Monday, December 12, 2011

Valencia wins first Aspen Institute prize, $600,000

Valencia College was acknowledged as one of the top educational institutions in the nation after wining the inaugural Aspen Award for Community College Excellence. Along with the award comes a grant of $600,000 that Valencia can spend to expand on its future goals in education. 

Valencia was given this honor because of striving to improve what really matters in a community college. Valencia’s degree awards rates are one of the best nationally for a community college. Graduates get employed at a higher rate then any other Aspen finalist and the school boasts the highest number of four year college transfer students in the nation.

“If it can be done at a community college setting, they’re doing at Valencia, and they’re doing it very very well,” said former Michigan Governor, John Engler. Engler and former South Carolina Senator, Richard Riley, presented the award to Valencia’s President, Sandy Shugart during the Monday morning ceremony at Washington, DC.

“We have this unique instrument at hand unlike any other institution anywhere else in the world,” said Shugart, speaking to the crowd at the ceremony after receiving the award. “Where excellence is not defined by exclusivity or expensiveness, and where opportunity is genuine.”

Millions of students have shared in this unique opportunity since the founding of Valencia in Orlando, Florida in 1967. Valencia ranked number one last year for awarding the most Associate degrees in the nation for a two-year institution. There is a current annual enrollment of over 70,000 students and an operating annual budget over $160 million.

Global educational trends show that the U.S has falling to twelfth place for young adults with Associate degrees, and nationally there is an increase of students dropping out of high school or considered unprepared to attend college after graduation. Despite this fact, Valencia projects to expanded on its number of graduates through programs committed to equitable outcomes and success plans for lower income and minority students.

Community colleges furthering the skills of American workers is a strong focal point for fixing the woes of the recent economic recession. With so many people today out of work or underemployed, continued educational programs like the one offered at Valencia are encouraged and supported by many in government.

“It’s incumbent on us to keep our country strong. We are really fighting for our country here,” said Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, at the award ceremony. “Keep those jobs here and the only way we can do that is through great community colleges.”

Currently around 60% of available jobs require advanced degrees, while only 40% of adult American workers have those degrees. If Americans don’t step up to fill theses jobs they will migrate overseas and continue the general economic downturn in the near future.

The Aspen Institute hopes to continue awarding future institutions by furthering this into a yearly prize. Founded in 1950 this organization's goals are "fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues."

By James Tutten

(Published: Dec. 14, 2011 issue of  "Valencia Voice" on page 1.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Unorthodox speech at Muslim student conference

      The Muslim Student Association at Valencia’s East Campus hosted its first conference, highlighted by Wisam Sharieff, a prominent Muslim American with an unorthodox speaking style and an ambitious plan for international peace.

     “We don’t need more words; we need more love,” said Sharieff. “But love doesn’t have its own language, yet.” He addressed the gathering of more than 500 Muslim Americans from the local community and MSA groups from UCF, USF, Rollins and more. They came out to this conference to address complicated religious issues such as the proper use of modern technology.

     Sharieff has an idea that expands the United Nations International Day of Peace to a long break in the near future of up to four months of international peace. The concept was equated to parents that have children who are fighting will separate them to let their tempers cool down. He is planning to meet and speak with Arabic leaders in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere to expand on this concept of unified peace.

      Though it can be dismissed as an over-zealous or unattainable goal, you can not deny that it’s ambitious, especially for a young anthropologist relatively new to public speaking. For 10 years Sharieff was in and out of hospitals battling illnesses, and spent his time studying the lessons of the Bible, Torah, and Koran. It was during this period he developed his plan for peace and an international language (like American Sign Language) to unify the world through basic human understanding.

