Tag Archives: bachelor’s

On Graduating from Miami Dade College, Spring 2015

Posing with the family at the Miami Dade College 2015 Commencement Ceremony of the Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses.
Posing with the family at the Miami Dade College 2015 Commencement Ceremony of the Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses.

Just last Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity of graduating from Miami Dade College with my Associate’s Degree! I refer to my graduation – or commencement, I should say – in this manner because accomplishing this feat is something that I wouldn’t have thought possible just over 2 years ago (as I summarized in “The Graduate Slump”). I longed to be enrolled in a post secondary institution and join the rest of my colleagues in the pursuit of a brighter professional future. Indeed, the bombastic celebration of graduates that Miami Dade College Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses hosted at the James L. Knight Conference center on a frisky Saturday morning was the reminder that I and the rest of my colleagues are doing something great. We’re chasing something larger than life itself – our dreams.

I’ve got many people to thank, but I can at least name a few. To begin with, my advisor at the Honors College, Virginia Fuillerat, for her tireless work in ensuring the focus and concentration of otherwise wayward Honors students. Next, my colleagues at The Reporter (Miami Dade College’s student newspaper) through whom I’ve learned so many vital lessons about the world of journalism.Third, my parents and sister, whom have always been supportive of my hectic lifestyle and professional endeavors.  Fourth, my girlfriend, whom at times made me feel more anxious than I should’ve but ultimately helped me develop a tenacity and self-confidence that I wouldn’t trade for anything. She’s a very special person whom I appreciate immensely.

Looking to the future, my professional goals include landing an internship or extracurricular involvement with an organization related to journalism, such as a local newspaper or media station. My academic goals involve learning as much as possible about the world of computer information systems, which will be my major when I enroll at Florida International University in the fall semester of this year. And most importantly, my personal goals involve getting some much needed down time and coming to terms with the fact that the time is now. The time to take advantage of everything the world’s got to offer and to take advantage of the opportunity I have to go find those offers is now.

And I couldn’t be more excited. Here’s to the future!

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Living Lessons In The Florida Legislature

This piece was published in the Miami Dade College student newspaper, The Reporter. It’s part of a series of articles I wrote for them between August 2013 and May 2015, now being uploaded in whole to ElMonzon.com.

No Guns: An individual proudly holds up a sign distributed by the Florida College System Student Government Association bearing the exclamation, "No Guns on Campus!" TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER
No Guns: An individual proudly holds up a sign distributed by the Florida College System Student Government Association bearing the exclamation, “No Guns on Campus!” TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER

At the Year-End Conference of the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA), about 250 students from Florida’s 28 community colleges (split up into four districts) united in Tallahassee from April 8-10. Their goal was to discuss the issues they wanted legislators to pursue during the legislative session. They also elected a new executive board and set of district coordinators.

Between speaker events and dining affairs, students got to meet and speak with state senators and representatives from their districts. Those personal interactions—formal and informal lobbying sessions were most meaningful for the students.


IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 7:30AM

On the balmy morning of Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 7:30 a.m., 55 Miami Dade College Student Government Association officers and advisors from all eight campuses gathered bleary-eyed at the North Campus. Instead of studying political science in classrooms on campus, they climbed aboard a red and white VanHool coach bus driven by Barrington Samuels of Atlantic Charters, Inc. for a real-life civic lesson. They donned suits and ties, dress shoes and stockings to lobby in the marble halls of the Florida state capitol while the Sunshine State Legislature was in session.

“[We’re going] to unleash our power, unleash our voice, to let Tallahassee know what we’re representing and to try to make a difference for the students here on campus,” Gabriel Lechner, a senator from Kendall Campus’ SGA explained as the bus rumbled north on the Florida Turnpike.

