Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Dec. 14, 2015

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Wondering what this pic is all about? Check out No. 5 on our list!

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. For only the second time in its history, all three branches of UCF SGA’s Senate are led by women. The 48th Student Senate’s executive branch is led by Student Body President Cait Zona, the legislative branch is led by Speaker of the Senate Meghan Kircher, and the judicial branch is led by Chief Justice Taylor Scimeca. Congratulations, ladies!
  2. Throughout final exams week, which finally comes to an end tomorrow, the Student Union, Student Academic Resource Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and UCF Police’s Safe Escort Patrol Service have been helping students ease some of the stress that can come with test taking (and the holidays).
  3. UCF chemistry Ph.D. candidate David Nash, ’11, MS14, and his team, which is developing a smartphone-based handheld drug system for law enforcement applications, was selected to further advance their innovation at the national level through the National Science Foundation I-Corps program.
  4. Last week in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott presented the Champion of Service Award to UCF mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Albert Manero, ’12, MSAE14, for his work with Limbitless Solutions.
  5. A group of student-athletes is spreading Christmas cheer with the help of Mariah Carey, some jolly dance moves, and a video that’s making its way around the Internet.

UCF Alumna Crowned First Miss Florida World America 2015

(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)
Kailyn Perez, ’13, dancing during the talent portion of a pageant
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)

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.

17-Year-Old UCF Graduate Lands Software Job

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(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy of Adrian Gilliam)

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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — April 27, 2015

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(Photo: UCF Today)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Engineering students showed off their inventions and new technologies during the Senior Design Showcase on Friday. From a three-in-one ocean rescue trailer, to a detection-and-alert system for parents who travel with infants in their cars’ backseats, to a drone laser tag game, the projects gave students a chance to illustrate their readiness to work in the field of engineering.
  2. It’s finals week! Remember those days? Well, now, the UCF Student Government Association rewards dedicated students “caught” studying in the John C. Hitt Library. Tonight, as part of its annual Kram for the Exam event, SGA members will reward studiers with drawstring bookbags filled with note cards, Post-it Notes, pens, pencils and highlighters, as well as tummy satisfiers like mints, gummies, Cheez-Its and bottles of water.
  3. On April 22, FAIRWINDS Credit Union was presented with the UCF Partnership Award for its philanthropic support, service and commitment to the university. The award was accepted by the company’s president and CEO, Larry Tobin, ’83, during the President’s Partnership Reception at The Burnett House. In 2004, FAIRWINDS made a significant donation to construct the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.
  4. Ever been to UCF’s Public History Center in Sanford? This weekend is a great time to check it out, as a new demonstration wildflower garden makes it debut for MayFest! Plants include blanketflower, southern beeblossom, meadow beauty and blazing star, which are part of two dozen Florida native wildflowers on display.
  5. Noteworthy alumni events:
    • Wednesday, April 29 — Rosen College alumni, faculty, staff and students commence for the college’s fourth annual Hospitality Knight. This networking and career development event features Tim Miles, an international marketing strategist, speaker and best-selling author, as the evening’s guest speaker.
    • Friday, May 1 — A group of selected College of Engineering and Computer Science alumni will participate in the college’s AlumKnights at Work series. This time, Knights will get a special, behind-the-scenes look at Kennedy Space Center.
    • Saturday, May 2 — The UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter hosts a coastal cleanup at New Smyrna Beach. Family and friends are welcome!

Distinguished Student 2014

Donna Perez, '83, '88 (left), the 1982 winner of the Distinguished Student Award, presented this year's award to Cynthia Florentino, '14. (PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
Donna Perez, ’83, ’88 (left), the 1982 winner of the Distinguished Student Award, presented this year’s award to Cynthia Florentino, ’14.
(PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
Cynthia Florentino, ’14 | Google Policy Fellow, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Cynthia Florentino graduated from UCF with a political science degree after dedicating the majority of her time to professional development and extracurricular involvement. Florentino served in a cabinet position for the UCF Student Government Association and enrolled in a federal college program, where she became chair of the President’s Leadership Council her senior year. She currently attends graduate school in Washington, D.C., and continues to pursue her dream of transforming lives with the use of the Internet as a tool for empowerment.

Learn more about Cynthia: