407-823-3094 LiveUnited@ucf.edu

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Knight Stories

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Knight Stories and Statements

I volunteered for a Boys and Girls Club event where members of clubs from Central Florida came to spend the day at UCF. The purpose of the day is to show the students what college life is like and to give them the experience of being on a college campus. The students had an opportunity to listen to guest speakers on various topics. One speaker was a professor from the school of Visual Arts and Design. It was inspiring to see the students so engaged in this presentation. One student, in particular, didn’t realize that she could study and major in graphic design. Drawing and creating various forms of art was her passion and she was so excited to learn that she could go to college to study her passion. I like to think that this experience motivated her to pursue going to college. I hope that all students who attend this wonderful event are inspired to pursue education after high school.

~ Gabrielle Bell, UCF Employee

I don’t have a personal experience, but was touched by the story of a coworker, whose own brother benefited from services offered by the United way. It is great to know that services are available for people, in their time of need, and that as UCF staff, we can help ensure that needs are met. We never really know when we could fall on hard times and need help. We should be there for our community and help those in need.

~Jennifer Steele, UCF Employee

While I don’t have my own story to share, I was inspired by the many Knight stories that I read. Seeing that your donation or volunteer efforts are directly making an impact on people’s lives is a powerful thing.

~Monica Mayer, UCF Employee

As a member of the UCF and Orlando community, I believe that it is important to give back to the community by donating funds that can assist with the efforts that these agencies make to assist people in need. I have been a “United Way” donor for many years, and I am very proud of being part of the UCF family and supporting this great campaign. One of the times that I felt the proudest was this past year when Puerto Rico was hit with such a terrible hurricane (Maria), and I found out that when the devastation occurred the United Way was actively assisting with the needs of the Puerto Rican people.

~Maryline Rosario, CAHSA Office Manager

After my grandmother broke her hip, she received meals from the Meals on Wheels program. I give back through volunteering as a merit badge counselor and advancement chair for my son’s Boy Scout Troop. I also participate in the Knights Give Back volunteer event. I have instilled in my children that giving back to your community is important and that not only should we do it, but we should also pass along that passion to others. We can all make a difference and we all have the responsibility not only to make a difference but to teach others and encourage them and inspire others to make a difference as well.

~Angie Leary, UCF Employee

The greatest joy in my life comes from service and giving back to others. I believe in a positive attitude and the power of good will.

~Tracy Slavik, Coordinator, Administration and Finance

I’ve been on campus as a staff member for nearly four years now and the sense of pride I feel along with my co-workers and UCF leadership the month of October is overwhelming. During tough times, asking people to give of themselves and their bank accounts isn’t easy. But each year, I watch dozens of volunteers roll up their sleeves and passionately serve the needs of our amazing community. Really, isn’t that what “Live United” is all about. It really is the Knight way!

~Scott Mauro, Marketing and Communications Manager at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center

A few years back my sister in law fell on hard times; house foreclosure, divorce, and illness. The family rallied to help with funds and a room to stay in but it was obvious that she needed assistance that would help her long term. She needed a hand up, not a hand out. During one of my many calls to local agencies I was asked if I had called United Way 211 for help. I had never heard of this but I was willing to call anyone who might help! I called 211 and was immediately assisted by a kind, understanding and patient woman who gave me the name and phone number to a Women’s shelter that not only gave my sister in law a place to live but gave her resources to help put her life back together. My sister in law now lives on her own and has a full time job. Thank you United Way for being there when we needed you!

-Anonymous, UCF Employee

I’m very active in the UCF and surrounding community. Being actively involved in service to others is a lifestyle, and not an option. I feel it’s my responsibility to give back to my local community as often as I can. It’s important to take the focus off one’s self and see how we can help make the world a better place for others. In life, we often get out of it what we put into it. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

Belinda Boston, Assistant Vice President, Student Development and Enrollment Services

I set a positive example for my young children so that they will understand that being a good community member means being generous and kind to others. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

Grant Heston, Vice President of Communications and Marketing

In 2012, my daughter and I encountered an ex co-worker that was in desperate need of assistance financially and with many other areas of her family’s lift. While her husband is in a coma with life-threatening disease, no job, three children ages 10, 15, and 24 (who is disabled), the mom was trying to survive emotionally and struggling financially. After several months of us trying to personally assist this family with food and shelter, we referred them to the United Way. With some guidance and contacts, the lady and her three children were able to get a place to live, personal and clothing items, and medical assistance to sustain them during their crisis.

