Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer dance students have a bright future

From the piece “Transitions,” choreographed by Sarah Harkness-Sebastian.  The dancers pictured are (left to right): Kristi Grainger, Justin Nunez and Betsy Park.  Photo by -  Nicholas Park.
     The Valencia Dance Department recently presented its Summer Repertory Concert, a unique event that showcases students majoring in Dance Performance, and high school students that participate in the Valencia Summer Dance Institute, a free four-week summer program designed to inform, instruct, and recruit dancers for future admittance to Valencia's Associate in Arts Dance Performance Degree.

     “Our dancers, in addition to our theater and music students work extremely hard throughout the year” said Dr. Suzanne R. Salapa the Director of Dance at the Valencia's East Campus. “We work carefully to select works that will have a broad appeal.”

     The concert featured a large number of dancers performing 12 different pieces highlighted with classical music, special lighting effects and beautifully choreographed movements. This included segments like “Dream Work” a performance piece choreographed by Valencia alumni Ashley Hymson. There were also several additional guest artists and choreographers from across Florida and the nation.

     “Dancing is a great way to express your feelings through your body, and exactly what you feel you can share with the audience” said Ismael Torres a second year Valencia dance major who has studied and performed live for over seven years. “It's refreshing to go out and see a classic style performance in a world of reality TV garbage on every channel.”

     Audience members raved about the quality of the concert and talent of the students involved. “The instructors do such a great job with theses student dancers, and create a performance that is entirely enjoyable” said concert attendee Bruce Thoms.

     “There are so many talented dancers on stage, I love coming out to show support for my fellow dance majors” said Valencia dance student Lauren Scruton.

     If you missed the Summer Repertory Concert, or enjoyed this performance and want to see more, plan to attend “The Choreographer’s Showcase” in the Fall. This is scheduled at the end of the Fall semester Nov. 18 and 19, and is focused solely on performance pieces choreographed by Valencia students.

     Tickets for the 2011-2012 season can be purchased online by going to the Valencia Arts and Entertainment wed site at

     The goal of the Valencia Dance Program is to be committed to students who desire dance as a professional career, and novice students who would like to experience a new form of artistic expression. For more information go to there web site at or call the box office at (407-582-2900)
By James Tutten

(Published: July 27, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 8.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter convention focused to inspire youth

     Thousands of Harry Potter fans from around the world met at the Lowes Royal Pacific Hotel in Universal Studios Florida for the LeakyCon 2011 convention last week. This annual charity event was bolstered by the release of the final Potter film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”, and a plethora of guest speakers, entertainers, live shows, and much “Pottermore.”

     Costumed fans and players from the International Quidditch Association, Inc, a nonprofit organization promoting the sport of Quidditch in colleges and high schools around the world, give the impression that this is only a mass gathering of Potter- heads sharing their same fantasy interest or “Fandom.” But this event is much more in promoting and encouraging a love of literature and the art of storytelling and inspiring children to read.

     The opening events “Lit Day” centered on several literary discussion panels. The first involved a group of five young adult authors speaking about how books; and being obsessed with books, fostered their writing and inspired their lives.

     “I love the fact that people are coming together about books, and that doesn’t happen often” said Libba Bray a New York Times best selling author. “I have to say that LeakyCon is 12 kinds of awesome.”

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

     In addition to the focus on literature, attendees were treated to interviews and a question and answer session which included 10 actors from the final Harry Potter film.

     “I want to make LeakyCon its own country, I never want to leave” said Evanna Lynch, who played the character Luna Lovegood in six of the Potter movies.

     The five day extravaganza also featured a performance by “Team starKid” a group of theater students from the University of Michigan. Their production of a Harry Potter themed musical has received millions of views on YouTube and helped spark the career of new Glee cast member Darren Criss.

     Potter fans in attendance were all very passionate about the overall message of the book and film series. "Magic is real, as long as you have the imagination to think of a better world, then you can make this a better world" said Lucy Stambaugh an enthusiastic fan with bright pink hair and dressed in young wizard garments.

