About FSU Family Connection

FSU's Family Connection is the first resource for family members looking to stay connected to the Florida State University experience. Join the FSU Family Connection to learn more about events on campus, connect with university staff and faculty, and communicate with other FSU family members.

Sodexo Empowers People with Disabilities in New Job Training Program at FSU

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 1.26.58 PMHigh school senior Ja’Quez Bivens earns credit hours for his work at FSU’s Seminole Café.

Sodexo is teaming up with local high schools to offer students with disabilities a chance to develop marketable job skills through a new job training program at Florida State University’s Seminole Café.

Each morning at 9:30am, several high school students arrive at the all-you-care-to-eat dining hall. As they put on aprons, hair nets and food service gloves for the three-hour shift, they are eager to get started and grateful to work at FSU.

“They have a smile on their face, they interact with FSU students and help make it a welcoming environment,” said Catherine Hall, PHR, SHRM-CP, human resources manager at Sodexo/Seminole Dining. “It’s important for Sodexo to reach out to people in our community and give them a chance to work. The experience empowers them, boosts their confidence, teaches job skills and gives them a chance to contribute. Plus, they have money to spend in the local economy.”

Hall has led efforts to develop partnerships with more than 20 nonprofits, public schools and state agencies in the Tallahassee area since Sodexo took over dining services at Florida State in spring 2017. The list of partners includes Goodwill Industries, Leon County Schools, FSU’s Dedman School of Hospitality and the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

Those connections open the door for high school and college students with developmental or language challenges to work at one of Seminole Dining’s 25 locations on campus.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 1.28.28 PMJa’Quez Bivens is enrolled in Leon County Schools’ job training program called LITE.

Ja’Quez Bivens, a senior at Lincoln High School, is getting an opportunity to work and learn at Seminole Café. He’s part of a four-person crew that includes his twin brother, Jakari. One of their first duties of the day is to wipe down dining tables and mop the floor.

They are members of Leon County Schools’ LITE program — Leon’s Intensive Training for Employment — which includes about 25 students. Each weekday, they work at different locations in the community to earn school credits.

Ja’Quez feels fortunate to be in the LITE program. He hopes the experience will boost his job prospects in the future.

“It helps you a lot because you can do different things like clean or cook and learn how to get a job,” Bivens said. “I’d like to work here someday.”

Aaron Johnson, who oversees Leon County’s LITE program, says the opportunity to work on campus at Florida State can be life-changing for students.

“Sometimes employers put limitations on our students with disabilities, but Sodexo knows how to tap their talents and abilities,” Johnson said. “This training helps them develop job skills, and we’ve seen some students turn these unpaid positions into jobs.”

That’s exactly what former LITE student Victoria McKinney accomplished. After graduating from the program last year, Sodexo hired her to continue working in the Suwannee Room, one of FSU’s other all-you-care-to-eat dining halls.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 1.29.50 PMVictoria McKinney turned her job training as a student into a job with Sodexo.

McKinney is proud to have a job. She likes to keep track of her paychecks, “I get paid every two weeks,” and she especially enjoys her coworkers.

“The people here are wonderful. They’re all nice to me,” she said. “I want to stay here until I retire. It’s like a home to me.”

Leon County Schools job coach Janie Strzalka has seen a lot of examples like McKinney’s.

Strzalka helps young adults in the Adult Community Education (ACE) program transition into permanent jobs. She works with students with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 22.

“It means a lot to me to see their confidence build to the point where they don’t need you anymore,” Strzalka said. “That’s a bittersweet part of the job, but it’s rewarding to know that they’ve got this.”

Sodexo’s partnerships with organizations dedicated to finding jobs for people with disabilities have resulted in some profound impacts.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 1.30.34 PMDebra Drayton is grateful for her job with Sodexo and has earned a reputation as an exceptional employee. “I hope people understand that there is nothing wrong with me because I have a disability. I can do anything that people with hearing can do.”

