out headphones and spend hours studying in the lab. One-on-one workshops on Excel, Photoshop, Microsoft Word and more are available upon request.

Meet the people who make it all possible:

Kelly Knauth, Interim Instructional Lab Supervisor
Kelly started working at Valencia College more than 16 years ago in the Assessment office and has supervised the Computer Access Lab for the last five years. Interacting with students is her favorite part of the job.

Danie Monde, Laboratory Aide II
Danie has been with the Computer Access Lab for five years. Originally Danie started as a work study student and says she enjoys helping students even with small things, like submitting a homework assignment. In her free time, Danie likes watching movies and spending time with family and friends.

Sylvester Tako, Laboratory Aide II
Sylvester has worked in the Computer Access Lab for more than seven years and assists students with Adobe Photoshop and Mac computers. When he’s not at work, he enjoys photography.

Maria Scagliati, Laboratory Aide II
Maria says her time at Valencia as a student and an employee has positively impacted her personal and professional outcomes. When not at work, she enjoys coffee and spending time with her family.

Rosanne Perez, Laboratory Aide II
Rosanne is a student at Valencia as well as an employee. She specializes in Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Lightroom. She has worked as a photographer and photo editor in the past. Rosanne says her favorite part of the job is when she sees how much students appreciate her help.


Registration is now open for the first Annual Valencia Scholarship Series. The Scholarship Series — hosted by West Campus Learning Support and the Valencia College Foundation — will take place from Thursday, January 27 through Thursday, February 24, 2022. For more information and registration, click here.

Click here for a digital event flyer.

Click here for printable, quarter-page handouts.

If you have any questions regarding this program, contact Melissa Shank, administrative assistant, at and Amanda Little, coordinator, foundation scholarships, at

Join Rally, an Interactive, Personalized, Digital Health Experience

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison 

I’m excited to announce a new, healthy living tool for employees with Valencia College’s UnitedHealthcare benefits designed to help you improve your health — Rally. This digital, personalized health experience available on puts you in charge of managing your health with recommendations and missions to help you create healthy habits, while earning rewards along the way. You’ll get real-time feedback and ongoing encouragement to help you live your healthiest life.

And, if you register for Rally and complete its health survey by Friday, February 18, 2022, you’ll be entered into a Valencia College drawing for one of four $25 Amazon gift cards.* This 15-minute survey with questions on topics such as your exercise, nutrition, sleep and mood is designed to help you better understand your overall health before setting simple, everyday goals.

Rally makes it easy to make small changes, step by step. You’ll get a custom-created program designed to help you live healthier.

  • See your Rally age: Start by taking a health survey to see your Rally age — a measure of your overall health.
  • Accept your missions: Based on your Rally age, you’ll get a list of easy, fun custom-picked missions to try, all designed to help you eat better, lift your fitness level and even improve your mood. For example, there are missions for tracking your sugar intake, bringing your lunch to work, tracking your spending, limiting processed foods, making time to unwind, spending more time outside and working up a sweat, as well as many more you may select to customize your experience.
  • Get personalized recommendations: Rally provides personalized recommendations, including well-being programs and everyday activities to help you build healthy habits for the long term.
  • Connect with a coach: Talk on the phone and work together to create a personalized healthy-living plan that works with your lifestyle.
  • Earn sweet rewards: By taking healthy actions and achieving your goals, you’ll earn Rally coins, which can be used to enter to win prizes such as a Starbucks gift card, Amazon Fire TV Stick and iRobot Roomba.

Ready to get started and experience the rewards of healthy living? Visit 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.

After you create your online Rally account, you may also take advantage of the Rally mobile experience by downloading the Rally app from the Apple Store or Google Play. Tap “Register for an account” and enter the mobile registration code BEWELL. Have your UHC card ready as you’ll also need your member ID and group number.

To view Rally FAQs, click here. Read The Juice and The Grove in the following weeks for additional Rally details.

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

* Gift cards provided to employees of the College are considered cash equivalent items, and therefore, are taxable and will be added to W-2 earnings.