     All the events of this convention worked to raise money for two main charities focused on literacy awareness. Book Aid International has been promoting literacy for disadvantaged people in Sub- Sahara Africa since 1956. Funds also go to The Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit organization, which inspires youth around the world to get involved in social issues, such as protecting thousands of woman and children in Darfur and Burma.

     For more information on the events around this year’s convention go to their web site at or the fan based site at

By James Tutten

(Published: July 20, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 5.)

(All photos by James Tutten)

Glee star Darren Criss performs with "starKids."

Celebrity panel with 10 actors from the last Potter Film.

(All photos by James Tutten)

Casey Anthony found not guilty, still responsible

     One of the biggest stories in American news is the high profile trial of Casey Anthony. After several years of developments in this drama filled trial, comes the time when the jury has decided the fate of Casey Anthony as "not guilty."

     The fact is Casey had possession of her deceased daughter’s body on June 16, 2008 as stated by her attorney, Jose Baez, in opening statements. Casey went 31 days of concealing the death of her child, not just failing to report a missing child.

     This was a trail about desperate acts and desperate people.

     Casey’s litany of lies, was her futile attempt to avoid responsibility for the death of Caylee, is the desperation of a young mother who wants the freedom to live her life without the burden of a child.

     George Anthony expressed his desperation upon the discovery of his granddaughters’ remains in his subsequent  attempted suicide and suicide note.

     Cindy Anthony tried desperately to implicate herself in the damaging internet searches, though it was revealed she was in fact at work, in a nurturing attempt to prevent her daughter Casey from receiving the death penalty.

     Though there is no “smoking gun” piece of evidence; there is in reality, a dead child whose mother is responsible. There exists a trail of evidence from the admission of Caylee’s death on June 16, to the deception thereafter, the false police statements, odor in the car, internet searches and attempts to blame others.

     Motive and opportunity are the "smoking gun."

     Home videos and family photos portray a happy loving family while the trial and drama leading up to the trial show this family’s darker side filled with lies and deception. The fact remains that Caylee died with her mothers knowledge and her mother concealed the death and body.

     We must ask ourselves "does it really matter how she died?" At the end of the day, the jury has decide the level of Casey’s responsibility of the death of her little girl, Caylee.

By James Tutten

(Above photo courtesy of Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel)

Increasing student fees harms furthered education

     Tuition rates for all of Florida's public universities can now be increased by 15 percent, the maximum allowable amount. This was a result of the decision by the Florida Board of Governors last Thursday, and marks the third consecutive increase in state tuition rates.

     Drastic budget cuts to education are to blame for the increase, but the long term affects are going to be far worse for the state’s overall education standards. The argument has been made that Florida has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country, currently 48th, but Florida was ranked number one last year as the state with the highest rising cost of living expense.

     Most working class people are under-employed and are experiencing little to no increase in annual salaries, while the cost of living continues to rise. In this economic climate, current students are more likely not to pursue extended degree programs.

     The State government needs to be fiscally responsible, but also balanced with the decisions they make concerning budget and maintaining an eye toward economic growth. Less funding lowers the quality of education, and produces fewer students who are able to seek a higher education. That correlates with a lower standard in the overall quality of life.

     Quality education is imperative for the continued growth of our nation’s economy. Education is the backbone of new industry and financial growth and should be encouraged, not stymied.

By James Tutten

(Published: June 29, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 6.)

(Above photo courtesy of

Charity fundraiser held in honor of former graduate

     The 6th annual 5K fund-raising event “Run, Walk, and Roll” was held last Saturday at Valencia's west campus. 225 participants paid to race and raise money for all of Valencia's scholarship programs. The event was in honer of former Valencia graduate and Valencia alumni board member, Justin Harvey, whose story inspires and helps students six years after his tragic death.

     As a student in the sports medicine department at the University of Central Florida, Harvey worked with the Valencia alumni board to organize the first 5K race as a partnership between the two campuses. Harvey was hospitalized and later passed away before he could see his idea come to fruition.

