All posts by Donna Smith

SPC Program Celebrates a Decade of Graduates

Mariah Kaylor, decked out in a blue cap and gown, on her graduation day from SPCs Public Policy and Administration program

St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy and Administration program is celebrating 10 years of preparing students for careers in public service. The program boasts a 90 percent job placement rate, with some graduates working in government, legal and nonprofit sectors, and others in the private sector addressing policy-related issues.

“Our goal as a program is provide practical information that goes across multiple disciplines to improve quality of life and sense of place, and make a positive difference in our communities,” said Instructor-in-Charge Jeff Kronschnabl.

Grad’s work leads to City of Treasure Island murals

Mariah Kaylor, who graduated from St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy and Administration program in December 2020, recently worked for months on end with the City of Treasure Island’s Recreation Department to encourage the city to put ecology-based murals on public buildings.

“I made the contact and built the relationship with the city through a project I’d done in school,” Kaylor said.

After communicating with the City of Treasure Island to get source material for her project, Kaylor reached back out to the municipality and nabbed an internship, where she was able to implement an idea that had come together for her.

“The focus groups I did for my project revealed that the public was interested in ecology and public art, so I combined the two,” she said. “All the projects that I did with the Public Policy and Administration program, I applied to this project, so I was definitely prepared for this.”

An evolving program; totally online

Kronschnabl said the program has evolved over the past 10 years in order to keep the curriculum current.

“The courses have developed and evolved according to the needs of the community and changing government structures,” he said. “We make sure our students are job ready.”

Evolving meant taking SPC’s Public Policy and Administration program online, which means the program can grow even more.

“We’ve developed the program to be totally online, and we’d like to take it around the state to surrounding counties whose colleges don’t have a program,” he said. “We want to introduce ourselves and form partnerships. Make sure they know we exist, and celebrate our success stories with them. First statewide, then nationwide.”

With her education and experience, Kaylor just nabbed a position in the Parks and Recreation department with the City of St. Pete Beach. She said the program took her from a place where she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, to a great job in a field that she’s passionate about.

“I liked that this degree could lead to so many different things,” she said. “I had such a great experience. Everything was hands-on, and there was nothing in the program I haven’t used.”

Capstone Project Becomes a Reality in Timbuktu

ADCS members stand with sign offering their contact info.

A 2016 graduate of St. Petersburg College turned his capstone project into a reality in Timbuktu, Mali. Sane Haidara, a native of Mali in West Africa, earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration at SPC and then his master’s degree in the same field at the University of South Florida. He recently presented at SPC’s Multicultural Internal Club’s (MIC) virtual meeting, where he explained how he brought his vision to life.

His capstone project at SPC was to develop a pilot program that would provide breakfast, lunch and a take-home meal to Timbuktu school children in order to evaluate the impact of proper nutrition on attendance, academic achievement and retention in the education system.

During his virtual presentation to the SPC MIC, Haidara proudly told the group that he has put the knowledge gained and steps planned while at SPC into place to create a nonprofit called Association Pour Le Développement Communautaire au Sahel (ADCS). He and his colleagues created four components of ADCS: 

  • Education – Learning that many children don’t have breakfast before attending class, Haidara’s organization made a donation of powdered-milk and glucose to provide a nutritious breakfast to elementary school students. With this breakfast project, 189 children will be provided with a breakfast for six months. ADCS hopes to gain more funds to offer more meals for students.
  • Health – ADCS works with the community health center (CSCOM) and provides resources to meet local needs.
  • Water Distribution – A solar-powered water distribution center provides clean water to the Sahel community to for daily needs and farming.
  • Elephant Conservation – This aspect focuses on the protection and conservation of the Gourma elephant, an endangered African elephant species adapted to the desert climate.
Sane Haidara

As Sane told SPC students at the MIC meeting the things he’s doing in Timbuktu, current Titans’ wheels were turning. They could envision the skills, goals and drive they are gaining at SPC being put to use in the real world after college. 