     Other topics addressed at Saturday’s conference were staying away from being judgmental, stereotypical, or negative and how to deal with situations involving these behaviors. Included in the agenda was a long discussion on “The Beauty of Hijab” with its dress and personal requirements, purpose and function.
     Another topic of discussion included the relatively new stigma of finding a balance in the over saturation from social media web sites and smart phones. Some participants fear many younger Muslims are acting conservative in public, but behaving differently behind the anonymity of a computer screen.
     This is tied directly into the goal of the Muslim Student Association to inform, educate, and enlighten others concerning the Islamic religion.
     “Our goals are dispelling misconceptions that people may have about our religion,” said Amir Khan, president of MSA on East Campus. “People think we’re all like terrorists, or all Muslims are from the Middle East, it’s obvious that’s not the case.” Khan’s family is originally from South America and has no family ties to anyone overseas.
     There is a general frustration with misconceptions that Muslims face in a post 9/11 world. “It’s the only religion this day that has to defend itself,” said Dainia Abu Jubara. “If you say that person is Christian or that person is Jewish no one cares, but if you say they are Muslim then you have to defend or justify that.”

     Aside from informing students and helping with campus events MSA recently raised $1,000 to help with the people of Somalia. “We have 'Project Downtown' where every two weeks we go to downtown Orlando and cook food, make sandwiches and feed the homeless,” said MSA member Manar Isis. The main goal of MSA is spreading a positive message and helping the college meet its goal of embracing diversity.

     “We have students from around the world, and different cultures within MSA,” said Valencia professor and MSA adviser, Yasmeen Qadri. “It’s so important that we are all on the same page, and working towards the same goals."

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten / Valencia Voice)
East Camps President, Ruth Prather, (left) and other faculty speaking at the conference. 

Students explore new study abroad opportunities

     Valencia College has a long standing rapport from having a highly diverse student body and strong ties with several study abroad educational programs. This was on display last week as Valencia Volunteers worked with multicultural advisers and other guest speakers to inform students about more than 65 different international cultures.

     This was tied into International Eduction Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and U.S. Department of Education that works to prepare Americans for a global environment.

     “This is always a great gathering to inform our student about so many diverse aspects of world cultures,” said Bliss Thompson, counselor of international student services at Valencia. “Our goal for next year is to make this a college wide event.”

     This is the fifth year IEW events have been sponsored by the dean of students at West and East Campuses, with an encouragement and emphasis on informing others about lesser known or misunderstood cultural aspects from around the world. Several diverse topics were shared throughout dozens of information stations with project displays, with the general theme of international understanding and cross-boarder cooperation.

     “I’m really interested in different holidays from around the world, like the Chinese New Year,” said nursing major, Zandra Nelson. She was talking with other students and displaying her own project on international holidays.

     “It’s so good to understand the truth about other places around the world,” said international student, Taiama Ferreira. “It’s not always just what you see on television.” Ferreira hopes to study abroad in Rome and Spain when she finishes at Valencia.

     There are currently seven different study abroad short term faculty lead trips planed; India, England, Guyana, Denmark, China, Poland, and the Dominican republic. All trips give college credits and focus on studying specific courses in other countries, like in England where students will be touring British press outlets like the BBC as part of a global immersion in journalism.

     Valencia alumni, Michelle Steffenson, was speaking to student about her own travels around the world. “Research a lot to know what to expect before to travel,” said Steffenson. “That’s the best advice I can give.” Originally born in Denmark, Steffenson came to Valencia through the international exchange student program, and now shares her experience from traveling to dozens of countries.

     Truly understanding and working with other cultures is the key to international cooperation within the global community. To find more information about Valencia’s international programs, visit

By James Tutten

(All photos courtesy of Joseph Morrison / Valencia Voice)

Students experiance affects of hunger, injustice

     “Draw your fate,” the H.E.R.O. crew said, holding bags to participants as they walked into the Oxfam hunger banquet on Thursday, Nov. 17.

     Students drew cards with one of three classifications; high income, middle income, or low income, and took their places in the room according to their class.

     A lucky 15 percent were welcomed to the high class fine- dining table. Seated in chairs around the room was the middle class, representing 33 percent of the diners. More than half of the participants sat on the floor as low income citizens.

     Six lucky low income students were moved to middle class, representatives of real-life people whose stories were shared with the audience. The six represented a group of Mexican workers whose ingenuity and hard work enabled them to start go into business for themselves and quit the factory and farm labor. No one from the high income group was moved.

