A Gift That Keeps Giving


In high school, Daniel Salas already had college on his mind. He took advanced placement classes, focused on his studies and thought about potential careers. When senior year came, he attended college tours—asking questions about programs, exploring activities and taking in the campus atmosphere. “My parents always supported my goals and said that college was the path to make my dreams come true,” he says.

Several schools checked off what Daniel was looking for, but they lacked the intimate environment he was in search of. “Coming from a small school, I was overwhelmed,” he recalls. “I enjoyed smaller class sizes in high school—I was close with my teachers, and that was important in choosing a college.”

After attending a presentation by Nelson Sepulveda, assistant director of Student Development at Valencia College, Daniel began looking more into Valencia, realizing it was the right fit for him.

Valencia’s Bridges to Success Achievers Scholarship helped with tuition costs. He explained, “I never had a college fund growing up. I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship… every hour I didn’t have to work to pay for school was another hour I could devote to studying.” He also became involved in student groups, including Student Government Association and Valencia Volunteers.

Daniel Salas

Daniel Salas

In spring semester 2014, Dr. Melissa Pedone, Valencia’s dean of math at Osceola Campus, visited Daniel’s Chemistry II class to talk about the Johnson Scholarship. The scholarship is available for students at Valencia’s Osceola Campus who plan to receive a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from UCF. The award amount progressively increases each semester as students demonstrate academic success.

Since Daniel had plans to transfer to UCF’s Biomedical Sciences program through Valencia’s DirectConnect to UCF, he decided to apply. It was the final binding agent to help him take the next step, Daniel explains, and he later learned that he was named a Johnson Scholarship recipient. “I was in shock. All I could think of was how blessed I was.” At UCF, the Johnson Scholarship helped Daniel in more ways than just financial assistance. The scholarship program provided him with an advisor to guide him along his college journey. In addition, he had the opportunity to write letters to scholarship donors. “It really hit home to me,” he says. “Writing letters was humbling and allowed me to think about what the Johnson Scholarship provided me. There is no stronger motivation than knowing someone believes in you. My parents are my rock, my main support system. And having donors fund scholarships for recipients like me—those served as my motivation.”

Daniel with Valencia student leaders during a summer team builder at Tree Trek Adventure Park.

Daniel with Valencia student leaders during a summer team builder at Tree Trek Adventure Park.

There is no stronger motivation than knowing someone believes in you.”

Daniel Salas

This past spring, Daniel earned his B.S. degree in Biomedical Sciences from UCF and proudly wore his Johnson Scholar medal at graduation. Today, he serves as a program advisor for Student Development at Valencia’s Osceola Campus. He plans to earn a master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Physiology, and then move on to a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. He hopes to become a physical therapist, helping people become not only physically healthy, but also holistically well.

He sees every day as an opportunity to impact on someone’s life. “Personally, I believe that scholarships are more than giving away money,” he explains. “They impact the lives of students by allowing them to focus more on studies so that one day, they can give back to those who believed in them.”

To explore more giving opportunities to benefit Valencia College students, visit the Valencia Foundation website.

…and I turned my challenges into triumphs.

Julie’s passion is biological research. She’s now a research assistant professor and runs laboratories in Alaska and Florida. Julie is living her dream.


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