Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Students Speak Up About Valencia Food

ORLANDO, Fla. -- How often do you get the chance to speak your mind, about the food you eat every day, directly to the people who make it? Cabin Creek invited anyone and everyone to an open discussion forum last Thursday, on behalf of the food offered at Valencia.

The SGA legislature holds a Town Hall meeting every semester, on every campus. One representative didn’t expect this many people to show up, “we usually have a smaller turnout,” he said.

Ryan Wilson, east campus manager of Cabin Creek, said this was the top selling campus and they made a good choice to hold the discussion there.

Cabin Creek is a major contributor to the school’s overall budget, rolling in an expected $100,000 to go to the school’s “coffers,” as Larry Tackett put it.

He is the co-founder and co-owner of Cabin Creek, along with his wife Gini Tackett.

As the meeting began, Tackett highlighted the main points of the proceeding discussion.

Standing along the walls and strung throughout the audience, students and faculty alike brought with them food and drinks - straight from the cafeteria that Cabin Creek maintains.

When the forum opened up for comments and suggestions from the audience, a female student told the legislative board of that she buys food from them four times per week. She asked why their customers were being treated without respect.

Wilson responded in saying they were “cracking down on employees.” He said, “I take a lot of pride in people being treated fairly. I’ll handle that immediately and try and make it right.”

He suggested that the next time the situation arises, students should bring it to his attention to take care of the problem as soon as it happens.

“I’m always here, even if you can’t see me, I’m always around.”

One student said, “The people are always friendly and warm, the food is great. I have nothing but praise.”

Marissa Sanchez had a different opinion entirely. She said the ratio of price to amount of food doesn’t match up. She suggested they offer a $5 all you can eat buffet from 12 - 2 p.m. to appeal to more customers.

Member of SGA, James Fremming did second the motion.

“Without proper proportion, we will not be able to think to our fullest potential,” he said.

With the steady rise in concern for the environment, among students, the topic of whether Cabin Creek would be “going green” was also brought up. Wilson said that they are switching from foam cups to paper ones and that students would be able to have their own thermoses filled with coffee from the Little Bean Co. to reduce garbage, saying “a big chunk of the budget goes to paper cups.”

The amount of money they have at their disposal is a constant factor for small businesses. “The foam cups are cheaper but have a longer lifespan in landfills,” Wilson said. They are harder to break down.

There was little they could do to reduce energy consumption during school hours, but they will be installing energy efficient lighting fixtures in the cafeteria to help with their overall carbon footprint.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and there are always going to be improvements to be made,” Wilson said.

Cabin Creek has a national sales deal with Cisco foods, in that they don’t sell low quality products. This “mom and pop” company is equal to the largest restaurant chains, Tackett said. “The pricing is very fair, compared with campuses of other colleges and neighboring restaurants.”

Student Ian Bowers begged to differ.

“The quality has declined and the price has gone up,” Bowers said. “Back in 2007, the quality of the chicken tenders was like restaurant style, but now you get an inconsistent amount of pieces,” among various other issues.

From the conception of Cabin Creek to its second year, the profit margin leapt from about -$189,000 to -$45,000. This year, the founding board expects further improvement: “I feel very good about this year. It is the first year that we’re in the black instead of the red.” The company is now able to begin to pay off past debt.

The staff of Cabin Creek expressed a personal connection with the college. “We love Valencia,” Tackett said. “You have a place in our hearts.”

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

5th Annual 5k Run in memorium of student Justin Harvey

ORLANDO, Fla. - The 5th annual 5k Run took place Sunday in honor of Justin Harvey. Runners and walkers of all ages came to school bright and early to raise money for the cause. All benefits from the race went toward scholarships at Valencia Community College and the Alumni Association.

The University of Central Florida student athletic trainers organization also helped the runners with physical warm ups.

The 5k wouldn't have happened without the ambition of Harvey, who worked with UCF to organize the original event.

It took his mother four years to finally attend the event named for the memory of her son. She came, walked and left before the awards were even been handed out.

Describing Harvey, Eileen Stana said, "he was one of the most healthy, energetic guys I know." A few of the participants said they knew Harvey personally and didn't expect for him to tell them he was sick, all of a sudden, one day five years ago.

He passed away two weeks before the first race, still trying to coordinate the coming race while in his hospitable bed. One Alumni member said he was really selfless; that he cared more for others than about himself.

For most people, it's either their first 5k race they had ever run or it was their first at Valencia.

The overall female awards for best time went to the Stricker sisters for first and third place and Francesca Rivas for second.