     For the fortunate six whose lives improved, there were six middle class students who moved to the floor to join to low income group. Two represented African women who operated farms in Ethiopia. One, who did not own her land, was forced off when the government sold it to a Canadian gold mining company. The other was pushed into poverty when the corporation’s factory polluted the water, poisoning her cows and goats.

     “Poverty does not give a damn who you are,” said Subhas Rampersaud, professor of social sciences at Valencia’s West Campus. “Tomorrow we are going to get up and eat; that is what we do every day. We have no idea what poverty is. Poverty here is relative."

     A slide show at the end of the presentation showed pictures of the men and women whose stories were played out by the students representing them, along with happier stories of people who have been helped by Oxfam’s programs.
     Oxfam, started in 1955, is an international confederation of non-profit organizations that works to end hunger, poverty, and social injustice. The idea for the hunger banquet came to Valencia when Valencia Honors students attended an impact conference held by the organization.
     “This event is a metaphor for how food and resources are distributed throughout the world,” said Honors President, Diana Lawrie. “Everyone has the same needs. It is only our circumstances which differ.”
     Representative speakers from all the major Valencia groups worked to educate students about hunger and mistreatment from around the world. In this modern age with bountiful resources a child dies from hunger of preventable diseases every four seconds or 22,000 per day on average.
     “This whole project was part of a bigger project, about bringing awareness about hunger, poverty, and homelessness,” said Diana Lawrie, co-president of H.E.R.O (Human Empathy and Rights Organization.) This Valencia group works to inspire action from students and others about different global injustices like sex trafficking and children’s rights.
     This event was based around another strong belief of the groups; to end hunger locally through the Homeless Coalition of Florida and internationally through the Oxfam organization. An international confederation of 98 countries working to find lasting solutions to hunger and injustice around the world.

     “We’re trying to bring awareness of whats going on in other areas around the world, and about hunger in the lower class,” said David Rosado Jr., student government president for Valencia’s Osceola Campus.
     A meal of salad, pasta with meat and veggies, and gourmet cake for dessert, was served on a silver platter to the high class, while poor had to eat rice and water with a forced rule of woman eating last. As time went on, some people still hadn’t eaten, and much of the food for the high and middle classes was left for waste.
     “It made me actually feel guilty about sitting in the high income section, so I gave up my seat “ said Kris Boodooram, a second year international business major.
     The students who crossed class lines volunteered by standing up, without knowing their fate. Once some middle class dwellers were forced to leave their chairs, attendees were reluctant to participate.

     “I was disappointed in the people that didn’t stand up,” said Leonidez Santiago, who shared in the plain rice and water with others seated in the low income section. “If you’re not standing up it is because you are afraid of losing what you have.”
     “Poverty exists, and just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” said Victoria Hoa a member of SGA, PTK, and also a member and presenter for H.E.R.O’S. She recently worked with her church to help rebuild a flooded community in Costa Rica. “If everyone worked to help others, they would understand that every little bit makes a difference.“
     Event coordinators urged students to think seriously about the reality of the situation, and encouraged those in attendance to turn awareness into action. A petition was available for to sign in support of legislation funding organizations that fight homelessness and charity.

By James Tutten and Shay Castle

(All photos by James Tutten / Valencia Voice)
Lucky members at the banquet eating at the "VIP "high income table.

Low income people share a large bowl of rice.

Stars shine bright at first ever 'Orlando Calling'

The two day outdoor music festival "Orlando Calling" rocked Central Florida with over 80 bands from around the nation. Thousands attended this event with headline acts like Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Blake Shelton, and The Killers.

Featured in this video are several artiest and groups along with exclusive interviews by James Tutten from the "Valencia Voice" based out of Valencia College in Orlando, Fla.

(Click above to watch video)
(Produced by James Tutten)

(Above Photo courtesy of Sebastian Arbelaez / Valencia Voice)

Talented students rock, backed by latest media

      A talented group of students showcased their musical skills as part of the “Commercial Music Ensemble” presented by the Valencia College music department. This free show also showed off the skilled technical productions Valencia is capable of. 

     “We do two performances a year and in the Black Box we normally have a packed house,” said Musical Director, Troy Gifford.

     The seats filled up quickly for this performance with some audiences members standing off to the side for the entire performance. A team of digital media students, led by Julian Matos, filmed the concert with five large HD cameras, and streamed the show live on Valencia’s website.

