U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Visits Valencia


Betsy Devos and Sandy Shugart had a cheerful exchange before the Advanced Manufacturing round table discussion began.

Sam Schaffer, Contributing Writer

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos visited Valencia College for a tour and round table discussion on March 24.

She began the day at the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Osceola County with a round table discussion with Valencia President Sandy Shugart, local employers, and students. DeVos then traveled down the road to Valencia’s Osceola campus where she had a brief tour and another round table discussion about the success of the dual enrollment program. There were protesters on Osceola campus waiting for DeVos. They held signs which read, “DeVostating to Public Schools,” and “a just society educates all.”

The tour of the training center began in the mechatronics room, a futuristic looking workshop with mechanical arms operating behind transparent barriers. The mechatronics program is an accelerated training program where students learn the basics of mechanical components and electrical drives in complex automated systems.

“We were ecstatic that she was coming and chose our facility to tour,” said Robert MacMillan, a mechatronics instructor at the Training Center. “[Mechatronics] is our newest program; this is the pilot class and they just finished their second exam. We had a 100 percent pass rate.”

DeVos then sat down with President Shugart, local employers, and employees who have benefitted from the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center. Various students shared their personal stories about how the training center has improved their lives. Many employers also spoke about the high caliber of worker that has come out of the training program.

“Programs like this really benefit us,” Junior Davis explained. He owns Jr. Davis Construction Co. and has hired multiple graduates from the training center.

DeVos then headed to Valencia’s Osceola campus where she took a tour of the school before sitting down at another round table discussion. Dual enrollment was the focus of this round table, with testimonies from students, teachers, and superintendents about the effectiveness of the dual enrollment program.

Dual enrollment is a program for high school students looking to get ahead academically. As a participant, students attend their regular high school as well as taking classes at Valencia. Students can begin dual enrollment in grade 11 so they have the opportunity to graduate high school with an associate degree. Valencia College has shown great support and commitment to the dual enrollment program.

“Valencia has a great reputation among the community colleges in this country, I think by coming to Valencia I’m learning a lot,” DeVos said when asked what she hoped to achieve by visiting the school.

“Community colleges are a tremendous option for many students and we need to do a much better job of highlighting the important work that community colleges do across this country to help students achieve their goals and dreams,” continued DeVos.

When asked what specifically she would do to highlight the achievement of community colleges, Devos said she will talk about them more.

There was a small group of protesters waiting at the Osceola campus for Devos to arrive. Protesters were concerned about the Secretary’s view on school choice and possible budget cuts for public schools.

Betsy Devos poses with a group of local employers and employees that have benefitted from the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Osceola County.
Protesters gather at Osceola Campus