By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future
Nearly nine months after the Islamic State group beheading of former UCF student and journalist Steven Sotloff, UCF has established a fund to commemorate his life.
The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund at UCF, created by Sotloff’s family, was made not only to honor his life, but to preserve his work.
“His family wanted to establish a legacy for Steven,” said College of Sciences’ Director of Development Ray Allen.
Allen said he interacted with Sotloff’s family at UCF, where they came up with a way to remember the former Knight.
Through donations, the fund aims to provide scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism. The fund was also established to advance journalism education, as well as endowments for lectures and programming.
“We have set up the memorial fund to invite other donors to support this fund in Steven’s honor,” Allen said.
Longtime UCF donors Tony and Sonja Nicholson — after whom the Nicholson School is named — have committed to match donation gifts to the fund.
“Every dollar will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000 matched,” Allen said.
Contributors can visit www.ucffoundation.org/sotloff, where they will be directed to fill in their donation amount, billing information and add whether they want this donation to be a one-time gift, recurring or a series of installments.
“While Steven was in captivity, he managed to smuggle out a letter to us stating he wanted to give back. We would like to continue Steven’s legacy for generations to come by working with UCF to establish a fund in Steven’s honor,” said his parents Shirley and Arthur Sotloff in a statement on the donation page.
Sotloff attended UCF from 2002 to 2004, where he studied journalism. He then left to focus on working as a Middle East correspondent, wanting to travel to war zones like Libya and Syria.
Sotloff was abducted by the Islamist extremist group and held in captivity.
In September 2014, in an attempt to send “A Message to America,” the Islamic State group beheaded Sotloff in a distributed video as a way to reach President Barack Obama.
UCF students from the athletics fan group “The Gauntlet,” UCF’s Syrian American Council and the UCF chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists joined together to host a vigil that same month to honor Sotloff.
Along with UCF’s contribution, Sotloff’s parents established a fund at his high school, Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.
The Steven Sotloff ’02 Fund aims to inspire Kimball students to follow Sotloff’s passion: seeing the world through a different lens, while following global and cultural awareness.
By Amelia Truong
Central Florida Future
Earth’s largest ocean does not intimidate UCF alumna Sonya Baumstein, ’09.
Baumstein, 30, will attempt to be the first woman to successfully row across the Pacific Ocean solo.
According to her website, she wants this to be a female endeavor to show that strength is not defined by gender.
There have only been two successful attempts at rowing across the Pacific, west to east: one by Gerard d’Aboville in 1991, and the other by Emmanuel Coindre in 2005, according to The Ocean Rowing Society.
The Pacific is known to have complex weather patterns, which could affect Baumstein’s mission. But, she is confident that she won’t have much to worry about. Her main focus right now is to keep an eye on the typhoons that are currently hitting the coast of Japan.
Once the coast is clear, and after three consecutive days of permitting weather, Baumstein will be able to start her departure from Choshi, Japan, to San Francisco — a total of 6,560 miles.
During her trip, she will row for three hours on and three hours off, multiple times each day. She has put together 900 packages of dehydrated food and 180 drink supplements. Electricity and fresh water usage will have to be rationed and protected from the elements.
The 23-foot-long, 5 7/10-foot-wide carbon boat was designed by Baumstein herself and a team at the America’s Cup. The boat, named Icha, means “once we meet, we’re brother and sister” in Japanese. It weighs less than 700 pounds and is equipped for science.
Every 10 seconds, samples of salinity, temperature, depth, wind speed and GPS location will be taken and sent back via satellite every hour throughout the entire journey.
The samples are taken as part of a partnership with NASA’s Aquarius Mission to help scientists compare and validate data that they’ve collected by the Aquarius satellite.
The project is a labor of love for Baumstein and her crew, having worked toward this for the last three years. She said everything from its conception, to building the boat, to now waiting on the coast to clear has been a culmination of blood, sweat and tears.
A self-proclaimed “citizen scientist,” Baumstein said she is proud to be a part of a contingency of what she considers modern-day explorers who are helping out different areas of science. She considers it the driving factor in her journey.
Before attending UCF — where she got her master’s degree in non-profit management — Baumstein got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, where she had an active collegiate rowing career.
She encourages students to not get deterred if their original plans fall through.
