Center of Attention
Valencia’s new Poinciana Campus will change lives and a community.
// BY LORAINE O’CONNELL
On April 11, Jovan Fernandez-Mestre was surprised with a $500 scholarship for being the first student to enroll at Valencia College’s new Poinciana Campus. That moment—and the expression on his face—was a perfect reflection of Valencia’s 50-year tradition of providing educational opportunities in Orange and Osceola counties.
“I felt so shocked to be the first student of the new Valencia campus,” Fernandez-Mestre says. “You don’t understand how amazing it is to have this opportunity.”
Valencia leaders do understand, which is why the college is offering a $500 scholarship to every full-time student who enrolls in classes at Poinciana by the registration deadline of August 11.
Located on 19 acres of land donated by Osceola County, the Poinciana Campus will primarily serve students who graduate from Liberty and Poinciana high schools. Because of the community’s remote location and minimal infrastructure, getting a college education has been a challenge. Students have had to travel 45 minutes by car to Valencia’s Osceola Campus in Kissimmee or endure a bus commute that can take two and a half hours.
“We identified that the Osceola County high schools with the lowest college-going rates are in Poinciana,” says Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana campuses. “Our hypothesis is that this has everything to do with lack of access to higher education. If you have to work or if you’re taking care of your family, it’s really difficult to spend five hours on a commute.”
“Imagine how different the future will be when students from Poinciana only have to spend 15 minutes on the bus, instead of five hours,” Plinske says. “Imagine how many more of our students will be able to pursue a college education when a campus is in their backyard.”
Valencia student Stacy Bernabel has been driving 45 minutes to the Osceola Campus and an hour and a half to the West Campus for her hospitality classes, with a car that broke down several times. Poinciana, she says, will change all of that for future Valencia students.
“Our parents will be able to go to college, and we can go to college,” Bernabel says. “Now there’s no excuse for us to say we can’t go to school.”
The Poinciana Campus, which Valencia President Sandy Shugart has called “a game changer,” is more than a building; it’s an event for the entire community.
POINCIANA CAMPUS IN A SNAPSHOT
When the $27 million Poinciana Campus opens this August, students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including 12 classrooms, a science lab, two computer labs, a teaching kitchen for the culinary program, a library and a tutoring center.
- The campus is expected to serve approximately 1,500 degree-seeking students and 250 students who want job training.
- Students planning to earn a bachelor’s degree can choose from four program pathways: General Studies, Health Sciences, Biomed/Premed/Biology, or Math/Engineering.
- For students who plan to enter the workforce, the Poinciana Campus will offer several Associate in Science degrees.
- Campus amenities include an indoor/outdoor café, WiFi access throughout the campus—and an expected 15-minute commute for many students.
- Valencia’s Poinciana Campus will also house the Center for Accelerated Training.