All posts by Chris Demmons

Alumni Inspire at Public Policy Luncheon

alumni panel

Connor Donovan, Tarpon Springs City Commission member and St. Petersburg College Alumnus spoke at the 15th Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series on Wednesday, April 10. Donovan was just one member of a panel of distinguished alumni on hand to talk about how their education in the Public Policy Administration program changed their lives.

“My journey in this program has shaped my journey in life, and I am so thankful for it,” Donovan said.

Learning from our alumni

Donovan was recently elected to the Tarpon Springs City Commission, a position he sought after conversations with Program Director Jeff Kronschnabl. Donovan lauded the professors in the program for being so accessible and encouraging.

Panelist Octavia Jarnegan, who graduated in May 2018 and works for the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court, said establishing relationships with classmates and professors has expanded her horizons.

“When I came to my first class, I didn’t know anybody, but when I left – I left knowing some of the best people I’ve ever known,” she said.

Jarnegan and others said they have been able to implement part or all of their Capstone projects in their workplace. It shows, they said, how relevant the program is to their careers.

“These classes do prepare you for real life,” said 2017 graduate Daria Johnson, who works for the Florida Department of Education.
The Public Policy program thanks the panelists:

Thanking our panelists

  • Connor Donovan
  • Sane Haidara
  • Octavia Jarnegan
  • Daria Johnson
  • Benjamin Woods

The Public Policy Speakers series was yet another opportunity for students to learn and be inspired by alumnus that are making a difference in our community. St. Petersburg College Public Policy graduates are changing the world, one neighborhood at a time. Ready to change your world, your city, your neighborhood? Learn more about the Public Policy program at St. Petersburg College today.

A Romantic Graduation for SPC Allstate’s Fire Academy Class 51

Romantic graduation for Fire Academy Class 51 grad Danny Gutierrez and his high school sweetheart

During his years as a professional martial artist, Danny Gutierrez never felt nervous. That changed when he got on stage at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center to recite the firefighter’s prayer during the Fire Academy Class 51 graduation ceremony in December.

“I was a professional fighter for eight years. I fought in cage matches and I wrestled, but I never felt like I did on that stage. My palms were sweating,” Danny said.

He was not having an ordinary case of stage fright as he stood before his class. He was preparing to propose to his high school sweetheart, Lydia. The two had been dating since he was a sophomore in high school. He was giving up professional marital arts fighting to join the fight to save lives and provide a better life for his future family.

“I stand before you to dismiss Class 51,” Danny said at the end of the romantic graduation ceremony, “but I can’t dismiss the love of my life.”

Members of Class 51 brought Lydia to the front of the room. And Danny went down on one knee and popped the question.

Chief James Angle, Public Safety Training Program Director, stepped in to make sure everyone at the event knew what was going on. “Excuse me, excuse me,’ he called. “People in the back want to know . . . did she say yes?”

The answer – of course she did!

Since his romantic graduation in January, Danny has joined Sunstar as an Emergency Medical Technician. Lydia, who also is an SPC student, is working her way through prerequisites for the college’s nursing program and plans to become a registered nurse.

This SPC couple’s wedding is set for November 2018.


Class 51 Cadets Conquer Controlled Burn

Class 51 Fire Academy Cadets Fight Liquid Propane Fire

The future firefighters of Fire Academy Class 51 participated in their final burns on Thursday, November 16 at the St. Petersburg College Fire and Public Safety Center in Clearwater, Florida.

In the final three weeks of the academy, the class battled a liquid propane pit fire. The burn was controlled by two live fire training instructors. Members of the class’s family and friends were able to watch them take their turn at the nozzle as cadets battled the fire. Each of the 28 members of Class 51 had a chance to stand at the front of the hose as the class fought the fire. Soon they will take their college practical and state certified firefighter exam.

“They’ve spent the last nine weeks learning how to properly don their personal protective equipment, their air pack, and then hose management as well as teamwork,” said Fire Academy Instructor Mark Prohaska on the St. Petersburg College Facebook Live broadcast of the burn.

Class 51 POV Shot
Fire Academy Instructor Mark Prohaska shows the fire from a cadet’s point of view.

For Cadet Steven Lecroy, firefighting is a family affair. After he completes his exam, he hopes to join his sister in serving with the Tampa Fire Rescue Department. He would be the third member of his family to serve with the fire department, his sisters are five- and seven-year firefighting veterans, and his father served with the department for twenty five years.