“This is a job, but it’s a job that I love,” she said. “There may be other routes to get to what you want to do, and, if it’s not exactly as you thought, don’t give up and ride it out. I never thought I would be doing this the way that I am, and it’s not always perfect.”
She credits her current position and status to the network of people around her, including her family, friends and the community.
Samantha Berry, Baumstein’s director of communications, calls her the most determined person she has ever met.
“You really don’t question, when you know her, whether she can do something or not,” Berry said.
In 2011, Baumstein rowed the Atlantic Ocean, from the Canary Islands to Barbados. In March 2012, she tour biked from the Mexican border to Seattle, and in June 2012, she kayaked the inside passage from Seattle to Alaska. In August 2013, she became the first person to stand-up paddle the Bering Strait from Big Diomede to the Alaskan mainland.
“She reminds me that if there is something that you want, you can get it,” Berry said. “It may be exhausting in the process, but determination and hard work does pay off.”
This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.
By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future
Most shoppers enter a mall to window shop, try on clothing or purchase items. UCF alumna Kailyn Perez, however, received a little more than what she bargained for.
In February 2013, Perez, a UCF student at the time, and her sister entered a Bloomingdale’s with the intention of trying on sunglasses. They instead walked out with a career-changing recommendation for Perez.
Jewelry consultant Peter Morales spotted Perez in the store and immediately complimented her beauty, asking her if she had ever modeled. He then suggested she try out for a beauty pageant, and little did Perez know what she thought was a simple compliment could ultimately lead her to being crowned as the first-ever Miss Florida World America 2015 in April.
Morales, who has been working as a fashion designer for more than 20 years, said when he saw Perez, he knew that “this is a girl who is not going to be overseen.”
He suggested Perez attend a preliminary round for Miss Florida USA, which was being held in Kissimmee, and offered to design her pageant dress because he specializes mostly in beauty pageant gowns and couture dresses.
Although she never thought about entering a beauty pageant, Perez said she didn’t want to miss what could be a great opportunity.
“Kailyn has the ability to communicate through a way of talking and projecting herself that is very unique and very powerful,” Morales said. “Everything she does, she does with a big smile.”
When Perez decided to take part in the pageant, her ambitions, enthusiasm and personality shined through. She eventually won runner-up and gained a new perspective on how she could connect her personal goals to the pageant world.
“Through pageants, I realized I can reach people and have an influence in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said. “I have that drive to make a change in my community and be able to spread a message of positivity to young women and to people in general.”
Although she didn’t win Miss Florida USA, she realized how inspired she became while experiencing the pageant world.
Last March, with the help of Morales, Perez decided to apply to a newly formed pageant, Miss Florida World America 2015.
She used her innate flair in public speaking, her personal experiences and her dance background to showcase her talent and make her way to the top.
Growing up in a single-parent household, Perez gained a special appreciation for her family.
“I have the most amazing mom and family in the whole world,” Perez said. “I couldn’t imagine not having that kind of support in my life. I couldn’t imagine that for children.”
Working with organizations such as A Kid’s Place and the Faine House, Perez focuses her platform on foster youth and providing homes, education and life-long skills to children in need.
The Tampa native started at UCF in 2010, majoring in political science, while also working as a freelance model.
During her time at UCF, Perez was involved in the Student Government Association, taking on the roles of senate representative and chair of the Elections and Appointments Committee.
With the dedication toward different outlets in college, Perez was unsure about the path she would take after graduation.
After graduating in December 2013, Perez was accepted to law schools in and out of state, but decided she wanted to model full time and pursue a business endeavour. She will, however, go back to that dream as she pursues a corporate and Internet law degree at Stetson University this fall.
“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF.”
In the intermin, Perez has launched a start-up company called Sociover, which focuses on teaching proper social media etiquette and offers services that can revamp social sites.
“Through pageants, I realized what a source social media is,” she said. “I use it to promote my platform and my personal brand.”
While continuing to work on her company and modeling, Perez plans on fulfilling more accomplishments in the pageant world. On July 3, she will compete against 50 other young women in Washington, D.C., for the chance to be crowned Miss World America 2015. The winner will represent the country at the esteemed Miss World 2015 pageant.
“I hope I can represent Florida well,” Perez said. “I hope I can represent our school in the best way possible.”
While some students go into college without the vision of what their career path will look like, Perez says it’s important to soak in every opportunity that is presented.
