Special Agent Dominique Ellis, an officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United States Secret Service, returned to Northeast High School to speak to students about a potential career with the Secret Service.
BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — In high school, Dominique Ellis was the typical student who participated in school activities. He played on the Northeast High School varsity football team and thrived in the culinary program, which is where he developed a passion for hard work and attention to detail.
As a 2011 graduate, he embraced the motto, “Once A Viking, Always A Viking.” Now 11 years later, Ellis’ discipline and attention to detail is a matter of national security. Special Agent Ellis is an officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United States Secret Service. As a recruiter for the department, he returned to his alma mater to speak to students about a potential career with the Secret Service.
His job is to travel the country talking to students at colleges, military bases, and high schools to inform them of job opportunities with the United States Secret Service.
“I have the freedom to recruit in certain areas, and Pinellas County is one of the areas that I thought was particularly important to come to,” said Ellis. “I get to give back to my community and reach out to the kids where I’m from.”
Ellis has a special connection to Northeast High School. Not only is he a graduate, but he has developed a special bond with Anita Gerhart, a staff member at the school from his days as a student.
While training with a strength and conditioning coach for football, Gerhart joined in the workouts. She has stayed in contact with him through his college days and into his professional development.
Ellis is grateful that Gerhart took an interest in his life through some of his challenging days. He cherishes their relationship as she continues to encourage him.
Agent Ellis arrived in the Tampa Bay area on Wednesday, April 20, and spoke to students at the University of Tampa. On Thursday, his schedule included visits to Northeast High and Kaiser University. Friday was Ellis’ final recruiting visit at Eckerd College before returning to his headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The return to Northeast High felt great for Ellis since it gave him a chance to spread the word about career opportunities with the government and catch up with old friends. He told the students to work hard and be dedicated.
He challenged the students to have self-awareness and to monitor everything they do. Ellis spoke on handling peer pressure, warned against being involved in questionable activities, encouraged them to stay clear of negativity on social media, and told them to cultivate healthy relationships with teachers, coaches, and administrators.
“I had challenges in life, but I never gave up nor succumbed to peer pressure,” explained Ellis. “I have been around people who were doing wrong. You must follow your heart and know right from wrong.”
One thing Ellis did forget from his culinary arts days at NEHI was how to make pizza! Of course, a student was all too happy to teach a United States Secret Service member a trick or two.