He described his turn at the nozzle, “an incredible feeling- and incredible heat. If you don’t like firefighting after that, I don’t know how else you can learn to like it.”

SPC’s College of Public Safety Administration offers certificates that provide training in specific and employable skills such as computer-related crime investigation, homeland security and crime scene technology – all of which can be applied to an associate degree in either Fire Science Technology, Crime Scene Technology, Emergency Administration and Management or Criminal Justice Technology.

Great Debate Participants Tackle Immigration Issues

Students take part in SPC's Fourth Annual Great Debate

St. Petersburg College student finalists from around the college debated immigration issues during the fourth annual Great Debate held at SPC’s Seminole Campus.

The winners were Tracy Pham from the Seminole Campus in first place, Destiny Rodriguez from Downtown/Midtown in second place, and Madison Reslink from Clearwater in third. This year’s grand prize was an Apple iPad Mini, second place received a $300 Barnes and Noble gift card, third place received a $150 B&N gift card. The remaining finalists, and the debate alternate all received a $50 B&N gift card.

The Great Debate

Fourth Annual Great Debate winners Destiny Rodriguez, Tracy Pham, and Madison Reslink.
Fourth Annual Great Debate winners Destiny Rodriguez, Tracy Pham, and Madison Reslink.

The Great Debate features issues ripped from today’s headlines. It provides participants with a chance to learn about the issue, to look at it from all sides, and argue a point that may not be their own opinion.

In the preliminary competition, students argued Confederate monuments and the Paris Climate Accord. Previous topics have included Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, concealed carry on campus, and medical marijuana. This year students argued for or against the position that “undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children should be allowed to stay without fear of being deported.”

Getting ready to win

Talking about her strategy for success, Pham said she spent a lot of time preparing for the debate, including reviewing how debaters carried themselves and presented their arguments. She also read everything she could find on the immigration policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

“I am really grateful to Kelly Rich, the early college instructor, my colleagues in student government who all came to the debate tonight, and my friends and family,” Pham said.

Fourth annual Great Debate finalists, judges, organizers

Eight finalists from four SPC campuses and centers competed for $750 in Barnes & Noble gift cards and an iPad Mini. This year’s finalists included:

Seminole Campus

  • Tracy Pham
  • Siera Kullman

Tarpon Springs Campus

  • Matthew Cecil
  • Ziara Quinteo

Downtown/Midtown Centers

  • Destiny Rodriguez
  • Hunter Kampowski

Clearwater Campus

  • Madison Reslink
  • Erin Smith

Judges were Dr. Joe Leopold, Dean of Communications, Dr. Susan Demers, Dean of the College of Policy, Ethics, and Legal Studies, and Dr. Catherine Kennedy, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Partnerships. The timekeeper was Wendy Mitchell. The scorekeepers were Dr. Bledar Prifti and Dr. Douglas Rivero, Social and Behavioral Sciences Chair. The moderator was Dr. Laurie King, Professor of Ethics Studies. The debate was sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions.

Learn more about Public Safety, Public Policy, and Legal Studies programs at SPC.

Touch-A-Truck Spotlights Careers in Public Safety

Pinellas County Sheriff cruiser at 3rd annual Touch-A-Truck

The third annual Touch-A-Truck on St. Petersburg College Allstate Campus on Saturday, April 22 put the spotlight on public safety vehicles and careers that serve the community.

This year’s Touch-A-Truck featured tours of the Bayflite helicopter, and John Hopkins’s new pediatric ambulance. Emergency Medical Technician and St. Petersburg College student Rick Washington was on hand to show guests around the ambulance, and talk about his experience at St. Petersburg College. Along with his teammate Respiratory Therapist Megan Monahan, they save lives here in Tampa Bay and around the world. Learn about the Emergency Medical Technician and Respiratory Care programs at St. Petersburg College.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue brought their Sutphen Fire Truck with a ladder that extended 100 feet in the air. Later in the day attendees had the opportunity to see the more rescue-focused Sutphen Fire Engine. These firefighters and paramedics are part of a team that protects more than a quarter of a million people, and responds to more than 40,000 emergency calls per year. Learn more about the Firefighter Academy at St. Petersburg College.