     This full live band of music students also had several members switching and playing multiple instruments throughout. The stage, lighting, sound and video set up utilized is valued well over $50,000 worth of professional grade equipment.

     The musical talent and diversity created the magic of the evening. The upbeat and diverse song selection could please everyone’s musical taste, with hits like ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder, ‘Clocks’ by Cold Play, and ‘Jammin’ by Bob Marley.

     For only a short few weeks of practice the ensemble gelled as a group and certain members really shined in their personal talent levels. Some members decided to wear some Halloween costumes to add another fun element to the performance.

     “My dream job would be to perform and make money off of that, a way to be simultaneously in a opera and be involved in a rock band,” said Samantha Riling-Lopez. A vocal performance major, Riling- Lopez is currently specializing in classical style, and displayed a pitch perfect, laid-back melodic tone.

     Other musicians switched around between songs and played several different instruments like drummer, singer and bassist Andrew Bosh. “A group that gels really well together, just sounds better, and getting that gel to happen is the most difficult part,” said Bosh.

     The show ended with a standing ovation from the packed house.

     “I think they did a great job,” said audience member, Mike Acavedo. “The horns, drums, vocals, and everything was nice and it just felt comfortable.”

     “I saw this same group perform yesterday, I really like Andrew on the drums and Samantha on the vocals did awesome,” said Marlina Conrad, a second year computer information and technology student.

     If you missed the show or just want to see the ‘Banana Brothers’ rock out in real time, this show is available in the digital media video on-demand section of Valencia’s website. More information can be found at

By James Tutten

(Published: Nov. 9, 2011 issue of "ValenciaVoice" on page 16.)

(Photos by Felicia Roopchand / Valencia Voice)

David Geldert has played trumpet for over 12
years, and just for fun dressed up as a banana.

Juan Rodriguez was also featured singing a Spanish language rock song

Friday, November 4, 2011

'Awake' marchers meet with Orlando occupiers

      The grassroots social media movement “Awake the State” recently marched in support of the “Occupy Orlando” protest based on voters ready to make a stand on shared goals and fears of political corruption.

     This march was planned for November because it’s nearly a year away from the 2012 election, with the prime theme being voter registration and sharing the information that is vital to the upcoming election.

     “A lot of the occupations flourish when they gain ground and they are able to start building an alternative community,” said Thomas Hellinger, a Valencia alumni and member of Orlando Food not Bombs activist group with members arrested for feeding the homeless over the Summer. “I was involved with an anti-war protest back in 2006 and a good rally back then was anything over 10 people.”

     Awake the State has a clear objective and clear supporters like the major unions in Florida such as police, firefighters, teachers and labor. They are unsatisfied with governor Rick Scott and the actions of the Florida State legislative branch. They want to let government officials know that if they continue to be unsatisfied, they will vote them out of office.

     “It’s just about voter awareness, engagement, rights, and protection,” said Amy Ritter, an Awake the State member. “We’re all out here upset over the budget, Rick Scott's anti-middle class job killing polices and a legislature carrying the water for the Governor.”

     "Occupy Orlando" and "Awake the State" are working together with this protest with a goal of bolstering numbers in support for each cause.

     “It’s just powerful seeing all of these diverse folks come out and show support for each other against a legislature that is passing law after law on the back of the middle class,” said Tymothy Murray, organizer and member of Occupy Orlando.

     It’s unclear of the numbers that will continue to support Occupy Orlando by staying in front of the Chamber of Commerce during the upcoming colder months.

     Because of recent protesters being arrested in Orlando, along with violent confrontations with “Occupy Oakland” in California, it’s unclear if this occupation escalates, ends peacefully, fails or succeeds.

     Next November the voice of the people we be clearly defined by the voter turnout and the results thereafter.

By James Tutten

(Published: Nov. 9, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 5.)

(All photos by James Tutten)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Large donation marks start of 'Drowsy Chaperone'

     The Valencia College theater program opened showing of “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Friday Oct. 21, in the Performing Arts Center at Valencia's East Campus. This unconventional and fun-loving production thrilled the large audience with music, dance, romance and comedy. There was also a surprise donation of $1,000 to the Performing Arts program from members of the Valencia Alumni Association.

