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Archive for the ‘veterans’ Category

Students from the Student Veterans Association (SVA) and Men Achieving eXcellence (MAX) clubs at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus volunteer at the Pinellas Hope Catholic Charities homeless shelter.

Students from the Student Veterans Association and Men Achieving eXcellence clubs at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus volunteer at the Pinellas Hope Catholic Charities homeless shelter.

The Student Veterans Association and Men Achieving eXcellence organizations at St. Petersburg College served those in need at a homeless shelter in Clearwater on Saturday, July 26.

“We got a lot accomplished that day,” said Jeff Thomas, treasurer of the SVA at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. A group of nine students from the two clubs and MAX’s club advisor volunteered their time to clean the kitchen and spray for bugs at the Pinellas Hope Catholic Charities homeless shelter.

“It was hard manual labor, but we worked as a team and got it done,” Thomas said. “Overall, it was a very successful event.”

Student veteran Christopher Clark said he found the experience initially very shocking.

“When we first got there, we found out how many homeless veterans we have in the area who are living in tents and in some limited facilities,” said Clarke, President of the SVA at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “While they didn’t have much, they were giving everything they could to help support us.”

“They were so very appreciative for the help we gave them,” Thomas said. One of the student veterans brought his son with him to volunteer, putting him to work taking out loads of trash.

“I was very proud of our SVA at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus for the way they stepped into the community service role,” said Jeff Cavanagh, Director of Veterans Services at SPC. “They continue to shine for St. Petersburg College in that aspect.”

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State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater announced Wednesday at a press conference at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater Campus that he will sponsor a bill in the Florida Senate that would clear the way for the children of undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition in Florida.

State Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater joined Latvala in support.

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Latvala said he “decided in good conscience that there’s no reason the parents’ immigration status should be the determining factor of the tuition that our young people pay. Taxpayers in Florida get a reduced tuition rate….In this particular case, these children are the children of taxpayers in Florida who pay our sales tax, who pay our gas taxes, in many cases pay other taxes.

“I just think this is a disparity and a discriminatory issue that needs to go away,” he said.

The bill also includes language that would allow honorably discharged veterans to pay in-state tuition.

The legislators were joined for the announcement by SPC President Bill Law; Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe; Sandra Lyth, CEO of the InterCultural Advocacy Institute (Hispanic Outreach Center); Maria Edmonds, chairwoman of the Juvenile Welfare Board; and three SPC students.

Celeste Pioquinto, 17, who is an Early College student at the college, said she was born and raised in Clearwater, has attended Pinellas schools all her life and has always been on the honor roll.

“Ever since elementary school, I have dreamed about college or university. Now instead of dreaming it, I am preparing for it. I have applied to universities. I have applied for scholarships, but there is a barrier. I am not eligible for in-state tuition despite being documented because my parents are both undocumented,” she said. “This bill not only affects me, but affects many of my close relations.”

See more: Watch the video on the college’s YouTube channel.

See more: View photos from the conference on SPC’s Facebook page.

Read more: Coverage in the Tampa Tribune

Read more: Coverage in the Tampa Bay Times

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The Westcare Foundation and the St. Petersburg College Center for Public Safety Innovation present nationally renowned experts, speakers and authors Edward Tick, Ph.D, and Kate Dahlstedt, MA, LMHC, for a workshop titled “Effective Approaches for Skilled Helpers Working with Veterans.”

The day-long session will explore the emotional, moral and spiritual wounds of veterans, their families and community. Trainers will also focus on understanding and healing from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.

The workshop is from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 28, at the Allstate Center, 3200 34th St. S, St. Petersburg.

Attendance is free, but registration is required by Wednesday, Jan. 22. To register, email Mary.Coburn@westcare.com.

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A Veterans Day message written by Charlie Glegg, president of the Student Veterans Association at St. Petersburg College’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus.

