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UCF Students with Disabilities Move into Dorms and Experience College in New Pilot Program

One teacher said Amanda Carbonneau would never graduate high school. Now, she’s a freshman at UCF.

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Amanda Carbonneau (center) holds the door open for her mother, Janet (left),
and sister, Jordan, as they help move her into her UCF dorm.
(PHOTO: Sarah Espedido, Orlando Sentinel)

By Gabrielle Russon
Education Reporter, Orlando Sentinel

Amanda Carbonneau’s new student ID lanyard hung from her neck, a proud symbol of her freshman status.

Two hours before her first class Monday, she mentioned the hip-hop class at the gym she wants to try. She had already discovered how delicious school food can be and stumbled upon Knightro the UCF mascot, good material for a Facebook post.

This is what life is like moving on campus for Carbonneau, a pioneer at the University of Central Florida. She is one of six students enrolled in a test program aimed at making higher education more accessible for those with intellectual disabilities.

The program is debuting at a time when there has been a greater focus on helping disabled students get the necessary education to find good jobs.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who has a son with Down syndrome, has pushed for the state to devote more resources to the issue. Although Gov. Rick Scott vetoed money for a statewide center for students with disabilities, UCF moved forward with its previously planned small test.

“We need to get the word out. This is an option,” said Debra Hart at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“Students [with disabilities] can — and do — go to college,” added Hart, who advised UCF with the pilot.

Carbonneau now lives in a dorm room with a view overlooking a lake and the marching-band practice fields. The decorating process went fast: the turquoise comforter in place, her quilt made from old soccer T-shirts up and the heart lights strung up over her bed.

“It feels like home,” said Carbonneau, 21.

Growing up, Carbonneau took therapy to learn how to hold a pencil and improve her speech. She reads on a fourth-grade level.

“Amanda has really struggled with school her whole life,” said her mother, Janet, a UCF alum who met her husband at college in the 1980s. “She is one of the kids who in the public-school system falls through the cracks. She’s not severely handicapped. She’s not autistic. She doesn’t really have a diagnosis. She’s not Down syndrome. … She just has some learning issues.”

At one school, her teacher said Carbonneau would never graduate from high school. Her mother switched schools.

Janet and Guy Carbonneau wanted a normal life for their daughter, who liked roller coasters, played soccer, baby-sat, earned her drivers license and graduated in 2013 from what is now known as Willow Schools.

“Nothing makes her fearful. She just says, ‘I’m going to try,'” said her former Principal Carla Brandt. “You can just tell she wants to go into this world. Once she finds her place, her niche, she will just thrive.”

Her family, which lives 20 minutes away in Winter Springs, moved her in last week, battling a rainstorm. They didn’t want to miss a preseason NFL game, which only increased the urgency to get Carbonneau’s TV working.

“We love Amanda,” wrote her older sister, Jordan, on a white board on move-in day.

This semester, Carbonneau will take two classes, one on college skills and another on childhood education. She will get paired with other UCF students to help her adjust to school and campus social life.

Carbonneau and the other five students are not degree-seeking, so they will not get letter grades for their classes. They didn’t need high test scores or grades to gain admittance either.

The university is still working on the details, such as whether they will receive certificates or a special degree, said Adam Meyer, director of UCF’s Student Accessibility Services.

“We know at the state level we need to have those conversations,” Meyer said.

What makes UCF’s program unique is the buy-in, from top to bottom, Hart said.

For instance, Provost Dale Whittaker has touted the program to UCF leaders, and professors who support Carbonneau in their classes will adjust assignments so they are appropriate for her.

It also stands out because the majority of university programs don’t allow disabled students to live on campus, Hart said, amid concerns the students are exposed to sex and alcohol and other typical college issues.

Hart said she believes the UCF program is “very robust and rich for the students.”

“They want an authentic college experience, meaning it’s the real deal,” she said.

In a cheerful tone, Carbonneau listed off her plans for school: maybe join a club, meet new friends, go to the football games land a job at a university day care because she likes children.

Who knows? Maybe she will meet a nice boyfriend in college.

“I’m excited for that, too,” she said.

This story appeared in an Aug. 24, 2015, edition of the Orlando Sentinel online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

UCF Mascot Bears Legacy of Influential Knight

Before UCF’s mascot was established, “Sir Knight” was making an impact by shielding students from the Vietnam War draft.

