BY MARCY PALMERI, Contributor
SEMINOLE – St. Petersburg College’s (SPC) Seminole Campus was packed with hundreds of young men, their teachers and mentors last month for the Keys to Manhood seminar. The summit aimed to provide the tools necessary to maximize their potential.
Consisting of a panel discussion with some of the top minds in law enforcement in Pinellas County and a variety of breakout sessions designed to cater to the young men of the community, the seminar approached such topics that may impede academic success such as overcoming legal obstacles and money management.
As the keynote speaker, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway shared personal information about himself, along with imparting words of wisdom. He touched on seven bullet points while weaving them into lessons through stories: Defeat, stress, blame, chaos, excuses, fears and guilt.
Holloway shared his memories of growing up in a single-parent household without a father. Through his narrative, he indicated that no one has to be a victim of circumstance or feel defeated. “You’re smart and you can do a lot of things that you don’t think you can do,” he said.
Holloway assured the students that making mistakes and learning from them is a part of life, and applauded the students for making the decision to be part of the program.
The panel consisted of Holloway, Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Patrice Moore, Colonel William Sanders, who has served in the United States Army for 20 years, and Michael Carter, a non-traditional student. Each of the participants attended school in Pinellas County.
Domestic violence was one of the key issues discussed since it is so prevalent in today’s society. An audience member asked Holloway how he would advise young men to stay clear domestic violence situations.
“First of all, no man should raise a hand to a woman, said the chief. “You just need to walk away; be a man and walk away.”
Col. Sanders explained how the issue is handled in a military setting. He sees soldiers trying to reestablish themselves in the home after going back and forth in a combat environment. They come to realize that the house has changed in his absence.
He advised the men to walk away from those situations. If it is a circumstance where a discussion is occurring, he suggests revisiting the dilemma at a later time with a clear head.
“You have a couple of seconds to make a bad decision or to make a good decision. Think about your destiny. Think about what you want to do in life,” he said. “Part of being a man is understanding that you can walk away.”
Carter spoke about not giving up on their education. This non-traditional student, which is a person who did not continue their education right out of high school, is a retired chef and student at SPC.
Cater dreamed of becoming a doctor but didn’t think he could keep up with the rigorous course work. Fear and doubt stopped him once, but he wasn’t about to let that happen again. This time he feared returning to school because of his age, but realized he had to change his way of thinking.
At 54 years old, he returned to school and earned an associate’s degree by the time he was 56. He’s now looking forward to earning a bachelor’s degree in criminology or criminal justice. He said he learned that persistence, dedication, and most of all, commitment is the only way to get to the finish line. “Once I committed to it, it was okay,” he emphasized.
Judge Moore gave the crowd some practical advice. She hammered home the need for children to respect authority and their parents. She said even if you live to be 110 years old, you must respect your parents and keep your hands and words to themselves.
“At the end of the day, there can only be one boss or two if you’re living in a two-parent household and it is not the one who is in school,” she said as the room filled with applause.
She went on to explain the importance of first impressions.
“Some young men come to court like they’re going to the park,” she said. “We do judge a book by its cover because we are visual creatures and if anyone tells you that they do not look you up and down, they are lying to you.”
Moore continued saying that all she asks is that the individuals look the presentable, even if it takes a sandwich bag tie to keep their pants up.
The panel continued to answer questions and give practical advice. Attendees left knowing that no matter what their circumstances are, there are individuals and agencies in place to help.