It’s raining…… no, it’s more like a steady drizzle. The cold twilight has faded into a full dark void. Bad weather to jump from an airplane, even if that jump is not far from the ground. Twinkling not far in the distance are flashes; some are silver, some are gold and some are white hot. This is not fire from an unseen enemy; this is light playing off the instruments of a marching band and the flashes of cameras. The jump made today is off the ramp of a C 141 at 2-feet AGL (above ground level) on to Green Ramp, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., mid-November 1983. A little island nation called Grenada has its once freedom again. The first unit from the 82nd Airborne division to go to combat since Vietnam is also the first unit to return.

Falling in by platoon, the men of Alpha Company prepare to march back with swagger and pride in true paratrooper fashion. One lowly PFC looks over to see his platoon sergeant, SFC Kotisinski crying uncontrollably as he becomes overwhelmed by the whole scene of the brass band, high ranking brass, and families as far as one can see. The PFC asks, “Sgt. Ski, what is wrong man?” SFC Kotisinski brushes his rain soaked tears away. He takes a somewhat choked breath and answers, “It wasn’t like this when we came back from Vietnam.”  Without knowing the impact of his act, the PFC reaches out a hand and says, “Welcome home Ski!” This earned more tears from a warrior so long denied that simple recognition.

Flash forward to now: Veterans Day is upon us again. What does this day mean to you? Is it a day off? Is it a day you don’t have to deal with the challenges of school or work? Or is it a day you watch the news and think, “Wow, if it wasn’t for the men and women past, present and the future that wear the uniform of the USA, I could be living in some nightmare where all I take for granted is lost?” For as long as men and women wear that uniform and take an oath to uphold our constitution and protect our country from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, we will never have to live in the fear of experiencing that nightmare.

As Americans, we tend to disagree with one another from time to time. Our personal views on politics, government policies, religion, as well as a host of other issues, will never be in sync and that is just fine. As Americans, we have those rights to disagree and voice our opinions and beliefs as provided to all of us by our Constitution. In my humble opinion, there is one fact that I believe we all should agree upon. In our past history, it has been proven that whenever a foreign or domestic entity felt the need to threaten our freedoms and way of life, Americans do unite as one! The men and women of our armed forces, as the “tip of the spear,” have been, and will always be, prepared to defend our great nation regardless of the cost of their great sacrifices. With myself being the young PFC mentioned above on Green Ramp that cold November day, I can attest to that fact personally. So on this Veterans Day when you come across a hero who has worn the uniform and made those sacrifices, please put out your hand and say, “Thank you” and “Welcome home!” We, as Americans, can sleep easy through the night while these heroes stand their post and keep us safe.

Charlie Glegg
President SVA St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, SPC

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SCORE is holding an entrepreneurs’ resource expo for veterans, their immediate family members and active military on Nov.10. The expo, where St. Petersburg College staff will also present educational seminars, is aimed at those who want to be self-employed or want to start or grow a business.

The expo is free to all veterans and their families.

Veteran and entrepreneur Mark Swanson will be the keynote speaker for the event that will be held at the event at the Hilton at Carillon starting at 10 a.m. Swanson also is a partner of the college’s Entrepreneurship Program.

SCORE is a national organization with 365 chapters around the country and more than 13,000 volunteers. The nonprofit association educates entrepreneurs and helps small businesses start, grow and succeed nationwide.

U.S. Small Business Administration survey data clearly indicates that about 40 to 60 percent of veterans think about being self-employed or starting a business. Most of them have no idea where to turn for guidance and assistance without cost to them nor do they know about the many ways to finance a business.

US Census data shows that, within Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota/Manatee, Pasco/Hernando and Polk counties, there are more than 420,000 veterans. Approximately 117,000 are ages 18 to 54 and are prime candidates who at least think of self-employment.

SCORE’s goal is to reach out to veterans and encourage them to learn about available programs and free mentoring that can help them start up and grow their businesses. The organization has about 150 to 200 mentors in the Greater Tampa Bay area.

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LogoSt. Petersburg College is proving why it is consistently recognized as one of the most veteran friendly colleges in the nation.

The college has quickly adapted its policies to help student veterans whose VA education benefits are being adversely affected by the government shutdown.

Regular financial aid has not been affected by the shutdown, but veterans’ benefits have been delayed. So the college is extending the final tuition payment due date for veterans from Oct. 30 to Nov. 30. This will allow the veterans to continue with this semester’s classes unimpeded and to register for next semester without penalty.

