UCF Alumni Association Aids Students with Scholarships

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By Isabelle D’Antonio
Contributing Writer, Central Florida Future

The UCF Alumni Association collects thousands of dollars each year to give right back to students through its many scholarships.

Senior Erica Chu received the alumni association’s UCF Alumni Legacy Scholarship — a $1,500 award for outstanding students with parents who graduated from UCF — to make her dreams of attending UCF possible.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I won the scholarship,” the biomedical sciences major says. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”

Chu says receiving the scholarship has not only helped her financially, but has also increased her networking with alumni, including those who selected her to win the scholarship.

“It’s great to meet people who graduated from UCF, and are now so successful and want to give back,” she says. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”

The alumni association awards 25 scholarships annually, including scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs.

“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” explains Carla Cordoba, associate director of alumni and student relations.

In fact, in 2015, the alumni association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.

Heather Junod, director of the UCF Fund, says there are many ways the alumni association receives the money to fund these scholarships.

The UCF Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. Staffers prefer more face-to-face solicitation rather than phone calls because it often garners better results. For example, the average donation is $86 on the phone, $270 for e-solicitation and $130 by mail, but face-to-face gifts are much larger — sometimes in the millions.

Junod says the UCF Fund asks every alumnus and alumna with up-to-date information to donate, which is more than 226,000 Knights. Of this, about 7,000 donate, or a little more than 3 percent of alumni.

“At our call center, students like to talk to alumni about donating to scholarships because the student callers are often on scholarships,” Junod explains.

To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out the applications on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in his/her scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and activities summary.

“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu says. “The alumni association does a great job advertising the scholarships. People just have to take the next step and actually apply.”

She also says it is important for students to be themselves when writing application essays.

“They can tell in your writing if you’re being fake or lying,” she says. “Stand out and have a personal story that they can connect to.”

In Chu’s application, she wrote a personal essay about how UCF has opened so many doors for her father. She also described how the university has already given her innumerable opportunities, such as research and networking.

After the applications are submitted, the four-month-long reviewing process begins.

“We want to make sure we are being diligent in reading everything and paying attention because students took the time to submit their applications,” Cordoba says.

A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship, and then the applicants are scored using a point system.

“For example, if you’re a member of a club, you get so many points. If you’re an officer, you get more points,” Cordoba explains. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”

Once the applicants have been rated, a selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top five to 10 students. The committee then gives its recommendations and a staff committee selects the final winners.

Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there’s been an increase in students who have been applying for the alumni association’s scholarships.

“We had more than 500 applications in 2015, which is a third more than we had the year before,” Cordoba says. “Students are taking advantage of the scholarships!”

However, with more applicants comes more competition.

“The caliber of students who are applying is amazing,” Cordoba says. “We’re choosing from the top echelon of students who are extremely involved with their university and in their communities.”

Alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship for $10,000, or they can endow a scholarship for $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation.

“The idea is to keep building the endowment so it lives on in perpetuity,” Cordoba says.

How to apply for UCF Alumni Association scholarships:

  1. Visit ucfalumni.com/scholarships. (The application window opens Feb. 1 and closes Feb. 28 each year.)
  2. Read all scholarship criteria and complete all required supporting documents.
  3. Log on to myUCF.
  4. Select “Student Self Service.”
  5. Click on “Scholarship Application” > “Home Page” > “Add New Scholarship.”
  6. Complete and submit application(s).

Questions?

Read the Scholarship FAQ, or contact Carla Cordoba at 407.823.3453.

This story appeared Dec. 4, 2015, in the Central Florida Future online. It has been updated and edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 1, 2016

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Taking any UCF classes this fall? Want some free money? Apply for one of our many alumni scholarships! (Scroll to the bottom of the page for application instructions.)
  2. February is Matching Gift Month, which means your monetary donations may be worth double if your employer participates in the matching gift program. While we hope UCF is tops on your list of giving priorities, we encourage you to give to whichever organizations mean the most to you!
  3. The UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is taking part in a Green Office Certification pilot program, also known as the “GreenUP UCF” campaign. Over the next year, our staff will be making changes to help our building become a more sustainable part of our beautiful campus.
  4. Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re in the Titusville area on Saturday, join our Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter as they cheer on Knightro in the Mascot Marathon! Or, if you’re out and about in Orlando on Saturday, support our student-athletes at the UCF Baseball FanFest prior to the Knights’ basketball game against Temple (where you can enter your little one in the Second Annual UCF Baby Race during halftime)!
  5. Join the College of Sciences on Feb. 10, as it hosts its next Distinguished Speaker Series. This month’s topic is “Understanding Violence against Women in Rural Communities,” presented by Walter DeKeseredy, professor of sociology at the University of West Virginia.

