“This is the best day forever because I represented On Campus Transition.”
– Sarah Waters, OCT student

It’s not every day that a student gets the opportunity to serve as president of a university. On April 22, University of North Florida President David Szymanski invited On Campus Transition (OCT) student Sarah Waters to do just that.

President Waters was taken on tour of the campus, first meeting with the basketball coaches and shooting a few hoops with UNF’s mascot, Ozzie. She then met with John Aloszka, student body president, where she was presented with an Executive Order officially recognizing her as president for the day. Aloszka provided President Waters with a full tour of the John A. Delaney Student Union, giving an overview of the branches of the student government.

President Szymanski held a lunch honoring Waters in his office, accompanied by his wife, Maria, as well as Debbie Johnson, who serves as a board member on the UNF Foundation and The Arc boards, Chris Warren, executive director, UNF office of the president and university relations, John Aloszka and Bernadette Gismonde, The Arc Jacksonville director of OCT.

During lunch, Waters shared her experiences as an OCT student. She enthusiastically mentioned the classes she is currently taking and her on-campus internship. She also listed the many student mentors she has that help ensure her college experience is transformational. The Szymanskis asked great questions and learned much about the OCT program including its residential component. Waters, in her freshman year in the OCT program, lives off-campus and hopes to experience firsthand on-campus housing when she begins her second year this fall. Her goal is to help raise awareness about the program, so that UNF students and the community can benefit and learn about these opportunities.

The 12th graduation ceremony was held on Thursday, April 25. The Arc Jacksonville’s On Campus Transition, in partnership with the University of North Florida, began in 2006. Students travel from across the country to participate in the two- and four- year program. OCT students become immersed in all aspects of college life by auditing UNF courses, joining campus organizations and clubs, and participating in recreational/leisure activities that are available to all UNF students. Students are supported by a team of staff and AmeriCorps members through The Arc Jacksonville. OCT students have the opportunity to live in on- and off-campus student housing, and they receive small group tutoring and mentoring by other UNF students. Students follow a unique and customized plan for achievement, rather than a structured curriculum. Their individual program of study focuses on academic enhancement, career development, university life, health/personal growth, and independent living/community life.

Since 2006, 59 students have graduated from the On Campus Transition Program at UNF.