Broward College students and community leaders, a faculty member and a graduate were honored during the celebratory dinner of the 14th Annual Pillars Conference at The Pillars Hotel & Club in Fort Lauderdale.
Focused on leadership, the Pillars Conference is a collaborative effort between the Professional Enhancement Program (PEP) of the Broward College Social & Behavioral Sciences & Human Services (SBSHS), Broward College Alumni & Friends Network and Employment Solutions. The hybrid conference, two days virtual and two days in-person, invests in uplifting and elevating leaders to strengthen their sense of global purpose, total well-being and individual resilience.
The Pillars Conference was founded in 2009 by Lulrick Balzora, PhD, Dean of Social Behavioral Sciences & Human Services at Broward College and the Broward College Honors Student Committee (HSC) and has evolved into the Professional Enhancement Program (PEP). This unique internship pairs Broward College students with Broward College leaders and community professionals to gain experience and knowledge in their intended fields of study and/or careers.
“We examined how to make the most of the present while maximizing our opportunities and minimizing our excuses,” said Dr. Balzora. “We had a stellar 2022-2023 PEP cohort. I have seen so much growth in the students, and I know they’ll apply the lessons learned to their careers and lives.”
Recognized as Student Pillars of the Community were Ricthelle Napoleon and Jennifer Parker.
Napoleon is an international student from Haiti majoring in public relations and psychology at Broward College. She’s served as an officer in several clubs on campus, including the MuMu Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Prepare, Support, Grow: End the Demand, helping to create awareness and empowering K-12 and college students in preventing human exploitation. Napoleon was also the lead intern in PEP. A resident of Margate, Napoleon graduated in May 2023 with an associate degree in psychology.
Parker originally studied dental assistance at Broward College and became a Florida state-certified dental assistant, working in dental and oral surgery for a decade. She decided to shift her career, returning to Broward College to study psychology, with an interest in child and adolescent behavior. A Weston resident, she is a lead intern in PEP and vice president of PSG: End the Demand to Human Trafficking. Parker graduates in May 2024 with an associate degree in psychology.
Reginald Andre, president of cybersecurity and IT company ARK Solvers, was named Alumnus Pillar of the Community. He earned two associate degrees from Broward College in business administration and network service technology and currently serves as a Broward College Foundation board member. Additionally, Andre volunteers his time as a PEP mentor, W.H. Turner Technical Arts High School Booster Program treasurer and an advisor at SCORE Miami Dade, which offers free business mentoring and educational workshops. He is also involved in local chambers of commerce and Business Network International (BNI). Along with his wife, Andre runs The Mavuno Project to help raise awareness for human trafficking.
Faculty Pillar of the Community was awarded to Broward College sociology professor Bonnie Flory. She mentors PEP and advises the Sociology Club on Broward College’s central campus. She was previously recognized as Club Advisor of the Year, received the Classroom Research Award and received Adjunct Professor of the Year twice.
Mario Cartaya and Mario Padrino were named Pillars of the Community. Cartaya, now retired from his architecture firm Cartaya and Associates Architects, helped shape the architectural landscape of South Florida, contributing to projects at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and several municipal centers, hospitals, healthcare facilities, public libraries and performing arts centers. He is a past chair of the Broward College Board of Trustees and is a member of former Senator Bob Graham’s Air Force and Naval Academy Selection Committees and the Broward County Cultural Arts Council. Cartaya served as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Architecture. His first book, titled Journey Back into the Vault: In Search of My Faded Cuban Childhood Footprints, was published in 2022. He shared his wisdom from his life and book during PEP’s spring seminars.
Padrino is the retired CEO of Padrino Cuban Restaurants. As an active community leader, mentor and advocate for positive change, he has made an outstanding commitment to service for Broward College through financial support, encouragement and motivation. During the pandemic, the Padrino family partnered with the Department of Elder Affairs to distribute more than two million meals to food insecure seniors.
Themed Maximize the Power of Now, Minimize Your Excuses, the conference featured keynote speakers Steve Goo, retired VP of Boeing Aerospace, and the Padrino family — Mario, retired CEO; Mario E. Padrino, president and CEO; Laura Padrino, director of sales and marketing; and Eduardo Padrino, director of operations.
In addition, the $1,000 SBSHS Community Scholarship Award was awarded at the conference, honoring students for outstanding service to their community and as members of PEP for the 2022-2023 academic year. This year’s recipients were Fort Lauderdale residents and 2023 graduates Penelope Small, Lynn Pierre-Etienne and Edvania Filipe. To donate to the scholarship fund, click here.
Through the generous support of donors and community members who volunteer their time, money and knowledge, Broward College students have access to an affordable quality education that helps to prepare them to enter the workforce, increase their earning potential and transform their lives. An investment in Broward College students is an investment in the Broward County community at large.
The Pillars Conference is held annually at The Pillars Hotel & Club, which is owned by Michael G. Landry, who received the 2018 Pillar of the Community Award. He is an honorary member of the Broward College Foundation Board of Directors and established the Michael Landry American Dream Scholarship and the George and Jean Trebbi Endowed Scholarship, named in honor of his wife’s parents.
The theme for the 2024 Pillars Conference is Maximize Through Managing Risk, and for 2025 it is Maximize Through Purposeful Living.
ABOUT BROWARD COLLEGE
Serving approximately 56,000 students annually, Broward College provides residents with certificate programs, two-year university-transfer degrees, two-year career degrees, and baccalaureate degrees in selected programs. The mission of the College is to provide high-quality educational programs and services that are affordable and accessible to a diverse community of learners. For more information, visit www.broward.edu.
ABOUT BROWARD COLLEGE FOUNDATION
Established in 1971, the Broward College Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the officially designated means of making private, charitable contributions to Broward College. Our purpose is to change lives through education by providing community awareness, advocacy, and funding to the College. For more information, visit browardcollegefoundation.org