Congratulations to the 2021-2022 League Excellence Award Recipients

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Congratulations to Valencia College’s 11 outstanding 2021-2022 League Excellence Award recipients.

The League Excellence Awards are open to League for Innovation in the Community College alliance member institutions to celebrate outstanding contributions in improving student learning and leadership by community college faculty and staff.

Recipients include:

  • Roger Corriveau, Manager, Campus Operations
  • Ellen Costello, Manager, Teacher Preparation
  • Laura D’Alessio, Professor, Biology
  • Victoria Del Agua, Administrative Manager, Arts and Entertainment
  • Randy Gordon, Professor, English
  • Will Jefferson, Administrative Manager, Peace and Justice Institute
  • Douglas Kern, Professor, English
  • Amy Matson, Custodial Services Supervisor
  • Krista Peirce, Administrative Assistant
  • Ella Raynor, Instructional Lab Supervisor
  • Jill Szentmiklosi, Dean of Students

For descriptions of how each recipient demonstrated excellence in learning leadership, click here.

Congratulate our 2021-2022 League Excellence Award recipients in the comments below.

Featured Colleague: Brenda Webb Makes a Clean Start at Valencia

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

By Jennifer Keefe

Ask Brenda Webb, and she’ll tell you that she got to where she is today with a change in her luck, perseverance and all the right relationships.

Brenda is the lead custodian at the West Campus. She leads the team that cleans and sanitizes the campus each night, making it safe for faculty, staff and students each day.

But Brenda’s personal story hasn’t always been shiny and bright.

“There was a time in my life when I was down on my luck,” she explains.

Brenda was fortunate enough to meet Manager of Career and Workforce Education LeSena Jones, who introduced Brenda to the right people to help her find and apply for a job at the College as a member of the custodial staff.

She recalls, “The day I was offered the job, I was so excited. I had no idea how much it would change my life!”

That day was in 2016. A few years later, Brenda was promoted to her current role as lead custodian.

She just celebrated her five-year anniversary with the College, an accomplishment she is really proud of.

“Wow! I can’t believe it,” she says. “During the past five years, I have met so many great people, and my life has definitely changed for the better. I never dreamed I would be where I am today.”

In her time at Valencia, Brenda has earned her Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification and several other certificates of achievement.

Her hard work has also earned her several badges in the College’s recognition program in the Valencia EDGE.

“When you work behind the scenes, it always feels good to know that your hard work and effort is being noticed,” Brenda says.

She jokes that her favorite thing about working at West Campus is the Dunkin’ Donuts (something we are all a little thankful for, right?).

Really, though, she says she loves “the people, the atmosphere, the opportunities to grow and improve, and how everyone comes together and supports each other,” Brenda explains. “We are like one big family. And it’s not like that everywhere else.”

Brenda is really proud of her night shift custodial team and works to support them in any way she can.

She also finds great support in her team of supervisors.

Mel Davis, custodial assistant supervisor at West Campus, appreciates that Brenda is “always willing to help.”

Brenda also appreciates interacting with and helping our students and staff at the College.

“I always enjoy it when I can do something that helps make someone’s day a little brighter,” she says.

Brenda sees Valencia as a major asset to the community, a place that gives students options and opportunities to succeed.

“Valencia is one of those places that give people second chances and the opportunity to turn their life around,” she comments. “I know, because Valencia did that for me.”

When Brenda is not hard at work, she spends time with her niece and nephew. They go to the park, watch football and movies and even feed the homeless.

She knew her personal values of working hard and not judging others were rubbing off on them when her 9-year-old great nephew decided to donate his birthday money to the homeless instead of spending it on himself.

“That really touched my heart,” she recalls.

Brenda says she is grateful to the College for the opportunities she has been given and the friends she has made here.

She’s optimistic about the future now, something she might not have been able to say just a few years ago.

Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.

Governor Awards $3.7M to Valencia to Train Robotics Technicians

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, that $3.7 million has been awarded through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to Valencia College to start a robotics technician program to support semiconductor and other advanced manufacturing in Osceola County.

The newest Accelerated Skills Training program will be located on the Osceola Campus and will have two tracks: a 14-week robotics technology program with training that is applicable across multiple manufacturing and logistics sectors, and a 20-week specialized robotics program that trains technicians to work in the semiconductor industry.