Sodexo employee Debra Drayton says she’s grateful for her job with Seminole Dining. Drayton, who is deaf, lost her last job when the business shut down and finding new work proved challenging. She spent four difficult months out of work until Sodexo hired her through its partnership with the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Now, Drayton performs her job with expertise and joy at Florida State. She has built a reputation for spreading smiles and good cheer as she moves through her day at Seminole Dining venues.

“Debra is always working with a smile on her face, and when she smiles you just have no choice but to smile back,” Hall said. “She communicates through sign language, facial or hand expressions, and we can’t imagine having an organization without her. Debra adds a lot to our business.”

Drayton says she’s thankful to have found a new job family and work home.

“I definitely love my job,” she said. “I love to help others and be part of a team.”

Sodexo is proud of its record of reaching out to people with disabilities in its training and hiring protocols.

In 2019, the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind recognized Sodexo with an award for supporting and hiring people who are blind or visually impaired. The council praised Sodexo for creating a barrier-free environment that helps people with disabilities live more independently.

The Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities honored Sodexo with an Exceptional Employer Award for its continuing support of people with disabilities.

The national publication DiversityInc ranked Sodexo No. 6 in its 2017 list of Top 9 Companies for People with Disabilities.

Sodexo also has earned the Leading Disability Employer Seal™ from the National Organization on Disability. The distinction honors companies that follow exemplary hiring and employment practices for people with disabilities.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 1.31.23 PMBrantley Goodson was hired by Sodexo after he graduated from the LITE program.

In addition, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity recognized Sodexo as a leader in the state’s Unique Abilities Partner Program.

Hall says Sodexo’s progressive hiring philosophy for people with disabilities benefits the entire Seminole Dining team.

“They learn skills, and we learn how to enhance working relationships with people with unique abilities,” Hall said. “Their transition into the workforce helps us empathize with the uncertainties that everyone faces coming into a new job and learning new tasks. Ultimately, we want everything we do to enhance the quality of life for the people we serve and the people who work for us.”

The FSU Career Center Partners with JCPenney for Seminole Suit-Up

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 3.49.38 PM*Photo Courtesy of The Career Center*

By Abby Cloud

On Sunday, February 23, students will be able to have discounted access to numerous pieces of business wear at the timeless department store, JCPenney. 

The FSU Career Center has partnered with JCPenney to present Seminole Suit-Up, an event that is exclusive to students at Florida State.

JCPenney will stay open from 6:30-9:30pm and allow students to shop a variety of career wear. Students will be able to shop from men’s and women’s suits, shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, and accessories. 

When your student uses the extra 30% off suit-up coupon available at the event, they can receive up to 60% off the selected career apparel on top of other established sales.

A Student ID is required for this event. 

Ensure that your student is aware of this opportunity so that they have the appropriate apparel and items necessary for that next interview, internship, or job opportunity! 

Practice your Right to Vote in FSU’s Spring SGA Elections

By Abby Cloud

This month, students can expect to take part in FSU’s Student Government Association’s Spring 2020 Elections. SGA Election Day will officially be from 8am-7pm on Wednesday, February 19. 

Students will be voting on numerous available positions during the Spring Elections:

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 3.27.34 PM

*Photo Courtesy of Student Government Association*

The Election Cycle for the Spring 2020 SGA Elections began on January 29 with the opening of the Candidacy applications. A week after the Declaration of Candidacy date, SGA Campaigning Week officially begins on Wednesday, February 12. 

During Campaigning Week, the FSU community can also expect an Executive Debate the day before SGA Elections on Tuesday, February 18 in the Student Services Building, Room 203.

For more information about the Spring Elections or SGA, you can visit the SGA website.

Getting Around Campus Without a Car

Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 2.03.54 PM

By Brianna Gann

One of the biggest misconceptions of incoming freshmen is the need for a car during their first year. Getting around campus, and even off campus, during my freshman year was simple after knowing the resources FSU has for students to get around.

I am an Engineering student, which means I have to travel around 5 minutes off of campus to attend my classes and visit my actual college building, eliminating the possibility of walking.