     Sharon Skoloski, Justin's mother and a professor at Valencia's West Campus, recalled what her son has done through his life for other students. "He did a lot of great things with and for Valencia,” said Skoloski. “He was never able to finish school, but this fund-raising event, in his memory, helps other students to realize their own dreams."

(Click Above to watch video)
(Produced by James Tutten)
     Mary Myers, a Valencia alumni board member, was a friend of Harvey’s when he attended Valencia. Myers said, "He had dreams of graduating from UCF and never realized that dream, which is why this is such a great partnership between the two campuses to raise money to help other students. Valencia hosts the event and UCF sends members of their sports medicine department to help runners warm up before the race".

     Ralf Jenne, a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Valencia’s West campus, has participated in the past four races. Jenne said, "I always try to win my age group, last time I came in second and would love to win this year." Professor Jenne finished 10th overall with a time of 23:03.3 and winning first place fore his age group of males 40-44.

     The 5K race is open for all runners and speed walkers to compete, with medals awarded to the top three male and female racers divided into groups based on age and affiliations. Trophies were awarded to the the top place and first masters for male and female participants.

     This event was successful in raising money, and keeping the legacy of Justin Harvey alive. Justin's mom, Professor Skoloski said, “My family and I want to thank everyone for all their hard work and participation and remind everyone of Justin’s motto ‘May you all shine out loud.’”

     For additional details concerning the race continue onto the sports section on page and for more information on the Alpha Gamma Omega Justin Harvey Scholarship for Phi Theta Kappa visit their web site at

By James Tutten

(Published: April 13, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 4.)

(Above photo courtesy of Don Burlinson / Valencia College)

Annal 5K race won by talented Valencia student

     The 6th annual 5K “Run, Walk, and Roll” was a charity race hosted by the Valencia Alumni Association on Saturday April 9th. It's also the VAA's  biggest fund-raising event of the year. Several changes were made to this event compared to years past with the goal of raising more funds and increasing student turnout.

     This year’s race throughout Valencia's West campus was the first to be officially certified by the U.S.A. Track and Field tracking standard for proper 5K distance (3.1 miles). Front Running Sports was also hired for the first time to track runner’s times with optional electronic ankle monitors for races.

     The race in the past was held on Sunday morning, but was changed to Saturday evening to encourage larger numbers of students to participate. This was adversely affected by the higher then normal temperature of nearly 90 degrees during the start of the race.

     Carlos Romero (#28) is a drafting and design student at Valencia, and finished the race first overall with a time of 19:23.5. Romero said “Today’s race was a hot one, and I was in third place and felt like I was going to give out around mile one and a half. The guy in first place then fell off the race due to a major cramp and I was inspired to catch my second wind.”

     Romero then made his move with a quarter mile left to surpass the second place finisher, Roque Nunez, by a time of 11.8 seconds.

     Roque Nunez (#50) came in third place overall at this race last year, and is a long-time distance runner that has participated in the New York Marathon, and is racing in the Boston Marathon next week. Nunez said “I got third place last year and second place this year, but more important than winning and losing is raising money to help the students with this great cause.”

     Julia Logan (#31) finished 7th overall, with a time of 22:41.2, to become the first place female finisher.

     A kids “fun run” was also held following the primary race to encourage young children to be active and participate.

     This entire event could not have been possible without the support from volunteers, helping to feed and hydrate runners on such an abnormally warm race day.

     If you would like more information on this event and other fund-raising opportunities in the future, visit the Valencia Alumni Association web page at

     For detailed statistics on the race results, visit "Front Running Sports" website at

By James Tutten

(Published: April 13, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 16.)

(Above photo courtesy of Don Burlinson / Valencia College)

A day without shoes enlightens charity cause

     Started by Tom's shoes, this "A day without shoes" event is designed to help the less fortunate and raise awareness of poor children around the world. Those who wanted to help out were encouraged to donate new or slightly used shoes to any participating drop off location like the one at Valencia's West Campus' student government room in build three. Some went the entire day without shoes to also see what the less fortunate have to endure. Tom's shoes has given millions of free shoes to struggling peoples and children.

