For Donll Desliens, 19, Valencia College’s new Poinciana Campus feels like home.
“The campus is really intimate; you feel like you’re a part of something. At larger campuses you’re surrounded by strangers, but at Poinciana, you feel more comfortable,” says Donll of Valencia College’s newest campus, which serves 1,100 students in a historically underserved area of west Osceola County.
Every day since the campus opened in August 2017, Donll, a first-generation Haitian-American, traveled just 10 minutes to the new campus nestled up against preserved forest just off the shores of Lake Tohopekaliga. As for his learning experience there, it’s not just the intimate pastoral setting that strikes a familial chord. This spring, he’s graduating with two members of his own family – his mother, Mirielle, and his father, Georges. Donll began studying at the Osceola Campus in the 2016-2017 academic year and moved to Poinciana Campus when it opened.
Mirielle had been studying on and off at Valencia since 2007, but the challenge of getting to class often got in the way. With a campus close to home, both Mirielle and Donll were able to complete their degrees in a timelier fashion, and, in the fall semester, both will transfer to the University of Central Florida through Valencia’s DirectConnect to UCF program. The Desliens were surprised not only by the rate at which the campus accelerated their individual progress, but also how quickly the new Poinciana campus first opened its doors.
“We saw there was a groundbreaking for the new campus, and all of the sudden it was ready to open,” recalls Georges, who will graduate with an Associate in Science degree in business administration. This isn’t Georges’ first time around the block at Valencia College, however. Upon arriving in the United States in 1999, the Desliens patriarch attended Valencia College to learn English, which ultimately paved the way for his bachelor’s in health science from UCF.
With three degrees under his belt — including a law degree he earned in Haiti — Georges is considering pursuing Valencia College’s new bachelor’s in business . But first, he would like some entrepreneurial experience.
Donll, meanwhile, looks forward to completing his bachelor’s degree in biomedical science, which UCF offers at Valencia College’s Osceola Campus. And he may not be the last Desliens to earn a Valencia College. His younger sister, who turns 13 this year, already has her eye on the college campus off Pleasant Hill Road.
As for how the family will celebrate commencement this May after a whirlwind year of work and study, they haven’t had time to fully think it through. For now, Mirielle beams as she says, “I will be happy graduating with my son and family.”
Valencia College’s commencement ceremonies will be held Sunday, May 6 at the CFE Arena on University of Central Florida’s main campus. To see the Desliens family walk across the stage, along with all 2018 Valencia College graduates, view the livestream, available for the both the morning and afternoon ceremonies.