Rivas normally runs about eight miles every day and makes sure to eat plenty of pasta, cereal and meat to maintain her diet. She also drinks about a gallon of water a day. "I don't really think about it," she said, "I just like water."

Runner Eric Irizarry came in second place, for overall male.

Under the tent right in front of the University Building, nursing and respiratory care students administered physical tests to participants. Nita Harris is a nursing student with two semesters remaining. She said her professor, Kim Laughman, was running while she helped assess the health of students before and after the run.

"A lot of students have heart murmurs, they may feel dizzy and lightheaded and not know why," said program director of respiratory care, Jamy Chulak.

Tom Harris, his wife and two sons, have been running since the race was initially organized. Lee Harris won second place in his division, while his brother and father both won third in their age groups. Lee Harris has been running since he was five years old.

Kelly Knauth, of the Communications department, is participating for the first time this year. She said it was important to raise money for student scholarships and "it's a neat way to meet people. Everyone has a common goal."

Harvey was earning his degree in Sports Medicine, but few people knew about his passion for music. He was also a concert musician.

He was also part of the scholarship committee, as well as being on the Valencia Student Alumni Board. He founded the 5k run on Feb. 26, 2006.

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chinese Festival

ORLANDO, Fla. - Valencia Community College is bringing everyone together by connecting students from different cultures. The East Campus hosted the annual Chinese Festival on March 3, this year of the Tiger, for hours of enlightening activities and performances.

The members of the International Club were there to help set up the decorations, hand out fried dumplings, and translate the names of students into modern Chinese symbols.

Jorge Reyes, a student volunteer, received both his first name and last name in full Chinese characters, as translated by Edsion Dai, a member of the club. The words are written according to their pronunciation, said Dai, in segments proportional to the number of syllables in the name.

Lion dancing took place, which usually entails two people per lion, one the head, the other the tail end, who wear a traditional animal costume and move to the rhythm of a beating drum. Each motion and flick of the lions' "body parts" symbolizes different behaviors and overall emotions that the lion may be having. For example, during the beginning of the dance, the two lions greet each other by seeming to sniff one another's behind. Then each dances, kicks, and jumps around to depict the different events of one larger story.

The theatrics were provided by the Traditional Martial Arts Center. The performers were Fallon Mosley, as the head of the gold lion, with Sifu Charles Rivera, as the tail. Bryan Schmidt and Donald Shaw made up the silver and purple lion.

Students not standing around to watch the show were lining up to participate in the activities under cover of the campus' library entrance. Volunteers and International Club members taught students the art of Origami, Chinese paper cutting, the meaning of their Chinese Zodiac signs, and how to properly use chopsticks. If a student visited a least 2 of these events, they would earn a free dumpling as a warm treat in the face of the harsh wind tearing around the stands that day.

In the middle of the cultural fray, the club president, Meghan LeFranc, was called on stage to accept her Student of the Year Award by adviser Lori Sunday. LeFranc welcomed and thanked everyone for coming to the event and spoke briefly about how enthusiastic she is about being a member of such a vital group on campus.

Originally from France, she said, "Yes, I'm from France, but the Eiffel Tower is not France to me." She said the objective of the club is to bring different students together to give them an insight as to the culture behind the icons that seem to represent each country.

"We try to be a democracy," she said. As the president of the International Club, she wants to hear the views and opinions of the members to try to meet their needs and give each one an opportunity to show the school what their heritage means to them.

Continuing the action, Rivera and Sifu Sam Winters demonstrated the moves involved in proper Tai Chi technique. Regarding this type of meditation, Winters said that it is almost like "moving yoga."

"It increases your balance, stamina and your coordination. Thousands of people in China do it every day. Everyday, like boom! They're in the park, doing Tai Chi.

"It's so good for your health," Winters said.

Each "sifu" brought out his own sword, by the end of the event, to show their skills in Tang Soo Do to the growing crowd.

Rivera has been practicing various Martial Arts for more than 30 years, where students Schmidt and Shaw have been practicing for as much as 14 years, between the both of them.

The International Club has been up and running for more than 20 years now, and still comes together on a weekly basis to bring information to anyone who is curious enough to attend the meetings.

The club is especially for those who wish to travel and learn about life in different countries. Member Marie Andresol said that being involved with the club can help students understand what it would be like to immerse themselves in another culture. The information provided every Tuesday, when the club meets, can give them knowledge on where to go and how to behave in different cultural settings.

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

16th Annual Soul Food Festival

ORLANDO, Fla. - Black History Month was packed with all kinds of cultural events, hosted by Valencia's staff and students. One day, in particular, held the Soul Food Festival on the West campus with Janet Bryan as the primary hostess.