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

Megacon 2011 brings superheroes out in force

     MegaCon is the largest pop culture gathering in Florida, and caters to the fans of sci-fi, comic books, gaming, animation, and much more. The convention has been held sense 1993 and has grown in size to become the largest event to take place in the Orange County Convention Center. This years event was highlighted by special guest like Actor, William Shatner and legendary comic writer, Stan Lee.

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


Monday, July 18, 2011

FIRST Robotics used to motivate future innovation

     FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics held its annual Florida regional competition at the UCF arena last weekend. A total of 60 teams of high school students and supporters from around the nation competed for placement in the championship in St. Louis April 27-30.

     Erik Halleus is the vice-chairmen of the Florida’s FIRST education foundation and a member of the FIRST executive advisory board. Halleus said “Science and technology today have become the most influential components of our nation’s and world economy. Being leaders in these fields will help are nation continue to move forward in the future.”

     Large groups of wildly themed multicolored teams supported by mentors and family, cheered their teams robots, and point scored during the game itself. Each team was only given six weeks to prepare for the specific tasks required by this year’s competition.

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

     The game this year is called “Logo Motion” where teams have three goals to achieve with multiple robots. The majority of the game involves picking up and placing inflatable symbols from the FIRST robotics logo (a red triangle, white circle, and blue square) on metal hangers.

     Bonus points are awarded for an initial fully autonomous round, where the human drivers are not allowed to touch the controls, proper placement of the inflatable symbols, and even a secondary detachable mini-bot race, up an eight foot poll, at the end of each round.

     Besides inspiring young high school students, several college students participate as mentors and advisers. Many of them can be found in the work area backstage where teamwork and offering assistance to other teams is another major message of the entire organization.

     Ryan Morin and Kelly Wildermuth are both mechanical engineering students currently taking classes at Valencia and working for local robotics team called “Exploding Bacon” based with Orlando 4-H. Morin said “It's beneficial to me because it gives me lots of work experience.” Wildermuth said “I've been involved with FIRST for seven years, and I’ve always loved playing with robots since I was a little kid.”

     Matt Conroy has taught mechanical engineering for 12 years at Palm Bay High School and mentors students for the pirate themed group “Piratech robotics.” Conroy said “We need new ways to inspire the scientific and engineering students of the future. This foundation has proven time and time again how to do just that.”

     Participants are exposed to vital employment groups in the Orlando area with major involvement from NASA, Locke-Martin, Walt Disney, and other major corporations. FIRST robotics is a great organization to become evolved with for anyone looking for high-paying engineering and technological -themed jobs in the future.

    FIRST also offers a great deal of different scholarship opportunities as part of the FIRST educational organization. For more information on scholarships visit

By James Tutten

(Published: March 16, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 4.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Government protesters rally to 'Awake the State'

     Hundreds attended the protest rally in front of Orlando City Hall last Tuesday, March 8. Disagreement over the recent budget proposals, and other decisions of newly elected Florida Governor Rick Scott, fueled the adverse reaction by Floridians.

     People attending the Orlando rally were comprised of teachers, firefighters, police, and other concerned locals. Many people carrying signs denounced Rick Scott and the potential actions of the state legislators on the day they began its most recent session.

     The more than $4 billion, cut in education alone, along with the addition of merit pay for all teachers, is a strong topic with education professionals. Ailene Markham, a special needs teacher from Edgewater High School said, “Close to 50 percent of teachers don’t teach FCAT classes, so how will we be rated by this merit pay system?”

     Along with cuts in education there is also a proposal to lower and eventually eliminate the state corporate tax, and at the same time decrease state workers’ pensions to cover the loss in revenue. Steve Clelland, head of Orlando’s Professional Firefighters Union said, “Everyone here is upset with the idea of giving a tax break to corporations and putting the burden on the middle class.”