Read the full announcement on the Valencia News site…

Save for Your Retirement With a 403(b) or 457(b)

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Message from Tom Keller, Director, Total Rewards

Valencia College provides you with the opportunity to save for your retirement through the College’s 403(b) and 457(b) plans. Both the 403(b) and 457(b) plans are optional retirement programs that permit you to participate and electively reduce your compensation with salary deferral contributions made on a pre-tax and/or after-tax (Roth) basis, with those contributions passing to your individual retirement account at AIG Retirement Services. If you participate, you are fully vested in your contributions and earnings at all times.

Who is eligible to enroll?

All employees, with the exception of student workers, are eligible to participate in the 403(b) and 457(b) plans immediately upon employment.

How do I enroll?

If you would like to enroll in Valencia’s 403(b) and/or 457(b) retirement plan through AIG, you may do so in one of three ways: online, by phone or with the assistance of a AIG financial advisor.

Downtown, West and Winter Park Campuses and District Office:
Brendan Loflin, 407-907-7469 or

East, Lake Nona, Osceola and Poinciana Campuses, the School of Public Safety and the Advanced Manufacturing Center:
John Hall, 407-269-2263 or

Can I change or stop my elective deferral contributions?

You may change your elective deferral contributions at any time during the plan year. You are permitted to revoke your election at any time during the plan year.

When are my elective deferral contributions effective?

After completing the enrollment requirements, your elective deferral contributions will begin being deducted from your paycheck as soon as administratively possible.

What is the maximum amount that I can contribute?

The Internal Revenue Service regulations limit the annual contributions you can make to a 403(b) and/or 457(b) plan and the limits are adjusted each year. You may contribute the maximum amount to both plans in the same year. The limits for each plan in 2022 are the same and are as follows:

  • Elective deferral limit: $20,500
  • Age 50 and up catch-up (in addition to the elective deferral limit) $6,500

Who may I contact with questions about the 403(b) and 457(b) plans?

For questions, you may call the AIG Client Care Center at 800-448-2542, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST. You may also contact Valencia College’s Total Rewards team at or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-HR4U (4748).

Also, don’t forget that one of your Total Rewards — for both full- and part-time employees — is meeting with one of Valencia College’s dedicated AIG financial advisors listed above. You can schedule a WebEx or phone consultation to enroll in these voluntary retirement plans, discuss your financial planning and/or review your retirement goals. Your family members are also welcome to join you for the advising session. To register for sessions, click here. 

Explore the Roots of Domestic Violence in Rachel Louise Snyder Presentations

Monday, January 10, 2022

As part of Valencia College’s Conversation on Justice, you’re invited to two special events featuring Rachel Louise Snyder, an American journalist and author of “No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us,” which explores the roots of private violence, its far-reaching consequences and the efforts to address the problem.

Morning Keynote and Q&A
Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Time: 10 – 11:15 a.m.
Location: Online
Registration: Click here to register.

Evening Keynote Recap and Community Panel
Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Time: 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Online
Registration: Click here to register. 

The morning event will feature a live keynote and Q&A. In the evening,  the keynote will be replayed and then a panel of local leaders, including State Attorney Ninth Judicial Circuit Monique H. Worrell and CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida Michelle Sperzel, among other panelists will discuss how we are addressing domestic violence in Central Florida.

The events are presented by the Peace and Justice Institute and J.P. Morgan Chase and are open to Valencia College employees, students and the community.

Download an event flyer here.

For questions, contact Britney Pierce, implementation coordinator, Peace and Justice Institute, at or 407-582-6531.

Tools to Manage Your Finances in the New Year 

Monday, January 10, 2022

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to better manage your finances, Addition Financial — Valencia College’s preferred credit union — can help with the following resources:

  • Monthly Budget Calculator: Add your net monthly pay, your debt and loan payments, and your housing, transportation, food, health, child and miscellaneous expenses, and this handy calculator will tabulate your total monthly expenses.
  • Financial Goal Worksheet: This worksheet includes a framework for setting short- and long-term SMART financial goals.
  • Money Management Guide: This guide explains how to create a household budget; how to save on a tight budget; the best ways to save on a biweekly budget; why you need an emergency fund and how much you should save; how to live frugally at any age; and how to manage your money effectively at any budget.