“The Valencia Alumni Association has always been incredibly generous in their awards and their time spent attending our productions, and we are so very grateful," said Julia Gagne, the plays director and theater professor at Valencia. "We also love the idea of our graduates joining the Alumni Association and giving back to the college with their time or talent.”

     The play; originally written for Broadway in New York, is an homage to the Jazz era in music and set in the post-war roaring 20s America. This is interwoven with a modern style from the help of an unconventional guide and narrator the character “Man in Chair.”

     The best way to describe “The Drowsy Chaperon” is unconventional. It's not the typical play you encounter with standard performing arts style. Rather than a set time-line of events, the play is broken up and starts and stops several time by the “Man in Chair” character. He works as the narrator and bridge between the performance and the audience.

     Outlandish elements of the show like spit takes and dancing monkeys are addressed by the “Man in Chair” who describes what the audience is thinking and just how ridiculous certain scenarios are. By poking fun it allows everyone to not just focus on the absurd and instead just enjoy the show for pure entertainment value.

     Musically the entire production is very impressive, with several upbeat and catchy tunes like “Toledo Surprise”, and “Wedding Bells” all accompanied by a talented nine member orchestra lead by Musical Director, Tim Hanes.

     The ensemble cast featured many great singers, and moments where certain performers shined in there vocal talents. 

     Evangeline Mateo who plays the drowsy chaperone gave a rousing solo performance about enjoying one life “As We Stumble Along.”

     Jillian Gizzi who plays the bride Janet van de Graaff, displayed all the talent needed to be a stand alone star on Broadway, who's also a conflicted lover, caught in the crossroad of unexpected revelations on her wedding day.

     Another strong element of this production is the high level of comedy featured throughout. A high point created by Paul Layton, who plays the over-the-top Latin Lothario Aldolpho. Layton thrilled and delighted the audience with his lovable yet blatantly stereotypical portrayal of one wild self-proclaimed ladies man.

     “Everyone did a phenomenal job, I watch plays all the time, and this really blew me away, it's a wonderful show,” said Derek McAtee, a former Valencia student.

     “I thought it was great it was a lot of fun, it made me smile, I caught myself smiling through and I thought it was very clever. said Patricia Anderson, who coordinates disability support services at East Campus. "There's a lot of talent up there with very good stagecraft that was really wonderful."

     If you missed the first run of shows you only have a few chances left, with three shows Oct. 27 – Oct. 29 starting at 7:30 p.m., and a final matinee performance on Sunday Oct. 30 at 2:00 p.m. 
     There is also a special deal for Valencia students with a discounted admission of $5 for Thursday night's show. Tickets can be bought at the Performing Arts Center's box office at East Campus or online at

By James Tutten

(Published: Oct. 26, 2011 issue of "ValenciaVoice" on page 20.)

(All photos by Kevin Abel)

Evangeline Mateo who plays the drowsy chaperone sings her heart out.

Supreme Court will decide fate of 'Obamacare'

     The Supreme Court is set to address the constitutionally of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a case that will not only strongly affect his re-election prospects, but also the future of the health-care industry in America.

     One issue that is addressed through the reform act is the requirement of health insurance through an individual mandate, which will require nearly all citizens without health insurance to purchase it by the year 2014 or pay a penalty.

     “People that don’t qualify for Medicaid, or covered by their employers is a big issue with our students, the college doesn't offer any discounts and we have students at Valencia with no health insurance,” said Anita Kovalsky assistant nursing program director at Valencia.

     The fundamental question for this issue being does the constitution give congress the right to require individuals to purchase a product such as health insurance, and punish them if they do not.

     If the Supreme Court does rule that this mandate is unconstitutional, this would inevitably end the entire debate, because the individual mandate is a major component of the entire health care reform act.

     Allowing people with pre-existing medical conditions is another primary condition of Obamacare. Individuals that cannot afford insurance, have pre-existing health problems, or classified as ‘free-riders’ are some of the current problems seen in our health case system. 

