Valencia Welcomes New Students from Puerto Rico


Phi Theta Kappa officers serve authentic Puerto Rican food to students and staff.

Robert Manfreda, Contributing Writer

The Valencia College Spring Welcome Festival kicked off celebrating the school’s newest students from Puerto Rico. The event was presented by Phi Theta Kappa’s Alpha Gamma Omega Chapter at East Campus.

The aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria has caused a large influx of Puerto Rican residents to relocate to Florida or other parts of the United States. College students are no exception. The Valencia community has come together to help make their transition as smooth as possible in these difficult times.

Coralis Almestica, 19-year old freshman business administration major, transferred to Valencia from the University of Puerto Rico and arrived in Florida only a week ago.

“I like it. I like the help and the way Valencia has treated us and all the help they have offered us. It has been such a kind thing on the part of Orlando,” says Almestica. She went on to say, “It’s a little bit sad because I’m going to miss my home and I’m going to miss my friends, but like I told them, I’m going to be there soon. As soon as I finish my major. I’ve got to make sacrifices so I can succeed in life.”

Wilfredo Rivera Jr., 18-year old freshman engineering major grew up in Puerto Rico and his family still has strong ties to the island. His father is a three time WBC World Champion, Wilfredo Gomez Rivera Sr. The new student says he is grateful Valencia has been so hospitable.

“It means a lot actually and when I heard this was for the Puerto Rican people, it’s really thoughtful to have such an event for the kids that are moving over,” says Rivera Jr.

Michael Onuchovsky, the chapter president of Phi Theta Kappa is responsible for coordinating the festival. Onuchovsky is a 19-year old sophomore and is double-majoring in business and psychology. He says he knew he had to do something to welcome the influx of new Puerto Rican students.

“When we heard about the tragedy of the hurricane, that really inspired us to make something happen. I went to a workshop on the policy how we’re allowing Puerto Rican students to come with or without their transcripts temporarily, so we really want them to feel at home and very welcome in their first week during the spring semester.”

The campus mall was decorated with Puerto Rican flags, music from the island, and authentic cuisine featuring popular foods such as pernil, rice with beans, and fried plantains served by PTK officers. Emily Reyes, 19-year old sophomore communications major and PTK-Historian said, “Food is always something people can bond over. It brings people together from all different backgrounds and gives Americans different perspectives as far as reaching out to other cultures and people of other walks of life.”