If you’d like to open a checking account to assist with managing your finances, Addition Financial is offering $300* to Valencia College employees who open a new Choice checking account. The membership fee is also waived, and there are no monthly maintenance fees. Read about this offer. 

College Update: Spring Semester, Searches for Provosts and VP for Equity Strategy and Partnerships, and Job Growth Grant Award

Friday, January 7, 2022

A Special Message From Kathleen Plinske, Valencia College President 

I hope that you had a wonderful Winter Break and that 2022 is off to a terrific start! In this update, I will share a reminder about our COVID protocols for the spring semester, an update on our search for provosts, our timeline for adding a vice president for equity strategy and partnerships, and recent news about a significant investment in our training programs.

Spring Semester

We remain committed to the priorities that have guided us throughout the pandemic: to protect the health and safety of our students, employees, and community while at the same time providing for the continuity of our students’ learning. I sincerely appreciate everyone’s efforts to support our students’ ability to make progress toward their goal of earning a certificate or degree from Valencia this spring.

Given the current level of COVID transmission in Orange and Osceola counties, masks will be expected on campus. Further, we continue to accommodate physical distancing in our classrooms and offices. Additionally, we have made significant investments in improving the air quality in all of our buildings and have acquired a supply of KN-95 masks available for on-campus employees and students. To request masks, please stop by the security office on your campus or send an email to Courier Manager Larry Fox at and include the number of masks requested, contact person and delivery location.

As fatiguing as this season of the pandemic may feel, I urge you to please continue to take care of yourselves and your loved ones. If you are not feeling well, I ask that you please stay home and request that you encourage your students to do the same. Our COVID case management team continues to support our college community with illness reporting and contact tracing. If you test positive for COVID, have symptoms that could be COVID-related or have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, please contact our case management team at The team will assess your unique circumstances and provide guidance for isolation, quarantine and return to work/class.

I know that each of us has been affected personally by the pandemic in some way, and for some of us within the Valencia community, the impact has been devastating. Please continue to extend flexibility and grace to one another, to our students and to yourself.

Search for Provosts

I have been extraordinarily impressed with the finalists for our five provost positions and enjoyed meeting them in person before the winter break. Thanks to everyone who participated in the design and facilitation of the virtual and on-site experiences. It was an enormous undertaking!

If you have not done so already, please submit your feedback about our finalists here by Wednesday, January 12, 2022. If you were not able to watch the Zoom forums in real-time, the recordings are available for your review online.

The search committee will meet for the final time on Friday, January 14, 2022, and the planned timeline is to announce our new provosts within a week or so afterward. We will convene conversations with campuses and our career and professional programs during the last week of January to gather input on the gifts and talents that each new provost brings in an effort to inform the decision about the placement of each individual into the different roles. Please be on the lookout for the invitation to those conversations in the coming weeks.

Search for Vice President for Equity Strategy and Partnerships

We will plan to begin the process for our search for a vice president for equity strategy and partnerships after the provost search process concludes. If you are interested in serving on the search committee for this important role, please submit your interest online (if you have not already done so) by Friday, January 21, 2022.

Job Growth Grant Award

You may have seen the news earlier this week that Governor Ron DeSantis selected Valencia College to receive $3.7 million to offer a robotics technician accelerated skills training program, including a specialized track in semiconductor production. This 20-week program will be offered at the Osceola Campus, which is across the street from NeoCity, an innovation hub in the space of nanoelectronics and digital technologies. I am excited about this new pathway for our students, which will help prepare them immediately for high-wage, high-demand jobs as well as provide the opportunity for them to continue their education to earn an associate degree and beyond.

I wish each of you a wonderful start to the spring semester, and I look forward to seeing you soon. In fact, I hope you will join me for our next Ask Kathleen Anything at 3 p.m. on Monday, January 31, 2022. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments or concerns.