All posts by Donna Smith

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

Calvin Gordon-PSEP Instructor

Janie Staples-Officer SPPD

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

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

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.

Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series Welcomes SPC President Tonjua Williams

Public Policy Speaker Series

St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy and Administration Department held their bi-annual Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series Oct. 17. The event pairs Public Policy and Administration students with local dignitaries and guests to hear an invited speaker. Over a catered lunch at the Seminole Campus Conference Center, the group welcomed SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams as the keynote speaker.

A great opportunity for students

Program Director Jeff Kronschnabl said he modeled the speaker series after programs he experienced while attending the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. He said that not only does it allow Public Policy students to dress up and attend a business luncheon where they bring their business cards for networking, but also for the program to form lasting partnerships with invited speakers.

“We have been blessed with leaders from international, national, state and local levels,” Kronschnabl said, noting that none of the speakers are paid for their attendance. “They come to engage our students and make a difference. Many of our speakers come back to the next luncheon to continue their relationships with our students and SPC. There were three previous speakers there yesterday.”

Williams emphasizes partnerships

In her talk, Williams focused on the importance of SPC’s partnerships, including those with the local workforce community, the Pinellas County community, and the College’s internal community. She emphasized that SPC is a place where lives are made better.

“I’ve never heard one of our students say, ‘I want to be poor,’” she said. “They want to change their lives; improve their lives. That’s why they’re here.”

Williams outlined the ways that SPC has worked over the past year to refocus its efforts by outlining them in the College’s three pillars: Academic Excellence, Economic Mobility and Community Engagement. First, she emphasized academic excellence, noting that it can only happen with a strong faculty, student support and the educational ecosystem that SPC is forming with Pinellas County Schools and the University of South Florida.

“We have to make sure that there are no gaps between k-12 schools, SPC and USF,” she said. “That’s a lot of work.”

As for economic mobility, Williams said she wants to be sure that our students not only graduate, but also get jobs.

“We want to make sure our graduate, who has a diploma on the wall that says St. Petersburg College, is able to make a good living,” she said.

According to Williams, community engagement factors in at the regional level as well as right at home on all of the campuses at the college. It involves helping our students as much as it does helping the community.

“Did you know we have students who are homeless?” Williams asked the rapt crowd. “Did you know we have students who are hungry? Internal community is just as important as external.”

Williams noted that SPC must form partnerships in the community, as well, including commitments with the local workforce, which drive SPC’s curriculum and partnerships with community resources that help students with much-needed resources.

“There are plenty of undereducated people in this county,” Williams said. “Our county will not move forward if we don’t address that. So we have to come together and partner.”

A warm reception

Public Policy Speaker SeriesWilliams’ speech was met with a standing ovation, and she followed up with a question and answer session. Several students took the opportunity to speak and ask questions about student involvement on campuses, support for struggling demographics and reflections on her accomplishments so far as SPC President. Kronschnabl said he received a lot of positive feedback regarding Dr. Williams’ presentation.

“Dr. Williams was fantastic,” he said. “Students were engaged in conversations with her before, during and after her presentation, and the fact that she stayed until the very last student had an opportunity to speak with her was a clear testament of the collaborative leadership she spoke about during her presentation.”

Following Williams talk, a representative from USF, accompanied by Public Policy and Administration Grad Sane Haidara, invited the students in attendance to consider USF’s MBA program after completing their studies at SPC.

“The value that this luncheon brings to all who attend is nothing short of outstanding,” Kronschnabl said. “Students can come face to face with world class leaders and engage them in conversation. Government is the art of negotiation, and collaborative partnerships are integral to achieving and preserving our quality of life and sense of place. Our Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series luncheon does all of that and more.”


Sharyl Attkisson Brings Crowd to SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus

Sharyl Attkisson and Nicholas Manias at Career and Academic Community event

Not since the days of “yellow journalism” have consumers of media had to navigate such jagged terrain as what is the modern media. Though there are many ethical and balanced news sources out there, recognizing which ones are trustworthy can prove to be a challenge for many. In order to address this huge social issue, The Applied Ethics Institute at St. Petersburg College welcomed Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and best-selling author Sharyl Attkisson to the Music Center on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus on Sept. 26.

