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Archive for the ‘Seminole Campus’ Category

Officials from Duke Energy and St. Petersburg College join SPC students Gentian Kruja and Morgan Fouss as they flip the switch on the solar energy panels installed at the Seminole Campus.

It was a beautiful day to showcase solar energy. On Thursday, April 10, officials from Duke Energy and St. Petersburg College flipped the switch on the Seminole Campus’ array of solar photovoltaic panels, highlighting a collaboration that began with a $500,000 SunSense grant from the energy company.

“This partnership is a perfect fit,” said Seminole Provost Jim Olliver. “This project encourages students to get involved with solar energy and supports SPC’s commitment to sustainable design.”

SPC is the first and only state college to receive Duke Energy Florida’s SunSense Schools Post Secondary School Award. Previous recipients include the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.

The energy company provided $515,803 for two solar installations at SPC – a 50 kW ground-mounted, free-standing structure on the Seminole Campus and a 50 kW array atop walkways at the Clearwater Campus. The installations join two other solar energy projects on SPC’s Clearwater Campus. Find out more about SPC’s use of solar energy and how students are involved.

“Through the SunSense program, this solar project at St. Petersburg College is playing a key role in our efforts to educate our customers on renewable energy production,” Joseph Pietrzak, Senior Program Manager for Duke Energy Florida.

LCD monitors on each campus show how much energy is produced by the arrays, and engineering and environmental technology students use the information for research. Since it was installed in December, the Seminole array has produced 18,488 kWh, enough to power 3.4 million smartphones, offset the use of 1,633 gallons of gasoline and power 770 electric cars. Follow the energy production and installation here.

“It’s going to be a new world,” said James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, created in 1975 by the Florida Legislature to serve as the state’s energy research institute. “This is no longer the most expensive way to make energy.”

Students from Lealman Intermediate School also attended the event and participated in educational solar activities. Students used handheld solar panels to power small motors and measure energy output.

“The young people here are going to be driving these vehicles powered by solar,” said Fenton, referring to the two alternative energy vehicles Duke brought to the event.

“My hope is that other students, current and future, will be inspired to learn more about solar energy and build a better future,” said SPC student Gentian Kruja, president of the Student Chapter of The Florida Engineering Society at SPC. After he graduates next month, Kruja plans to attend the University of Central Florida to study computer engineering.

“Through the data collected, students are not only learning about how different conditions of weather and seasons can affect the energy produced, but also how energy efficiencies are determined,” said Morgan Fouss, who will receive her A.S. degree in Environmental Science Technology from SPC next month and plans to attend law school. “We’re glad this investment was made on our campus and hope it’s just one more step in making SPC and specifically the Seminole Campus a model for sustainability practices.”

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Students fish seining (netting) and going through their catch at Howard Park.

Students fish seining (netting) and going through their catch at Howard Park.

From cave rappelling to fossil gazing, the Science Adventurer’s Club at St. Petersburg College makes experiential learning fun and interactive for all students.

The Science Adventurer’s Club is one of three student science clubs at the Clearwater Campus. In this environment, students who are interested in natural sciences can participate in research projects, field trips, lectures and community service activities. They do not have to be science majors to participate—all that is required is a passion for learning an interest in all things science.

The club got its start about three years ago when students were dissatisfied that there wasn’t an extracurricular opportunity for students to enjoy science together in a social environment.

“On several occasions, students in my science classes made comments about how they wished there was some place they could hang out and speak with other students about science,” said Monica Lara, Instructor of Natural Science at the Clearwater Campus. She is one of the club’s four faculty advisors, along with Clearwater Campus instructors Carl Opper, Erin Goergen and Mike Stumpe.

Science clubs at SPC include:

  • Environmental Consulting Society – SPC Downtown
  • Environmental Science Club – Seminole Campus
  • Sustainability Club – Tarpon Springs Campus
  • Science Adventurer’s Club – Clearwater Campus
  • Undergraduate Science Research Society – Clearwater Campus
  • Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society – Clearwater Campus

Lara’s teaching assistant, Michael Goltz, who often was present when these conversations took place, asked whether she would be willing to serve as a club advisor if students started a new club. Goltz, who ended up serving as the club’s first president, has remained connected to the club even though he is now a student at the University of South Florida.