The festival took place Thursday, under the overhanging roof of the side of the SSB building and spread to the picnic area beyond. Students gathered around to wait in line for a heaping plate of African American delicacies, while Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream," speech played in the background.

This was the 16th annual Soul Food Festival and the third year being run with the help of student volunteer and all-around community representative, Janet Bryan.

John Stover is the adviser to A2CS (African American Cultural Society) and Black High Achievers. He organized the festival from the ground up, with the help of Bryan.

“Some of the other festivities that we do help students understand more about our culture," said Stover.

The Soul Food Festival is named after Janet Bryan, who has been a very community oriented student and volunteer for Valencia for the last 3 years. She’s a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the book club, and she’s also on the Committee for Social Justice.

“I like Valencia, I live here. I got a room upstairs and everything," said Bryan. She was only partly joking, of course.

Bryan volunteers at Christian charities and Disney. She’ll also be going to the Dominican Republic next month to be a part of the Civilian Police Patrol for 14 weeks from March to June. She had to postpone the trip, recently, because she is working with an orphanage now.

“I believe in giving back to the community. Someone gave me this, so I wanted to give back,” said Bryan.

Almost every day, there is an event taking place on the West campus of the school. Student Beverly Stanisclause said that she heard of the festival by way of the announcements section of her Atlas account. There were also signs on the street and on billboards around the school that advertised the event.

Stanisclause is a full time student at Valencia. She decided to stop by and grab some food after her classes were finished for the day. Acaie and saw fish is her favorite soul food. She was excited to try the DSM Catering version of the dish. “I think I see it up there, already," she said.

While students waited in line to pick up either fried chicken, green beans, pasta or banana pudding they talked among themselves and read a brief snapshot of the history of the contributions that African American leaders gave to America. There was a framed poster of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X shaking hands on the right and African artifacts to the left of milling students.

“We have a lot of displays and we hand out scholarship information, which also helps," said Stover.

A few tables held decorations, showcasing original artifacts from Kenya, Africa. There were fur-lined drums, wooden statues, pewter dinnerware, and even miniature clay models of cultural icons.

The free food was provided by a company called DSM Catering, suggested by the Black History Class, on campus. DSM is almost 10 years in the making, which consists of an entire family of cooks and chefs.

“Yeah, we’ve been doing it all our lives,” said Raymond Murray.

Sandra, William, and Raymond Murray started the company in Long Island, New York and the three moved down to Florida together shortly after.

Guest speaker Alzo Reddick, an ex-Army General, said a few words to motivate students sitting around and enjoying the "soul food" and company of nearby friends.

“It’s not about where you began, but where you end up,” said Reddick, referencing the immense amount of potential that each and every college student, and American possessed within themselves; this being regardless as to the color of a person's skin.

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

"Hiding in the Spotlight," the story of a woman with "Steel in her Spine."

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Sentinel columnist Greg Dawson spoke to the students of Valencia, Friday, about one of the most personal aspects of his life: his mother.

Dawson's mother, Zhanna Arshanskaya, is one of 16,000 Jewish people to survive the invasion of Ukraine by Germany during the Holocaust. Only she and her sister, Frina, are known survivors to escape the clutches of the Nazi Army, during the Soviet era.

The two girls, then 12 and 8 years old, hid in plain sight of the Germans by "entertaining the enemies." The sisters played piano, acted, and sang under commission of the Third Reich.

"By the time I had heard the story, I was about 30," Dawson said. He was not raised by his mother, knowing she had survived the horrors of the Holocaust. "It was almost like hearing a stranger tell you this story."

Arshanskaya was given the chance to jump out of line of the impending death march at Drabitsky Yar through a bribe that her father, Dmitri, made with one of the Nazi soldiers. He gave the soldier his pocket watch and asked to turn a blind eye, so that young Zhanna could escape into the woods.

It worked.

Her father's last words to her were, "I don't care what you do, just live."

Dawson presented a short video outlining some of the trials that Arshanskaya went through, the students in the audience paying rapt attention.

The Jewish were taken from their homes and marched for 2 weeks, having no food and very little water to survive on. Not all of them survived.

Statues meant to pay homage to famed poets and artists, of the age, hung the corpses of Jewish people, instead. The city of Kharkov, Ukraine would never be the same.

He admitted that it wasn't too easy to write the book, "Hiding in the Spotlight."

"You can be a great sprinter, without being a marathon runner and vice-versa," said Dawson. Essentially, you may be able to write short news stories full of facts and objectivity, but when you try to write a more creative, personal narrative, it can wear you out.