     There are also proposals to affect the rights of the unions for firefighters and police in the state. Retired transit police officer, Victor M. Torrese, has been involved with unions for over 40 years and said, “Rick Scott is trying to destroy us and take away our bargaining rights. The same issues they have in Wisconsin are being seen here.”

     Besides union and state workers, many other concerned citizens also attended the rally. Seminole State College student Sarai Chavarria said, “It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, what matters is what you stand for and doing what’s right for the people.”

     The “Awake the State” rally idea began online with a Florida-based organization relying on social media and word of mouth to help spread their message: “We can’t afford more budget cuts.”

     More information on future protest and organizations can be found at
Updated information on budgetary and other state action can be found at

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Students compete for cash at 'Talent Tuesday'

     Students showcase their talents at Valencia's West Campus on Feb. 8, 15, and 22. Judging took place over three weeks, and was organized by the Student Government Association. Cash prizes for the top contestants and food was also provided to the audience! Watch the surprising talent featured in this video with highlights and interviews from all three days.

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

‘The Crucible’ casts a spell with intense emotion

     Valencia Character Company is currently presenting Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” at Valencia's East Campus. The powerful Tony award-winning story, a canon of American theater, is portrayed with intense emotions and new innovations not typically seen in this production.

     John DiDonna, the play’s director, said, “We're doing a very visceral production with dynamic subject matter based on true events. It’s fast-paced. The emotions run high. We even had a few audience members actually crying out in the hallways.”

     The most notable addition are the “Afflicted Girls of Salem” who act as a Greek chorus to the bewitched actresses’ performances. Though often laying quietly next to the stage, they become loud and interactive during key scenes, such as the girl's confessions of their devotion to God and accusations of witchcraft.

     Kristin Abel, the production’s technical director, said, “I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback. Audience members are amazed at the staging and fresh interpretation of the script.”

     Shannon McGough, the lead actress playing Abigail Williams, is a theater major at Valencia. McGough said, “People have been getting very emotional during the show. I’ve seen a women with tissues, and last night a girl sitting in front of me was grabbing onto her boyfriend’s arm.”

     Lead actor Cory Boughton, who plays the conflicted John Proctor, is a UCF student who performs with several other theater groups in the area. Boughton said, “People use the word intense. I like to think of the play as being visceral, with the added emotional level not typically seen in this play.”

     Laura Mejia, who studies theater at Valencia's Osceola campus, said, “I love the intensity of this play, and the afflicted girls and other actors help me feel very connected to the performance.

By James Tutten

(Published: Feb. 23, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 1 and 2.)

(Above photo courtesy of Kevin Abel)

Long standing traditions return to Kissimmee

     The 67th annual Kissimmee Valley Livestock Show and Fair started last Friday and it features 80 different thrill rides, prize wining games, classic foods, and music performances.

     Mayor of Kissimmee, Jim Swan said, “The fair has a great beneficial impact on the local economy, and gives folks a taste of this counties history and heritage.”

     The widely popular country music group “The Band Perry” first performed to kick off a nation-wide tour on Tuesday night. The group, best known for their platinum single “If I Die Young,” was recently nominated for best new group at the 44th annual CMA awards.

     Fair President Rick Nelson said, “We are excited about giving fair guests the opportunity to enjoy such a talented group.”

     The long standing traditions of Osceola agriculture are a treasured part of the local community and showcased at the fair. The Kissimmee Valley Livestock show has hundreds of attendees throughout the fair schedule that showcase and auction off a wide variety of farm animals from prize pigs to adult cattle.

     The attractions this year include Ferris wheels, petting zoos, helicopter rides, bumper-cars, magic shows and more. Classic fair fun-houses like Willkommen and Monkey Maze are found with a wide variety of other carnival games and vendors. Also look out for one very insulting clown in a dunk-tank that taunts passers-by with personal jabs.

