Local Learning

Lake Nona and Valencia College partner to expand educational opportunities for local kindergarten through 12th grade students.

May 19, 2020

Lake Nona and Valencia College have partnered on a first-of-its-kind community education program, the Community Scholars Initiative, to expand learning opportunities for kindergarten through 12th grade students in the greater Lake Nona area.

Through partnership and collaboration with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), and the School District of Osceola County, Lake Nona and Valencia College have developed supplemental programs to support current classroom curriculums tailored to different age levels for elementary, middle, and high school students throughout the area.

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In addition to helping students, the Community Scholars Initiative cultivates a variety of helpful resources for educators and school administrations.

The Community Scholars Initiative is led by Project Director Rachael Dailey-Mihalik and overseen by an advisory council that includes representatives from Valencia College, UCF, OCPS, the School District of Osceola County, Nemours Children’s Hospital, and Lake Nona. This council develops the vision for an education ecosystem that serves the local community and creates programs designed to achieve that vision. It’s the goal of all partners involved that the Community Scholars Initiative can grow to become a model that’s replicated across the country.

“The mission of the Community Scholars Initiative is to create an integrated community of learning and education,” said Rachael. “We have a multifaceted approach to elevate the amazing work of our schools, connect students to resources and opportunities, and create a unique ecosystem focused on learning for the whole community. We have a wealth of knowledge and a culture of innovation and collaboration in the Lake Nona area. It is an honor for me to create meaningful, authentic, and educational connections between the organizations located here for the betterment of our children, our future workforce, and the community at large.”

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When the Community Scholars Initiative initially launched in August 2019, many of the programs focused on hands-on learning both in and out of the classroom including themed community events and a scientist-in-residence program focused on hands-on STEM learning by matching local professionals with teachers, students, and classes.

Changes in the school year have caused the Community Scholars Initiative’s programming to evolve and provide new virtual resources that can help students stay on-track with the transition to online learning full-time. New programs include a collaboration with the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute to provide everything from at-home enrichment activities to live Q&As with scientists from Orlando as well as across the state.

Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 school year, the Community Scholars Initiative is working closely with the school districts and local partners to create customized programming to support the learning of the greater Lake Nona community in every form. Plans include exploring different virtual and in-person options for the Initiative’s typical programs such as student mentoring, in-school support of STEM curriculum, and connecting students to Lake Nona businesses and industry partners for internships and workforce experiences.

For more information about the Community Scholars Initiative, visit the website and follow the Community Scholars Initiative on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest online programs.

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