Learning to build strong relationship connections helps students improve their interpersonal skills, allowing them to excel both in and out of the classroom. Social and academic integration help lead to success because of a pivotal factor: making relationship connections. Telia Hann is a St. Petersburg College student who is connected for success. Hann, who is one of 12 SPC College of Education students who recently received the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers Scholarship, has several relationship connections:
- a father
- a former Army Sergeant
- an Elementary Education student
- a volunteer at a bird sanctuary
- a former Vice President of Student Florida Education Association (SFEA)
- an SPC club participant, student government rep and member of Golden Key Honor Society
Connecting with birds
As you can see by the list, Hann is connected to groups, clubs, people and, yes, birds. Hann was one of the first veterans trained by Avian Veterans Alliance (AVA), a nonprofit founded to help veterans lower stress and anxiety levels and reconnect to nature through interaction with raptors. The interaction lowers stress and anxiety due to the physical and emotional connection between the bird and the handler. The birds react so strongly to their handler’s emotional state, the person must learn to calm themselves in order to keep the birds calm.
“All of the birds that are residents have been injured in some way and a lot of the veterans are injured in some way,” Hann said. “This is the connection.”
“About four years ago, I got involved with AVA. I was going through a lot of personal things and was living in the homeless shelter at Bay Pines VA. I met Patrick Bradley at Boyd Hill Nature Park when I went there with 17 other veterans to see birds of prey. To my surprise, we got to hold birds and walk around the park that day. I was the first veteran to take a bird for a walk. The first bird I held was a red-shouldered hawk named Rusty. We walked the park for an hour and a half. From that moment, my life changed. I honestly feel that the birds saved my life. This experience provided a connection that made me feel that I was not alone.”
Success in connections
When Bradley took a position at the George C. McGough Nature Park/The Narrows in Largo to lead their bird of prey program, Hann went with him. Now he has been working with birds of prey, such as owls, hawks, falcons and eagles for almost five years.
The bird of prey program has already provided opportunities for Hann, including meeting President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush after the program was featured in the book “Vets and Pets” by Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris, about how animals help vets heal and deal with physical and mental experiences from their time in the military. Hann hopes to use his teaching skills acquired at SPC in a non-traditional manner in the future.
You can do it, too.
College provides pathways for students to explore themselves and their interests, to expand their social and cultural experiences by connecting with others, and to become successful in their endeavors. SPC’s College of Education believes in tapping into the leadership, perseverance and dedication to service – traits that are inherent in our military veterans. By recruiting them to become teachers, we can prepare them to make a difference in the lives of tomorrow’s students. For more info on COE programs, contact Pat Roper at 727-712-5410, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.