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

     Classic fair food staples like funnel cake, cotton candy, suger-glazed kettle popcorn along with many other are found through a wide array of games to be played and prizes to be one. Fair guest, Jacob Swanson, said, “I love the food at the fair, it reminds me of my childhood.”

     The fair runs from Feb. 11-20, and has ties to the 126th annual Silver Spurs Rodeo on Feb. 18. One of the largest rodeos in America, it also has thousands of people that attend, and with the $15 admission guests can get free entrance to the fair.

     Normal cost for the fair entrance is five dollars for adults, three dollars for seniors and children 5-11, and free for children under five. Parking is always free and easily accessed by taking Bill Beck Boulevard off highways 192 and fallowing the “Fair Parking” signs.

     With all the great attraction and activities offered this year the city of Kissimmee and Osceola County are proud of the fair and the sponsors that put everything together. Bringing in the best of the county history along with exciting showcases are part of what makes the Osceola County Fair such a great enjoyment to the local community.

By James Tutten

(Published: Feb. 16, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 12.)

(Photos and video by James Tutten)

Community leaders honor education program

     The Orange County Take Stock in Children recognition event was held at Valencia's West campus last week. A prestigious group of community, business, and government leaders honored students and mentors involved in the program.

     Opening remarks were made by City of Orlando Commissioner, Daisy Lynum, “America has got to move forward in eduction, we cannot continue to roll back on issues.”

     Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, Ron Blocker, addressed the audience later, “I'd like to personally thank Dr. Shugart and Valencia Community College for bringing Take Stock in Children to Orange County, and the Valencia Foundation for helping to move things forward.”

      More than 16,000 students in Florida have been enrolled in the Take Stock in Children program since 1995. Starting in eighth grade, students sign performance contracts agreeing to get good grades, exhibit positive behavior, and remain drug and crime free. They are, given mentor assistance, and upon completion of the program and high school graduation, the students are awarded a Florida pre-paid scholarship to any in-state university they choose.

     The Orange County division represents 108 students in three middle schools and 11 high schools. The first 50 recruits, currently in the 10th grade, are set to be the first graduating class of the county’s Take Stock in Children program.

     The program boasts respectful figures dealing with students involved with a 92 percent high school graduation rate and a 60 percent college graduation rate. There is over $109 million in Florida pre-paid scholarship assets backing the program, and since its inception has generated over one million mentor volunteers with 7,500 current mentors in action.

     At the event this year the two students involved with the highest grade-point average were given special awards presented by Adonal Foyle, the Director of Player Development for the Orlando Magic. The top student received a new Dell laptop computer. The student with next highest score received a signed basketball from the Orlando Magic. Additionally, both students received free tickets to Thursday night's Orlando Magic and Miami Heat game.

     President of Orange County's Take Stock in Children, Elisha Gonzalez-Bonnewitz, is also an executive director of Valencia Community College. After recounting the success rate of students involved, Bonnewitz said, “These successes are a reflection of why Valencia believes in this program.”

     To provide a tax-deductible contribution, volunteer as a mentor, or for more information about Take Stock in Children of Orange County, please contact Elisha Gonzalez-Bonnewitz at 407-582-3336 or

By James Tutten

(Published: Feb. 9, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 4.)

(Above photo courtesy of Don Burlinson / Valencia)

Valencia Volunteers host stalker awareness event

     The openness of our digital society has caused virtual stalking to become increasingly common in the modern age. Stalking Awareness Month, and its sponsors, try to help individuals around the nation stay safe and informed about the dangers of obsessed predators.

     Information Stands, organized by peer educators and Valencia Volunteers, guided students in the lessons of stalker awareness. Valencia Volunteers member, Angelique Mulligan said, “We are working to spread information about stalker awareness and sexual assault awareness this month,” when asked about the mission of this event.

     Persons aged 18 to 24-years-old make up the highest percentage of stalking cases, and on average 3.4 million Americans are affected by this behavior each year.

     Stalking ranges from a single act to a series of acts centered on causing fear in a specific person. Seventy-five percent of victims are stalked by someone they know, with nearly 50 percent of victim’s receiving at least one unwanted contact per week.