“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF,” Perez said. “As long as there is some kind of good that can come from it, go for it because you never know where the opportunity can lead you to one day.”
This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.
By Shanae Hardy
Central Florida Future
Blanketing the city with compassion and comfort, the White Linen Project at UCF is leaving its mark around Central Florida in the form of sheets.
Students at UCF formed the White Linen Project, a volunteer initiative that provides linen to homeless families, to leave an imprint on their community.
Shakera Quince, a junior management major, was influenced to begin the nonprofit organization when she began volunteering for the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, one of the largest homeless shelters in Central Florida. After volunteering twice a week and witnessing several families that slept in the cold, Quince said she felt a deep connection with the children and families she served. She decided to challenge herself on what she could do to further provide resources to the families at the mission.
“I was able to find out that one of the major needs was linen, specifically white linen at the time,” she explains. “So, I stayed up late at night for a couple of weeks trying to figure out what can I do. Lo and behold, the White Linen Project was born.”
Quince paired with four other students who shared her passion for wanting to change some of the circumstances of the homeless, including her former roommate, Katrina Poggio, a senior journalism major.
Poggio said she is currently working on a photo project for the White Linen Project’s website to bring awareness to the homeless community.
“I got involved because Shakera and I have a mutual interest in making a difference,” she says. “My favorite part about the volunteer initiative is that I have an opportunity to give a voice to those who go unheard.”
After developing the program for almost a year, Quince and her team introduced the White Linen Project on campus in April. By partnering with several community-wide volunteer initiatives, such as Volunteer UCF, Straight Street Orlando and the Mustard Seed of Central Florida, the White Linen Project has beckoned attention for the immense demand for linen donations.
In order to provide students with opportunities to donate, members of the White Linen Project tabled outside the Student Union every Monday in April, allowing students to either drop off linen directly to them or at other designated areas around campus.
For the summer, Quince and the rest of the team have obtained two options for students to continue to donate to the White Linen Project: the UCF cubicle located on the second floor of the Student Union and the Knights Pantry.
After their first month on campus, Quince, Poggio and their team collected more than 150 pieces of linen.
Poggio and Quince are looking to expand the team with more volunteers so the organization can eventually grow into a registered student organization.
“We have so many ideas as we grow, and one of them is maybe even handing linens out downtown to people who sleep on the ground outside. Coming with a box of pizza and some linen and just saying, ‘Hey, have a nice night,'” Quince said.
In the future, Quince is hopeful that her initiative will expand beyond the UCF proximity.
“Hopefully one day we can go outside of Orlando,” she says. “One day, maybe we will collect enough linen to send over to other countries.”
This article appeared in a May 13, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.
By Bridgette Norris
Central Florida Future
Most students graduate college in their early 20s, but Adrian Gilliam was ready a bit earlier.
At age 17, Adrian graduated from UCF this spring with a computer software job awaiting him at Optima Healthcare Solutions.
“Living in Orlando influenced my decision to attend UCF,” he says. “UCF has a really good engineering program — especially for computer science. I never was really trying to be the youngest graduate. But, being such a young graduate is something I’m proud of. I’m just a normal [alumnus].”
Adrian is one of UCF’s youngest graduates, in addition to a 16-year-old who graduated in 1998, according to a press release.
Michael Gilliam, ’93, Adrian’s father and College of Business Administration alumnus, says he was beaming ear to ear when he watched his son walk across the stage at graduation.
“I don’t think age had anything to do with [him] maintaining good grades and involvement,” Michael explains. “He just set his priorities and spent a lot of time making sure he had acceptable grades and high enough grades to get into graduate school if he decided to do that. I think it was just a matter of him setting his priorities.”
At the age of 4, Adrian started home schooling through Florida Virtual School. As he continued to learn online, taking honors and advanced placement courses, he was also learning martial arts and Mandarin, in which he is now fluent.
He enrolled at UCF at the age of 13.
“I think from the beginning, a lot of what encouraged me to take this route was my parents,” Adrian says. “As I started progressing, I definitely became more self-motivated. If I hadn’t of taken the route I did, I would be going into my senior year [of high school].”
His father accredits his patient and helpful personality to his involvement with martial arts.
In 2007, Adrian won his first of several national-level tournaments at the U.S. Open Karate Championships. At age 10, he earned his black belt.
