United Way Invests $1 Million to Support Low-Income Students Pursuing Trade Certifications


ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 15, 2022) – Today, Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) and Valencia College announced a strategic partnership to support students of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families. The focal point of the announcement was a $1,000,000 investment by HFUW to support low-income students at Valencia College’s Center for Accelerated Training Northwest facility in the Pine Hills area through a “Live United Scholarship.”

“Certified workers in trades such as welding, carpentry, and distribution warehouse operations are in high demand, and can often pay in the $17 to $22 per hour range. Getting this certification can be life-changing for an ALICE family who is struggling to pay for even their basic needs with minimum wage part-time jobs,” said Jeff Hayward, President & CEO, Heart of Florida United Way. “However, for most students, putting food on the table and being able to make rent payments comes first, especially if they have children. Stepping away from a job to complete a 12-week certification is next to impossible even though the results can yield higher wages and a better career. That’s what we hope to do – provide the financial boost for basic needs so that a student can take advantage of this career-altering, life-changing program.”

Students accepted into the Live United Scholarship program will receive a living stipend of $125 per week for each week of their certification. Training programs range in length from four to 22 weeks in specialties like welding, carpentry, distribution operations tech, residential maintenance tech, CDL, industrial automation tech and electronic board assembly.  Valencia anticipates being able to assist 200 students per year with this program.

“Anyone can learn anything under the right conditions,” said Dr. Kathleen Plinske, President, Valencia College. “While most scholarships focus on addressing tuition costs, this remarkable support from the Heart of Florida United Way focuses on the opportunity costs of postsecondary education, which often serve as an insurmountable barrier for working adults.  The Live United Scholarship Program will help to create the conditions necessary for low-income workers to develop the skills and earn the credentials necessary to move into high-paying jobs that are in high demand in Central Florida.”

Funding for this initiative is from an historic $20 million gift from philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott. This was the largest single gift HFUW has ever received in the organization’s 83-year history.

“MacKenzie Scott is the new standard for philanthropists to follow,” continued Hayward. “We are grateful she selected us and now we want to make sure the dollars are put to use in a way that will transform lives by providing career training opportunities that will yield dividends for generations to come. It is also our hope that other corporations and philanthropists step forward to generously invest with us. In order to live better, we must all Live United.”

Visit hfuw.org for more information about Heart of Florida United Way and to learn more about how to get involved.