“As soon as we realized that our veterans’ benefits were in jeopardy, we worked with our student services and business office staff to give them some relief,” said Jeff Cavanagh, coordinator of Veterans Services at SPC. “We don’t want something that is out of their control to delay our veterans’ progress.”

Over the last three years, St. Petersburg College has been recognized repeatedly for its emphasis on serving veterans.

This week, the college was recognized as a Top Military-Friendly College or University by the Military Advanced Education magazine. The college previously was named the 15th most veteran-friendly in the nation by Military Times Edge magazine, a military publication that assists service members with career preparation

St. Petersburg College’s services for veterans include:

  • Full-service veterans centers on four campuses that offer:
  1. Answers to questions about the GI Bill and veterans education benefits
  2. Information and guidance on registration and residency issues
  3. Advising assistance geared specifically to veterans
  4. Networking and socialization opportunities with other student veterans
  • A veteran-to-veteran tutoring program
  • Veteran Services liaisons on three additional campuses to assist students
  • An active chapter of the Student Veterans of America, a national coalition of more than 850 student veteran organizations in all 50 states
  • Partnership with SCORE Pinellas to offer a Veterans Entrepreneurship Certificate Program to help veterans and their dependents learning to start a business
  • On-campus peer support groups through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • A Student Assistance Program that offers three free confidential counseling sessions per academic year through BayCare Behavioral Health Services
  • A close working relationship with Local Veteran Employment Representatives through WorkNet Pinellas

“SPC recognizes that our veterans require and deserve services and programs to meet their unique needs,” Cavanagh said. “We’re doing everything in our power to meet those needs.”

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MAE TOP Schools Logo 2014St. Petersburg College can add another decoration to its lengthy list of awards. The college has been selected as a Top Military-Friendly College or University in the 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges and Universities by the Military Advanced Education magazine.

MAE magazine is a Department of Defense-endorsed publication with far-reaching ties. The annual guide will be published in the December issue.

“If you are a ‘top dog’ in the military or the Defense Department, chances are that you want to be on the cover of this magazine,” said Jeff Cavanagh, Coordinator for Veterans Services at St. Petersburg College.

This year, SPC was named the 15th most veteran friendly college in the nation, according to the Military Times Edge magazine. The military publication that assists service members with career preparation polled students at more than 650 schools to find out what they considered the most important school services for veterans. In 2011, SPC placed 47th on the list.

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Marmeduke Loke and Caitlyn Collins help Holly Crabtree learn to use her new state-of-the-art brace

For Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Holly Crabtree, just standing up is sometimes a victory.

On April 15, 2010, on a mission in Iraq, she was shot in the head while providing critical and life-saving medical care to Navy SEALS during an ambush. She barely survived.

Today, Holly remains paralyzed along the right side of her body, has difficulty with memory and reading, and is unable to type on a keyboard.

At SPC’s Orthotics and Prosthetics lab, she is re-learning to walk using a new cutting-edge orthotic brace that promises more balance and stability and fewer falls. For her and future patients, this new technology offers greater hope of returning to a somewhat normal gait.

“It’s not just a brace, it’s a solution,” said Caitlyn Collins, who is working with Holly while completing her residency in orthotics. Collins earned her bachelor’s degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics from SPC in May. “We are truly fixing the problem.”

For David Olson, who took Crabtree on a packrafting adventure to Alaska with the Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge in July, the new brace shows promise of what’s to come.

“We can eventually map these braces to the brain, so all she has to do is think about how to walk and it will happen,” said Olson, a retired Navy captain who started the Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge two years ago to improve the lives of wounded and injured veterans through outdoor challenges. “Right now, she has to un-learn the movements she’s been using to walk and learn new ones.”

Crabtree was initially fitted by the Veterans Administration with a traditional thermoplastic brace for her foot to help her walk. As she got stronger, however, she began overpowering it, which slowed her down. Olson, Collins and Crabtree’s VA team sought a solution that returned energy to her limbs and found it with this fairly new technology that uses carbon fiber instead of plastic.

