Two Valencia College administrators have been named finalists for the annual Don Quijote Awards, which are presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Florida Inc.
Each year, the Don Quijote Awards recognize business excellence and outstanding professionalism in Central Florida’s Hispanic community.
Elisha Gonzalez, executive director of Take Stock in Children of Orange County, was nominated as Professional of the Year. “To be recognized by both the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is an enormous honor,” said Gonzalez. “Growing up in Mexico City in a large family, I learned at a young age that everything is possible if you work together and for the greater good. I am committed to Valencia College and our community. I believe that economic development, education opportunities and top-caliber arts and culture offerings should be available to all citizens. I am proud to serve in Central Florida on various boards where collaboration and participation is the norm. I am humbled and proud to be a Don Quijote finalist and to be in the company of such accomplished Hispanic business and professional community leaders.”
Dr. Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola Campus, was nominated for being a champion for the Hispanic community. At Valencia’s Osceola Campus, 42 percent of the students are Hispanic and Dr. Plinske has worked with the Osceola County schools and Osceola Education Foundation to increase the college-going rate for students in Osceola County.
“I can think of no greater honor than to be recognized as a finalist for the Don Quijote Hispanic Community Champion Award,” said Dr. Plinske afterward. “While not Latina by birth, through my studies of Spanish, travels to Latin America, and work in Central Florida, I truly feel embraced by and part of the Hispanic community.
“As a first-generation college student, I was blessed to receive a scholarship to study Spanish, including the opportunity to study in Mexico. The opportunity to learn Spanish and explore the rich cultural heritage of Latin America was truly a gift, and I can think of no better way to give back than to help our Spanish-speaking families learn about the importance of higher education and help the dream of going to college become a reality for our students.”
The awards will be presented on Dec. 7 at Disney’s Epcot Pavilion.