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Friends and family gathered to remember the life of Ed Knight Jr.
(PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

By Daniela Marin
Entertainment Editor, Central Florida Future

On Aug. 22, nearly 40 years after graduating from UCF, a group of Kappa Sigma alumni brothers reunited to remember the man who may have saved their lives.

Before the university’s name was changed from Florida Technological University to the University of Central Florida, and before the school’s mascot was established, one Knight — dubbed by students as “Sir Knight” — was making an impact by shielding students from the draft during the Vietnam War.

Isaac “Ed” Knight Jr. died Aug. 16 at the age of 93, after retiring from a 20-year career as UCF’s director of records and registration. However, the university’s mascot, which was elected by students in his honor, is proof of Knight’s lasting legacy.

“The school was growing from its infancy, and when it came time to choose a mascot, we decided we’d get behind the name ‘Knights,’ said John Voelpel III, ’73, the Kappa Sigma faculty advisor at the time, who was impacted by Knight. “The whole fraternity did. The student body ended up voting for ‘the Knights,’ and not everyone knew why, but it was because of Ed Knight and what he did for us.”

At the time, men in the U.S. had three options: volunteer to serve a tour in Vietnam, get drafted or maintain a student deferment.

Voelpel, who attended the university from 1969 to 1973 for business administration, said classes at the time were limited and capacity was tight, but “Sir Knight” was an instrumental force in ensuring that male students were placed in the classes they needed to maintain their deferment.

“We weren’t draft dodgers, we weren’t burning our cards, [and] we weren’t running off to Canada, but we would have preferred not to go,” Voelpel said. “He was a very large influence in a very vulnerable time in our lives.”

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Former Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers hold an old copy of the Future — now known as the Central Florida Future — featuring Ed Knight Jr., who impacted students in his time at UCF. (PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

Knight’s friends and loved ones, including people he hadn’t seen for years, gathered at the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home in Altamonte Springs last Saturday to celebrate his life. There, Voelpel and other fraternity brothers shared Knight’s impact.

“I have to tell you, personally, I would have been in Southeast Asia,” he told the crowd. “I’m clumsy. I would have tripped on a tripwire or something and died the first day I was there. I would have never met my wife, never had my children, wouldn’t be standing with these gentlemen today, if it wasn’t for Ed.”

After not seeing him for 10 years, Gracia Muller Miller, ’76, also attended the service and spoke on Knight’s impact. Miller, who was a music student and worked as an assistant in the registrar’s office, shared how Knight became a father figure for her amid racial tensions.

“It was a very lonely time when I first started going to school, and a lot of times I would hang out in the office just because that’s where I felt safe,” she said. “And, Mr. Knight was the one who set that climate. The racial movement was part of my growing up, and Mr. Knight was different — he was a Bulldog, but he was not a hater. There were other people around me that I knew didn’t necessarily like me, but the climate at the registrar’s office didn’t allow them to act out against me.”

At 6 feet tall, Knight was a former University of Georgia basketball player with a U.S. Air Force career of more than 20 years. He quickly became known on campus as a gentle giant and father figure, all while raising a family of his own.

“My dad, he liked the youth, he liked the young people and he saw potential in everyone,” said Brigitt Berry, Knight’s youngest daughter. “That’s who he was, he was the encourager. He liked helping people set goals in life and helping them realize them.”

Despite his commitment to the community, Berry said that didn’t stop her dad from being “the best father in the whole wide world.”

“My parents were always there for me,” she said. “He always came home and spent time with us. He didn’t bring work home with him. He’d come home and play with us. And he absolutely adored my mom, so with those two traits, how could he not have been the best role model?”

And Miller, who went on to become a guidance counselor for Seminole County Public Schools for 20 years, said Knight inspired her to become a positive influence herself.

“I believe that because of Mr. Knight, I was also able to make some impact at UCF,” she said. “I didn’t think of dreaming bigger, but Mr. Knight taught me to dream bigger. He was a man who gave himself to others every day.”

The man to register the first student at UCF is now gone, but his legacy to the university and the lives he touched is lasting.

“I think he’d be very proud of where the school stands today, and he’d be proud of where all the kids he helped get through college stand today,” Voelpel said.

