Stacey Malaret, director of UCF’s LEAD Scholars Academy (Leadership Enrichment and Academic Development), will lace up her shoes Saturday to walk in the annual Greater Orlando Heart Walk fundraiser at UCF. The reason the cause is so meaningful to her is that her son was born with a congenital heart defect, which has been repaired by two surgeries.

Malaret is from Orlando and earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. She graduated in 1998 from the University of Central Florida with a master’s in student personnel, and in 2007 with a doctorate in educational leadership. Since 2001 she has worked at the academy, which offers educational and co-curricular leadership-development opportunities for undergraduate students. She advises several student organizations and programs, and also is involved with several community organizations.

What is your motivation in being active in the annual Heart Walk?

My son Brandon was born with a congenital heart defect and received his first heart surgery at five weeks old. His second surgery repaired a medium-sized hole in his heart at a year and a half. I am so thankful for the doctors and researchers at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Congenital Heart Institute in Orlando who cared for him during this tumultuous time.

How is he doing?

Brandon is now a very active 7-year-old at Lakemont Elementary. He loves Super Mario Bros., “Despicable Me,” swimming, playing on the playground and going to theme parks. As far as his heart condition goes he just needs to see his cardiologist for a checkup on an annual basis and he continues to do well!

How do you encourage others to support the Heart Walk?

All four of my family will be on the walk this year and I want to encourage others to walk to further raise funds for the American Heart Association. I want to help other families in the future receive the same kind of treatment that Brandon was able to receive as a baby. (To be involved with the Heart Walk or to make a donation, click here.)

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love seeing students develop into stronger and more confident leaders through the various programs that our office offers. I can truly see that our academic classes and co-curricular opportunities make a difference to the students we assist.

When/why did you realize you wanted this to be your career?

As an undergraduate student I was heavily involved with my social sorority and various other campus activities. Dr. Joe Paul, vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Southern Mississippi was my inspiration to join the field of student development.

What accomplishment are you most proud of at UCF?

All the wonderful things that LEAD Scholars have accomplished throughout their undergraduate careers and the social-change efforts that have started in our leadership classes. The Knights Helping Knights Food Pantry, Knights Go Pink, and the St. Baldrick’s and Cupcakes for a Cure events [started to conquer pediatric cancers] are just a few that grew into successful service projects.

Who has been an inspiration for you?

Eleanor Roosevelt has always been my role model. She was a great supporter of women’s inclusion in American society as full economic and political partners. “Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way by Robin Gruber is my all-time favorite book.  

Tells us a little more about your family.

Brandon and his twin Madison are second graders, and Pedro is my husband of 10 years. We live in the College Park area of Orlando.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I love spending time with my family, enjoying everything Orlando has to offer, and trying out new local restaurants.

What advice do you have for others working in the field of education?

1) Take advantage of all the resources that UCF offers employees and students. 2) Don’t procrastinate by putting off your higher education. There is never a perfect time to start or complete your education. 3) Try to achieve work-life balance as much as you can.