     30 percent of victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner; one in five of these cases involves the stalker using a weapon to threaten or harm victims. Stalking is a crime in all 50 states with misdemeanor chargers for a first-time nonviolent offense, and felony charges for a second offense.

     Widely popular social media web sites share information with large numbers of people on the Internet. Users of social media should limit the personal data they release, and utilize all security and privacy settings to safeguard their information.

     An annual event, the awareness theme for this year is “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” This is meant to challenge people to fight this crime by learning more through information and education. Communities and individuals are encouraged to report stalking cases to authorities and promote general safety awareness.

By James Tutten

Political parties need to work with each other

     President Barack Obama presented his 2011 State of the Union speech to Congress and the country Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. Though his words were strong and inspiring, the actions he and Congress take in the coming months will be the true measure of his speech.

     There was several opposing party members sitting together during the State of the Union speech to show unity and bipartisanship. Though it is a lovely gesture inspired by the recent violence in Arizona, it will mean nothing if government goes back to politics as usual in the coming months. What's more important is that the congressional members actually start working together to do what's best for the country, as stated by the president himself.

     The key issues to be faced include: reckless government spending, unbalanced systems of financial regulation, job creation in alternative energy production and other fields, plus investment in infrastructure revitalization, public education, and security.

     Goals addressed in the speech for the political agenda include one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, and 80 percent of power in America generated by green energy plans by 2035. This is a great idea to get people back to work and investing in a sustainable future.

     Educational policies were also addressed like replacing no child left behind with a better system, and making the tax credit for college tuition permanent, providing 10,000 dollars over four years. This is no doubt important, but should be smartly debated as to how the programs will be paid for.

     Job creation and economic issues were the central focus of his speech, and rightly so. Issues such as reckless spending, unemployment, trade deficits, and the increasing national debt are all important issues on the minds of Americans.

     Even issues that have been very difficult politically were addressed by the president. The president promised that illegal immigration will finally be discussed and tackled by Congress, along with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The resolution of such large issues completely depends on the willingness of Congress to work together.

     The approval ratings for Congress have been low for several years according to Gallup polls. There was a shift in power during the last election cycle with voters choosing to get rid of many incumbent members. This needs to serve as a wake-up call to everyone elected and remind them that they are not guaranteed another term if they do not act responsibly.

By James Tutten

(Published: Jan. 26, 2011 issue of the "Valencia Voice" on page 6.)

(Above photo courtesy of AP)

Otronicon 2011 exhibits future tech in Orlando

     Video Review of Otronicon, Orlando's largest interactive technology convention held annually at the Orlando Science Center located at Princeton Street and Mills Ave.

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

A new focus on safety after violence in Arizona

     Security and safety is everyone's responsibility in a free society, where we maintain personal freedoms, while also looking out for the well being of others. The recent tragic shooting in Arizona can teach a lesson in security and personal empathy here at Valencia.

     Jared Loughner, the suspected Arizona gunman, recently attended Pima Community College, a campus smaller in size, but similar to Valencia in many ways. Procedures dealing with security are handled by Vice-president of Security and Safety, Tom Lopez, who oversees all four Valencia campuses. Lopez strongly believes when dealing with safety “nothing can happen without information, knowledge is power."

     For any on campus disturbances reports are filed with the campus dean, if needed students are removed from the area and taken to speak directly with the dean, or law enforcement if required. The dean of students will then form a review of the instance and individual on a case by case basis.

     If the disruptive person is not a student at Valencia or a guest they are asked to leave school grounds and can be forced off property by security. Lopez points out that “if an individual is a danger to themselves or anyone else Florida's 72 hour Baker Act law can be applied for any type of assessment through law enforcement or mental evaluation.”

     Politically motivated violence has been seen in Florida over the past few months alone, with death threats against former congressman Alan Grayson during his reelection campaign in November, and in December, the near tragic scene when the Panama City School Board meeting was held hostage by a deranged gunman. As a precaution any Congressperson or special guests attending events at Valencia receive elevated security protection as part of their visit.