Space Coast Chapter Volunteers at Cocoa Beach Marathon

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By Angie Lewis, ’03

On Sunday, Oct. 25, members of the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter (above) manned water stations and cheered on runners in the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. They also collected used running shoes — 104 pairs to be exact! — to be donated to local charities. SEE MORE PHOTOS


In addition, the UCF Alumni Association’s own Shawna Duane (below), administrative assistant to Executive Director Julie C. Stroh, ran the half marathon (her first one), finishing in 2:54.39, earning her a miniature “I Dream of Jeannie” bottle (since the series took place in Cocoa Beach). “Jeannie” herself, Barbara Eden, was even in attendance to congratulate the runners. Way to go, Shawna!

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Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Oct. 12, 2015

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, UCF is hosting several events this month to encourage people to talk about domestic violence and learn more about the impact this crime has not only on the victims, but the entire community.
  2. The UCF Communications Disorders Clinic opened its doors to the public on Friday, showcasing its new state-of-the-art facility in Central Florida Research Park.
  3. The UCF Alumni Association is giving Knights an inside look at ways to help your children prepare for one of the most important decisions of their lives — applying for college! Join us this Wednesday from 6:30-8 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center for our Legacy Admissions Workshop.
  4. Thirteen UCF Alumni chapters and clubs participated in this year’s Knights Give Back, the university’s annual day of service.
  5. The UCF RESTORES clinic is helping veterans combat PTSD, but it needs your help to continue its vital work!

Alumni Chapters/Clubs Participate in Knights Give Back 2015

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As part of this year’s Knights Give Back day of service, the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter prepared and served dinner
to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

Since 2007, students, alumni, faculty and staff have served more than 22,000 hours at UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back, making a lasting impact on the Central Florida community that will continue to grow, and saving Orlando nearly $600,000.

As part of Knights Give Back this year, many of our regional alumni chapters and clubs participated in service projects across the nation:

  • The Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter prepared and served dinner to local families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
    PHOTOS
  • The Dallas/Ft. Worth UCF Alumni Club held a clothing and food drive benefiting The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • The Denver UCF Alumni Chapter held a canned food drive to benefit the Denver Rescue Mission.
  • The Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club collected school supplies and non-perishable food items for the John E. Ford K-8 School and Ft. Caroline Elementary during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • The Ocala UCF Alumni Club held a children’s book drive, which benefited Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
  • The Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter collected items supporting the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • On Oct. 25, the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter will be cheering on runners, manning water stations and helping to collect new/used running shoes to donate to local nonprofits at the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon.
  • On Nov. 21, the Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter will be sorting through food before it gets donated to local food pantries through Feeding South Florida.
  • The Tallahassee UCF Alumni Club collected non-perishable food items to benefit the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.
    PHOTO
  • The Volusia/Flagler UCF Alumni Club partnered with UCF Daytona to paint the PACE Center for Girls, which provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.
  • The Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter sorted through food, donated by local farmers’ markets, for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and helped organize bundles for local families.
    PHOTOS

In addition, the UCF College of Sciences Alumni Chapter helped the efforts of Pegasus Professor Linda Walters, Ph.D., to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs at the Indian River Lagoon.
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The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter also helped out at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, a nonprofit animal shelter that takes in owner-relinquished pets. Through Pet Alliance, each animal is ensured to have a good quality of life and is provided with enrichment activities, socialization and exercise.
PHOTO

Plus, UCF Alumni Relations hosted a clean up at Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery, where volunteers cleaned headstones, grave markers and memorials, removing debris, as well as doing some painting and landscaping.