Many in the group had never been to Tallahassee but Lechner and the other Student Government officers understood their mission to advocate for the College. Most importantly the College is seriously concerned about the cuts of appropriations for MDC of $6.3 million proposed in the Senate, and what MDC officials are calling the paltry $896,000 in new funding in the House budget. The House leadership has committed to adding more dollars to the budget, which the College would heartily welcome. Funding for the two initiatives of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Technologies remain to be seen. The same goes for appropriations for MDC-West.

There was a sense of excitement for all the students from MDC’s eight different campuses to be together.

The students and advisors endured 10 hours of travel time, with a handful of rest stops and two onboard movie screenings in between.


READY TO ROLL- WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 3:30 PM

The group arrived in Tallahassee at long last. They stretched their legs and checked into the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott – located a few miles away from the bustling Tallahassee downtown that houses the Civic Center, Florida Supreme Court, State Capitol and other institutions – and filled up the lobby’s sitting area as they awaited their first briefing by Miami Dade College’s Governmental Relations Director, Victoria Hernandez.

Fielding Questions: Victoria Hernandez, Governmental Relations Director and Head Lobbyist for the College, responds to a question from a student during a briefing session in the lobby of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott upon the group's arrival in Tallahassee. TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER
Fielding Questions: Victoria Hernandez, Governmental Relations Director and Head Lobbyist for the College, responds to a question from a student during a briefing session in the lobby of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott upon the group’s arrival in Tallahassee. TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER

Hernandez briefed the students on the College’s position on a range of issues, especially as wrought by the widely different budgets that each House has presented. The Senate budget stood at an approximate $80 billion while the House’s reached approximately $76 billion.

“The Senate right now wants Florida to be one of the next states that joins the federal affordable health care act,” explained Hernandez during the briefing session. “The House doesn’t want to do that. Everything else … suffers from that.”

Students attending FCSSGA agreed unanimously on issues such as a sales tax exemption for textbooks (part of HB7125 and HB7127), the continuing availability of bachelor’s programs at the community college level (SB1252) and the prohibition of guns on campus (threatened by SB176/HB4005).

“I’d like to be able to tell you that everything looks really great, that we’re going to get all this money for the College, that all these programs are going to be there for you … but I can’t say any of that,” Hernandez said.


GETTING TO THE TOP – THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 9AM

Comment: Ireynne Diaz-Carnero, a member of the Kendall Campus SGA, writes a comment on the envelope of a letter for District 117 Representative Kionne L. McGhee (D). TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER
Comment: Ireynne Diaz-Carnero, a member of the Kendall Campus SGA, writes a comment on the envelope of a letter for District 117 Representative Kionne L. McGhee (D). TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER

When the Miami Dade College bus pulled onto South Duval Street across from the state’s Capitol office building in Tallahassee, the 55 student leaders and advisors on-board had an hour to wait for a speaker event.

But Kendall Campus SGA member Ireynne Diaz-Carnero wanted to use her time to jump right into lobbying – talking directly to elected officials about important issues.

Diaz-Carnero went up to the dimly lit halls of the 14th floor of the Capitol office building, She perused through office directories posted on the wall by the elevator. Her goal was to find District 117 Representative Kionne McGhee’s office. His district includes part of Kendall.

Diaz-Carnero walked past a poster that welcomed visitors to “Miami-Dade County Days” at McGhee’s door.  The student was directed by an office employee to a closed door bearing McGhee’s nameplate.

McGhee was not there.

On an L-shaped desk diagonally opposite McGhee’s door, Diaz-Carnero found an alternative way to get her voice heard.

“This is his secretary’s card, and I am going to leave him a letter,” she said.

In her letter Diaz-Carnero voiced her complaints about insufficient financial aid for working students. She explained that she had sent the letter to College President   Eduardo J. Padrón and emailed several representatives.

Right off the bus, Diaz-Carnero put her lobbying skills to work.