“I agreed to it because I thought it would be a lot of fun and that there had been a lot of people hinting that it was something they would be interested in,” Lara said. “It supplements a lot of what we discuss in class and helps it make more sense.”

Lara said the club also fosters a collaborative culture among the students. In this environment, students primarily learn from each other. As they share their experiences, they teach one another best practices on how to go about taking on various tasks and projects.

“We do have some fun, adventurous trips, but the main focus is that students have to do the science,” she said. Through the club’s many field trips, including rappelling into the Dames Caves in Citrus County, students learn about geology, sea level rises and drops, ecology and conservation.

In addition to field trips, students also participate in volunteer projects such as science fairs, beach and reef cleanups, and Marine Science Day at the University of South Florida. These opportunities and experiences allow students to network with professionals in the field and prepare them for the workforce or graduate level work.

Students also benefit from the club’s partnership with Lara’s out-of-class research group and Reef Monitoring, a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization that she helped establish with SPC instructor Heyward Mathews in 2005.

“I enjoy getting that experience as it is helpful in preparing me for a potential career in science,” said Shannon Senokosoff, 29, a biology major and vice president of the Natural Science Adventurer’s Club. Since graduating with a degree in art from the University of South Florida, he was not satisfied working as a motion graphics designer and decided to go back to school and pursue his passion for biology at SPC.

Students in the Science Adventurer’s Club go rappelling during a field trip to the Dames Caves.

Students in the Science Adventurer’s Club go rappelling during a field trip to the Dames Caves.

“Getting out there, getting involved in the community through volunteer work and conservation, it puts you in a position where you’re interacting with people that might have positions in different organizations like the Florida Wildlife Commission,” Senokosoff said. “It helps build those connections.”

Lara said the hands-on experiential learning serves as a way to get students to understand what science is really about by doing it and not just hearing about it in a classroom.

“Getting those kinds of experiences – that experiential learning – really sticks with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

 

Want to learn more?

The Science Adventurer’s Club meets every other Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the marine biology lab (NM 161) at the Clearwater Campus.

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Dennis JonesA new tradition was established at St. Petersburg College in February with the inaugural Distinguished Public Service Award Dinner. The Feb. 21 event, staged by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at the Seminole Campus, honored former SPC vice president Dennis L. Jones for his 32 years of public service as a state senator, state representative, civic leader and doctor of chiropractic medicine in St. Petersburg.

Nearly 200 people, including 18 current or former public officials and a large number of SPC administrators and staff, filled the Conference Center at Seminole to honor the work of Sen. Jones and to recognize exemplary public service in general. As Dean Susan Demers of SPC’s College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies put it in her role as master of ceremonies, the ancient Greeks considered public service to be the highest calling of mankind, and Sen. Jones epitomized that quality in his career and life.

SPC President Bill Law opened the program by recognizing Sen. Jones for his role in funding and creating the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, which serves as a conduit for civic engagement and academic enrichment within SPC and the community, and also represents all 28 members of the Florida College System in the public policy arena.

In summing up Sen. Jones’ career, speakers focused on the important legislation that he had a major role in passing as well as on his skill at building consensus by working across party lines. A humorous note was provided in a video message by former House Speaker Fred Lippman, who served with Sen. Jones in the Florida House for 20 years. Dr. Lippman, now chancellor at Nova Southeastern University, said that the two of them were responsible for passage of more legislation in that period than any other legislators.

Seminole Provost Jim Olliver enumerated highlights of those legislative successes: mandatory child safety seats and driver/passenger seat belts, organ donor designation on driver licenses, Bright Futures Scholarships, “Rails to Trails” using old railroad corridors, Seminole Indian casino tax compact, state poison control registry and judicial reforms to aid small business. Among major projects affecting SPC, Dr. Olliver credited Sen. Jones for helping to secure funding for the Health Education campus, the Seminole Library and the Bay Pines STEM learning center.