Knight is survived by his children Deborah Knight, Ed Knight III and Brigitt Berry, son-in-law Kip Berry, and two grandchildren.

This story was published in an Aug. 26, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Aug. 24, 2015

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Entrepreneur James Wurst, ’05 (shaking hands), presented Knightro with a new ride on Friday —
a three-wheeled “skateboard” from his company, Trideck.
(PHOTO: Michael Callahan)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. New projects and construction will greet students, faculty and staff headed back to campus today. They include a Garage C expansion, UCF Health Center expansion, the Carl Black & Gold Cabana, the Wayne Densch Student-Athlete Leadership Center and the Libra Drive expansion.
  2. On Friday, UCF alumnus James Wurst, ’05, presented Knightro with a new ride — a three-wheeled skateboard from his company, Trideck (see photo above).
  3. PBS “NewsHour” premiered a segment on the Direct Connect to UCF program, which is helping more students to graduate, as well as save thousands of dollars for low-income students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to earn a four-year degree.
  4. UCF marketing lecturer Carolyn Massiah will speak to College of Business alumni in Tampa on Tuesday about protecting their brands in the social media economy.
  5. To help students become excellent doctors with the kind of bedside manner you’d trust your elderly grandmother to, a private foundation provided the College of Medicine with a $116,225 grant that will establish the “Chapman Humanism in Medicine Initiative” at UCF.

Alumnus Magician Performs for Penn & Teller

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Penn & Teller: Fool Us — “Penn’s Favorite Card Trick”
Pictured (L-R): Teller, Kostya Kimlat, and Penn Jillett
Photo: Jacob Kepler/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Orlando magician, Kostya Kimlat, ’10, appeared on an Aug. 17 episode of the CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” a one-hour competition series celebrating magic and featuring the legendary duo, Penn & Teller.

On each episode, aspiring magicians are invited to perform their best trick to try and fool one of magic’s most famous pairs. None of the competing magicians get to perform the trick more than once, and there are no camera tricks, secret edits or helpful camera cuts.

In the seventh episode of the show’s second season, Kimlat performed an original card trick he developed when he was 19 years old. But, Kimlat didn’t go on the show with a focus on fooling the magic duo.

“It was an honor to be invited to perform for Penn and Teller,” he says. “I’ve been watching them since I started in magic 20 years ago, and I never would have imagined this opportunity.”

Lucky for Kimlat, he was able to fool the guys, which means he’ll be opening up for the magicians’ celebrated show at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in November.

WATCH HIS TRICK:

More Info

In 2006, Kimlat was the youngest magician to be featured on the cover of Magic Magazine.

A resident of Orlando, he founded See Magic Live, which trains and books magicians for events across the country. His company’s local team serves as the magicians for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and teaches magic classes for kids and adults at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

His local ties run deep — he’s a graduate of Winter Park High School and the University of Central Florida, and he’s been a weekly fixture at Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, performing an intimate dinner and magic show at the Lee Road steakhouse for the last seven years.

In addition, Kimlat is a motivational speaker, using magic to train employees at organizations around the world, like NASA and GE. When he presents his keynotes and workshops, he unravels magic’s centuries-old principles of perception and secrets of communication, empowering people to be more effective in their business and everyday lives. Often referred to as “the business magician,” Kimlat has presented his sophisticated brand of magic to thinking audiences in more than 200 cities on five continents.

Kimlat graduated from the UCF Burnett Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. His Honors in the Major thesis was titled, “The Role of Magician and Philosopher in Society: The Archetype of Wonder and its Cognitive Implications in Modern Life.”

He’s currently authoring his first book, titled, “Think Like a Magician.”

To learn more about this magic Knight, visit kostyakimlat.com.

UCF PD Brings New Pup to K-9 Unit

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The newest UCF PD K-9, Justice, plays keep-away with Scott during a break in training. (PHOTO: Deanna Ferrante, Central Florida Future)

By Deanna Ferrante
Senior Staff Writer, Central Florida Future

The newest member of the UCF Police Department can’t use handcuffs or fire a gun, but he can chase his tail.

Justice is the newest pup on patrol with UCF PD’s K-9 unit. On his first night of active duty, Justice and his partner, Officer Matt Scott, were called in to handle a narcotics case.

On Aug. 5, Scott and Justice were called to the scene of a traffic stop when another UCF PD officer pulled over a woman who had recently been arrested for possession of cocaine, according to the arrest affidavit.