One of the best decisions I made was being comfortable with using the Seminole Express bus system. Throughout my four years, I have realized that many students walk and spend money on Uber, because they are unfamiliar with the bus routes or how to find them. Luckily, there is an app that updates the location and routes of every bus, including the Tallahassee StarMetro buses.

The second best decision I have made to get around FSU and Tallahassee? I purchased a moped in January to make traveling to class quicker and definitely cooler (as far as outside temperature AND socially)! Of course, I understand the importance of safety, which is why I wear a helmet and make sure I take the correct roads.

Some other great options for getting around is the Nole Cab (only $5 per carload with a Student ID), the SAFE Connection bus that runs at night, ZipCars which is similar to a rental car deal for college students, and free rides to the FSU Rez!

Regardless of your student’s transportation plans, I encourage your students to become familiar with using Seminole Express, and alternative options to get around campus and beyond!

An FSU Game Day is Like No Other


By Calista Flores

Football season is one of the most lively and exciting parts of the fall semester! They are a great occasion for alumni and family members to visit the area and get in on the school spirit along with students. The options on how to spend a Game Day at Florida State are endless, but here are a few of my favorite activities.

A fun and free option is the True Seminole Tailgate. This event starts two hours before kickoff where there are tables and tents right outside of Doak Campbell Stadium filled with food, activities and organizations to engage with.

While you pass by the Stadium, don’t forget to have War Stripes painted on your face by the Lady Spirithunters.

Once you find your seat the Stadium, fans can experience some of our iconic traditions, such as watching Osceola and Renegade charge onto the field and plant their flaming spear right before kickoff and participating in the War Chant as thousands of passionate ‘Noles put their heart into the Tomahawk Chop. If you attend the game, you absolutely have to stay until half time to experience our world-renowned Marching Chiefs performance. It’s a show you won’t regret watching!

For those who don’t want to purchase tickets or just want to beat the heat, fans can park outside the Stadium and throw their own tailgates to experience the Game Day energy. You can also visit some of Tallahassee’s popular restaurants like Madison Social and Spear-It to enjoy amazing food, socialize, and watch the game on their TVs.

No matter how you chose to spend the day, being in Tallahassee during Game Day is an unforgettable time and will give anyone who experiences it a new appreciation for Florida State. For more information about how you or your student can get tickets, visit Florida State Athletics official site.

Within Boundaries, Get to know your Student’s Experience

Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 2.03.54 PM

By Bridget Duignan

One of my favorite aspects of college is being able to share my experiences with my family.

This first came to fruition when I started talking about my friends on the phone and posting photos on Facebook. When my family and I talk on the phone, not only do they inquire about me and how I am doing, but they do the same when asking how my friends and important people in my FSU experience are doing as well. It makes me feel comfortable to let them know what I am doing and who I am with⁠—and mostly, how happy it makes me. I know that it makes them happy, too!

Because my family has become more familiar with the people I surround myself with, we have established new elements of trust and mutual comfort while they are at home and I am at school. They are now able to see my friends and I reflect in each other and enjoy our collegiate experience.

Of course, this could be a hard topic to approach. Allowing your student to establish the boundaries they feel comfortable with in sharing will allow for mutual trust. Within these boundaries, I encourage families to be involved with a student’s life beyond just the student themselves– include inquiries about friends, professors, acquaintances, and experiences, too!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at Florida State

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 4.21.43 PM

By Abby Cloud

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Florida State’s campus is bustling with the excitement of celebrating the Day of Love with those they most adore. There are many opportunities for students to get out and have fun this week with friends, partners, and other students alike for a variety of different FSU clubs, organizations, and athletics. 

Check out some events that are taking place on campus and make sure not to miss them!

Donuts and Dog Treats, February 13. Alzheimer’s Project at FSU is hosting a Valentine’s Day Bake Sale on Landis Green from 10am-3pm. This organization at FSU will be selling Krispy Kreme donuts as well as some Valentine’s-themed dog treats for you to share with your favorite furry friend! 

