Orlando Sentinel Details Long Bus Commutes by Poinciana Students

The Orlando Sentinel illustrated the need for a Poinciana campus with a front-page article on March 5, 2015, that followed the morning commute of Poinciana student Alexandrea Castro, who gets up at 4 a.m. each morning to catch a 5:30 a.m. bus — and switches buses two more times — before arriving at Valencia College’s Osceola Campus at 7:30 a.m.

More than 300 students from Poinciana, a sprawling development located on the Osceola-Polk county line, commute by bus to take classes at Valencia’s Osceola Campus, which is located only 18 miles away. But for bus riders, that equates to a four-hour daily bus ride.

Below is an excerpt:

POINCIANA — Alexandrea Castro opens her bedroom door into the shadows, leaving the light off so she won’t wake her sleeping mother.

She uses her cell phone as a flashlight to see through the garage and navigate outside into the 40-degree chill.

Within minutes, the headlights from the small bus shine down the street of her Poinciana neighborhood, signaling the beginning of Castro’s two-hour, 18-mile journey to Osceola County’s Valencia College.

“I’m going to school,” Castro says. “Nothing more. Nothing less. I don’t think I’m doing anything extraordinary.”

President Barack Obama has proposed eliminating tuition for some at community colleges, a move to make higher education more accessible.

But for many in the working class, hurdles still exist to earn their degrees. Castro, 20, is one of an estimated 300 to 400 students from Poinciana who ride the bus in the sprawling community, according to Valencia officials.

“We’re in the northern part of Osceola,” said Remy Ansiello, a Valencia counselor. “Poinciana is so far away. We have a lot of students who are in the same situation as her.”

Valencia hopes to build and open a $23 million campus in Poinciana as early as 2017, if the school gets the state funding.

To read the rest of the Orlando Sentinel article about Alexandrea Castro’s daily commute and her commitment to finishing college, please visit http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-valencia-college-bus-barriers-20150304-story.html