“Growing up, people always said, ‘Don’t you miss normal school, or wish you went to normal school?’ Adrian says. “But, you can’t miss something you never had. I was very happy with the experience and opportunities I had. I felt like I was still able to get social interaction through things like martial arts while still being able to excel academically.”
He jokes about his biggest struggle at UCF being that he was not able to sign up for the Recreation and Wellness Center because he wasn’t 18.
During his time on campus, he served as president and vice president of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, senator for the College of Engineering and Computer Science in the Student Government Association, and an undergraduate teaching assistant for an introduction to programming course.
Although Adrian is currently taking a break from school, his long-term goal is to continue his education and eventually become a professor.
This article appeared in a May 20, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.
Here are five things you should know this week:
- The Board of Trustees convened at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on May 21 to discuss funding, projects and other plans for the university’s future. The board approved an annual budget of about $1.5 billion for the upcoming 2015-16 school year, and agreed not to raise tuition costs, housing and other fees, freezing tuition rates for the second year in a row.
- The UCF Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced a partnership initiative to enhance the safety of the area near campus through additional enforcement, as a response to the concern heard from students and the local community due to recent high-profile incidents.
- The UCF College of Nursing was ranked as one of the top programs in the state and nation in a recent report on the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses. With 98 percent of BSN graduates passing the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt, UCF now ranks among the top 4 percent of 778 BSN programs nationwide.
- UCF is now the first and only university in Florida to offer a research-focused master’s degree in nanoscience. The Master of Science in Nanotechnology program further elevates the prominence of UCF’s nanotechnology research.
- If you ever travel between UCF’s main campus and Research Park, beware of road construction for the next 10 months, as the mile-long stretch of Libra Drive is widened from two lanes to four lanes.
A Longwood teacher who is revolutionizing the classroom has caught the eye of the Florida Department of Education.
Brian Furgione, ’11, has taught at Milwee Middle School for just four years, but he has already been recognized as Seminole County’s Teacher of the Year. Now, he’s one of five finalists in a statewide competition.
“I’m shocked, I’m excited, I’m shaking. I don’t really know what to say,” said Furgione. “It means what we’re doing here at Milwee is being recognized. It’s for Milwee, more than anything else.”
If Furgione is selected as Florida’s Teacher of the Year, he receives $10,000 and a trip to New York for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Orlando Repertory Theatre, in partnership with UCF, announces its popular summer camps held on the UCF campus. Designed to foster self-confidence, creative thinking, collaboration and trust through the medium of performing arts, The REP’s UCF camps are held in the state of the art Performing Arts Center.
There are 25 camps for rising 1st through 10th grade students, including creative dramatics and musical theatre camps. After Care is available. Advanced training camps in Acting or Musical Theatre are also available for rising 9th – to graduating 12th grade students. Weekly camps are June 15 to August 7. All camps are taught by professional Teaching Artists.
Additional camps are available at The REP’s Loch Haven location and in downtown Celebration. For questions, please contact Ashley Bigge in The REP’s Youth Academy at email@example.com or 407.896.7365, ext. 219.
By Bailey Myers
Bay News 9
Santos Maldonado, ’15, was living on the streets years ago, struggling to find shelter and food. But, May 9, he graduated from the University of Central Florida.
Maldonado first moved to Orlando in 2001 and he said he fell on hard times, and very quickly was out of money and living on the streets.
For years he struggled with homelessness. Until, one day, he reached a breaking point.
“I thought I was near death,” he says. “I mean that literally. I did not see any hope on the horizon.”
Through the help of of local programs, like the Second Harvest Food Bank, Maldonado got back on his feet. He began taking classes at Valencia College and later attended classes at UCF. After 10 years of studying, the 61 year old earned his degree.
“Without the stability or type of organization [like Second Harvest Food Bank], I wouldn’t be here today,” he explains. “God knows where I would be.”
Now, Maldonado works for the organization that helped him get back on his feet.
“It’s like the icing on the cake. It just proves that you can be different and still make a difference.”
Kate Hughes, ’10 | ARNP, Winter Park OB-GYN
By Angie Lewis, ’03
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It’s a quote that Kate Hughes, ’10, lives by as an advanced registered nurse practitioner for Winter Park OB-GYN. I spent a day with her to gain more perspective on what it’s like to be a women’s care nurse.
It was just after 9 a.m. on May 6 when I joined Kate in her office, after meeting with the office manager to sign a confidentiality agreement. She had already seen her first patient by the time I greeted her.
