Embracing and Empowering Women to Serve Central Florida

Anna V. Eskamani

2011 Scholarship Recipient

University of Central Florida

Political Science & Women's Services

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Esperanza Perez

2012 Lori Jo Madison Scholarship Recipient

University of Central Florida

Finance & Marketing

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Born and raised in Orlando, Florida I have always had a sense of community instilled into me. That desire to do work for the greater good came to life in 2008 when I began my undergraduate career at the University of Central Florida.  Now we all know that UCF is a large university, but believe me, it’s much more than just a place of learning. It’s a place to discover yourself, your strengths, and your passions. For me, that took some time. I switched my major several times till I eventually found my academic niche within the fields of political science and women’s studies. I threw myself into my classes and into research and completed my undergraduate honors thesis during my junior year, and received a research grant during the spring semester of my senior year. 

Academics have always been a priority for me, but like I said, I live for the community. As a freshman at UCF, I focused on the environment and volunteered at the UCF Arboretum. A year later I was Vice President of the Iranian Student Organization at UCF. We brought Iranian culture and history to UCF and found ourselves in the summer of 2010 hosting a human rights campaign to connect UCF students with students in Iran.  We sent over 500 signed postcards to the United Nation showcasing student solidarity for human rights in Iran. It was here, while collecting signatures outside the UCF Student Union in the hot sun, that I met the College Democrats at UCF.

I was registered Independent at the time but soon connected with this organization at a very deep level. I realized that if we wanted to move this country forward then we would have to lead the movement ourselves, and Democrats were the only ones intent on that change. So I switched my political party from Independent to Democrat, leaving the rest to history. 

Soon I became the Women’s Caucus Chair for the College Democrats at UCF, and in 2011 I was their Vice President. That year I also served as the statewide Women’s Caucus Chair for Florida College Democrats, allowing me to travel the state and collaborate with students from the panhandle down to the Keys. As an on-campus organizer I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with a fantastic group of students to lead numerous projects including fundraisers, rallies, protests, marches, and volunteer trips. Through my work I have also had the unique opportunity to meet President Obama and attend a holiday reception at the White House.

Before I even graduated from UCF I was offered a job as Development Coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando. It was an offer that I could not refuse, and this fall I hope to also begin my graduate degrees in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management.  My life continues to be a busy one, and I am incredibly grateful to the Women’s Executive Council for their support of me and my progress.

In pursuit of my academic endeavors I overcame many obstacles. I am a wife and a mother of two beautiful girls. Five years ago my husband was in a tragic accident which left him disabled. Three years after his accident he was awarded social security, yet we struggled continuously. I knew we needed to make a change in order to improve our family finances, so I returned to school. Taking three classes a semester was difficult and my job constantly conflicted with school. When our home went into foreclosure I decided that a full time pursuit of higher education was the only way to provide for my family in the long run. We did a short-sale to avoid a foreclosure, left my job, enrolled full-time at Valencia College, and prayed that God would see me through this leap of faith, and He did. God is faithful, and I was awarded a scholarship from the Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund of Metro Orlando and an Honors scholarship from Valencia.

Prior to returning to school full time I worked in the apartment industry for 12 years.  When I became aware of poor families at my community that needed help with their basic needs, I took action. I started a Summer Feeding Program and Care Center onsite. The Care Center was immediately able to help victims of the Kissimmee Hotel fires. I also joined Valencia Volunteers as a Student Leader where I opened Valencia’s first food pantry. In the first year we provided food to over 1,000 students and collected 5,000+ food donations. I also set up events for students to get involved in the community, help fight hunger, and mentor our youth. 

From 2011-2012 I received 2 Honors scholarships, made the second All Florida USA Academic Team, was published in the Valencia News and College Times newspapers for the food pantry, and recently became a finalist for Distinguished Graduate. In 2012 I graduated from Valencia College and I am currently at the University of Central Florida’s Burnett Honors College working towards my Bachelor’s degree. During my time at UCF I will be focusing my volunteer efforts in the non-profit sector to help them succeed and grow. These include internships with Heart of Florida United Way and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund. Once I complete my course of study at UCF I plan to work on a Master’s in Business Administration and enter the field of finance with an organization that has a heart for philanthropic work. 

As a recent recipient of the WEC scholarship, I have grown tremendously as a professional and as a student. I was matched with a mentor who has helped connect me with resources, build my network, and improve my image in a professional environment. Through this relationship I have been able to focus my efforts, create a 5-year plan, and further develop, thus ensuring that I think strategically about where I want to be and how I plan to get there.  

Stories

​Changing Lives...One Scholarship at a Time