Thank you, United Way for caring. – Anonymous.

The Salvation Army helped my brother when due to increasing expenses lost his apartment and was living in his car and then in the streets when the police took his car. They fed and supplied clothing, group support, and ministry services.

– Joanne, UCF Employee.

There is a sense of pride walking around the University of Central Florida as an incoming freshmen kinda like an “Ooo I made it dad!” One feels like they can conquer anything that gets in the way. Though I was proud I felt like I was missing something. It wasn’t home sickness… Well kinda. I felt like it was something bigger than just that. So I called my dad to seek advise to see how I could get through this. He said “The greatest gift to give yourself is to give others something! But never expect anything in return.”

I came to this country at the age of two. My family and I were not wealthy. We were nomads at first. My dad being the man he is worked hard.. really hard to get us where we are now. On birthdays I didn’t get much and as a kid I always wondered why? I was too small and immature to understand my family’s situation. On Halloween I couldn’t buy costumes because my family didn’t have the money. So I watched the others kids around the neighborhood pass by in there fun buzz light year costumes or there scream frightening masks. Things did get better. I mean I’m attending the best university in the country!

This is where I found my calling. I thought about how many kids are in the same situation I was. So I put UCF’s motto to the test “UCF stands for opportunity” I contacted Mrs. T Rogers to ask if there was a domestic violence shelter in need. Low and behold there was. Though years have passed I felt like I wasn’t alone. So I made it my priority to raise as much money as I could to give these little kids the best costumes so they can feel special even if it is just for a day. Through the help of UCF’s ultimate Frisbee team and my Brotherhood Theta Chi my project “KnightSCARE CAUSE knights CARE” was able to raise 600$. It has ran for two years with the help of Oren Zener and Kyle Lockwood.

This year my goal is 1000$. It will be tough but I know I have a university behind me supporting me as well as an awesome family. Giving these kids a day to feel special will be once again the best birthday/Halloween gift I can ever receive!

Chystian Cepeda, UCF Student

When my son, C, was in middle school a dozen years ago, he and I began helping our church feed families dinner at the Coalition for the Homeless. One Sunday when I was serving lasagna and C was dishing out corn, a young man in line greeted him by name. My son looked up and said, “Oh, hey,” and the other teen took his tray and went to sit down with his family. I could see my son was surprised, and on the way home he told me he knew the kid from school. It was clear the experience made an impression on C—it may have been his first real understanding that homelessness and misfortune can happen to any of us—and he has since grown into a compassionate and giving man. -Anonymous

I Live United by always being mindful that “there but for the grace of God, go I.” In all the areas of my service involvement, I remember the times in my life that someone has extended a hand, provided guidance, knowledge and support, and shown a light on better paths.

-Karen Jans, UCF Employee

My family has been blessed twice by United Way agencies. When I became the single mom of three baby boys in CT, a United Way agency helped me purchase cord wood to heat our house, and they helped me pay our electric bill. When I moved to Florida, A United Way agency helped me pay for child care so I could afford to go back to work. I am forever grateful and will forever give back to the United Way.

-Susan, UCF Employee

Like many of you, I know the power of kindness from personal experience. One in three women experience violence, 63% of homeless women have experienced violence in their adult lives, and 30% of women have persistent PTSD symptoms following assault. Today, I have a peaceful place to live. In Central Florida, 3,731,700 requests for food assistance were made in 2013 alone. Today, I gratefully enjoy adventurous food – every day. In Florida (2015 study), it takes an average of 77 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom unit. Today, I work only one job and am fortunate to dedicate “2nd job time” to volunteering. A 2009 report on terminal illness discovered that 31% of families studied lost all or most of their savings while caring for their loved ones. Hospice couldn’t fix the devastation, but did provide peaceful and comforting end of life care our family member after a long battle with cancer. We all have parts of our journeys that remind us how important giving back and helping one another really are.

I’ve met amazing, inspiring people among the clients, volunteers, and employees of local non-profits. In support of UCF’s commitment to community, I am proud to participate in the university’s United Way campaign as a volunteer and a donor. We can give to agencies that help people, animals, and the environment – whatever ignites your passion. Make a difference. Join the network of kindness. LIVE UNITED.

-Anonymous, UCF Employee

When my niece was 11, she passed away from cystic fibrosis. Her final wish was to die at home with her family surrounding her. Because of Hospice, we were able to make her wish a reality. Hospice was there to keep her as comfortable as possible, and they were there for the family as a huge source of strength. We were informed of exactly what to expect, what the process would be, etc. Without the hospice, my niece would have left this earthly world in a cold, sterile, and dark room. Instead, she was home with everyone who loved her beside her. Her favorite song playing on the record player. She was smiling when God took her home.