Dr. James Winterstein, President Emeritus of National University of Health Sciences, spoke of Sen. Jones’ role in establishing the University Partnership Center, which includes NUHS’ doctor of chiropractic medicine program. And Kim Black, President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, offered detailed evidence of his commitment to public education.

Perhaps the most significant legislation credited to Sen. Jones is the Florida Beach and Shore Preservation Act, which created a continuing fund to finance repair of Florida beaches after storm-caused erosion. As Dr. Olliver noted, “Pinellas County especially, but every county in Florida that depends on sandy beaches to nurture its tourism industry, is indebted to him for ensuring that there will be continuing funding to keep those beaches healthy.”

To memorialize that accomplishment, the Institute arranged for a section of public beach in Treasure Island to be planted with sea oats after a June renourishment project is completed. The sea oats plants, which also served as table centerpieces and stage decor, were donated by a sponsor of the dinner, Green Seasons Nursery of Parrish. Students from the SPC chapter of the International City Managers Association have volunteered to help with the planting. Other sponsors were the Tampa Bay Times and National University Health Sciences.

Dr. Law concluded the program by unveiling the Distinguished Public Service Plaque, with Sen. Jones’ name as its first entry. It will be hung in the Conference Center foyer.

The Institute initiated the Distinguished Public Service Award to honor exemplars of the true meaning and purpose of public service — individuals who recognize that public service is a special calling and enter into it for the moral and humanitarian benefits derived from serving their country, state and community. The criteria for nomination are:

  • A distinguished career of public service in elective or appointive office — local, state or national OR a distinguished career serving the public interest in the private sector, either in the nominee’s profession or in a volunteer capacity.
  • An unblemished record of integrity and selflessness in public service.
  • A demonstrated spirit of bipartisanship in seeking solutions to public policy challenges
  • Overall, a career that best exemplifies public service and dedicated effort in keeping with the greatness of the United States of America.

With Dennis L. Jones as the first recipient, the bar is set high for future nominees. Hopefully, his example will inspire younger public servants to strive for his high standards.

For more photos from the event, please visit the Institute’s Facebook page.

Watch the event on the college’s YouTube channel.

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Adrianna Staley, 19, receives help from peer advisor Meslissa Dabydeen, 19, at the Seminole Campus.

Adrianna Staley, 19, receives help from peer advisor Meslissa Dabydeen, 19, at the Seminole Campus.

Armed with iPads, blue college polo shirts and a smile, three experienced students at the St. Petersburg College are now helping their peers learn about college resources.

Seated at two high top tables in the Seminole Campus’ Student Connection area, each peer advisor is available for 20 hours during the week to answer questions about:

  • registration issues
  • financial aid
  • navigating ANGEL and MySPC
  • using My Learning Plan to plan course schedules
  • other college resources, including Focus2, student email and Microsoft Office
A photo of Malena Buck, Student Life and Leadership Coordinator at the Seminole Campus

Malena Buck, Student Life and Leadership Coordinator at the Seminole Campus

For questions that they cannot answer or are beyond their scope, the peer advisors will direct students to speak with an SPC academic advisor, financial aid specialist or another appropriate resource.

Student Government Association representatives at the campus saw the importance of developing a peer advising program for their fellow students and allocated $15,000 of their annual student budget toward the effort.

SPC Student Government Association leaders annually develop budgets and spending plans for $1.3 million. The projects all support enrichment activities for campuses and students.

The blossoming project at Seminole, which launched in October 2013, is the brainchild of Malena Buck, Student Life and Leadership Coordinator at the Seminole Campus. Last year, she attended a National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) conference where they had a session about Peer Advising.

Some other Florida institutions that have adopted similar peer advising models include:

  • Miami Dade College
  • State College of Florida
  • University of Florida
  • Florida State University
  • Florida Gulf Coast University

“The main reason for the peer advising program is even though students may have holds on their records, they can still be helped,” Buck said. Peer advisors can help students add courses to their shopping carts in MySPC so that by the time they get to see an academic advisor, all they have to do is be advised about the hold because they already will be ready to register.

