The College of Community Innovation and Education joined in on the fun of treating young learners to a spirited tour of a college campus.


OCPS ACE students pose with the UCF Fan Wagon and Knightro during the Book Character Parade

The Book Character Parade invites OCPS ACE students in VPK through second grade to UCF Downtown for some trick-or-treating and an introduction to campus. (Photo by Blake Osting)

It’s not every day that a sea of superheroes and princesses donning neon sunglasses, plastic vampire teeth and candy totes are spotted parading around UCF Downtown, but it is a pinnacle event for students at Orange County Public Schools’ Academic Center for Excellence (OCPS ACE).

The Book Character Parade takes place each October, welcoming over 300 students from OCPS ACE to UCF Downtown and Valencia College’s shared campus across the street. The parade invites students in VPK through second grade to UCF Downtown, where they trick-or-treat throughout Union West, Dr. Phillips Academic Commons and the Communication and Media Building. This year, 19 different departments spanning the three buildings participated in the fun, including the College of Community Innovation and Education.

It’s a highlight of the partnership and engagement plan between UCF, Valencia College and OCPS ACE that aims to engage and educate young learners about the possibilities available through postsecondary education. The engagement plan also ties into UCF’s connection to OCPS ACE via the Community Partnership Schools model, through which the school’s four core partners — a university or college partner, a healthcare provider, a community nonprofit organization, and the school district — assist in offering students and their families services and resources that address the needs identified by the community.

“This is the students’ introduction to the campus, and over the course of their time at OCPS ACE, each grade level will come to the campus at least one time per year,” says DeShawn Chapman, community engagement manager in the College of Community Innovation and Education. “At UCF Downtown, we want to be intentional about being a good community partner and understanding what that means and what our role here is. As a higher-education institution, one of the ways that we feel like we can contribute is to use our resources to help support a seamless education ecosystem. That includes being visible to the students and welcoming them to our campus. For me, the highlight of this is seeing the students in awe of everything that was on campus and learning that this is the pathway to get to what they want to be.”

Part of the engagement plan also focuses on promoting early literacy, hence encouraging OCPS ACE students to dress as their favorite book characters for the parade. Departments in the College of Community Innovation and Education decorated their suites in accordance with books such as Pete the Cat, Harry Potter and “With Lots of Love,” a book written by UCF alumna Jenny Torres Sanchez. Each student also received a coloring book featuring the three schools’ mascots — Knightro, Purrcy and the ACE lion cub — filled with activities such as drawing themselves in the future or helping a mascot through a maze to get to college. Additionally, VPK students were treated to a story time with children’s book author and UCF student Davon Miller.

“The Book Character Parade is an opportunity for all of our neighbors to come together in a shared space and celebrate literacy and the season,” says Jania Fuller, community partnership school director at OCPS ACE. “It’s so important for our students to become comfortable on the UCF-Valencia downtown campus when they’re younger. The more comfortable you are in a space, the more likely you are to use that space for your advancement in the future. UCF, Valencia and OCPS ACE are neighbors, and today we celebrated that.”