Valencia College 50th Anniversary: A Story of Race Relations


Charter Advisory Board at Valencia’s Inaugural Commencement

Yesmene Chikha, Contributing Writer

Valencia College opened its doors on August 21, 1967 to white and black students. For the first time, students from different races were co-mingling in the same space, enjoying the same music, and participating in the same events. Today that memory reinforces how Valencia was a safe-haven for many students at time when segregation was still alive in the Orange County Public School System.
At first Valencia was predominantly a white campus; there was a lack of minorities because many were afraid of not being accepted. However, by 1970 Valencia’s very own Black Student Union was created. Then as time passed, more minorities began to attend Valencia. This created more diverse community within the campus. Now Valencia reminisces on its impact on not only young individuals, but also the upcoming generations that are now able to have an education no matter what race they are.
Melinda Williams currently attends Valencia and reflects back at how her grandparents struggled to get an education. “I never knew how lucky I was to actually gain an education, Valencia has not only helped me, but also my family,” says Williams.
Cheryl Cross, a member of the African American club at Valencia College, speaks about how one can draw parallels between the hatred in society then and now. “In my opinion, I feel like history is repeating itself,” said Cross.
Many people in the African American community didn’t have the option to extend their knowledge after high school because of socioeconomic limitations. However, Valencia served as a safe haven that fostered this community to succeed and contribute to society in new ways. A step in Valencia’s history that changed the lives of so many generations in Central Florida.