Buck said being a peer advisor also helps facilitate active learning.

“It’s helping the peer advisors guide themselves through the process and become more efficient through their own academic career,” she said. “They know what courses they have to take and what to communicate to their peers. So I think this definitely helps. It’s really great leadership experience.”

So far, they have helped more than 162 students since the program launched.

“The students really like it,” Buck said. So far, she has received positive feedback from the students who serve as peer advisors as well as the students who have used their services.

The peer advisors received a full month of training. Every Friday, the students also are required to participate in five hours of additional training from Buck, who has served as an advisor at the college for seven years.

After each visit to The Student Connection, the peer advisors keep a log of student contact information so they can follow up with the students during slower times. Buck checks the log at the end of each day to ensure its accuracy.

“They’re really good,” Adrianna Staley, 19, said about the helpfulness of Peer Advisors Destinee Bullard, Melissa Dabydeen and Kezra Johnson. It was her first time using the Peer Advising Program and she said she received a lot of useful information, some of which she did not know.

“I’ll definitely be back to use it again,” Staley said.

Kezra Johnson, 18, the newest peer advisor, said he enjoys assisting other students in this capacity.

“I consider peer advising an effort for us as current students to help other students with simple questions that don’t necessarily need to go up to a regular advisor,” he said.

The Student Connection, located beneath the stairs in the UPC lobby near Student Services, is open Monday-Wednesday from noon until 5 p.m. Thursdays from noon until 7 p.m.

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Jimmie Lee Solomon spoke at the SPC Seminole Campus on Friday, Jan. 31.

Jimmie Lee Solomon

One person told Jimmie Lee Solomon he could do more than spend his life as an East Texas farmer.

“I was lucky to have a grandfather that told me that I could go to college; I could be a lawyer, a doctor or a preacher,” Solomon said. “That always was the one thing that stuck with me is that somebody told me I could. Everybody told me I couldn’t. But one person said ‘you can’ and that was all I needed to hear.

Solomon went on to graduate from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law and spent a distinguished career as a top executive in Major League Baseball.

On Jan. 31, he told the 162 male college and high school students at St. Petersburg College’s annual Keys to Manhood conference that they, too, can move beyond where they are now. They just have to believe in possibilities, and they have to be bold enough to take a chance.

It’s like playing golf, he said. You can’t wait for the perfect conditions.

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to hit the damn ball. Life is full of shots. Take the shot,” he said. “You’ve got to make a decision to step forward and do it, no matter what you’re burdens are.”

Solomon was the keynote speaker at the second annual conference, which is part of the college’s continuing efforts to prepare all students — especially those who may have challenges to overcome — to be successful in school and in life.

Being a man, Solomon told the group, means:

  • Owning up to your responsibilities.
  • Being accountable for your actions.
  • Seizing opportunities when they arise.
  • Getting an education — whether it’s a certificate, a job-training program or a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
  • Developing employable skills.

He advised them to disregard the media’s portrayal of manhood, which often is negative and encourages poor values and decisions.

“You’ve got to break the conditioning,” he said.

Part of his work with Major League Baseball was to develop programs to help young people in poor, urban neighborhoods break that cycle. He spearheaded the development of Urban Youth Academies in Houston, Compton, Baton Rouge, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. This inner-city program provides youths with professional training for MLB careers — not just on the field, but in professional roles throughout the organization, from groundskeeper through executive.

“You’ve got to get a skill set that allows you an opportunity, a chance to be successful in our society. Without it, you have no chance,” Solomon said. “If you look at the way the world is evolving and at the speed at which technology is taking this world away – if you don’t jump on the merry-go-round now, you’ll have a hard time trying to jump onto it later.”

ManhoodSolomon’s message about being prepared for success and staying focused on education resonated with Charles Bazelais, 17. He traveled with a group of fellow students from Riverside Academy in Tampa to attend the Keys to Manhood event.