Volunteers now have a new way to make an even greater impact, with a grants program called “Dollars for Doers,” in which some employers will honor your work as a volunteer by “matching” your efforts with a charitable donation of their own, often to the organization of your choice!
LEARN MORE

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

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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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — July 13, 2015

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Cheryl Hines, ’90 (left), appeared on last night’s episode of “Celebrity Family Feud” with her two brothers, Chris Hines and
Michael Hines, ’95 (center), mother, Rosemary Harbolt, and sister, Rebecca Hines (far right), a UCF professor.
(PHOTO: Orlando Sentinel via Adam Taylor/ABC)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Thursday, the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter hosts its annual Starry Knights event, recognizing alumni who have made a notable impact on the local economy and significant contributions within the community, as well as honoring two Debbie K. Phillis, ’84, Scholarship recipients.
  2. Last year, UCF launched a hiring campaign to recruit 200 new faculty members. This year, Provost Dale Whittaker says the university expects to hire another 200 faculty members to join our Knights family. One hundred of those positions are new, made possible because of performance funding that UCF will receive from the state based on our university’s academic performance, students’ graduation and retention rates, and other metrics set by the Florida Board of Governors.
  3. Actress Cheryl Hines, ’90, appeared with her family on last night’s episode of “Celebrity Family Feud,” winning $25,000 for their charity of choice, United Cerebral Palsy.
  4. About 25 UCF students lost their homes after a fire at the Tivoli Apartments community destroyed several dozen units yesterday. UCF Housing and Residence Life, and Victim Services, worked with the affected students to find them temporary housing. Those who wish donate food, toiletries or gift cards for Publix and Walmart can take them to the Knights Pantry from noon to 5 p.m. today through Thursday.
  5. UCF’s physical therapy program in the College of Health and Public Affairs this May partnered with GoBabyGo, an initiative to help toddlers with motor impairments increase their mobility and interaction with others.
    LEARN MORE:

UCF Alumni Honors 2015 Jefferson Award Recipients

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Three of this year’s UCF Jefferson Award recipients included (left to right) Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, College Chapter Volunteer of the Year; Crystal Buit, ’06, Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year; and Matthew Ayala, ’11, Regional Club Volunteer of the Year.

On June 12, the UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception celebrated its eighth year recognizing some of the UCF Alumni Association’s most active volunteers for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours. Hosted by the UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter, these awards focus on public service and the importance of giving back.

The event kickstarted the alumni association’s Chapter and Club Council Meeting weekend, during which alumni chapter and club volunteers from across the nation gathered to discuss plans for the upcoming year.

Todd Bowers, ’77, a graduate of the College of Business Administration, who serves on the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council, the UCF Athletics Association Board of Directors, the UCF Foundation Finance Committee and the UCF Inclusive Education Team, was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students, was also in attendance as a guest speaker for the festivities.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients:

Regional Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Ivette Herald, ’04, Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter

Ivette has been chair of the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter for the past four years. With her leadership, the chapter grew from 10 active members to nearly 50, and its Facebook page has increased to more than 400 followers.

“Our chapter’s mission is to create a home away from home for alumni, and I stress the importance of making those connections during every board meeting and through my actions,” she says. “It’s important that we make alumni feel welcome. I think that passion is what has helped our club evolve into a chapter in one year, and keeps alumni coming to our monthly events and watch parties.”

The other nominees included: Eric Braga, ’00, Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter; Chris Brown, ’05, Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter; Samantha Malone, ’04, Denver UCF Alumni Chapter; Thomas Marron, ’86, New York UCF Alumni Chapter; and Sara Singer, ’10, Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter

Regional Club Volunteer of the Year—
Matthew Ayala, ’11, Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club

Matthew just completed his third year as chair of the Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club. Under his guidance, the club has seen a significant increase in its watch party attendance, as well as its Senior Sendoff event, after which other clubs now model their Senior Sendoffs.

“I look at this as a job,” he says. “Every day is another opportunity to enhance UCF’s brand, and I try to do something for the club each and every day.”

The other nominees included: Bakari Dowdell, ’14, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club; and Becky Koziuk, ’03, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club

Association Committee Volunteer of the Year—
Dan Ward, ’92, UCF Alumni Board of Directors/PR Committee

After serving a six-year term on the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, Dan returned this year to chair the public relations committee, developing strategies to increase awareness and relevance of the association and the Knights it serves.

“We’ve brought additional structure to the PR committee this year, and added a team of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and help us promote the association,” he says.

College Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, UCF College of Engineering & Computer Science Alumni Chapter

Mark currently serves as vice chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter. Along with a fellow chapter member, he championed the college’s new Career Kickoff, which became a signature event for the chapter.

“I believe in direct engagement between students and alumni for the benefit of both,” he says. “As alumni, we can provide great insight, skills, training, guidance and contacts for the students. In return, the students infuse us with passion and energy for our university and our profession.”