When Scott and Justice arrived, the dog indicated a positive alert on the suspect’s car. Inside, officers found a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag filled with used syringes, a green USB cord used as a tourniquet, and an Altoids tin containing 28 plastic bags filled with white and brown powder residue.

A sample from one of the bags was field tested for heroin and yielded a positive result, and the woman was arrested on charges of heroin possession.

Justice and the other K-9s are imperative in making arrests like these.

“That’s the call we want the dogs to be at their highest capacity for,” Scott said.

It was a big night for Justice, who has only been with the department for a few months. After Scott’s previous dog Buster was forced to retire due to medical reasons, Justice was purchased in replacement.

While UCF PD put in 480 hours to train Buster, Justice was purchased already trained from Germany.

It’s not uncommon for police dogs to be trained in Europe, Scott said. In fact, he said, for the most part, almost every K-9 in the country is brought in from overseas.

Because of the way he was originally trained, Scott uses German commands to give Justice orders.

The K-9 unit is made up of four teams: Scott and Justice; Officer Chris Holt and his dog, Jogy; Officer Mica Wenner and her dog, Samson; and Cpl. Chuck Reising and his dog, Max. Two of the dogs, including Justice, have been trained to handle narcotics cases, while the other two handle explosives detection.

Twice per month, the four teams meet behind the police department for an extensive day of training.

The dogs learn how to do bite work, narcotics detection, tracking, and building searches. The officers also train the dogs to be comfortable in many different situations and environments.

“Some of these dogs have never been on tile,” Scott said. “You don’t want a dog freezing up because he’s never been on marble before.”

Reising, the K-9 unit’s leader, said they put the dogs in a variety of different situations to get them used to any scenario that could happen while on patrol.

They take the dogs into the Reflecting Pond to get them used to water, make them climb over fences and take them to the gun range to get them used to the sound of shooting.

The dogs must follow their partners’ commands immediately, or they risk the chance of accidentally hurting someone besides their intended targets.

The dogs are trained to run after a suspect and, then, after a command from their partner, to instantly stop the chase and return.

“If another cop or someone else gets close, the dog might key on them,” Reising explained. “We don’t want the dog to bite an innocent person.”

When they aren’t training, the teams alternate shifts to patrol. Their schedules vary, but they usually work 12-hour shifts for half of the month on alternating days during the week.

Because of the long hours, Scott said he makes sure he keeps a close eye on his partner. He must make sure he stops to give Justice water or a bathroom break so the dog is always ready to jump into action.

“That way, when the time to deploy him comes, he’s doing what he needs to do,” he said.

For Scott and the rest of the K-9 unit, preparing the dogs also includes a lot of petting and praising; they want the dogs to be happy when they come to work.

“You want the dog to be excited,” Scott said. “You want the dog to want to be here.”

This story was published in an Aug. 20, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article, which includes more photos.

Knights on the Mall Already a Huge Success

KotM-reservationsKotM-ChargeKotM-15days

Earlier this year, the UCF Student Government Association announced its plan for a new, reservation-based tailgating system that will allow alumni and students to reserve their (free) gameday spots on Memory Mall.

The Knights on the Mall website launched its reservation system at 10 a.m. yesterday (Aug. 17) for the Sept. 3 home game against FIU. Within the first hour, more than 50 alumni and more than 115 students logged on to reserve their spaces, which were all sold out by 4 p.m.

For the rest of the season, online reservations will begin at 10 a.m. the Monday before each home game. That means your next chance to reserve a spot will be Monday, Sept. 7, at 10 a.m., for the UCF vs. Furman game on Sept. 19.

Don’t miss out! Check out the Knights on the Mall website, and follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And, even if you do tailgate the traditional way, don’t forget about the alumni association’s Indoor Tailgates, where you can cool off inside the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, use real restrooms, buy barbecue from Bubbalou’s, and grab free Coca-Cola products (while supplies last) and free beer (with purchase of commemorative cup)! Come join us!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Aug. 17, 2015

Knights-on-the-Mall-map

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights on the Mall tailgating spots are up for grabs, as the new reservation system went live today for UCF’s first home game against FIU on Sept. 3.
  2. And, speaking of football, the Knights’ former QB Blake Bortles made his sophomore debut in Friday’s preseason game against the Steelers, helping to lead the Jags to a 23-21 victory!
  3. Alumna Jennifer Hamilton, ’14, turned her capstone project into multi-million-dollar Sleep/EEG Center for Nemours Children’s Hospital.
  4. Central Florida’s king of hummus, UCF student Jesse Wolfe, landed a deal with Publix Super Markets, which will now carry his new line of salad dressings.
  5. U.S. veterans are sharing personal stories about their service experiences to be preserved for future generations.