As a native of Orlando, I’ve seen the positive impact that United Way and its agencies have had in serving, improving and strengthening the lives of our community’s individuals and families. Most likely at some pivotal point in our lives, each of us or a loved one has been impacted by a United Way program. Serving on local boards, sharing our talents and treasures, giving of our time to others…those are some of the ways by which we practice the Golden Rule in our individual lives, and ultimately how WE LIVE UNITED as a community.

-Fred Kittinger, Senior Associate Vice President, Director of State and Local Government Affairs

I believe in helping others in our community who are less fortunate. I also believe in helping others create better lives and a stronger community for the future.

-Mel Rogers, Associate Dean, College of Health and Public Affairs

As a member of the UCF and Central Florida community for the past 13 years I give back by performing community service, raising funds and awareness for numerous charities, and serving on boards for several local organizations including the UCF United Way Campaign Cabinet. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

David Pavlonnis, Assistant Vice President, Student Development and Enrollment Services

Being diagnosed with cancer is not an individual diagnosis, it’s a family diagnosis. Partners and children are effected emotionally, physically and financially while their loved one undergoes treatment and recovery. Places like the Cancer Care Centers of Melbourne not only focus their services on supporting the needs of a patient, but supporting their family as well with financial, counseling and other assistance to help lighten the load these people experience. Helping the whole family to support and love one another during the most difficult time in their lives is a key aspect of healing for all.

-Megan, UCF Student Assistant

As a member of the UCF & Orlando community, I feel it is important to actively participate & give back to my fellow neighbors and friends. Whether you donate money or volunteer your time, both are equally important. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

Desiree Rivera, Graduate Financial Assistance Coordinator

Due to generous and caring people, someone I love and could not help completely on my own, [received] necessary medical assistance during a very stressful time. Her needs were met and is living better today, for which I am grateful.


Hospice for my grandfather—wonderful. -Nancy Marshall, Assistant Vice President and Assistant Chief of Staff, Office of the President

I always knew I wanted to help those less fortunate even as a small child. I worked for United Way in Waco, TX for 4 years and felt I made a small impact. I help the community through my church and always take the time to know someone’s story. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

Joanne McCully, Administrative Assistant, Recreation and Wellness Center

Growing up with my immediate family, extended family and military family, we always supported each other in times of need. I see there are many people who don’t have that kind or support. Who can they turn to when they are struggling? Each year I gladly donate money to charities via payroll deduction so that they have financial resources to help those in need. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

Isha Guerrero-Londeree, Assistant Director of Payroll Services

For nine years as a Girl Scout Leader, I had the pleasure of helping young girls learn the importance of leadership and service. Today my passion is Celebrate Recovery- A faith based, 12 step program that helps people recover from their hurts (divorce, abuse…), habits (addiction, gambling…) and hang-ups (co-dependency, anger…). I also get involved in fundraising at work for the AHA heart walk, ACS Relay for Life, and the United Way. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

-Susan Foisy

Growing up with my immediate family, extended family and military family, we always supported each other in times of need. I see there are many people who don’t have that kind or support. Who can they turn to when they are struggling? Each year, I gladly donate money to charities via payroll deduction so that they have the resources to help those in need .


I feel so blessed to have a great job at UCF, a roof over my head and food to eat. It’s sad to encounter people who don’t have those things that many of us take for granted. Donating to the United Way through payroll deduction is such an easy way to make a difference in the lives of people who could be our co-workers, neighbors, friends and family. But donating is just the start—I also volunteer my time. It is so rewarding to help others and I often feel like I get more out of it than the people I am helping! I also serve as the campaign ambassador for my department so I can encourage others to participate in our campaign. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

-Terri Smith, Assistant Director, Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS)

I strive to make our communities more inclusive and caring by diligently working to promote diversity, social justice, and leadership development at UCF and throughout our region. That’s how I LIVE UNITED.

Valarie King, Retired, Director of Diversity Initiatives

I co-chair the United Way Women’s Leadership Council which helps to raise awareness about the critical needs of women and children in our community. In addition to serving on the Campaign Cabinet and other volunteer activities, I serve on local boards and committees and am deeply involved in community activities through my work at UCF. That’s how I LIVE UNITED

-Helen Donegan, Vice President for Community Relations