Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

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(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at ucf.edu/downtown.
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Service to UCF Award

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Marcos Marchena, ’82, current chairman of the UCF Board of Trustees, and ex-officio member of the UCF Foundation
Board of Directors, presented this year’s Service to UCF Award to Olga Calvet, ’71.
The Honorable Olga M. Calvet, ’71 | Senior Vice President/CFO, Palmas Services LLC

The UCF Alumni Association honored Olga Calvet with its 2015 Service to UCF Award at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

After college, Olga joined the international accounting firm of Seidman and Seidman CPAs at their Orlando office. She continued her career at Laventhol and Horwath CPAs, eventually establishing her own CPA firm in 1979.

After selling her accounting practice in 1986, she began her current position as senior vice president and chief financial officer for Palmas Services LLC, a participant at Walt Disney World, and operator of restaurant and lounge locations at EPCOT and Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

Olga is a member of the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She’s also an active member of the UCF Alumni Association, served as chair of the UCF Foundation and is a charter member of the UCF Board of Trustees, as well as its immediate past chair.

She’s married to Cesar Calvet, with whom she has two daughters, Cristina, ’01, ’03, principal of CCH Marketing & Events Inc., and Alexandra, ’09, owner of Calvet Couture Bridal.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Olga has a long-standing record of community service within Central Florida and beyond. In fact, she received the UCF Alumni Association’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 2001.

As a successful businesswoman and community leader, she is a shining example of a true UCF Knight.

Learn more about Olga:

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Oct. 5, 2015

kitten
After discovering her under the hood of his car last Monday, Steve Collins,
a UCF journalism professor, adopted 6-week-old Honda,
who joins a 12-year-old sister named Cocoa.
(PHOTO: UCF Nicholson School of Communication Facebook page)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. We’ve got lots of fun alumni events happening this week, including the return of UCF MedTalk, which will discuss “Tackling Breast Cancer,” on Wednesday; the UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate for the UCF vs. UConn game on Saturday; and the Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter’s AlumKnight Out at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, as Blake Bortles and the Jaguars take on the Buccaneers! The Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter will also be making the trip to Tampa for the game!
  2. On Wednesday, President Hitt discussed the transformative power of higher education, his belief that a university has a responsibility to lift up its community, and — when it comes to the size of the student body — you can be both big and good during his annual State of the University address.
  3. Two UCF professors landed multi-million-dollar NASA grants, focused on asteroids, comets and Venus, for missions that could take flight as early as 2020.
  4. It was a purrrfect ending for a 6-week-old kitten that was discovered under the hood of a UCF journalism professor’s car last Monday.
  5. An Orlando bar made national news, offering patrons free beer during UCF football games until the Knights can break their losing streak.

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.

AmandaCarbonneau
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.

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