A Lovely Local Comedy Showcase, February 13. Club Downunder/Union Productions are hosting a Valentine’s-themed comedy showcase in the Augusta Conradi Studio Theater from 7-11pm. Some of FSU’s most popular comedy groups, including 30in60, No Bears Allowed, and The Eggplant, will spend the night cracking jokes for their audience. Doors for this event open at 7pm, while the show starts at 8pm.

A Lisa Frank Valentine’s Day, February 14. Club Downunder/Union Productions continues their Valentine’s celebrations with a Lisa Frank-themed Valentines event on Landis Green from 11am-2pm. Come visit and make friendship/relationship bracelets, decorate a Valentine’s Card, decorate a donut, grab some cotton candy, and more! This event is free for FSU students. 

Valentine’s Day on the Red Planet, February 14. For those 21+, this event allows partners to “search for life on Mars” with a space mission simulator at the Challenger Learning Center. Through this simulator, guests can experience what true astronauts and space voyagers go through while on a mission. The Center will also serve champagne and light hors d’oeuvre. This event does require an admission fee and registration. 

FSU Baseball v. Niagara, February 14. If sports are your thing, then you’ll probably want to check out FSU Baseball’s Opening Night on Valentine’s Day! FSU Baseball will kick off their 2020 season against Niagara University at 6pm. Two more games are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday as well. Students get in free—all they have to do is show their Student ID at the gate.

Tips for When You Are Struggling Academically


By Mike Collins

Hello all! My name is Mike Collins and I am a junior studying biological science from Collierville, Tennessee. Being a STEM major, my classes are not always a breeze to get through. As a result, I have become an expert on where to go if you’re struggling in ANY class!

Office hours and utilizing your Teaching Assistant.

Every single professor and even teaching assistants at FSU is required to hold weekly office hours. This is time they have to spend on answering students’ questions. Moreover, this is a perfect way to develop a professional relationship with your professor and maybe seek out research opportunities of interest with them.

Late night tutoring at Strozier Library.

Perfect for the night owls out there: tutoring over a good number of introductory and intermediate subjects from 9pm–1am that goes from Sunday night to Wednesday night every week! Tutoring is administered by student-tutors who have earned at least a 95 or better in the classes that you’re taking and they are regularly tested on the material. Sometimes, the tutor has had the same professor as you and they can clue you in on what to expect for their exams!

English Reading and Writing Center.

Located right across from Academic for Center Enhancement (ACE)—which is also an amazing resource—this is a perfect way to get your paper proofread before you submit it! Fun fact: students have statistically performed an entire letter grade better on their papers by using this resource.{“type”:”block”,”srcIndex”:0,”srcClientId”:”cd20697b-ebf4-4ae6-80fe-6bc2ea47e09a”,”srcRootClientId”:””}

Prioritizing Your Student’s Mental Health: Where They Can Go on Campus


By Tamia Brinson

More often than not, academics can require a lot out of your student and be quite demanding. Between homework assignments and studying, it can be easy for your student to forget or find the time to take care of themselves. Encourage your student to utilize their resources that are dedicated to their mental wellness.

There are quite a few on-campus resources your student can use if they find they might be needing a little extra help with their mental health. University Health Services are located in the Health and Wellness Center, and there is a psychiatry clinic located on the 5th floor that specializes in managing mental wellness.

The University Counseling Center, located in the Askew Student Life Center, is where your student can go to speak to a counselor. They assist students with an array of issues ranging from homesickness and general worries to struggles with relationships and anxiety.

Lastly, there is the Center for Health Advocacy and Wellness (CHAW) located on the 4th floor of the Health and Wellness Center. CHAW encourages students to make healthy lifestyle decisions that will lead to life-long health and wellness. Here, they can get a life coach that will help with tracking their progress and making sure they stay on top of their goals.

Taking steps to take care of your mental health can be intimidating, so be sure to encourage your students to go and let them know that you support them and that you are a resource as well. Academic life can keep your student busy, but it’s important that they prioritize their mental wellness along with their grades.