Being a career journalist, he has learned this lesson all too well.

Valencia student Amanda Masri already began reading the book, after picking it up in the bookstore, a few days before the event.

"I wasn't a huge fan of his writing at first, because of his journalistic style," Masri said, "but it is interesting. He's very facts-oriented."

To everyone's surprise, sophomore Richelle Clark, received a copy of Dawson's book, with an exceptional addition within the first few pages.

Arshanskaya, herself, signed Clark's book, without anyone knowing beforehand. She is the only person to have this signature in her copy of the book.

Young Frina Arshanskaya escaped, but to this day will not divulge to anyone how she managed to survive.

The Arshanskayas were reunited several days later, a hospitable couple, the Boganchas, took them in.

In 1945, they were liberated by Americans and taken to a displaced person's camp in Munich, Germany. Larry Dawson was leader of the camp.

Young Zhanna could hide her heritage inside the facade of an Aryan child, but she could not hide her talent for music. Larry Dawson helped the girls organize a concert to perform in New York, where they both gained scholarships to Julliard.

Eventually, Arshanskaya married David Dawson, Larry's brother. By then, he was an established musician and a member of a quartet at Berkshire University.
The student audience was highly affected, in sharing these personal memories with Dawson.

"It was heart-wrenching to see the picture of his mother, standing by the tree," said Carla Rhodes, a sophomore. "It's as if you're right there, with them."

"I came to appreciate just how strong she is," Dawson said. Because she was a concert pianist, he thinks that she gained that "focus, discipline, and fortitude that you need to survive," through her passion for playing piano.

Arshanskaya was made a hero in the telling of her tale. Today, she is 83 years old.

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

District Board of Trustees Meeting - Spring Updates

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Board of Trustees for Valencia Community College met Tuesday to discuss such widely debated topics as course additions, grant proposals, and school budgets.

Ultimately, a few representatives (including select students,) will travel to Tallahassee to lobby for attention from the state government toward these issues.

Valencia is also introducing renewable energy training courses on the innovations of solar and wind power for Engineering and Engineering Technology students, to begin as early as this summer. In July, workshops will be held for all Community Colleges, provided by funding from various endowed chairs.

Dr. Deb Hall shared some information on last month's trip to Mastatal, Costa Rica, where students helped set up solar panels on the roofs of the houses of underprivileged families.

The school is taking another step in that direction. Valencia recently wrote a check for the ownership of property around Lake Nona, which will be used to build a new campus.

This campus will likely center around programs such as Engineering Technology. The first three years of development will be largely funded by philanthropic endeavors and fundraisers.

"Construction will take close to a year, just to break ground," said Valencia's President Dr. Sanford Shugart. Over the course of the summer, or as long as it takes, focus groups made up of students and faculty will be involved in naming the new building. As of right now, it is dedicated to its primary donor.

"The people of Lake Nona will definitely appreciate our contribution," Shugart said.

With the construction of this new campus, the goal is to curb the current over enrollment of Valencia for the future.

Dr. Joyce Romano and Dr. Kaye Walter's Spring enrollment report declared that there is currently a head count of 35,004 students attending classes college wide, up 9.1% from last year.

That's a total of 3147 more students.

While the average class size is still around 25 students, the Osceola campus is filled to 95 percent capacity. The school is going to add 6 to 10 more classrooms, temporarily, until requested funding comes through.

During the meeting, the Board of Trustees also discussed the bills planned for lobby at Tallahassee this year. They proposed new transportation opportunities for the students, advice for handling the exponential influx of students, and they are requesting a budget of $67 million from the state.

Shugart said this amount should cover the costs of funding the growth in enrollment. The school still needs to wrap up the construction for the Special Events Center on West campus, as well as other projects in the works throughout the college.

President of the Student Government Association for West Campus, Robert Stio, had some concerns regarding transportation issues for students, as well. He said there are not enough sidewalks around campus and that students are having larger issues with getting to and from school, in general.

Stio will propose to Governor Charlie Crist that students pay $6, per credit hour and once a year, for added routes and times for the Lynx bus in the area.

Considerations for a shuttle between East and West campus are currently up for debate.

The chairman of the Board of Trustees, Lew Oliver, said that in order to keep our school's success rate high, we as students, need to be able to make a difference in the political process.

"We can do this by mobilizing the students," Oliver said. "I don't think a single student has called a single legislator."

For anything to change, Governor Crist must decide which bills to veto and which to pass, this coming April.

Previously published in the Valencia Voice