BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — A man with a firm voice and a firmer handshake, Boe Norwood is used to getting things done.
Having worked in the education field for the last 26 years, he has been a member of administrations at Gibbs and Osceola High Schools. Six years ago he brought his vision and talent to Pinellas Technical Education Center (pTEC) where he became the assistant director.
[level-active-subscribers]“It was a change for me, but a good one,” Norwood affirmed. “I like working with adults.”
Intent on doing what was best not only for pTEC but for the community, Norwood was instrumental in bringing back programs that had been moved north to the Clearwater campus, like the cosmetology, culinary and automotive programs.
Apparently it was a popular move for the residents of St. Pete because according to Norwood, those programs are all at capacity enrollment. He also has plans to bring back the welding program in August.
“What I did was ask the community: ‘What do you want back at this school?’” explained Norwood, a St. Petersburg resident since 1992. “I’ve listened to the community. Our numbers are up in every program we offer.”
The St. Pete pTEC location, at 901 34th St S., offers a plethora of programs and career choices for young and old alike, no matter where they find themselves in life.
“We have students from 16 to 75. We have a strong GED program,” Norwood explained. “pTEC is a place where this may be the second, third or fourth chance for certain people to get a career. We’ve had people who have been in the medical field for years and want to do a career change. We offer many programs.”
All in all, there are nearly 30 programs that cater to people with varied interests and pursuits—everything from drafting to dental assisting to commercial vehicle driving. For the artistically inclined, there is even a Jewelry Making and Repair course. The duration of each program varies, but they can run anywhere from three months to 24 months.
Norwood said that when students graduate, pTEC will do all it can to help them find jobs in their chosen fields. He cited not only an increase in the center’s completion rate but a placement rate of over 80 percent as well.
“It’s been a major turnaround in the last year or so where people come here looking for our students, sometimes before they even graduate,” he said, adding, “We will place them any time. We’re with them the entire time.”
Norwood pointed out that pTEC is not only an option for high school graduates, but offers dual enrollment for teens still in school to help them get a jump start on their career paths, along with some valuable hands-on experience with such programs as electrical, plumbing, pharmacy and automotive.
“We have high school students who spend several hours a day here at the pTEC campus then go back for their academics,” Norwood said.
And like at any university, pTEC offers tours of the campus. Norwood encourages parents and children alike to see firsthand not only the school grounds and classrooms, but the people at the heart of it all.
“We tell parents, come with your son or daughter and we’ll give you a tour of the campus,” he said. “We’ll let you meet the instructors and you can actually see what we do at pTEC.”
Norwood calls pTEC a very “hands on place,” and the 56 year old certainly knows a thing or two about hands on operations. He started off in hospitality and worked his way through Alabama A & M University at a hotel, and when he graduated he was offered a management position.
“I worked my way through the Hilton for nine years as a manager in the food service business,” he said.
Referencing how some college grads must work their way through school and carry around a mountainous student debt from loans, Norwood said, “they can come to pTEC, finish with most of our programs within 15 months and still make more money than I’m making now! You can own your own business, that’s what I try to sell to them.”
Norwood stressed that students can leave pTEC without actually owing a dime.
“We have no loan programs,” he explained. “Everything is under some type of trust fund or grant, like the Pell and Perkins. We have companies and organizations that sponsor students. We just try to help them out the best way we can.”
He is adamant about the lengths to which pTEC and the staff will go to help students realize their dreams.
L-R, Boe Norwood, Marion Davis, Tenise Crum & April Barron
“We have a strong caring staff,” he affirmed, “as our guidance counselors and instructors try to treat everyone fairly and help them with a career decision. And our director Arlene Corbin and assistant director Ann Marie Clarke help keep things moving. I think everyone deserves a chance. There’s a way to get people enrolled whether you have a penny or not. We will find a way to get you enrolled!”
Norwood noted that through the efforts of people like Carl Lavender, who helps recruit within the south side and the surrounding area, pTEC is also a center for community and city meetings. He stressed that pTEC wants to do anything positive to help the St. Pete community, including hosting gatherings.
“I love what we’re doing in the community,” he said. “We host a lot of events and activities for such organizations as the NAACP and the Urban League.”
Concerning the shaping of lives at pTEC, Norwood’s philosophy is simple: “Give a person an opportunity to learn and better themselves. Don’t judge a person by the way they look or what you think is their ability. As my dad used to say, ‘Give me a chance to fail! All I want is an opportunity and I’ll make the best of it.’”
For more information, contact pTEC at (727) 893-2500 or visit www.myptec.org.
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.[/level-active-subscribers]