Myriam Irizarry Inspires Students

Myriam Irizarry

When Myriam Irizarry was a child growing up, times were very tough. Her single mom was raising her and six other children in a small shack with no electricity or running water in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Decades later, Irizarry now sits as a Pinellas County Court judge in the Criminal Division of the 6th Judicial Circuit. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 19, St. Petersburg College International Programs and Student Life and Leadership teamed up to host Irizarry via Zoom to inspire students with her story.

“She’s been such a friend to the college,” said Frank Jurkovic, Director of International Programs. “We’re honored to have her here to kick of Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Irizarry recalled her family’s move to New York City, which happened incrementally, with her sister going first to join family there. Her sister got work and saved enough to send for her mother and the youngest children. They lived in tenement slums for a few weeks, until their building burned down, rendering them homeless. As her mother began to navigate public assistance without speaking a lot of English, young Myriam, who had learned English quickly, served as a translator.

“That’s where my lawyer training started,” Irizarry said. “My mother saw me as her advocate, and she would always say, ‘You’re going to be a lawyer someday’. I couldn’t see that happening, but she was strong and supportive and had a different dream for each of us.”

The family moved to New Jersey, where Irizarry took part in the Upward Bound program, which prepares minority or underprivileged kids for college. The program helped her with college applications and helped her secure financial aid.

“We couldn’t believe it,” she said. There I was in college!”

She graduated from Rutgers University with an undergraduate degree, then was accepted into their law school, where she earned her law degree.

“Through the grace of god a lot of hard work, I made it,” she said. “When I graduated, it was the happiest day of our lives, and my mom was right there with me.”

Irizarry felt that the only way to pay back all the support and assistance she and her family had received over the years was to use her law degree only to help others and give back to the community. She took a job in Legal Services helping indigent people with civil matters, then moved on to criminal court. After following her family to Florida, she began working with the Circuit Court and adjuncting at SPC. Seeing the judgeship as an extension of public service, she began the long process of trying to be appointed as a judge. When it finally happened, she became the first Hispanic female judge in Pinellas County.

Irizarry believes that the poverty she endured in her childhood only serves to make her better at her job.

“Living through that helped form the strength of character and humility that were tools I was able to bring not only to the bench, but also everyday life,” she said.  As a judge, I see many people from all walks of life. They come to me with all kinds of issues, and I know where they come from because I lived it.”

 Though she has worked in a lot of areas, she said truancy court is her favorite. Behind the bench, she keeps a big poster of the tumbledown home her family shared in Puerto Rico to show kids what they can achieve.

“I could see myself with the same struggles they have,” she said. “I do a lot of talking and helping them understand they can overcome things they’re facing and not let bad influences bring them down.”

Irizarry, who has a husband and two children, will retire at the end of her term, but she still plans to stay involved by offering her services as a senior judge who fills in for other judges who are ill or on vacation. She also hopes to do more teaching at SPC. Her advice to students was to work hard and believe in themselves and they can accomplish anything.

“It’s a matter of knowing that you are just as smart, important and competent as your counterparts, and if you work hard and reach out when you need help, there will be rewards in the end for perseverance.”

Management Fellowship Offers Experience

management fellowship

St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy and Administration program has formed a new partnership, this time with the City of Largo, who will appoint one SPC student each year into their Management Fellowship program.

The Management Fellowship, which pays $33,280 and lasts for 12 months, is open only to recent SPC graduates with a bachelor’s in Public Policy & Administration. During their time with the City of Largo, students will gain experience in business process improvement, strategic planning, performance measurement, annual budgeting, capital improvements and policy implementation.

management fellowship

The first student to participate in the program will be Rajiv Rambaran, who will begin the position immediately after he graduates in May. He will be working in the Budget and Performance Department. Rambaran has a history with the City of Largo, having lived there for 20 years. He served in a number of leadership positions while at SPC, including peer mentoring, the SGA Executive Board, the Public Policy and Administration Advisory Committee, FCCMA student council sub-committee, and as the ICMA Student Chapter President.

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Rambaran said. “The Public Policy and Administration program has greatly prepared me. The guidance from the program leadership, especially Professors Elizabeth Van Scoyoc and Jeff Kronschnabl, has been invaluable.” 

The City of Largo’s Senior Human Resources Business Partner, Joan Walko, said she believes Rambaran will be a great fit for the Largo team.