“It was really important that he talked about not giving up and staying focused because you see the results of people like him who do stay focused,” said Bazelais, who plans to go on to study real estate at the Gold Coast School of Real Estate in Miami. “I just gotta stay focused and finish school.”

Solomon shared a personal story about his path to manhood. When he was a young lawyer, Solomon visited his hometown to speak about his success to students at a local school. After the speech, by accident, he met Tricia, his 12-year-old daughter that he didn’t know existed. When he realized she was at risk, living with her maternal grandmother in poverty, he decided to invite her to stay with him.

“I brought my daughter in to live with me less than a year after I met her,” he said. Although it uprooted his plans for his career, he recognized his responsibilities and was willing to do what was best for his daughter.

“It was important for me to recognize my priorities as a man and what manhood meant to me,” Solomon said. Manhood didn’t mean getting rich; it meant developing character. Making the decision to do what you say you will do and put others first.

“It meant setting my needs on the back burner and helping a young person figure out what she needed in order to be successful,” he said. His daughter, now in her 30s, went on to graduate from George Washington University and is now a successful attorney in Atlanta, Ga.

Solomon shares this story to help young men understand that his personal and professional success, as well as his daughter’s, is due to education and a willingness to embrace his idea of manhood.

“It changed her life and it changed mine,” he said. “It made me understand my place in society, and it made me understand the need to give back. It made me understand the need to get involved in others’ lives.”

You can watch his entire presentation here:


See more photos from the event on the college’s Facebook page.

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AAHM

All St. Petersburg College campuses will celebrate African-American History Month with events and awards ceremonies throughout February.

Angie

Angie Shaghaghi

Among the highlights will be an appearance by Tarpon Springs native Angie Shaghaghi, a successful entrepreneur who has appeared on a number of Food Network shows, including Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Hey, Can You Cook?

She will be the keynote speaker at the north county Mac J. Williams Excellence Awards at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Clearwater Campus Arts Auditorium. The Mac J. Williams awards honor outstanding high school students.

Shaghaghi runs a business called Creative Cooks, which teaches cooking classes to children in public/private after-school programs, community centers, nursing facilities and homes.

Other highlights include:

  • African-American History Month Quad Event, all day, Feb. 13, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus
  • Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy, 1 p.m. Feb. 13, Clearwater Campus
  • Munch & Learn: Race & Ethnicity: Perceptions, Prejudice 7 Power, 12:30 p.m., Feb. 18, Seminole Campus
  • Taste of Soul, noon, Feb. 19, Tarpon Springs Campus
  • The Rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King, 12:30 p.m., Feb. 19, Clearwater Campus
  • Poetry Slam, 5:30 p.m., Feb. 19, Clearwater Campus
  • South county Mac J. Williams Excellence Awards, 7 p.m., Feb. 24, Palladium
  • Soul Food Festival, noon, Feb. 25, SPC Midtown
  • Black Trivia Competition, 6 p.m. Feb. 25, Clearwater Campus
  • Soul Food Festival, noon and 4 p.m., Feb. 26, SPC Downtown

For complete listings, see www.spcollege.edu/aahm.

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CB at Seminole

Clyde Butcher spoke to a full house at the Seminole Campus on Jan. 29.

By David Klement

Executive Director
Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

Clyde Butcher is an original — a genuine Florida character who defies alligators and mosquitoes in the muck of swamps to capture his priceless images of pristine nature and who minces no words in telling anyone who listens how poorly the state has managed its natural resources.

Clyde shared some of those images — and insights about how he shoots and processes them — along with choice words about the pollution of the Everglades, the state’s natural springs and its rivers, in two presentations sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College on Jan. 29. The eccentric photographic artist, in full Florida cracker regalia of flowered shirt, straw hat, baggy pants, croc shoes and chest-length white beard, commanded the room as he highlighted his life and his art in separate presentations to a student forum in the afternoon and a Village Square dinner program in the evening.

Butcher, often referred to as “the Ansel Adams of Florida,” is a gentle giant of a man who morphs into a mystic when you get him talking about the connection between the human spirit and nature. In his Village Square talk, he spoke of a communication bond between trees and plants and a chemical reaction in humans when exposed to a forest — a positive reaction.

