CLASS NOTES, WINTER 2016
Carol Palacio, ‘04
When Carol Palacio was attending University High School in Orlando, she knew her parents didn’t have the money to pay for college. And, because her parents hadn’t attended college themselves, Palacio was facing the maze of financial aid rules and the complicated college admissions process on her own.
When her guidance counselor suggested Valencia College’s Bridges to Success program, Palacio immediately recognized it as a lifeline to her future.
“I took full advantage of it,” says the Colombia native, who graduated from Valencia in 2004. Palacio is now the economic development coordinator for Orange County, and credits her career achievements to the Bridges program.
“They teach life skills, anything from etiquette to future goals,” she says. “One time they sat us in an auditorium
and asked, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I had never asked myself that question. They helped me learn how to develop goals and plans, not just live in the moment day by day.”
Palacio says she encourages young people she encounters to attend Valencia and take advantage of its resources, including Bridges to Success. “Find a mentor to guide you through not only the professional and academic path but also someone to guide you in life in general,” she advises. “Find someone to ask you ‘What are your dreams? Where do you want to go?’”
After graduating from Valencia, Palacio received her bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of South Florida and her master’s in public administration from the University of Central Florida. While working in the nonprofit sector, she served on several governmental advisory boards, which sparked her interested in working for government. In her current job, Palacio focuses on international trade and business development.
And she remains thankful for her Valencia College experience.
“I’m just very grateful to Valencia College,” she says. “It was kind of like my start. If you compare yourself to an entrepreneur, it was like that first investor. You always remember that first investor.”
Kyle Johnson, ‘04
Kyle graduated magna cum laude from Rollins College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He serves as the vice president and chief sustainability officer for both Lighthouse Central Florida (LCF) and Lighthouse Works. LCF is the only private, local nonprofit providing comprehensive, vision-specific rehabilitation, education, and training to Central Floridians of every age living with low vision or blindness. Lighthouse Works is a social enterprise business working to create competitive employment opportunities for persons with low vision or who are blind. He and his wife live in Maitland with their three children, Laney, Ella and Kye.
Melissa Anne Radecki, ‘06
After graduating from Valencia with an Associate in Science in Nursing, Melissa earned her RN, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from UCF in 2010, and a master’s degree in nursing from UCF in 2012. She accepted a full-time nursing instructor position at Florida Southern College, School of Nursing & Health Sciences and started August 2016. She has been accepted into the nursing education doctoral degree program at Walden University and started October 2016.
Jacqueline Elise Deere, ‘09
Jacqueline was recently promoted to regional vice president of Primerica, Inc., a leading financial products company. After graduating from UCF in 2010, Jacqueline earned a number of certifications, including Investment Advisor Representative, Limited Principal, Series 6 and Series 63. She lives in Boca Raton.
Mark K Berrios-Ayala, ‘11
After graduating from Valencia with an A.A., Mark earned a bachelor’s degree from UCF and is currently a law student at Florida International University. Slated to graduate in May, Mark serves as the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Law Student Division President of Florida.
Nikki Larchar , ‘11
Recently Nikki co-founded simplyHR LLC, a human resource consulting company. She and her business partner work with small business owners, typically with fewer than 50 employees”, to provide human resource guidance and partnership.
They cover areas like wage and hour compliance, employee classifications, recordkeeping practices, employee relations, onboarding practices, and employee engagement, retention and hiring and. Nikki will graduate from Colorado State University this December with her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies.
“Life has taken a crazy route for me, but Valencia has always been the biggest stepping stone,” says Nikki. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds!”
Hana George, ‘13
Hana is a graduate of the Valencia nursing program. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of South Florida in May 2016. Soon thereafter, she applied to work as a travel nurse and took her first assignment at a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Mass. Hana’s calling for service does not end at patient care inside the hospital walls. For the last two years, she has dedicated part of her time to service the indigenous peoples of Tocoa, Honduras, in Central America. Hana leaves her family and friends behind for a little over a week to travel with the organization called Open Door Ministries. She hopes to tightly knit her passion for service medicine and technology as she advances her career.
Mary Myers, ’05
Mary is in the last semester as a Ph.D student at Regent University in its Communication and Arts department. In April, she presented a paper in the historical division at The National Association of Broadcasters/Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Convention in Las Vegas. The paper, “The Hoosier Schoolmaster of the Air,” won second prize in the student history category and focused on Dr. Clarence M. Morgan. She will be a teaching assistant for a C. S. Lewis Study Abroad class in Oxford this June. In September, Mary will take the written qualifying examinations for her degree and begin the dissertation process, which will expand on the paper she presented at BEA.
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