Alumna’s Capstone Project Turns into Reality at Nemours

jennifer-hamilton-nemours

Call it a case of excellent timing.

When executive health services administration student Jennifer Hamilton, ’14, was provided with the final assignment for her capstone course, she knew exactly what she was going to do.

The assignment was to create a research project that would build upon all of the prior concepts and coursework covered in the executive HSA program. As luck would have it, Hamilton, who is the director of clinical support for Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, had just been asked to evaluate the cost of a new epilepsy unit for the hospital.

“I said to my teammates, ‘Hey, I was just assigned this [evaluation],” she explains. “I have the info at my fingertips. And that was how we decided.”

What started off as a task for work ended up as the final capstone project for Hamilton and her classmates, Chau Duong and Lori Galanida. That capstone project, in turn, became the business proposal for Nemours’ newest unit — the Sleep/EEG Center — which officially opened on July 17.

“It was pride and joy — so exciting,” Hamilton says. “I’m not a clinician, so everyone was saying, ‘Why is she so interested?’ But, it was a really big deal.”

The Sleep/EEG Center is not only a big deal for Hamilton and her teammates, but it’s a big deal for Nemours as well as its patients. The initial scope of the project was to determine the strategy for building an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. As the trio delved deeper into their research, they discovered that the hospital didn’t just need an epilepsy unit. Physicians were also conducting electroencephalogram tests as well as sleep studies, and they were doing their work in a small, tucked-away area within the hospital with limited growth potential. What they needed was a new unit, within the ambulatory side of the facility that would be more accessible to patients and provide increased capability to service patients with neurological and/or sleep disorders.

“It wasn’t just ease of access,” Hamilton explains. “Some of these kids — sometimes just by the nature of their medical condition — were at risk of coding, and, in a few situations, did code. Prior to the Sleep Lab moving to the downtown facility, you would have to call 911, stabilize them, then take them to the emergency room. This served as the impetus for moving that service to the hospital, but we encountered other ramifications resulting from this location change.”

They also found that the hospital was not being reimbursed as much because the procedures are typically intended to be performed in an outpatient setting, as opposed to what was now considered an inpatient setting.

The project team, having researched cost benefit, proposed that the hospital combine EEG and sleep services in a shared setting. With that idea in mind, the executive HSA students decided to pitch their idea to executives at Nemours.

Hamilton says it’s been rewarding to see their work turn into a world-class center that will serve the thousands of children in Central Florida who are in need of the services this unit can provide. She credits her teammates, as well as the executive HSA program, for helping her turn her class project into a reality.

“It was worth taking those courses and being a part of the program.”

This story was posted Aug. 4, 2015, on the UCF College of Health and Public Affairs website. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

Veterans Share Stories through UCF History Project

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A veteran shares his story of military life through UCF’s Community Veterans History Project.
(PHOTO: Courtesy of Tiffany Rivera)

By Bridgette Norris
Digital Producer, Central Florida Future

Sitting in his kitchen, Navy veteran Jim Middlekauff, ’99, tells the tale of a time many students today couldn’t imagine.

The UCF alumnus is one of many to share his personal story through the UCF Community Veterans History Project, an interdisciplinary campus project and collaboration of several different departments, which started in 2010 in support of the Regional Initiative for Collecting the History, Experiences and Stories of Central Florida.

“From my experiences, and the experiences of all veterans, students can learn that freedom is not free,” says Middlekauff, former assistant for the University Registrar for Veterans Services at UCF. “Veterans dedicate their lives through their service, and the Veterans History Project is a unique narrative where students can get a personal perspective of the life of a veteran and the role that military personnel have played in securing our freedom and way of life.”

Once the project came to campus, the departments quickly made a goal to serve as significant contributors to the national initiative, the Veterans History Project through the Library of Congress.