Sharyl AttkissonAttkisson was joined on stage by Ethics Professor Nicholas Manias, and the two discussed topics such as media ethics, vaccines, media literacy, and her newest New York Times best-selling book, The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote.

Miss the event? Watch it on YouTube.

Associate Director of Learning Resources Rebecca Frank said this event taught her to compel herself to always see both sides of a story.

“I want to use my best judgment to decide an issue,” Frank said. “I always like to check the credentials of the author or presenter, check out sources they use and look for their bias and my bias, and then put my best judgment forward. I really appreciate the Ethics Institute for putting this event on.”

Manias said it was a highly beneficial event.

“Our students were introduced to ways to be better critical thinkers when it comes to media and social media,” he said.

Sharyl AttkissonThe crowd, which included more than 200 attendees, was comprised of SPC students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community. The event was also live streamed on the internet in real time, where it was viewed on 150 devices. Attendees also lined up for a book signing after the event.

“It was nice to have members of the public on campus where they could see what we do, as well as interact with SPC recruiters,” Manias said.

This event was part of the Goree Memorial Lecture Series, which is in memory of Keith Goree, who was a longtime faculty member on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus before taking over leadership of the Ethics department. It culminated a week of activities for SPC’s Public Safety, Public Policy, and Legal Studies Career and Academic Community, which encompasses the Applied Ethics Institute.

Fire Academy class installs smoke alarms for seniors

Fire Academy Cadets

Many people don’t realize that if a fire starts in their home, they have a very small amount of time to escape – as little as two minutes in some cases. That is why smoke detectors are so important in a household. On March 18, 10 members of St. Petersburg College’s Firefighting Academy Class 49 assisted the Red Cross, Oldsmar Fire Rescue Department and the International Association of Fire Fighters 2980 in providing and installing life-saving smoke detectors in the Gull Aire Village senior community.

SPC’s Public Safety Training Program program director Jim Angle is the retired Palm Harbor fire chief. When he received an email from his union requesting students and off-duty firefighters to assist the Oldsmar Fire Department with a smoke detector installation project, he was happy to help.

“I knew this would be a worthwhile project for our Fire Academy students,” Angle said.
When I asked them to assist, they were happy to do so.”

In this program, the Red Cross partners with organizations like SPC and local fire stations to install free smoke alarms for those who cannot afford to purchase or are physically unable to install them. The Red Cross also installs a limited number of specialized bedside alarms for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The students joined teams of three or four people who visited over 120 homes in the senior community, installing a total of 341 smoke detectors. Some teams collected data and provided some fire safety education to the residents, while other team members installed the detectors.

Angle said it is recommended that each home should have smoke alarms on every level, as well as in all bedrooms and outside of sleeping areas, but making sure they work properly is most important.

“Battery replacement is key,” he said. “The new lithium battery smoke detectors are 10-year smoke detectors, which should be completely replaced at the end of their 10-year life. Test the smoke detector by pushing the test button once a month, and you can also dust the smoke detector once or twice a year, depending on dust levels in the area.”

Oldsmar Fire Chief Dean O’Nale thanked the Firefighting Academy, noting, “Service projects like this go a long way to help our newest firefighters understand the importance of community service outside of our traditional roles of fire and emergency medical service responses.”

Angle agreed that the students got a lot out of the experience.

“They experienced team work, community service, interaction with a very appreciative group of residents, and they also gained an understanding of how the fire department’s role in the community goes well beyond responding to emergencies,” he said.

Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series welcomes featured guest Dr. Bill Law

Photo of Dr. Law at Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series

The Public Policy and Administration program held its tenth Public Policy Leadership Speaker Series luncheon on Wednesday, March 1. The featured guest for this luncheon was St. Petersburg College President Dr. Bill Law, who will retire this summer.

After attendees enjoyed a buffet luncheon, Dr. Law, who was received with a standing ovation, addressed the group of students, instructors and honored guests. His engaging talk ran the gamut of emotions, from funny to serious to emotional. Public Policy Program Instructor-in-Charge Jeff Kronschnabl said he asked Dr. Law to speak because of his history of support for the program.