They settled on a product developed by Marmaduke Loke’s Dynamic Bracing Solutions in San Diego. Loke came to SPC this week to work with Holly as she begins using the brace.

“For our students, this is wonderful exposure to see how their learning can really impact someone’s quality of life,” said Arlene Gillis, program director for the Orthotics and Prosthetics program. “It’s a multi-disciplinary approach as many of us are focused on getting Holly to where she needs to be – without this she would not advance. In this field, we have the ability to completely change someone’s life by the service and product we provide. “

In Her Own Words:

O&P graduate Caitlyn Collins shares what she was thinking and feeling Wednesday as months of work culminated in fitting wounded veteran Holly Crabtree with a brace they hope will help restore her mobility

holly1-2 After months of anticipation and countless conversations, we are finally going to fit the brace of the century. Fingers crossed that it works…

As I wait Wednesday morning, I think about how, six months ago, I met a wonderful, inspiring veteran who pushed me to make her life easier. Three years ago, Chief Hospital Corpsman Holly Crabtree was shot in the head while she was aiding her fallen comrades in Iraq. Because of her wound, she then suffered two massive stokes. These injuries left her with many physical and mental struggles.

She now has a very hard time walking. All she wants to do is be a benefit to society and keep up with her 7-year-old daughter.

When she came into SPC to talk to our program director about a trip she was taking to Alaska with a group called Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge, it was quickly decided that something needed to be done for her.

After meeting Holly for the first time and seeing her struggle just to walk, all I wanted to do was help her after all she had done for us (as a soldier). After all the research and debates on which brace would be best for Holly, the struggle to get the support to get the awesome veteran fit with the brace she needs and deserves, and finally arranging to get everyone together to achieve our goals, it was time Wednesday to show Holly what we have done.

I know there will be months of work and training for Holly after this, but I’m ready to see some results!

As Holly comes into the evaluation room, I can tell how excited she is. She just wants to get this brace on and get to walking. We quickly got her to realize that our goal is to get her away from her bad walking habits and to begin to walk using less energy so eventually she can go faster and further. But to get there, she is going to have to practice, practice, practice!holly4-21

Not only did she have a downer hearing all that, but then we realize the shoes she has will not work for the brace. So we went shoe shopping! When we finally got back and were ready to fit the brace, there was an audience there to watch her. Usually that doesn’t bother her, but I could tell all she wanted to do is focus on conquering her walking.

It is so eye-opening to watch someone who has run out in front of flying bullets to help her comrades without hesitation try to conquer something as small as walking. It becomes terrifying to her. It really makes me be in awe of what she has had to overcome on a daily basis and how much courage she has to try to make her life better.

Once we got the shoes and made some adjustments so everything was comfortable, she began her walking training. Even though I haven’t seen her walk yet, my doubts are already disappearing. Just to see how slow he is taking the training and everything he is doing to make sure she is learning the correct form from the beginning. I know with this much training and practice, there is no way she could not succeed.

The more I see of these cutting edge devices, the more I’m convinced this is the future of the orthotic world.

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Student veterans with the St. Petersburg College Student Veterans Association at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus volunteered at the 33rd annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games at Pin Chasers bowling alley in Tampa on Sunday, July 14.

Multiple events have been held throughout the Tampa Bay area and the event will run through July 18. The games are presented each year by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). The only other time the games have been held in Florida was in Miami in 1991.

Watch this video about the bowling alley event or view photos on Facebook on the college’s page or on the SPC Student Veterans Association page.

 

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In honor of the Fourth of July, two SPC employees — Rusty Richmond, Administrative Services Specialist in Facilities Planning, and Anamarie Root, Coordinator of Staff & Professional Development in Human Resources — shared their feelings and experiences as relatives of military personnel. If you have relatives who are in or served in the military, please share your stories on this post or on the college’s Facebook page and remember them this Independence Day.

The college’s Veterans Services is available to assist student veterans, eligible dependents, active duty servicepersons and members of the Selected Reserve.

My heart is also in a war zone … with my son

From Rusty Richmond

1st Lt. Dennis F. Futch, Commander of 399th Transport Company. He received his Associate of Science degree from SPC and went to Eckerd College where he received a bachelor’s in computer science.