All veterans who served in the U.S. armed forces, on active or reserve status, are welcome to participate.

Eligible veterans can also be those who have experience in wartime and peacetime, served in combat units, supported units behind the lines, and trained and held administrative positions at home.

After the veterans are interviewed, the recordings are archived and preserved in the UCF Library’s Digital Collections. Interviews that meet the national project qualification of being at least 30 minutes long with no breaks or pauses are sent off to the national project.

“I came to this position with a true interest in supporting veterans … and a passion for veterans and their stories being told,” says Tiffany Rivera, assistant director of educational and training programs. “It is a way to get the public involved in their own history in ways that are relevant and that are outside of the traditional classroom.”

So far, the campus project has interviewed more than 400 veterans through varying methods.

For the first two years, students conducted the interviews either voluntarily or through a class.

Now, along with this approach, a peer-to-peer initiative has been adopted, through which participants in the project go out into the community and train residents to do interviews with their peers.

There are also corporate interview days when participants travel to corporations to conduct interviews with veterans who are employees at places such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and JHT Inc.

“Because the interviews are available online and accessible to the public, it’s a great way for researchers to find information they won’t be able to find in a textbook per se,” Rivera explains. “Some want students to understand what they have done and appreciate the freedom they have and sacrifices they have given.”

Initially, the project was collecting about 50 interviews per year, and now about 50 are conducted each semester. Rivera credits the increase in interviews to the community’s involvement and peer-to-peer interviews.

“I have learned that veterans are not always respected in the way they should be, and this project has taught me that each story is unique, each experience is unique and you don’t have to have some big combat story to have contributed,” she says.

As a 22-year veteran, Middlekauff says he felt obligated to assist with the project because valuable military history is being lost nationwide as the number of veterans of previous wars are declining.

“Military history is an important part of our country’s history,” he says. “This is a history that, without being told, would be lost forever.”

While the project has expanded to more than just student efforts, students still play a major role.

Daniel Bradfield, a former UCF graduate research assistant, says oral histories provide students with an opportunity to learn about individuals from a specific period of time and hear personal experiences with historical events and people.

“I enjoyed hearing people’s stories and using historical research to investigate people’s lives and adding their individual voices on a topic,” he says. “Additionally, I became interested with the interview process and building a valid and interesting oral history project.”

Any student is able and encouraged to get involved in the project.

“Our students do these interviews and walk away with their eyes huge because they have talked to someone who has experienced something really foreign to them,” Rivera says. “More and more families don’t have a service member, so hearing these stories is a unique opportunity.

“This project is a way to capture history while it’s still alive.”

This story appeared in an Aug. 6, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

More Info

riches.cah.ucf.edu/veterans

O’Dang! Look Who Landed a Big Deal with Publix!

Jesse Wolfe, founder and CEO of O'Dang Hummus, at Orlando's East End Market, which carries his products (PHOTO: Jim Carchidi)

Jesse Wolfe, founder and CEO of O’Dang Hummus, at Orlando’s East End Market, which carries his products (PHOTO: Jim Carchidi)

By Matthew Richardson
Reporter, Orlando Business Journal

A University of Central Florida student known for his hummus landed a deal with a big supermarket chain to carry his product, but it’s not the product he’s widely known for.

Jesse Wolfe, founder and CEO of O’Dang Hummus, told the Orlando Business Journal that he closed on a deal with Publix Super Markets Inc. this month for the stores to carry his new salad dressing product. Wolfe’s product will be available at all of Publix’s 1,106 locations throughout six states. Wolfe still sells his hummus products at local farmer’s markets throughout Central Florida.

Wolfe, whose popular hummus comes in a variety of flavors like Bomb-A-Licious Buffalo, Dillionaire Fresh Dill Hummus, and Sweet & Spicy Black Bean, has caught the eye of many business investors. In October, t he startup won $15,000 at Blackstone’s first LaunchPad Demo Day in New York City, where Wolfe placed second out of 20 competitors.

Wolfe said he first met with Publix in April to talk about selling his hummus, but after the company turned down that idea, Wolfe quickly worked on another product — the salad dressing.

“I think they liked the dressing because it’s oil-free and dairy-free. Publix loves it, and it’s a really good take on hummus,” he says.

This story appeared in an Aug. 13, 2015, edition of the Orlando Business Journal online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

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