“A sense of excitement and anticipation greeted the staff of First Year Advising and Exploration on February 5 as they prepared for the arrival of hundreds of students in the Pegasus Ballroom,” said Courtney Demings, academic advisor FYAE. A committee of four individuals from FYAE and Housing and Residence Life respectively: Danielle Aming, Dillon Burleson, Gregory Saunders, and Brittany Blount spent several months planning the First Year Scholars Banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of 1,824 students who earned a 3.5 GPA or better for fall 2013. Their vision became a reality when approximately 400 of these students attended a reception held in their honor.

Students enjoyed a festive Italian dinner catered by Sbarro’s as well as entertainment by the Crescendudes, who performed cappella style. Maribeth Ehasz, vice president Student Development and Enrollment Services, welcomed students and congratulated them on their success. Pedro Patino, associate chair Chemistry Department, served as the keynote speaker for the program. Voted by first-year students as the faculty member most influential in their success for fall 2013, Patino took this opportunity to address these students and offer inspiration for the road ahead. He avowed, “My teaching philosophy is…transmitting knowledge to others.” He finished his presentation with an edict to his students via a proverb: “The only place where success is before work is in the dictionary.”

Elizabeth Santiago, a first year Psychology major from Cape Coral, served as the representative of the 1,824 first year scholars and offered a “student reflection” during the program. She entered UCF as a student through the SOAR [Seizing Opportunities for Achievement and Retention] Program in summer 2013. Through this program, Santiago received encouragement and mentoring which ultimately resulted in her being honored as a First Year Scholar by the end of fall 2013. She continues to blossom at UCF and utilizes each opportunity to reach her goal of becoming a practicing attorney specializing in family law. During her speech, she detailed the process of decision making and outlined the journey ahead for first year scholars. She spoke the following words to inspire her fellow honorees: “Use this accomplishment as the stepping stone for your next achievement.”

Demings said, “This message is consistently echoed in the actions of academic advisors within First Year Advising and Exploration and we strive to give each student confidence to fulfill their purpose academically, socially, and professionally. It is a charge to ignite all of our students regardless of GPA to move forward in each of their endeavors with the expectation of success.”

Santiago ended with encouraging words, “Dream on, study on, and charge on.”