“He had the best combination of work and volunteer experience and involvement in related student professional associations,” Walko said. “In addition, he was enthusiastic about the internship and working for the City, even if just in a temporary capacity.”

Public Policy and Administration Instructor-in-Charge Jeff Kronschnabl said Largo was the second Pinellas County city to partner and offer an opportunity for our students.

“The City of Seminole was the first, and we are now into the fifth of a 10-year commitment with them,” he said. “Students who have gone through this outstanding program are now employed into full time positions and making significant differences in the community.”

Kronschnabl said he’s excited about creating more opportunities for students in the future.

“There are 22 more cities in Pinellas County,” he said, “so there is more work to do.”

Speaker Series Welcomes County Administrator

speaker series

St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy and Administration program held their 16th bi-annual Leadership Speaker Series luncheon at the Seminole Campus on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The Speaker Series was designed to be both informative for Public Policy students, with a featured speaker who addresses topics like leadership and public service, and also a great way for them to gain experience in the realm of networking events. Public Policy and Administration Instructor-in-Charge Jeff Kronschnabl said that the fact that the college has supported the bi-annual program for eight years speaks to its value.

“For many of our students, these luncheons are their first business lunch experience,” Kronschnabl said.  “They have been fortunate to be exposed to leaders who bring international, national, state and local perspectives on government operations.”

This semester’s speaker was Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton. Burton, who recently took the helm at the County, described how an internship with the City of Cincinnati paved his career path in city and county government, and advised the students to seek out an internship. He also noted how much he enjoyed working for the people.

“It’s a great profession,” Burton said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing how projects impact people’s lives.”

He also outlined three principals of leadership: relationships, innovation and vision, noting that they are interrelated.

“You have to embrace change,” he said. “Too often we want to win a disagreement, but sometimes a conversation will create something even better than the idea you began with.”

Susan Demers, Dean of the Public Policy and Administration program, closed out the program after an active question and answer session. She offered the aspiring public servants a bit of advice about the magnitude of those positions.

“Remember, when you are working in public service,” she said, “the decisions you make affect many people that you will never see.”

Kronschnabl said Burton was a clear choice to tell his story of the value of community service.

“Mr. Burton did an outstanding job conveying that message,” he said. “He clearly demonstrated not only his expertise in government operations, but his approachability for our students and our program.”

SPC Fire Training Center Hosts National Guard Units

fire training

The St. Petersburg College Public Safety and Fire Training Center was proud to host the Army National Guard’s 1157th, 199th, and 200th firefighter units from Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The training took place at the facility August 5-12, 2019 included a total of 13 Guard members.

Upon contacting SPC back in November 2018, they requested a comprehensive program encompassing the fundamental elements of structural firefighting to be accomplished by the use of lectures, drills and firefighting scenarios. This training request was to fulfill the two weeks of annual training required by the Colorado Army National Guard. As a result, SPC Fire and Public Safety Training Center developed and delivered an 8-day course, titled Fireground Operations and Tactics.

Thirteen members of Ft. Carson units took the course, which was instructed by core Fire Academy and in-service instructors who are also subject matter experts in their field. Most of the instructors are currently employed with local fire departments. They were involved in every aspect of the program delivery, as well as curriculum development, taking into consideration each member’s level of experience and background, formatting each subject to fit their needs.

The program covered a wide range of topics, including forcible entry, ventilation, search and rescue, safety and survival, etc. It also incorporated basic skills such as SCBA, hose, ladders and a live fire burn. In keeping with the current trend of firefighter safety and behavioral health, lectures on the importance of decontamination, PTSD, cancer awareness and mental health were also added to the curriculum.

At the end of training, students expressed they were very pleased with the program and quality of instruction. They were very receptive to all the information provided to them and even shared their knowledge, along with tips and techniques on various subjects, with our SPC instructors. We were excited for the opportunity to train such an elite group and thrilled they chose St. Petersburg College Fire and Public Safety Training Center!