“Dr. Law was one of the main founders and an instrumental supporter of our program,” Kronschnabl said. “We appreciate his enthusiasm and just wanted to say thank you for all he’s done for our program and our students.”

Law advised Public Policy students on working in the public sector, stressing the importance of transparency and accountability, especially in light of Florida’s Sunshine Laws. “I have never been disappointed by sharing information with the public,” he said. “I would rather people get real information.”

Leadership Speaker Series
Dr. Law addresses luncheon guests.

Law discussed challenges he faced when he first took the helm of the college. One was managing the rapid growth of the college with scant resources, which brought about his One College plan, which united the practices of all campuses under one umbrella.

“We were one college, so we needed one game plan,” he said. “If we all work together, the tide rises all boats.”

Law also discussed his implementation of the College Experience, which integrated individualized learning plans, enhanced orientation, expanded career advising and learning support along with an early alert system for students at risk of giving up.

After Dr. Law’s address, several graduates stood and thanked Dr. Law and SPC for the support they received as students. Program Graduate Velma Thompson said she had been a returning student, looking lost on campus one day when Dr. Law spotted her and asked if he could help.

“He gave me his card that day and told me to let him know if I needed anything,” she said. “And I texted him once with a question, and he answered.”

Leadership Speaker Series
Program graduate Velma Thompson thanks Dr. Law.

Public Safety, Public Policy and Legals Studies Dean Dr. Susan Demers then spoke, reinforcing Dr. Law’s comments at the Leadership Speaker Series.

“Details matter,” she said. “A plan matters; and community matters.”

Dr. Demers then thanked SPC Policy Consultant Tom Furlong and Dr. Law for implementing the Public Policy program and their belief in its potential for growth.

“It’s easy to implement a program with 100 students,” she said. “Not one with 12.”

Dr. Demers encouraged students to utilize all the networking resources available to them through the program, including internships and the people they meet at the Leadership Speaker Series luncheons, and challenged them to make their marks in the community.

“As a community college, your commitment to our community is where you’ll make us proud,” she said.

Leadership Speaker Series
Dr. Susan Demers encourages students to utilize available networking opportunities.

As the Leadership Speaker Series luncheon came to a close, Dr. Law was presented with a large bouquet of flowers and a binder of thank-you letters from past and present students.

Kronschnabl said he knew that attending current students were affected by Law’s talk.

“Our students were able to see his vision of helping students find a career path and better their families, and they saw that they are actually living out that vision,” he




International student hopes to better his community

Sane Haidara, international student

Growing up in Timbuktu

When St. Petersburg College International Student Sane Haidara was an 11-year-old boy growing up in Timbuktu, Mali, he liked to hang out around the hotels in what was then a tourist destination. He enjoyed practicing his English and talking to the visitors from faraway places. In 2001, he met Floridians Tony and Patricia Leisner, and spent a few days with the couple.

“Little Sane, unlike the other kids, wasn’t trying to sell jewelry or t-shirts or just asking for money,” Patti Leisner said. “He just wanted to talk to us.”

Before the Leisners left, Haidara presented Tony with a business card he’d made for himself, which included an email address from his school account, and asked if they could be pen pals. And so was born a relationship that ultimately brought him to the states and to a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from St. Petersburg College.
The youngest of seven children, Haidara was raised by parents who put a huge value on education.

“As a teacher, my father tried to encourage the community to send their kids to school,” Haidara said. “He went house to house to invite children in the neighborhood to come home and study with us. He wanted to make sure all children were educated, including the girls, who were often denied an education.”

Tony and Patti kept up with his grades throughout his schooling, and they supplemented his studies with American English lesson cassettes and books.

“He got extraordinary grades,” Tony said. “He won awards and distinguished himself with a commitment to education.”