The other nominees included: Tom Alexander, ’03, UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Chapter; and Tiffany Carrion, ’08, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter

Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Crystal Buit, ’06, UCF Community Volunteers Chapter

This past year, Crystal served as chair of the UCF Community Volunteers Chapter. Like other volunteer leaders, she says she wanted the year to be a success and had a passion for outreach and engagement, being sure to personally connect with as many alumni as she could at each event, letting them know she was thankful for their participation and welcomed their future involvement.

“I hope I have positively impacted the association by creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with one another, while reminding those in the community of UCF’s tremendous and generous alumni presence and base,” Crystal says.

The other nominee was: Justina Oldehoff, ’09, UCF Young Alumni Chapter 

Student Volunteer of the Year—
Jill Dutmers, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador

Jill has been a 4EVER Knights Ambassador for the past three years. During her junior year, she served as secretary of the 4EK officer board. She also chaired Knights of Legend, 4EK’s annual networking event for students and alumni. This past year, she served as the student alumni association’s president.

“As an ambassador, I’m only required to work 50 hours’ worth of events,” Jill says. “Yet, I attend everything — every meeting, every event, every social gathering — regardless of whether I need the hours. It’s not that I don’t have coursework or law school applications or family obligations waiting for me at home. It’s just that I want to be the kind of outstanding leader who inspires those who follow through my actions rather than my words.”

The other nominee was: Mackenzie Chase, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador 

In addition, three alumni were honored with Shining Armor Awards, recognizing their chivalry to the 4EVER KNIGHTS program and the 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors by donating their time and talent to help 4EK succeed.

Those recipients were:

Peter Cranis, ’84, ’88

Mike Griffin, ’84

Tiffany Payne, ’97

Congrats to all!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

UCF Alumni Hosts 2015 Chapter & Club Council

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During the annual AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council, chapter and club chairs were presented with
framed photos of the Reflecting Pond as a token of thanks for all of their hard work and dedication to the UCF Alumni Association.

On Saturday, June 13, following the previous evening’s 8th Annual UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception, nearly 60 regional, college and special interest chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — attended the UCF Alumni Association’s AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

The morning began with a keynote address and Q&A by Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students.

Next, alumni staff presented this year’s Chapter & Club Awards, which included:

  • The College Chapter Challenge Award tasked college-based alumni chapters to engage in professional development activities within their chapters that add value to their degrees and make meaningful connections back to the university. This year’s winner hosted an evening to provide alumni with a tool that’s invaluable in the industry in which they work — customer service training, provided by best-selling author Tim Miles. Congratulations to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter!
  • The Regional Chapter/Club Challenge Award tasked regional chapters with executing events with a strong university connection — which isn’t always easy when you’re not in Orlando! However, this year’s winner impressed the selection committee by working on events with local businesses in their community, while also working with the UCF regional campus closest to them on their signature event, Starry Knights. Last year, Starry Knights raised more than $6,000 for scholarships and, after this year’s event in July, they will be one step closer to their goal of endowing their chapter’s scholarship. Congratulations to the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter!
  • The Constituent Chapter Challenge Award tasked special interest chapters with creating opportunities to create meaningful connections with our student population. Chapter volunteers participated as panelists for the 4EVER KNIGHTS Alumni Speaker Series and served as mentors in the 4EK Connect program. Their signature professional development conference, PRO CON, raised $8,000 this year and allowed the chapter to engage with students in various stages of the UCF experience. Congratulations to the UCF Young Alumni Chapter!
  • The Chapter or Club of the Year Award was presented to the overall chapter or club that covered all of the bases in not only event programming, but in communicating with alumni and building meaningful connections. The selection committee was impressed by the winning group, not only for their philanthropic events — participating in multiple events through the year in addition to UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back — but also in the goals they set and how they reached them. They’ve grown their LinkedIn following from just 10 members to nearly 300, while becoming a chapter only two years ago. The judges were thoroughly impressed! Congratulations to the Denver UCF Alumni Chapter!

Chapter and club leaders then participated in breakout sessions on the alumni association’s strategic plan goals of communication, engagement, relevance and funding. After lunch, they continued with roundtable discussions on board management, social media, student engagement, professional development/career-focused events, and partnerships.