Representatives of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office brought along a variety of law enforcement vehicles, including a very old school police cruiser. The St. Petersburg Police Department mounted police patrol was on display, and there was a K9 demonstration. The Police Athletic Marching Band put on a great performance at this year’s Touch-A-Truck.

This year also featured a drone demonstration, including an exciting drone race. Kids enjoyed creating chalk art, an inflatable play area, and knocking over cones with a little fire hose. The third annual Touch-A-Truck was a celebration of the vehicles and people who serve the community. It was also a chance to learn about careers in public safety from college advisors, recruiters, and those working in the field.

SPC 3rd Annual Touch-A-Truck

Posted by St. Petersburg College Allstate Center on Saturday, April 22, 2017

SPC Allstate Workshop Teaches Safety Tips, Self-Defense

Self-defense instructor with punching bag and student at Safety tips and self-defense workshop

Staying safe starts by learning  and getting safety tips from the experts on crime prevention.

That’s precisely what about 20 women did at the April 6 Women’s Self-Defense and Personal Safety Workshop with retired Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Denise Nestor. It was hosted at St. Petersburg College’s Allstate Center.

Defending yourself starts with understanding what experts call the crime prevention triangle, Nestor told her audience.

The crime prevention triangle holds that there are three things that decide whether a criminal commits a crime. The first is the criminal’s desire to commit a crime. The second part of the triangle is the criminal’s ability to commit a crime. These are beyond your control. The remaining part of the crime prevention triangle is the opportunity to commit a crime. It is often possible to deny a criminal the chance to commit a crime.

Safety tips

Crime prevention can be as simple as paying attention, Nestor said.

  • Stay alert, and move purposefully.
  • Trust your instincts. If something seems weird, or wrong, there is a good reason to be concerned.
  • Avoid walking alone, especially on dark streets and out of the way places.

Nestor spoke to the women about staying safe when getting into their vehicles.

  • Don’t wait until you get to the car to take out your keys. Have your keys out and ready to use when you get to the car.
  • If there is someone hanging out near your car and you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts. Keep walking, and get help before returning to your car.
  • Check under the car, the back seat and floors before getting in. Be absolutely sure that no one is hiding inside your vehicle.
  • Once inside, lock your doors.
  • Keep your windows up far enough to prevent someone from grabbing you.
SPC Allstate Center

The college’s Allstate Center in south St. Petersburg is home to the college’s public safety training programs in addition to being a full-service campus. These programs include training academies, grant-funded training for public safety professionals and academic programs.


Public Safety careers showcased at third annual Touch-a-Truck

Public Safety Careers Bayflite helicopter

Public safety careers are the stars of the show at the third annual Touch-a-Truck! The event returns to St. Petersburg College Allstate Campus on Saturday, April 22 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. This free family-friendly event is a perfect introduction to the Public Safety family on campus.

Real Vehicles, Real Heroes, Real Fun

Touch-a-Truck gives kids and kids at heart a chance to interact with vehicles from police, fire, and community organizations from around Tampa Bay. There will be music, food, and lots of fun activities for the whole family! Climb through a police cruiser, stand on deck in a Coast Guard patrol craft, and have a look through the Bayflite air ambulance! This is way more fun than playing with toy trucks in the sandbox. Learn first-hand about the real life adventures of firefighters, law enforcement, and others who serve our community as they provide a tour of their vehicles.

If you would like to bring a vehicle or volunteer for this event, please complete the survey.

Public Safety Careers in the Spotlight

Inspired? Learn how you can do good while doing well with a career in public safety. College advisors will be there to help prospective students. Take a tour of the campus. Learn from students enrolled in the program. Recruiters will be on hand to talk about opportunities with their agencies and how to apply. Be sure to bring a resume! Take the first step and learn about public safety careers at the third annual Touch-a-Truck on St. Petersburg College Allstate Campus.

Some participating agencies are:

  • The City of St. Petersburg Police Department
  • Pinellas County Animal Services
  • Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
  • St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue
  • Skyway Marina District

Learn More

SPC’s College of Public Safety Administration offers certificates that provide training in specific and employable skills such as computer related crime investigation, homeland security and crime scene technology – all of which can be applied to an associate degree in either Criminal Justice Technology, Crime Scene Technology, Emergency Administration and Management or Fire Science Technology. All of our public safety A.S. degrees transfer to our Public Safety Administration B.A.S. degree.