     Though Obamacare addresses the problems, some consider this an over-reach of government, by being the first time the United States has ever required an individual to purchase something through a congressional act.

     With the majority of our national budget going toward the health care industry, addressing these problems and fixing the health services in America is critical to the stabilization of our economic future, and the quality of health care services provided to everyone now and in the future.

     On Capital Hill and around the nation this has turned into a strong partisan political issue, fundamentally what is a stake can very well be the fate of America as a whole. Through our prolonged economic stability or lack thereof.

By James Tutten

(Published: Oct. 19, 2011 issue of "ValenciaVoice" on page 8.)

'College Night' brings future students to Valencia

     Both Valencia’s Osceola and East campuses hosted “College Night 2011” events last week with more than 120 University's from around the nation sending representatives to speak with students at each perspective campus. Valencia was the main host site for Central Florida which attracted the attention of thousands of high school and college students from around the area.

     The purpose of College night is to offer any student looking for information about colleges they are interested in attending and speak face to face with individuals representing that institution.
Many high school students from around the area are attracted by teams Valencia sends out into the community and talk to student about what the college offers.

     “This event definitely helps students to check out different schools, find out weather they qualify, and what the steps are to apply and hopefully get enrolled,” said Jessica Morales, director of Transitions and Enrollment for Valencia College.

     Attracting potential student to attend Valencia is another primary goal of this event. Not only are students invited to walk around the campus and see what is offered, but they are also informed about extra on campus groups, scholarship opportunities and general campus information if requested.

     Florida’s colleges and many other stand-out university from around the nation were featured like UCF, UF, Cornell, Yale and more totaling over 120 different institutions. Tables and rooms were provide to allow representatives from the campus to answer questions and provide information to potential students.

     “I’m here sharing my own personal experiences, trying to give some advice and guidance and letting students know what Yale is looking for,” said Michael Brodsky, president of the Yale Alumni Association of Central Florida.

     There are also special focused programs like the duel language for Hispanic students offered at the University of Tampa. “We offer bachelors and masters degrees that are taught in 50 percent English and 50 percent Spanish, for any student seeking this type of specialized degree,” said Luis Martinez, a volunteer from UT.

     Many of the high school students interested in larger University featured at college night still want to start their education at Valencia. “Valencia is a really nice college, and I want to study sociology, and travel the world one day comparing different countries like India and America,” said Danny Blake, a local high school senior.

     Current Valencia students set to transfer after graduation were also looking at the variety of featured campus. “I’m looking for a local college and my top two picks would have to be Rollins College and Stetson University, I’m buying a house so I need to stay in the area,” said Jeff Morris, executive vice president of Pi Theta Kappa on Valencia's East Campus.

     Campus groups like Pi Theta Kappa at Valencia were also featured during college night. Other groups like student government, Club 3:16, African American Cultural Society, and more were speaking to potential student looking to increase future membership.

     Actually visiting the schools that end up on your final list will help you get a better idea of what they are like and really know if it’s the best fit for you or not. Informational events like college night can be a strong step for students planing their educational future. For more information of what Valencia offers go to

By James Tutten

(Published: Oct. 12, 2011 issue of "ValenciaVoice" on page 1 and 2.)

(Above photo courtesy of Brittney Rose / Valencia Voice)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A decade of help through 'Feed the Need' Orlando

     The 10th annual “Feed the Need” charity auction in Orlando coincided with the 40th anniversary of its founding group, the Christian Service Center, Central Florida's oldest non-profit social services agency. The CSC works to prevent homelessness, combat poverty and help others in need.

     “We’re trying to stand as a lighthouse, to provide assistance to those who need help in our community,” said Orlando City Commissioner, Robert F. Stuart, who also servers as executive director for the CSC.

     The auction event was divided into two parts, with a silent auction on several items featured in the center of the venue and a live auction hosted by Barbara and Wade West. Guests paid $50 per ticket to bid on items ranging from passes to the Orange Bowl in January, an outdoor billboard advertisement, vacations to Ireland and St. Lucia and more.