Before wrapping up the day-long conference with a catered happy hour and UCF Bookstore merchandise sales, attendees got to meet and participate in a Q&A with Mike Morsberger, the new vice president for alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.

Thank you to all of our dedicated alumni volunteers! Go Knights! Charge On!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

Surfer Girl

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Michelle Mulak-Cheatham, ’14 | Fitness/Water Reporter, FLORIDA TODAY +
Owner/CEO, Ohana Oceanic Inc.

By Angie Lewis, ’03

“I was born for that,” exclaimed Michelle Mulak-Cheatham, ’14, after spotting a job for a fitness and water reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. “I knew the moment I was in the building for my interview that it felt like home. I wasn’t nervous, I was just ready.”

As the newspaper’s first fitness and water reporter, Mulak-Cheatham is a trailblazer, figuring out things as she goes.

“Every day is a new adventure,” she says. “I’m all over the place — surfing one day, mountain biking the next, and then learning how to ballroom dance on the next day. There’s a lot of variety in my day-to-day life, and it rocks!”

Before landing her dream position with the Space Coast’s daily news source, Mulak-Cheatham kept busy — first, as a gymnastics teacher, then as head of the kids’ fitness program for Health First, then as an adaptive and mainstream physical education and reading enrichment teacher at an elementary school, and, most recently, as the owner and CEO of Ohana, her own surfing, art and leadership program for kids.

“Come to think of it, this is the first time that I’ve worked with grown-ups in about a dozen years!” she says.

And, her newest job is the perfect fit for her active lifestyle. In fact, it was her love of surfing that drew her to Brevard County, where she now lives and regularly hangs 10 with her two sons, ages 13 and 9, and the love of her life, Steve. It was a move she made the day after she graduated from Boone High School in Orlando.

“From a young age, I have loved to move and challenge myself,” she explains. “I never, ever, ever stayed still … Being an athlete has always been a no-brainer. It makes me feel strong and powerful and capable.”

Surfin’ Q&A

Q. Most memorable experience on the job?
A. The first time my picture was on the front page of the Sunday paper and someone recognized me. They told me that they loved my writing and couldn’t wait to read more of it. That was like high-fiving the whole universe.

Q. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A. A teacher and a writer and a gymnast and an artist and mom and a mermaid

Q. How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?
A. Endlessly. The whole experience of interdisciplinary education is very real-world. It gave me a fair amount of knowledge in several areas, which helps you to feel confident in a variety of situations. The career prep was top-notch. Throughout my time at UCF, I really began to master the art of concise and charismatic communication. That’s a skill set that transcends any career path. It gave me a mega advantage. Taking classes in person is so important. It teaches you how to socialize as an adult with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. It also gives you a reason to practice speaking up and presenting publicly.

Q. What has been your favorite surfing spot so far?
A. Southern Nicaragua is pretty fantastic. Costa Rica is so beautiful — it will take your breath away. Then again, I love the waves in front of my house. Wherever there are fun waves, that’s my favorite place at that moment.

Q. How do you channel your artistic inclination?
A. Paint. Draw. Doodle. Write. Dance. Sing. Make jewelry.

Q. Why are you such a music lover?
A. It speaks to me. It wakes me up and quiets me down. It connects me to the moment.

Q. Favorite band/artist?
A. There are too many. Right now, I’m loving Lake Street Dive, the Foo Fighters, anything with a fun ska sound. The answer to that really depends on my mood.

Q. First concert you ever attended?
A. The Gin Blossoms at Albright College in Pennsylvania. I was maybe 11 or 12.

Q. Do you play an instrument?
A. Piano

Q. Besides surfing/working out, what’s your favorite thing to do while you travel?
A. Walk around and explore. Hike. Find a beautiful place to lie down and read, or just absorb the new space. Find the best place for a craft beer and a local meal.

Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. Deciding to take a step back from Ohana and move in a new direction

Q. What advice would you give to those who hate exercise but want to get fit?
A. Try new things. You will find something eventually that doesn’t feel like exercise. For me, that thing is dancing or surfing. Once you find the thing you enjoy, do it as often as you can. If you really hate exercise and won’t commit to doing it, you will never be fit. End of story. You can diet your way to thin, but you can’t diet your way to strong.

Q. Any other fitness/health advice you can share?
A. Don’t take your ability to move for granted. You never know when that ability might be taken away from you.

More Info

See a video of Michelle in action at FLORIDATODAY.com.