Valencia Sends More Orange County High School Graduates to College

ORLANDO – On Tuesday, June 9, Valencia College held a ceremony to recognize and celebrate Orange County Take Stock in Children program’s graduating high school seniors, as well as their parents, mentors, community leaders and corporate partners.

The event took place at the Valencia College District Office.

This year’s 17 graduating seniors are from schools across Orange County, including East River High School, Edgewater High School, Evans High School, Jones High School, Cypress Creek High School, University High School and Wekiva High School. Each graduate will receive a 2+2 Florida Prepaid full-tuition scholarship for college.

Students from this year’s graduating class are headed to college at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, the University of Florida in Gainesville, University of North Florida, Valencia College, Graceland University in Iowa and Johnson & Wales University in Miami.

The program helps underserved children succeed, starting at age 12, by providing college scholarships, volunteer mentors, early intervention and long-term support. High standards, parental involvement and community support are crucial to the program’s success.

“Going to college is no walk in the park,” Valencia graduate and former Take Stock student Leanna McAlpin told the graduating seniors. “But having this support team — including your mentors — behind you is amazing. One day, I was on the verge of giving up when I got a text from my mentor…Having someone there who believes in you — when you don’t believe in yourself — it’s unexplainable.”

Since Valencia College brought Take Stock in Children to Orange County in 2008, more than 500 community members have served as mentors to more than 195 student participants.

“Our goal has been to offer scholarships, mentors and hope,” said Elisha Gonzalez, executive director of Take Stock in Children of Orange County. “Since 2008, our Valencia scholarship and mentoring program has impacted the lives of students in Orange County Public Schools…Our Valencia Program has over $4.5 million dollars in Florida Prepaid scholarship assets from the commitment of all of our local donors. It has generated over 100,000 mentor volunteer hours and have recruited over 500 mentors since inception in 2008. I am very proud of its continued success and growth.”

Attending Tuesday’s ceremony were: keynote speakers Judge Bob LeBlanc and Harold Mills, chief executive officer, ZeroChaos;  Jill Mickle, director, Florida Citrus Sports Foundation; Deb Mears, Mears Transportation Group; David Dawkins, senior vice president, Wells Fargo; Stephanie Allen, executive director, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation; Jovanna Heavener, executive director, The Heavener Foundation; Augusto Sanabria, president and CEO, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Florida, Inc.; Orange County Take Stock in Children alumni David Ashby III and Leanna McAlpin; Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson, ambassadors, Orlando Magic.

Since 2008, Valencia College’s Orange County Take Stock in Children program has impacted the lives of deserving students in Orange County Public Schools and has achieved a 99 percent high school graduation rate in the last three graduating classes.

“This institution is built on the idea that immensely talented people are found on every street, from every kind of neigborhood, from every kind of family,” said Dr. Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College. “I’ve been working in education for 35 years and have never encountered a program this successful.”

To volunteer as a mentor, provide a tax-deductible contribution or to obtain more information about Take Stock in Children of Orange County, please contact 407-582-3336 or