While waiting for her next patient to get checked in, she checked messages and lab results on her laptop. Then, it was off to an exam room to see her second patient of the day, an 18-year-old who wanted to renew her prescription for birth control after moving to Florida.
Kate entered the room, introduced herself and me, then asked the teen to tell her about herself. It’s part of how she was trained as a nurse practitioner — to treat mind, body and soul. She says getting to know more about her patients’ lives not only helps her develop a trusted bond with them, but also gives her insight into issues that could potentially cause health issues.
After learning more about her newest patient, Kate reminded her about the risks of birth control pills, and made sure she understood that they don’t protect her against sexually transmitted diseases.
Her next patient was a returning 42-year-old, who came in for an infertility consultation. Kate explained the initial tests she wanted to run, as well as the next steps, which seemed to give the patient some hope.
She was followed by a 33-year-old who was there for her 38-week pregnancy checkup on her third child. While performing the exam, Kate felt something abnormal. However, not knowing what it was and not wanting to unnecessarily concern her patient, she stayed calm and told her she was having a difficult time finding her cervix.
After my arrival earlier that morning, Kate had explained that Winter Park OB-GYN was a collaborative practice. And, this particular patient was a perfect example of that collaboration at work, as she consulted a fellow nurse practitioner about her unusual discovery.
Thankfully, it turned out to be a varicose vein on the uterus and not an umbilical cord, which would have required emergent care.
As the morning proceeded, Kate saw four more patients — a 34-year-old for a 34-week pregnancy check, a 24-year-old in for her first pap smear, a 25-year-old with a yeast infection and a 24-year-old who came in for a Nexplanon birth control implant — before getting to take a break for lunch, through which she worked on charts, and again checked messages and lab results.
After getting a few bites in, it was time for her first patient of the afternoon, a 60-year-old in for her annual exam. She was followed by a 52-year-old who had been experiencing light spotting every couple of months and thought she may be in menopause. However, Kate assured her that was not the case yet due to her lab and ultrasound results. Instead, it was a cyst that was most likely causing the irregular bleeding.
Seven patients later, she met her last one of the day — and one of the most difficult for her emotionally, as she hates causing any of her patients pain. This one, a 40-year-old mother of one was in to get a Paraguard IUD insertion under ultrasound. It’s a particularly tricky procedure that requires directly entering the uterus through the cervix, and I cringed with empathy as the patient screamed out in pain. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds, but it took its toll, causing her to feel light headed for a few minutes afterward. Kate apologized for causing the unavoidable discomfort and brought her patient some juice and a snack bar to help combat the physical reaction.
Regardless of the times she does have to perform painful procedures — or, worse yet, deliver painful news, like a miscarriage — Kate still does so with the utmost compassion and professionalism, even praying with her patients upon request.
Kate has been with Winter Park OB-GYN for the last five years. She previously worked as an emergency room nurse at Florida Hospital East Orlando.
“Choosing one thing I love about my work is very difficult,” she says. “I love connecting with women, meeting them where they are each day and helping them work through illness, promote healthy decisions and prevent disease.”
Throughout the day, I noticed the special connection she has with her patients. She’s extremely personable and compassionate, and it translates through the women for whom she cares, who, one after another, told me how great she is.
“My experience [at UCF] aided me in providing compassionate care that meets the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of my patients on many levels,” she says.
Her patients love her for that. And, she loves her job because of her patients.
Beyond the Stethoscope Q&A
Q. What advice would you give to current UCF nursing students?
A. Take time to learn the anatomy and pathophysiology very well. This foundation helps everything else fall into place.
Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A. My husband and I love to travel! The National Park System in the United States has some of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Oceans, deserts, rainforests, mountains, valleys, rock formations. I would love to work for the National Park system!
Q. What’s something you learned in the past week?
A. I learned about a new drug regimen for multiple sclerosis patients.
Q. What do you fear?
A. Clowns and spiders
Q. Last thing you Googled?
A. Guidelines for patients of advanced maternal age
Kate Hughes received the UCF Alumni Association’s 2012 Rising Star Award, which was presented at the association’s annual Black & Gold Gala during that year’s Homecoming festivities. She’s been married to fellow Knight Jimmy Hughes, ’06, for nine years, and the couple has three sons, Daniel, 6, Elijah, 4, and Jonah, 2.