On Wednesday, Feb. 27, a panel of representatives from six different non-profit organizations gathered at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus to talk about about how they began doing community service with the charitable entities with which they are associated.
Zelda O’Connell of the Florida Dream Center, Patricia Deplasco of Keep Pinellas Beautiful, and Chuck Tiernan of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay spoke to the students, telling them that they have their current jobs because of their community service. Our moderator, Tara Newsom, reiterated that, pointing out to our students how critical a single volunteer experience turned out to be for our panelists.
Terrika Hobbs from Pinellas Ex-Offender Reentry Coalition (PERC) told the audience how she had once been a client at PERC, and introduced the audience to PERC’s newest employee, who is a recent graduate of one of our four-year health programs.
Finally, local attorney Tony Griffith talked about his work with Habitat for Humanity and Professor Kim Jackson spoke about her work with the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Both emphasized the structural and policy aspects of non-profit work. Multiple panelists talked about not only volunteer opportunities, but also internships available and the opportunity to hone transferable work skills or test drive interests in the non-profit sector.
Our speakers were informational and inspirational. Our students learned about some great sources of assistance, since some of them may need the services of these very organizations. Ultimately, our goal was to show our community members how volunteering can assist in building career skills and connections. The evening was such a success that we hope to replicate it on multiple campuses for a wider audience in semesters to come.
Our community, Public Safety, Public Policy and Legal Studies, is made of first responders, policy wonks and legal eagles: not natural companions, but all of our group are interested in public service, and this program gave our students a whole new way of looking at and finding opportunities for public service. We think this program was the perfect example of a way to demonstrate all three pillars of the St. Petersburg College mission, vision and values all at once.