Valencia Students Promote Global Education During Florida International Leadership Conference In April

Melanie De Jesus, Reporter

Florida International Leadership Conference members pose together. (V.I.S.A. Club)


Editor’s Note: Corrections have been issued on future funding sources for the event, participant numbers, Kenia Pimentel’s colleague name, and participant’s actual attendance count.

The Florida International Leadership Conference held its 15th annual event this April 8th through the 10th at Lake Placid’s Camp Cloverleaf 4-H. While this event typically takes place in February, after pandemic-related delays, organizers and volunteers were able to come together to host this yearly leadership event.

According to Valencia Intercultural Student Association (V.I.S.A.) Club advisor Kenia Pimentel, a Dominican Republic immigrant, Valencia alumna, and International Student Services Specialist, “…Florida International Leadership Conference (FILC) is an exciting conference that will give international and study-abroad students a unique opportunity to learn from one another, share educational experiences, and promote global education!” Pimentel attended as the FILC Registrar for 2021-2022 and talked at length about her own experiences. Valencia students were able to attend FILC through funds supplied by the college’s Student Development office. The office of International Student Services sponsored this year’s FILC for Valencia’s participants including nine students and two advisors. The camp-like atmosphere encourages attendees to expand their comfort zone and get to know one another by bunking with international and domestic students in cozy cabins for a three-day weekend.

Attendees will have studied abroad or have an interest in doing so, while some may already be leading global minded initiatives of their own in campus. While an attendee did not bunk with the team whom they arrived, partnering with other students allows for new friendships, exposure to new ideas, and the development of leadership skills. With attendees hailing from different nationalities and universities across Florida, getting to know everyone is handy if a student is planning to transfer to any of the other universities attending the event.

The goals of the FILC are to “enhance leadership skills, promote friendships and networks among international & study abroad students, recognize and reward student leaders who promote international understanding on campus, challenge students to see themselves as global leaders, and to recognize the differing styles of leadership across cultures”. The event is packed with a series of educational and team-building sessions.

Dr. LaDonna Butler, Keynote Speaker (Photo Credit: The Well for Life, LLC)

FILC also presented keynote speakers such as Dr. LaDonna Butler, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor – Qualified Supervisor (LMHC-QS) and Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (CDWF) featured on Time Magazine, New York Times, Tampa Bay Times, ABC, FOX News, and cited in the work of Deran Young, Tarana Burke, and Brene’ Brown.


After Saturday morning rising yoga and breakfast, Dr. LaDonna spoke to attendees, encouraging them to ask themselves what was something they would give themselves permission to do during this conference and write it on a sticky note.

A student attendee reviews sticky notes on a whiteboard at Dr. Butler’s speaking engagement and activity.


Students huddle during a scavenger hunt at the FILC. (VISA Club)

“I really liked the experience, to be honest” recalls Maria Willches, Architecture major and Valencia Intercultural Student Association Club Secretary. “It was my first camp, and I didn’t know what to expect. But then when I arrived there, seeing all the people, and sharing all the stories- and I love to dance, so in the dance party I learned a lot because I saw people that I thought I would never see in a million years, and they taught me dances from their country.”


Ty Gilbert, Computer Science major and VISA Club member enthusiastically reflected the same sentiment during her interview; recalling FILC was fun even between sessions. “During the free time I played volleyball with some people and that was really, really fun…” She also recalls how on the very first day they were tasked with a scavenger hunt along new students; just one of the many group activities to come.

“I gave myself permission to stop doubting my knowledge. …what I’m doing is needed, I trust the information I’m giving, and I’ve studied for it- I’ve done my research” answered Miguel Bermudez,  V.I.S.A. Club President, Art major and Venezuelan asylee during an online interview hosted on Zoom.

This being his first attendance to FILC, Bermudez took a chance submitting his own proposal to speak on topics of cultural preservation, assimilation, racism, and how everyone has their own cultural story- should they be curious enough to ask their own family.

“I was nervous about what the reaction of some of the students was going to be and that talk gave me a bit more peace.” he recalled.

FILC attendees danced with glowsticks at the final event of the conference.

Everyone at FILC worked passionately to make the event happen this year. Pimentel and Conference Chair Angelica Rodriguez Jiminez, University of South Florida, made this opportunity as easy as possible for Valencia College but also for the eleven universities who also attended from across the state. Advisors, students, and Valencia graduates as peer leaders were rewarded on Saturday night at the Coachella-themed dance party marking the end of the event. Even Pimentel was determined to enjoy this event to the last drop. “That Saturday night, I danced the night away.”

The attendees offered this advice to anyone interested in attending FILC next year: Be involved in the clubs at Valencia, as this opportunity and many others have come to them through clubs. To know more about FILC, and international-related clubs, reach out to the Valencia Intercultural Student Association (West) and ask about their newly opened officer positions this summer.

Lastly, it is important for and that many COVID precautions were taken by Valencia and FILC to ensure students provided evidence of vaccination/ negative COVID tests prior to entering this event and that it was their goal to ensure a safe recreational space for everyone involved.






FILC attendees jump high into the air. (Kenia Pimentel)




Click on the gallery to see more photos of the April 8 through 10 Florida International Leadership Conference from V.I.S.A. Club participants.