KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Dwight Swasey is a first generation college student at Valencia College. He said his Haitian-Jamaican family is proud.

  • He says student ambassadors encouraged him to apply for college
  • Valencia is pushing to get more students into college

"Basically the reason why I am doing college is to better my life," Swasey said.

He said student ambassadors came to his classroom when he was a senior at Poinciana High School and encouraged him to apply to Valencia College. Now he is the SGA president for the Poinciana campus.

"The opportunity to be where I am is wonderful," Swasey said.

With 56 percent of students enrolled being Hispanic and 17 percent black, Kathleen Plinske, the executive vice president and provost for Valencia College, said the Poinciana campus has the largest percentage of students of color out of any of Valencia's campuses.

"And what we're most proud of is that the students at Valencia at the Poinciana campus reflect the diversity of the community," Plinske said.

Plinske also said that the college's push to get more students to seek higher education has worked. A few years back Osceola County ranked 61st out of 67 counties in the state of Florida, when it came to the number of high school students going to college.

The most recent numbers show the county is now ranked at 27th and she says having a campus Poinciana has helped with that.

Plinske explained, "It feels wonderful to see that we are creating opportunities for students futures as well as for the futures of their families."

Swasey hopes to run his own marketing agency in the near future and in the meantime wants to continue being a role model for his two little sisters.

"I want to set the example for my sisters," he said. "And when it's time for me to have kids, they will be like, 'Well Dad went to school,' so I want to let them know if you want to go to school, they have the support system for it."

This fall Valencia's Poinciana campus has seen more than a 35 percent increase in student enrollment.