Becoming an international student

When high school was done, all the time spent honing his languages among the tourists paid off. Haidara is fluent in French, English and three African languages, and he speaks limited German and Arabic. His abilities landed him a job as a translator, and he earned enough to pay for college. He was unhappy with what was available to him in Mali, so he asked the Leisners to sponsor him as a student. They happily agreed, and helped him through the visa process. Tony, who teaches Public Policy and Administration at Walden University, was also on the board for Worknet Pinellas, so he was aware of the programs available to International students at St. Petersburg College and recommended that he enroll there.

“I knew this was going to be a little bit of a culture shock for him,” he said, “and SPC had great remediation. I knew that once they got him over the humps, he would do well.”
Center for International Programs Director Ramona Kirsch said that from the moment Sane entered SPC, he proved to be an exceptional international student.

“Sane quickly became involved in student activities, encouraged SPC international students to become civically engaged, and served as a role model for students around the state of Florida by being chosen as a peer leader for the annual Florida International Leadership Conference,” Kirsch said. “We look forward to seeing great things from him.”

Haidara enrolled in the Public Policy and Administration program, landed a job as a Student Assistant in the Fine Arts Department, and set about joining several campus organizations, including International Club, in which he became President, American and Arabic Cultural Association, Phi Theta Kappa and the City/County Management Association, where he is finishing his term as Vice President. He also volunteered as a French tutor, a summer camp counselor for disadvantaged children and offered himself as a speaker to several organizations. He was also part of SPC’s Model United Nations team, which won the designation of “Outstanding Delegation” at the Collegiate Model UN conference in D.C. last fall. Haidara attributes his success to becoming so involved.

“I was welcomed as a community member,” Haidara said. “The International Program at SPC helped me through and gave me a lot of guidance and advice, but getting involved helped me overcome a lot of challenges, make friends and build leadership skills. Any student who wants to be successful should be involved in order to do well and overcome challenges.”

A commitment to his community

Haidara not only graduated with a 3.32 grade point average, but also, his Capstone Project outlined a program that would offer three meals a day to schoolchildren in Timbuktu.
“Growing up, I saw friends and community children who were not be able to attend school because of poverty. They were needed to work. I hope this would encourage them to go to school and encourage parents to send them.”

Haidara is currently applying to master’s programs, where he hopes to refine his project, then take it back to Mali to see if he can get it off the ground and make it sustainable. He hopes to work with Mali’s government and other international organizations to see how he can implement this program. He feels that he was equipped to do so by the Public Policy Program.

“Professor Kronschnabl gave me the support I need to learn to be a good leader,” Haidara said. “He provided a lot of knowledge to help Mali. You talk to experts in the community, and you learn to do presentations in the community. You gain work experience – it’s not just class work.”

Kronschnabl described Haidara as an outstanding individual with real character. His character and efforts were acknowledged with multiple foundation scholarships. He was also named Clearwater’s Dr. Theodore Mazzu Student Scholar of the Year award, Most Engaged International Student and was asked to speak at SPC’s Summer 2016 graduation ceremony.

In addition to the Leisners, his mother traveled from Timbuktu, and his sister and brother-in-law came with their children from Washington, D.C. to see him shine.In his speech, he urged listeners to become active their own communities, saying,

“In Africa, we have many sayings. We believe that if we stand tall it is because we stand on the backs of those who came before us, and we believe that tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it. More importantly, we believe that a single bracelet does not jingle.”

The Leisners are pleased with the man that the young boy they met in 2001 has become.

“We were so proud,” Patti said. “Not just for Sane, but also for us and his family. It was particularly great for his mother.”

“We were absolutely stunned at the quality and the content of his speech, and his delivery and poise. I attribute that to the terrific support he’s had at SPC,” Tony said.
Haidara credits his father, who passed away in 2006, with his drive to make a difference in the world.

“My father did tireless work to encourage the education of boys and girls in the community. He believed a community could address its own problems if it was educated. That really encouraged me to try and fulfill his wish and hope to see all children educated.”
Though he plans to eventually return to Timbuktu and work to better his community, Haidara said he will always have a connection to St. Petersburg College.

“SPC gave me training and confidence and made me realize I can achieve anything,” he said. “I want to thank SPC faculty and staff. They really work hard to make student success come first. When I first started, I didn’t know if I’d do well, but if you want to study, SPC will always help you.”