He speaks of wilderness as being “a sacred necessity,” and recounts how, after the tragic death of his son at the hands of a drunk driver in 1986, he went into the deep woods of the Big Cypress National Preserve where “the mysterious spiritual experience of being close to nature helped to restore my soul.”

There is similar tone of mysticism when he speaks about his art. “I make pictures large enough so that you can see them,” he says in reference to his large-scale — as big as 4-by-5-feet– black-and-white photos of nature. “You have to scan, and the mind puts together what you see. I want you to see the sky, and veins in the leaves.”

The unique perspective of his pictures, along with the scale, “make people feel like they want to walk into them. I want people to be drawn in and feel their way through the environment.”

Yet in his public talks he is plain-spoken, talking nonchalantly about wading in chest-high waters teeming with gators and water moccasins to set up his tripod for the perfect shot, and in giving a humorous account of helping President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter briefly elude the Secret Service on one of his frequent “swamp walks.”

DK and ClydeAnd he is blunt when talking about the greatest threat to the Everglades: “In plain English, its s—,” he says, using the four-letter word for human waste. The incursion of development to the very edge of the Glades — in some cases beyond the edge — and destructive forms of agriculture such as sugar cane fields to the immediate north have done immense damage to the quality and quantity of the watery expanse named the “River of Grass” by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in her landmark book about the Everglades.

Clyde bemoans that careless regard for pristine wilderness as he disdains the politicians who pay lip service to environmental protection even as they strip funding from restoration programs.

But he worries more about an even greater threat to the Everglades: sea level rise brought about by climate change. By 2025, the Glades will be under water, he told me after the evening lecture. Extraordinary tides are already inundating parts of the preserve, and they will only get worse in the next few years.

The only solace to be found in that gloomy prediction is his promise to continue photographing those doomed patches of Eden even into his eighth decade. At least we will have his pictures to remind us of what once was. And those lucky enough to have attended his lectures will have the memories of having rubbed elbows with a living legend.


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The Tampa Bay Times is partnering with Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College to broadcast a live debate in the general election race to succeed the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

In a special edition of the show Political Connections, the Feb. 3 debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates will be hosted on the SPC Seminole Campus by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. It is sponsored by AARP.

“We believe this debate will not only inform the voters of District 13 but will air issues of great importance to the people of the entire Tampa Bay region,” said Times Editor Neil Brown. “A congressional seat has high stakes for all of us.”

The special election is March 11.

The debate, called a “Conversation with the Candidates,” will feature the winner of the Republican primary in January and Democrat Alex Sink. Republican candidates are Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters.

About 37 percent of the more than 455,000 voters in the district covering much of Pinellas County are Republican, 35 percent Democrat and about 28 percent independent or other party.

The event will be moderated by Political Editor Adam C. Smith and Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel.

“AARP has been equipping voters with information straight from the candidates on issues that matter for decades,” said Jeff Johnson, state director of AARP Florida. “We are excited to partner with the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 on this debate to help our community find out where the candidates stand on issues like the economy, financial security, and the future of retirement security programs such as Social Security and Medicare.”

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC also has experience in staging candidate debates, said Dr. James Olliver, campus provost, adding “our facility is second to none in the area.”

“Holding this event on campus gives us the benefit of providing our students, especially those studying public policy, with a front seat for a discussion of the major issues facing our nation today.”

The Times has produced debates for local, state and national offices for two decades, including races for Florida governor, Tampa and St. Petersburg mayors, the U.S. Senate and the 1996 national Vice Presidential Debate.

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International student from Mali

Sane Haidara, an international student from Mali, was one of the panelists at the forum World Peace: Let It Begin With Me, sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions on Thursday.

In a world filled with war and violence, St. Petersburg College student Sane Haidara believes peace can only be achieved through education.

Sane, 23, an international student from Timbuktu, Mali, came to SPC in December 2012 to get a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration. He wants to take what he learns to help implement change in his homeland.