“Mom, I’m being deployed.” When I heard that, I knew my world had just changed. I was overwhelmed with emotions, a strange mix of pride and fear — of anxiety of not knowing exactly where my son would be in the world — whether he would face enemy fire, heat or boredom.

Mothers are never prepared to have their children become soldiers. We become fierce protectors from the moment our children take their first breath. We check on them as they sleep and hold their hands as they cross the street, reminding them to always wear their bike helmet and warn them to beware of strangers.

My son Dennis is a single father of three children, Keryden 14, Isabella 11 and Garrett 7. He is a U.S. postman and a soldier. He received the Army Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal and will be deployed again later this year.

Now he has become our protector. He will sleep in camps, wear his helmet in a Humvee, and the stranger he meets could be a suicide bomber.

Regardless of which opinion of the war you may hold you have, we have to admire the enduring sacrifices of parents for their children, of soldiers for their country and the nobility of the human spirit when faced with unseeingly harsh challenges. We all know someone who has enlisted or the parent, spouse or friend of someone who is serving our military and fighting for us.

And in that way, these soldiers become our sons and daughters.

When you see a soldier in uniform, thank them for their service or make eye contact and place your hand on your heart … a small gesture for their sacrifices.

What it means to be a military family

From Anamarie Root

Master Sgt. James Root and Alec Root, December 2010

If anyone would have told me 25 years ago that I was going to be a part of a military family, I would have told them that they were crazy. Yet here I am, having spent all 24 years of my husband’s military career at his side. What an incredible journey it has been! We have been married for 22 of those 24 years, are raising three children, have said countless tearful good-byes and enjoyed many glorious reunions. Being a military family, no doubt, is full of triumphs and tribulations. Probably the hardest part is living through the long, dangerous deployments and reassuring our children each and every day that their dad is going to be alright when I’m really not so sure myself. It involves being a bit of an actress and putting a big smile on my face for well-intentioned friends, family members and colleagues who keep asking if I’m all right because I don’t want to worry them.

Though it’s a challenging life, it’s one that I would never trade for the world. My husband is the ultimate role model for our children, for our family and for our community. Through his service to our country, our children have learned what the words sacrifice, pride, courage and patriot really mean. One of our sons wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps — he wants to be a soldier and carry on the legacy.

Our children have sacrificed in many ways. They have celebrated countless birthdays and holidays with their dad gone. They have received awards and recognition without him there. They have had to leave friends behind because of a move and start over. But on the flip side, they have watched perfect strangers shake my husband’s hand and thank him for what he does, they have been treated to dinners because a proud fellow American has decided to pick up the tab, they have received free school supplies and attraction passes from wonderful community organizations and outreach, and they have been honored at school, church and community functions for their own sacrifices.

We are often asked how we manage to survive the military lifestyle. My one word answer is support. During deployments, we have had neighbors prepare meals and baked goods for us. They have watched our pets and our home so that we could get away for a few days. They put up our hurricane shutters because my husband wasn’t there. Work colleagues have purchased gift cards for my children so that they could eat at their favorite fast food restaurants and they have taken our children boating and fishing to keep their minds occupied. Our children’s schools have written letters and sent care packages to my husband and all of the soldiers in his unit. We’ve learned to give back too. We have volunteered with the unit’s Family Readiness Group and have organized activities and events such as picnics, bake sales and making holiday ornaments to be shipped overseas. We’ve had gatherings at our house with other families of deployed soldiers just for fun and for letting off some steam. We’ve organized yellow ribbon-making parties so that we could decorate our local streets and encourage others to show their support. We worked with our elementary school’s PTSA to collect and ship donated school supplies to Iraqi children in the town where my husband’s unit was stationed.

The life lessons that we have learned are priceless. Singing the Star Spangled Banner at a football game has taken on new meaning. Seldom can I get through it with dry cheeks. Family time spent together is no longer taken for granted but viewed as an incredible blessing. We have built character and are better human beings because of this life and these experiences. Being a military family is not only an honor, but a privilege. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you and this great country!

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