When Hialeah Campus public safety chief Stephanie Fernandez started the Shark Patrol Program, her goal was to unite the campus and the public safety department and increase community involvement among students.
Her goal has more than been met. Since 2016, about 250 students have participated in the program, with most students graduating into part-time or full-time positions within the public safety department while earning presidential volunteer service awards.
“I have seen many of them grow into jobs and positions and it really has advanced their careers not only within the college but even outside the college,” Fernandez said. “So, I’m very proud and my love for the students is like a lot, so I don’t mind putting any work that I have to do for it because it was a lot of work to make sure that it keeps going and has a positive outcome for the campus and the college and most importantly for the students.”
The SPP allows students to shadow officers when they open and lock doors, learn the department’s system database and camera operations, assist at events, complete administrative duties, mentor middle and high school students and attend workshops, which include resumé and interview sessions.
James Oghagbon, 20, a computer science major, credits the SPP with helping him familiarize himself with Hialeah Campus.
“When I first started I didn’t really go too much around the school,” Oghagbon said. “I just went to the classes and then just left school, so then I got a more broader view of how the school looks, because from outside it looked big, but I was like I’m not really going to be here for long, I’m just going to go to the places I need to go and get out of here, but I learned more like there was a whole other environment in this place.”
Oghagbon started the program in January of last year after his SPC 2608 class made him complete service learning hours.
“I was going to do my community service hours and get out the hell out of here, but slowly I guess this place grew on me and kind of made an impact on me,” Oghagbon said.
He moved up the ranks and is now a student assistant in the public safety department.
“It helped me a lot in like it’s the first step into like a work environment because I started doing this program before I started working so it helped me [learn] how to work in an office and things like that,” Oghagbon said.
According to Fernandez, twenty percent of the students who have participated in the program have been able to get jobs, such as student assistant, public safety officers and at 911 operation centers.
Through the program, Johana Quintero was able to become a public safety officer. The 20-year-old criminal justice major also assists with the SPP.
“I feel like the kids that come here for Shark Patrol, they end up a lot more out there than how they come in because then they interact with other students. They interact with us,” Quinteros said. “My Shark Patrols, I try to push them into talking. I ask them everything. I give them advice.”
Fernandez hopes to expand the program to other campuses by 2019.
“We have developed a better community together and a campus community, as well,” Fernandez said. “It’s more like we have each others back. I have the student’s backs and they have mine and I’m speaking for the department. They’re extra eyes and ears.”