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Chief of staff says PBSC helped him uncover new passions

During high school, Tom Valeo, now the chief of staff for the City of West Palm Beach, didn’t give much thought to attending college. Valeo says it was mainly because no one in his immediate family had ever graduated from college.

However, this changed when he got exposed to PBSC’s music department through his high school’s music program. Having music as a passion and considering PBSC’s program exceptional, he decided to enroll.

Valeo would go on to join the 12 O’clock Jazz Ensemble at PBSC and graduate with his Associate in Arts degree in 2013. After PBSC, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Government from Florida Atlantic University.

Today, he reports to and acts as an advisor to the mayor of West Palm Beach Keith James.

Valeo sat down to answer a few more questions about his time at PBSC, what makes the College special, and the advice he would give to others.

How did earning a degree or credential from PBSC set you apart?
It allowed me to begin building my network sooner. At the beginning of my PBSC experience, I pursued a music degree. However, I soon uncovered a passion for reading and writing that I never knew existed. Though it meant shifting my focus from music to government and political science, I embraced the change wholeheartedly.

By embracing these newly discovered interests, I was able to begin connecting with an incredible network of professionals in Palm Beach County, who helped guide me as I took my first steps into the workforce. Their support and guidance were invaluable; without them, I would never have been able to achieve all I have achieved today.

What is your fondest memory from your time as a PBSC student?
During my time studying in the Music Department, I spent many hours at the Duncan Theater, either preparing for a performance or watching some world-class musicians who would perform there.

However, some of my most impactful memories were at the library, where I felt a significant change in my life’s trajectory. I would spend hours rummaging through the shelves, searching for books about American history that I found fascinating and inspiring.

Which PBSC professor or instructor made a lasting impact or impression on you, and why?
I apologize for not being able to recall the names of two of my former professors. Be that as it may, these two professors’ teachings will forever remain in my memory.

There was a time when I was unsure which academic path to take and even contemplated taking a break from school. However, I decided to enroll in a lighter course load instead of taking a break. Specifically, I took two classes that semester: American Literature After 1865 and Introduction to American Government.

That semester proved to be a turning point in my academic journey as it completely transformed my outlook on my education and significantly drove me toward my present career path. I am forever grateful.

What advice do you have for today’s PBSC students?
Absorb everything, and don’t be afraid to pivot. When I first walked into the doors at PBSC, I was hell-bent on pursuing a music career. When I walked out those doors roughly two years later, I decided to pursue a path I didn’t know existed. That path has taken me to incredible places and introduced me to some truly fascinating and inspiring individuals. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Change can be scary and difficult, but it can also be completely worth it.

What advice do you have for recent PBSC graduates entering your field?
Establish your vision and focus on it. I ultimately graduated with a degree in political science and government – there are unlimited paths that you can take when entering this field. Find the topics that inspire and interest you, focus on them, and understand that everything you work on should bring you closer to your vision.

If your workload isn’t bringing you closer to your vision, than you’re not focusing on the right things. It’s essential to establish a clear vision and concentrate on it. In my case, I pursued a path in politics and government, which offers an abundance of topics that can be explored. You should discover the topics that spark your interest, focus on them, and ensure that every task you undertake aligns with your vision. If your current workload isn’t getting you closer to your goals, it’s time to reassess, refocus and switch gears.

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