Valencia Career Center First-Generation Graduates Panel Talks Tips, Risks and Transitioning

Justin Martinez, Writer

(From Top, Left to Right) First-Generation Graduate Panelists included Beverly Sanchez, Coordinator Cindy Oakley, Linzie Arnett, Dr. Jennifer Mezquita, Sidney Bumpass, and Sierra Rainge-Jones. (Screenshot by Justin Martinez)

On November 8, Valencia College hosted its third annual first-generation college graduates panel virtually via zoom. The panel included five first-generation college graduate speakers who took time to encourage and share their experiences with Valencia students.

The panelists were Beverly Sanchez, M.S. in Urban Planning and B.A. in Communications from University of Central Florida (UCF); Valencia alum Dr. Jennifer Mezquita, Ed. D. and M.A. in Educational Leadership from UCF; Sidney Bumpass, as a graduate of UCF with an undergraduate in Political Science and Information Technology; Linzie Arnett, M.A. Higher Education/ Higher Education Administration (UCF), B.S. in Psychology from Penn State University; and FAMU alum Sierra Rainge-Jones, M.B.A. in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and M. Ed., Educational Psychology from Pepperdine University . The event was hosted by Valencia’s East Campus Career Center Coordinator Cindy Oakley. The panelists were asked to introduce themselves, their backgrounds and how they achieved their goals.

“Growing up for me, in my family, there were two careers; and that was doctor or lawyer,” explains Beverly Sanchez, University of Central Florida graduate and Director of Community Engagement for From Outside In (FOI), a 501c3 non-profit boutique offering clothing options to youth in need. “But that wasn’t for me, I was much more interested in communication and talking to people.” she says, recounting how she was able to find her true passion after switching majors in college.

The other panelist had similar stories when it came to finding a major in their college days.  Owner and CEO of Live Limitless Media Group Sierra Rainge-Jones had encouragement to bring to the students. “You have to realize that you are breaking boundaries and chains by going to college and pursuing your degree and being the first in your family,” Rainge-Jones stated. She continued to offer relatable support and advice for any students needing guidance in deciding a degree and navigating courses, “Funny story (from) when I was first a nursing major; I failed organic chemistry three times, but I didn’t take that as a failure.”

Jennifer Mezquita, a Valencia College alumni and current Vice President of Student Affairs at Northern Essex Community College, spoke to students about career fields and opportunities. “With my degree being very specific, I had to learn to utilize my communication skills and hone in on the economics and managements skills more to show what I can do,” she explained. She continued to go into depth about how getting a degree doesn’t limit you to just being an expert on that subject. The panelists were then open to questions for the remaining of the seminar relating to career, success and transitioning advice.

The seminar ended on a powerful note from Rainge-Jones. “Do not and I mean not give up for one second you have to motivate yourself and not settle for less.”

Join the first-generation graduates seminar next year and visit the Career Center and Internship & Workforce Services at your campus for more information about opportunities.