“With education, I can help people by working with different organizations and officials on making things better,” said Sane, who wants to serve as a human rights activist and help educate his fellow Malians about their rights. He hopes to one day work with the United Nations to help make a difference.

He said that ignorance of laws and human rights is one of the biggest issues Malians face.

“Even though we have democracy in Mali, people still don’t know what democracy really means,” he said. “My goal upon completing my education is to go back to Timbuktu and help improve educational opportunities and human rights—especially women’s rights—health, sanitation and malnutrition.”

In spring 2013, he began prerequisite courses at the Clearwater Campus. While he finds the classes exciting, they also are challenging. In Mali, education is very different; math is not required for all majors and students often are taught strictly to memorize rather than develop critical thinking skills.

In Timbuktu, poor families often do not send their children to school. Girls in particular are largely uneducated. His father graduated from middle school and completed a two-year training school to become a teacher. His mother was illiterate.

Despite the community sentiment, his father believed education was paramount and sent all of his seven children to school, including his daughters.

“He tried to speak up in the community, saying that everybody should send their girls to school,” Sane said. “Others responded that he was a poor man and asked why he would send all his children to school when they could work in the field and help earn money.

“My father said that he has lived in the darkness because he did not have much education. He was determined for his children to not know that darkness,” Sane said. This ideology is a driving force behind his desire to learn.

At age 9, he began delivering bread to the U.S. military before school to earn some money to help support his family and pay school supplies. After school, he often would help Mali tourists around the city because his home was located between two hotels.

“I would help the tourists around the city so I could practice more of my languages,” said Sane, whose native language is Songhai but also fluently speaks Tamasheq, Bambara, English and French, as well as limited Italian and German.

Helping the tourists also had another unexpected outcome. During their visit to Timbuktu, he met tourists Tony and Patti Leisner from Tarpon Springs. They corresponded with him throughout the years, sending him books and encouraging his education.

After high school, he studied literature for two years at the University of Bamako before putting his linguistic skills to use as an interpreter for the U.S. military.

“I realized this is a good way to start a business because there are not a lot of interpreter businesses in Mali,” said Sane. A few months later, he ended up with contracts with the U.S. and Canadian governments to provide interpreters for trainings.

While he was living and working in Bamako in early 2012, Islamic extremists and insurgents invaded northern Mali. They imposed their version of Sharia Law by first burning churches and attacking Christians and tourists. Women no longer were allowed to speak to men and were forced to wear burkas to cover their bodies.

“The people who resisted, who were activists and marched to protest it, got publicly beaten,” Sane said. “Some got their hands chopped off; some got stoned to death.”

He worried about the safety of his family and neighbors in Timbuktu, particularly due to his business affiliation with western military forces. He decided the only way to ensure their safety was to help facilitate their escape to Bamako, where they stayed for nine months before returning to Timbuktu.

When the U.S. forces began suspending aid in Mali, he lost his business contract and was uncertain what to do. That’s when the Leisners helped him to get a U.S. student visa so he could study Public Policy and Administration at St. Petersburg College. They invited him to stay at their Tarpon Springs home until he could get situated.

Now at SPC, Sane is using every available opportunity to learn and work toward his goal of future activism. He is gaining leadership experience as vice president of the International Club, a member of the Clearwater Campus Student Government Association and is part of the Model United Nations team.

He often thinks about when he said goodbye to his family and friends in Timbuktu before coming to the U.S. The people there said their hope was in him, that they know he will come back to help them.

With every class he takes, Sane is determined to not let them down.

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City council

The St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus hosted the Seminole City Council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 22, in the new Public Policy classroom. The event was part of a celebration of City Government Week and included interaction between students and the elected officials.

Two students addressed the council during the meeting. Mayor Leslie Waters, Vice Mayor Thomas Barnhorn, Council Member John Counts, Council Member Jim Quinn, Council Member Bob Matthews, Council Member Patricia Plantamura, Council Member Chris Burke, City Clerk Rose Benoit and City Manager Frank Edmunds praised the college’s efforts, and have been gracious in their support, direction and friendship.

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