FOSAL Retreat

On January 22nd and 23rd, the 7th cohort of the Florida Opportunity Scholars Academy of Leadership kicked off Spring semester at the 2016 FOSAL Retreat. The FOSAL Retreat is integral to the FOSAL student experience because it is the first opportunity students get to meet one another and connect as first-generation college students. The schedule included keynote speakers, large group discussions, and small group break-out sessions that focus on FOSAL’s core objectives: leadership development, self-awareness, career preparation, and global citizenship awareness. This year's FOSAL cohort consists of 41 first-generation UF students.

On Day 1, Dr. Tony Andenoro built momentum for the weekend with his presentation on leadership basics and how there are various forms of leadership. Dr. Andenoro also spoke on mindfulness and the importance of being present in the moment. In the evening, Nona C. Jones from PACE Center for Girls, Inc. inspired FOSAL participants as the dinner keynote speaker, telling her story of being a first-generation college student and how she has overcome challenges she’s faced in life.

Day 2 began with the breakfast keynote speaker, Jill Sonke, from the Center for Arts in Medicine Sonke shared how arts can be incorporated into clinical care in various ways to improve both patient care and provider well-being. Next on the schedule was Dustin Rollins, who brought the group together for an enlightening StrengthsQuest presentation. All FOSAL students are required to take the StrengthsQuest assessment, which identifies an individual’s top five strengths. The StrengthsFinder assessment allows individuals to gain insight on how their talents can be used to achieve academic success, explore careers, and develop leadership skills.

The lunch keynote speaker was Priscilla Zelaya, an MFOS alum who spoke about her challenges as a first-generation student both in college and after graduation. During her undergraduate career, Zelaya visited Haiti and is now the co-founder of Projects for Haiti, Inc., an organization that strives to partner with Haitians in order to improve sustainability in Haitian communities. Zelaya found her passion and uses it to motivate herself and others. After lunch and small group sessions, Melissa Lyon from the Career Resource Center presented on Networking and Professionalism. The large group session was interactive and gave students the opportunity to ask those important questions about what to expect during the job search and interview process after college. Each student was given time to draft and practice an elevator speech with the new pointers from Lyon’s presentation.

Finally, Sky Georges, MFOS alum and current doctoral student, shared his journey after college from working to traveling the world and eventually coming back to earn his PhD at the University of Florida. Leslie Pendleton, Director of the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program closed the event by letting students reflect on their retreat experience and allowing them to share their stories with one another.

For more information about the FOS Academy of Leadership, please contact Stephanie Forgas, an MFOS Graduate Assistant, at or 352-392-1265.