     Several students at Valencia's Osceola campus personally encountered a disturbing individual yelling at everyone in the front parking area in late September. He was yelling anti religious rants that offended many students, some of whom threatened the disturbed person in response. This person than abruptly reached into a bag he was carrying and presented papers with wild incoherent rambled scribbling over the pages.

     Despite several threats and other actions this individual went on for several minutes without any regard for his personal safety. A disturbed person has the potential to cause harm to others when they have no regard for their own safety.

     Nathan Hicks, in charge of security at the Osceola campus, had no record of this event since it went unreported to his office, but stated “in the past the public Lynx buses that connect to all the campuses, have brought disruptive individuals that are then dealt with by security."

     There are programs in existence and in the works all focused on helping Valencia students remain safe and informed with help alert stations throughout all campuses, telephones with easy connect to security, and off duty police officers during peak hours that maintain radio connections with security and law enforcement dispatch. All of these systems and precaution have been in effect for several years at Valencia.

     "Valencia Alert" is a security and crisis alert system that sends important messages via e-mail, text message to mobile phones, and pagers. Alerts are sent in the event of any dangerous situations, or severe weather related warnings. Anyone interested can sign up and select which alert system they prefer at

     There is also talk of a smart phone application in the future where students can send in alerts and warnings via text message. For now any student that feels a need to discuss disturbances or disturbing behavior can speak to any faculty member, security personnel, or anyone they feel comfortable with on campus. Reports are filed in the security office and individuals can remain anonymous.

     Reach out to any friend or classmates you believe are in a troubled emotional state. The suspected gunman in Tucson is a young former college student that used the same social media sites most young people use today. These websites are often used by individuals to reach out to others even when dealing with personal problems.
     Anyone that has personal issues that affect their life can be referred to mental health professionals. A small effort to reach out and help someone in need can have larger impacts and help avoid or prevent dangerous or harmful situations like the Tucson tragedy.

By James Tutten

(Published: Jan. 19, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 2 and 5.)

(Above photo courtesy of Valencia College)

Free barbecue helps students warm up to campus

     The Welcome Back Barbecue took place at Valencia's west campus last Thursday. This event welcomed students to the campus following Winter break and provided free food, entertainment, and information about Valencia based groups.

      Free barbecue meals were provided by Cabin Creek Catering with choices ranging from chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork, beans, and coleslaw. Bill Whitney, another food vendor, also provided “Tornado Potatoes” which are twirled, seasoned, and deep fried potatoes on a stick. The lines, full of hungry students, all spoke highly of the quality and flavor of the food provided. Additional festivities included face painting/body art, a photography booth, and custom stickers.

     This event was organized by SGA to provide students with a chance to have some fun and also learn about Valencia's many on campus groups. Valencia's Nursing Students Associations, Intercultural Students Association, Model United Nations, and Phi Theta Kappa, among others, were all stationed throughout the outdoor courtyard. SGA vice-president Wendell Smith said a main goal for this event was to “let students understand how much school spirit Valencia shows."

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

     Keith W. Houck, vice-president for Administrative services at West Campus, was at the event and said “it’s very exciting, a lot of students have turned out, and they are enjoying the barbecue today."

     Jacob Solomon, a third year nursing student, agreed and said “anytime you can get a free meal it's great for college students."

     Live musical entertainment was provided by Erin Sparks from Nashville Tennessee. Accompanied by her husband on acoustic guitar, she performed a mix of original and cover songs inspired by artists like Sheryl Crow. Sparks continually tours around the country, bringing her folk/country music style to universities and other venues.

     Students attending these events were introduced and informed about a variety of on campus clubs Valencia has to offer including: SGA, Valencia Volunteers, student media, and many others. If you were unable to attend these events additional information on all clubs and organizations can be accessed through the college’s main web-site at

By James Tutten

(Published: Jan. 19, 2011 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 1.)

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