     “When you have a wonderful organization like the Christian Service Center it's no wonder that you can fill a room with very happy supporters,” said Barbara West. “They care about the work the organization is doing, and they want to be here to help.” West was an anchor-reporter at WFTV-Channel 9 in Orlando and left last December after 24 years in the broadcasting industry.

     Influential members of the business community were also in attendance at this charity event. “There’s never been a time when hunger is such a big problem in our community,” said Robert Brown, President and CEO at the Heart of Florida United Way. “This is about people coming together to help solve the economic crises that we all face in this country.”

     The over-all approach of this charity is to start with the basics like a free hot meal to those who need it. Like the non-profit Daily Bread program, that have served nearly three and a half million meals in Orlando since its inception, and typically give out an average of 580 meals per day through two locations.

     A majority of the funds raised from this auction and throughout the year by various donations goes to the Family and Emergency Serviceman program, which provides emergency assistance and relief during times of economic crises to individuals and families, such as a single mother who needs help paying for medication for her sick child.

     "We absolutely love it, not only are there great items to bid on, but it all goes to help the less fortunate in our area,” said Judie Lamprey, who has attend this event for the past eight years. 

     Another guest in attendance, Cheryl Forte, said, “I think it's just wonderful, and it's something only the good people of Orlando can really do right, and they take care of each other.”

     The only way programs like this are able to succeed is with the support of the community and political leaders. Auction events like this are only the highlight to a yearly struggle of assistance and charity in troubling times. 

     Though the crises we face now will not get better over night, it will surly be worse unless we all step up and help the less fortunate in our community to rebuild America from with-in.

     For more information on “Feed the Need” and other fine programs of the Christian Service Center visit their website at, You can also offer food, service, or other donations to help local feeding centers like Daily Bread that are always at an increased need to help families in the coming holiday months. 

By James Tutten 

(Published: Oct. 5, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 6.

(All Photos by James Tutten)

Contesting bidders raise the total during the live charity auction for "Feed the Need."

Commissioner Robert F. Stuart speaking to fundraisers before the live auction.

Inside look at Valencia's ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

      A dedicated group of acting students are currently rehearsing for this year's musical production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” in the Performing Arts Center at Valencia's East Campus. This up-beat, funny, and often over-the-top musical comedy is sure to entertain and delight all who attend.

     Julia Gagne, Valencia professor and the play’s director said, “Last year we did the Rogers and Hammerstein musical 'Carousel’ which is a huge show. So it's not outside the realm of my experience doing major musicals.”

     This 'forth wall breaking' production is a tribute to the roaring 20s and the beginnings of the Jazz era in music. It requires a real triple treat talent from most of the ensemble cast required to sing, dance, and act throughout the performance.

     It's set in a fantasy world in the sad but lovable mind of a man in a chair. The character has never seen the show, but when he listens to ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ in his lonely apartment, a grand musical performance breaks out. The “Man in Chair interacts with the audience as they watch, and eventually plays a role in the main performance.

     “It does exactly what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world, and it makes you feel happy,” said Robert DiGiovanni, a second year Valencia business management student, who plays the role of “Man in Chair.”

     The story focuses on a love torn, Broadway star named Janet van de Graaff. “She's choosing between fame and love,” said Jillian Gizzi, a second year Musical Theater student, who plays the lead role of Janet. “You can tell that she still loves performing, but if she gets married it's all over.”

     Other great characters are part of the total experience, like the cheerfully tipsy and life-loving “Drowsy Chaperon,” played by Evangeline Mateo, and the flamboyant Latin Lothario “Aldolpho,” played by Paul Layton. Most of the cast have several songs and dance numbers they have to perfect before the first set of performances later this month.

     Theatrical performances like this are a special experience and anything can happen. After a Summer of loud explosions and superheroes at the box office, why not take in some real fine arts and support your fellow students at this production in Valencia‘s Performing Arts Center.

     Tickets are on sale now. It is recommended to buy tickets early to ensure a seat for you and your guests. Shows begin Friday, Oct. 21 - 23, and continue Oct. 27-30. More information can be found at

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Cast member look on as Jillian Gizzi performs during a solo .

Paul Layton as 'Aldolpho' seduces the
'Drowsy Chaperone' played by Evangeline Mateo.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More