SPC Hosts Police Professionalization Exchange Program for Mexican officials

police professionalism

On August 6, the Center for Public Safety Innovation (CPSI), a part of St. Petersburg College’s Public Safety community hosted 15 high-ranking law enforcement officials from Mexico at SPC’s Allstate Center for a police professionalism seminar. This event was organized locally by World Partnerships, Inc., a long-time collaborator of the College on international law enforcement events for over 10 years.     

Global Ties U.S., in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, oversees the Police Professionalization Exchange Program (PPEP) for Mexican senior law enforcement officials. The program provides training and professional development to 3,800 police officials from Mexico over a three-year period.

The project provides participants with direct exposure and access to U.S. police professionals and experts. Participants receive training and professional development via online lectures, training academies, professional study tours in the U.S., and participation in a Mexico-based training institute facilitated by U.S. law enforcement experts and professionals.

CPSI was chosen as a partner in the PPEP program as a result of their international reputation in the delivery of cutting edge community policing training. During this police professionalism workshop, CPSI covered topics ranging from understanding what community policing is and what it is not; building and sustaining partnerships with community members, businesses and other stakeholders;  how to provide police departments and their officers with job satisfaction as they help stop crime before it happens through collaborative partnerships; to problem solving using the community policing SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment) model.

Dual Enrollment Program Offers Career Training

Dual enrollment

The St. Petersburg College/St. Petersburg Police Department Public Safety Education Program (formerly known as the St. Petersburg Police Cadet Program) is a high school dual enrollment program designed to allow high school students with an interest in law enforcement the opportunity to complete college-level courses in to preparation for opportunities of employment in this career field.

The program targets 11th and 12th grade high schoolers and allows them to take college courses at St. Petersburg College’s Allstate Center after their regular school day. Students enrolled in the program will take a total of four classes during their last four semesters of high school, earning a total of 12 college credits. The credits can be applied toward a degree program at SPC, or they can be transferred to any accredited college or university that will accept the credits.

Students with a 3.0 GPA are eligible to take courses; however, based on case-by-case decisions, the program can accept students with a 2.5 GPA as long as the students’ GPA is trending up.

The program consists of four courses taken during the junior and senior years of high school. The classes are:

11th Grade:

  • CJE1202- Crime and Delinquency
  • CJE2605- Investigative Trends

12th Grade:

  • CCJ2720-Introduction to Research Methods Criminal Justice
  • DSC1004-Introdudction to the NRF and NIMS    

Classes take place Monday through Thursday from 3 to 4:15 p.m., with students attending two days per week.

Opportunities for field trips and interaction with members of the St. Petersburg Police and other law enforcement and public safety professionals will be offered. The program will require students to participate in training with the SPPD one Saturday per semester. 

Participating students who are 18 years of age have the opportunity to obtain part-time employment with the city of St. Petersburg, which could be used as a stepping stone to other opportunities and careers with the city.

The program is currently offered to South County high schools, but students from any high school in the district can apply, though students must furnish their own transportation. Participating schools are:

  • Gibbs
  • Boca Ciega
  • Lakewood
  • St. Petersburg
  • Northeast
  • Pinellas Park
  • Dixie Hollins
  • Osceola

Participation is growing. To date, the dual enrollment program has had students from Gibbs, Boca Ciega, Lakewood, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg high schools.

If you have questions, do hesitate to contact:

Michael Hughes-Chair Law Programs
727-341-4146
hughes.michael@spcollege.edu

Calvin Gordon-PSEP Instructor
727-341-4509
Gordon.calvin@spcollege.edu

Janie Staples-Officer SPPD
727-892-5082
Janie.Staples@stpete.org

SPC’s Public Service Week Offers Look at Career Opportunities

public service week

Have you ever considered a career as a police officer, paralegal, crime scene technician, or city manager?  How about a firefighter or emergency medical technician? Join us for St. Petersburg College’s Public Service Week, where showcase and panel events are opportunities to:

  • Learn more about the programs and expectations at SPC
  • Meet faculty and staff
  • Review and explore career opportunities
  • Tour the facilities
  • Hear from leaders in the public service profession

Wednesday 2/20/19: Public Safety Career Fair
3:30-7 p.m., SPC EpiCenter Boardroom, 13805 58th St N, Clearwater

Learn more about current opportunities and positions in Public Safety. Many of the local agencies will be in attendance to discuss their current postings. Business Dress required.