A Mental Health Checklist for Your College Freshman

By Melissa Fenton; Edited by Abby Cloud

Before your child leaves for their freshman year of college, you will find most of your time is spent making lists. There are lists of all the questions you want to ask at parent orientation. There are lists of financial aid forms to complete, and lists of student organizations they may want to check out when they get there. And don’t even get me started on the lists of all the STUFF you have to buy that they’re gonna need to have for their dorm room. That’s not even a list really,  it’s actually a fully filled out journal of necessary (and some very unnecessary) home furnishing items. Who knew there were 150 types of mattress pads? 

But there’s one college readiness list that you need to write and it may be the most vital list you ever write. I’m talking about a “mental health checklist,” and if you’ve never thought about making this kind of college preparedness list (or didn’t even know this existed or needed to be done), don’t fret, because I’ve put one together for you. 

Most college parents do a fine job of preparing their new freshmen to go away, but unfortunately they often overlook something mental health professionals call “A check up from the neck up,” (and preparing in advance the type of mental health checklist I’ve written for you).  

Where is the campus mental health/counseling center located? You and your student need to find out exactly where this building is located on campus, and when they’re open for walk-in patients. And I mean exactly where and when, because should they need to get there in the middle of a crisis, they may not be able to read a campus map, find a phone number, or research operating hours. In addition, FSU has a phone in counseling hotline option, where a student needing immediate help can reach a therapist by phone, so get that phone number (and hours of operation, building name too!) and program all of that into their phone. Again, in a crisis nobody wants to be looking for phone numbers. 

What services does the FSU mental health/counseling center offer? Now that you know where it is, what are they able to do to help your student when they need services? This will can and will vary by campus, so visit their website during the summer and go over with your student what they can help with, and if they will need an appointment to be seen or have walk-in hours.  Also, find out if they have any type of support groups or group therapy options available, and what is required to join. (Will they need to be seen first?) For example, these are the group therapy options offered by Florida State University’s Mental Health Center.

Where do I get medications filled? Do not even think about sending your kid away without having a pharmacy in their college town already picked out. Again, kids in a mental health crisis, or really when any type of illness happens mental or physical, trying to figure out where they can get meds filled last minute is a major inconvenience. There is a CVS pharmacy located steps off campus, so put their phone number in their phone (or find another of your choosing) so if they’re at an urgent care center, they can quickly tell the doctor where to send scripts. 

(**If your student is currently taking a medicine that has been classified as a controlled substance- like ADHD meds, then they may only be able to receive a 30 day supply at one time. They may also be required to have a doctor’s office visit every 30 days to refill their scripts, so if that is the case, you may need to acquire a physician for your student that is located near campus. Keep in mind if they don’t have a car, the issue of getting to off campus doctor’s appointments will need to be addressed.) 

Finally, there are a few other things that you and your future freshman should talk about before they leave. Try to encourage them to be able to recognize the difference between a bad day and a bad mood, versus a serious mental health concern. College mental health centers are referring to this as resilience building or distress tolerance, and are creating programs to help students differentiate between small and insignificant problems and large and very serious emotional concerns. By this I mean, situations like a fight with a roommate, a failed pop quiz, or a breakup with a boyfriend can all certainly contribute to a dark mood, but do they need to be addressed by a therapist? Or would a long phone call to mom or dad help that student process the situation more clearly and calmly? Make sure to also discuss the variety of physical symptoms that can appear that are directly related to emotional stressors, and vice versa. Is your student feeling suddenly physically ill? Headaches or upset stomachs?  Do they have loss of appetite? Has their sleeping been interrupted and insufficient? (More than what normal college kids endure.) Have they been going through a tough emotional time and now it is causing physical illness? They need to be able to notice that, and that is when it’s time to visit the counseling center.

Having a plan set in place before crises happen (and they will, trust me) is the smartest thing you can do as a parent and student, so do it before they leave. It will help reduce everyone’s stress in the end.