Falecia Williams, president of Valencia’s West Campus, along with four other recipients, were honored recently at a ceremony at Orlando City Hall for their outstanding achievements in career, community leadership and exemplary personal character. Fellow educators Barbara Jenkins, Deborah German and Lisa Barkley, and community activist and business owner Tolan Trinh-Le were also recognized at the third annual BLUEPRINT Women of Distinction awards, held March 7 at the rotunda in City Hall.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando City Commissioner District 5 Daisy Lynum presented the awards, which were sponsored by the City of Orlando, Gamma Phi Delta sorority, Xi Beta chapter, and Barton Malow.
The Gamma Phi Delta sorority was established in Michigan in 1943, and is active on college campuses nationwide, including the University of Central Florida and Bethune-Cookman University. They also have a national youth program, provide scholarship and educational opportunities, and maintain an active network for professional women.
Rebecca H. Ford, president of the Xi Beta chapter of the national business sorority Gamma Phi Delta, said that the Women of Distinction honorees mirror Gamma’s national theme: “Creating possibilities from the impossible.”
“What all of these women have achieved can be attributed to not accepting ‘no’ for an answer,” said Ford. “They didn’t allow barriers of race, gender or background impede their progress, and neither should the next generation of exemplary women leaders.”
The event was also a scholarship fundraiser for the Orlando Medical Careers Partnership (OMCP) to help eligible students with tuition, books and lab fees to attend Orlando Tech and Valencia College. The award ceremony raised more than $20,000.
The partnership, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, supports all eligible students from elementary age through medical school. Commissioner Lynum created and led the development of this public-private partnership project that combines top-level, inclusive education, real-world training, and job placement in Central Florida’s highly competitive healthcare industry.
“Every deserving student should be able to achieve the highest level of success based on their individual academic ability, personal ambition and strength of character, and not be burdened by the financial costs associated with achieving their dreams,” said Commissioner Lynum.
“This year’s five honorees displayed not only the remarkable leadership skills that make Orlando a better place to live and work, but their success has inspired the success of the next generation of women leaders,” said Mayor Dyer.
“We are proud of the remarkable contributions these women have made, both personally and professionally, to help educate our young men and women and provide a high level of community service,” said Commissioner Lynum.
Williams first joined Valencia College as an adjunct professor, and she also worked in the Lake County and Orange County Public School systems. She is now president of Valencia’s West Campus, the college’s flagship campus, with an annual enrollment of nearly 26,000 students.
Deborah German is dean of the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine and vice president for Medical Affairs. Barkley was recently named assistant dean for diversity and inclusion and associate professor of medicine at UCF’s College of Medicine. She is ranked among top medical professionals in the country specializing in family, adolescent and sports medicine.
A former schoolteacher, principal and senior director of elementary education, Jenkins is now the superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest school districts. She has been recognized for innovative strategies that increase equity, equality and opportunity among schools.
Shown at the 3rd Annual Women of Distinction event are: (bottom row-left to right): Falecia Williams, president, Valencia College’s West Campus; Barbara Jenkins, Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools; Janeiro Coulter, BLUEPRINT special projects manager, City of Orlando; Commissioner Daisy W. Lynum; Mayor Buddy Dyer; Deborah German, vice president for Medical Affairs and dean, College of Medicine, UCF; Lisa Barkley, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, College of Medicine, UCF; Tolan Trinh-Le, community activist and business owner; Rebecca Ford, national president, Gamma Phi Delta Sorority; and members of the Xi Beta chapter of Gamma Phi Delta Sorority, Inc.