Tuesday 2/26/19: Public Safety Showcase
4:30-7 p.m., Allstate Center Campus DeSoto Room, 3200 34th St S, St. Petersburg

Come visit the Allstate Center, home of our Public Safety and EMS programs. The event will have an interactive tour of the Allstate Center, project demonstrations by students in our Public Safety Programs, Q&A sessions with first responder personnel, screening agencies, and SPC Faculty. If you are looking to pursue a career in public safety, this is the event you should attend.

Wednesday 2/27/19 – Creating A Community of Care: Doing Well by Doing Good 
7-8:30 p.m., Clearwater Campus ES building, Room 104,2465 Drew St, Clearwater

From enhancing your resume to establishing new connections to growing leadership skills, learn from community leaders what giving back can do for your career. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Tara Newsom from the SPC Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and will consist of local leaders from the following service organizations:

Thursday 2/28/19 –– Exploring Public Safety Programs
6 – 7:00 PM, Online

Join us online for an interactive Titan Thursday Webinar exploring Public Safety program at SPC. We will review all of the programs offered at SPC, for both traditional law enforcement and non-sworn positions. We will also explore some of the facilities at the SPC Allstate Center, home of the Southeastern Public Safety Institute.


Friday 3/1/19 – PCSO Mini Citizens Academy
10 – 11:00 a.m., Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, 10750 Ulmerton Rd, Largo

Come join a private version of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy for SPC Students, Staff and Alumni. Guests will have a chance to view the facilities and equipment, hear about current and future employment opportunities and participate in a Q&A with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Space is Limited! Register at https://web.spcollege.edu/survey/27946.

Other related events

We are also hosting several other related events on our campuses during the week:

Legal Studies Info Session – Monday 2/25/19, 5:30-7:00 PM, Clearwater Campus, ES Building, Room 123

SPC Reads Ethical Discussion: The Hate U Give – Tuesday 2/26/19, 12:30 – 1:45 PM, Presented by Dr. Adeniji Odutola at the Tarpon Springs Campus, FA Building Lobby

For more information and points of contact on these events, please follow the links above. You can also email Nicholson.Jason@spcollege.edu.

Public Safety Welcomes New Program Director Chief Robert Polk

Robert Polk

The SPC College of Public Safety is pleased to welcome Chief Robert Polk as our newest training team member. Chief Polk will be serving as the Program Director for the Fire Training Center.

Chief Polk has over 40 years of professional fire service experience. He began his career at the St. Petersburg Fire Department. During his years of service with the Department, he worked in various staff and operations positions and achieved the rank of Division Chief. Throughout his tenure, Chief Polk was actively involved in firefighter training and served on the Florida Bureau of Fire Standards and Training curriculum committee.

Upon retirement, he accepted the position of Fire Chief in Moline, Illinois. Four years later, he was appointed by then South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges as State Fire Marshal. During his tenure as State Fire Marshal, he was responsible for the management and administration of the South Carolina State Fire Academy, operating from a home campus and five regional offices and supervising full-time staff and approximately 150 part time instructors. Chief Polk was reconfirmed by the newly elected South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford to continue in the position of State Fire Marshal.

As a fire safety consultant, Polk has represented fire service interests on a national level and has dealt with state and federal agencies on issues of fire and life safety and training initiatives. He was also active in fire and building code promulgation and appeared before U.S Senate hearings on matters of public safety.

He returned to the Florida fire service serving as Fire Chief of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire Rescue District. During his time with PSFRD, he served as Vice-President and President of the Pinellas County Fire Chief’s Association and was a member of the St. Petersburg College Fire Academy Advisory Board. He served in this capacity until he was reappointed as South Carolina State Fire Marshal by then-governor Nikki Haley.

Chief Polk is certified as a Firefighter II, Fire Officer, and Fire Instructor III, has advanced degrees in Fire Administration (SPC) and Business Management and is recognized by the National Fire Protection Association as a Certified Fire Protection Specialist. He has served on several national committees, is a published author, and has lectured on various fire related issues.