A Message from the Foundation President

 

Valencia is a place of great hope. You see it in the faces of our students. You witness it in the nurturing hands of faculty and staff members who guide students through their learning odysseys and help them overcome hurdles. On commencement day, hope is manifest as graduates – some proudly, some humbly and others doing a little jig – cross the stage to accept their hard-earned diplomas. Countless, for the first time ever, are optimistic about their futures.

While our nation faces enormous challenges, it is comforting to know that hope abides.

What is even more heartening is to watch our students’ hope evolve, little by little, into faith:  faith that they can withstand challenges and not only survive but thrive; faith in their own abilities and intelligence; faith that allows them to accept help from others.

Among the knowledge gained at Valencia, perhaps the most important lesson a student can learn is to keep faith with himself. I cannot count the number of times a student has explained to me that her scholarship marked the first time that anyone believed in her – and, to her astonishment, believed so much that they were willing to invest in her future.

As a donor, you must know that your gift means more than a simple textbook or tuition payment. Your contribution represents a life transformed. It also changes the course of a family for generations.

Year after year your generosity increases. Even with an uncertain economy, you continue to make Valencia a philanthropic priority. Over the past two fiscal years, donors have contributed an unprecedented $9.2 million, including $5 million from Osceola County Commission for campus construction.

Because of our donors, the foundation increased disbursement of funds by 59 percent year over year – nearly tripling the amount we were able to award five years ago for scholarships, endowed teaching chairs, academic programs and equipment. While that sort of exponential growth is generally not sustainable, it has allowed us to dramatically expand your impact on students and professors in a very short time.

Our foundation’s work is not accomplished by a few. Foundation board members, college partners and community advocates serve as our hands and feet. I must thank board chairs for their encouraging, visionary guidance over the past four years. Our college president, Dr. Sandy Shugart, continues to lead the finest community college in the nation and to engage Central Florida in joining our mission.

Foundation board members have led a campaign that attained nearly three-fold what was expected for our first-time effort. Together they have personally donated $2.5 million of what will soon be $20 million in private gifts. Challenge-grant matching funds have net another $7.6 million, creating nearly $24 million in new resources to support learning in Central Florida.

Our campaign’s community ambassador, Jim Seneff, donated $1 million to expand Valencia’s nationally-recognized honors program, now named the James M. and Dayle L. Seneff Honors College. With the leadership of regional and international partners inspired by Jess Bailes of ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, our Taste for Learning generated $1.2 million for scholarships in three evenings.

However, even with rapid growth of resources, need continues to outpace our ability to respond. The economic forces impacting our own investments, real estate, spending and businesses are rocking the worlds of students and those who wish to attend college. Monetary issues remain three of the top five reasons students must drop out of college. Many potential Valencians will never get to the college door because they simply cannot fathom how to juggle their living expenses with tuition and book costs.

Among our enrolled students – and despite an aggressive, growing financial aid program – we still meet less than half the documented financial need. So these individuals struggle. Some will make it, thanks to scholarships funded by our benefactors. Others will fall by the wayside, unable to afford college.

Yet inspired by you – and by our students and college family – I remain hopeful and filled with faith that there will come a day when no deserving Central Floridian is shut out of college because of family finances.

As the economy wobbles, the tremors can be much more severe in the lives of our students. So I ask you to please continue giving as generously as you are able.

Every gift makes a difference. You make the difference.

I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul, writing from Corinth: “And now remain faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

I am grateful to each of you for showing me daily the power of these virtues.

Geraldine Gallagher, CFRE
President and CEO
Park Place at MetroWest
1768 Park Center Drive
Orlando, FL 32835
407.582.3150
407.582.3156 (Fax)

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