CAPITOL STEPS – THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 11AM

Yay Or Nay: Legislators in The Florida House of Representatives look to a video screen on the far end of the room for yays and nays on a piece of legislation during an April 9 session.Each chamber looks just like you’d expect - a large, bustling room where minds do battle over the future of Florida law. In the House, a big video screen tallies representatives’ yays and nays as they vote on proposed bills while they simultaneously walk up and down the room conferring with one another. The pace is quick but not necessarily focus, with some Representatives glaring at the screen and others holding private conversations with others. TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER
Yay Or Nay: Legislators in The Florida House of Representatives look to a video screen on the far end of the room for yays and nays on a piece of legislation during an April 9 session.Each chamber looks just like you’d expect – a large, bustling room where minds do battle over the future of Florida law. In the House, a big video screen tallies representatives’ yays and nays as they vote on proposed bills while they simultaneously walk up and down the room conferring with one another. The pace is quick but not necessarily focus, with some Representatives glaring at the screen and others holding private conversations with others. TOMÁS MONZÓN\THE REPORTER

The Rally to Tally held on the students’ only full day in the Capitol was a show of force for the 250-strong group to motivate and visually put on display the groups’ important platforms.

Students from Palm Beach,  Fort Myers, Broward and other Florida counties joined the group from MDC on the steps of the old Capitol Building. The columned supports and red and white window shades provided a regal backdrop to the mass of students and speakers stressing the importance of the students’ participation in their lobbying efforts.

Students waved pre-made signs saying “No Guns On Campus.”

The heat made many students use the signs to fan themselves or create some shade.

FCSSGA board members and special guests addressed an audience of community college students and faculty about the virtue of persistence and the vitality of student representation in the legislation.

“Students are the best ambassadors we have for anyone in the Florida College System; not presidents, not deans, not faculty,” Jeffery Allbritten, President of Florida Southwestern State College said at the rally. “And trust me, they listen to you.”

Ashley Gilbert, an Indian River State College student and a part of the FCSSGA’s executive board reminded the group of their mission.

“If a bill severely limits postsecondary opportunity or access back in our home districts, what are we gonna do?” asked Gilbert.

“We speak up!” returned the audience.


TAKING ON THE CAPITOL – THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2PM

In a conference room on the side of the Capitol, MDC students finally have a chance to meet with an elected official.

Hernandez arranged for Florida Democratic Senator Dwight Bullard, who represents Hendry, Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties to talk to the group.

Kendall SGA’s Lechner had taken the initiative in appointing these students to discuss the Idea Center, baccalaureate programs and guns on college campuses during a free exchange prior to Senator Bullard’s arrival.

“We have the Idea Center, it’s at the Wolfson Campus actually … and I believe it should go to all campuses because there’s actually a few of us here that would like to run their own business,” said Homestead Campus SGA President Stephanie Gutierrez.

Bullard listened to her concerns and agreed.

“If the state is concerned about the safety of our students, then we need to have a robust conversation on how to fund it, how to make it happen; not by allowing concealed weapons on campuses,” said Wolfson Campus SGA member Jude Bruno.

Bullard nodded in agreement.

Bullard was the only Dade County elected official to meet formally with the group. The students did not have a chance to lobby against opposing legislators.

To the group’s frustration, the FCSSGA conference this year was scheduled at the same time as Dade Days, an annual legislative session event that includes more than 1,000 representatives of more than 200 public and private organizations meeting with legislators whose constituents are from Miami-Dade County.

As of April 14, the Senate bill threatening bachelor’s degrees was postponed due to its sponsor’s inability to show up for a presentation before the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. Both House bills regarding postsecondary education affordability passed out of the House Education Committee with amendments. Finally, neither the House nor Senate bills for allowing guns on campus have moved forward since the House bill’s calendar appointment is due for a “second reading.”

A Look Back at Miami Dade College’s 2014

This piece was published in the Miami Dade College student newspaper, The Reporter. It’s part of a series of articles I wrote for them between August 2013 and May 2015, now being uploaded in whole to ElMonzon.com.

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A stellar athletic year, an array of cultural events and a host of new College programs made 2014 a productive year for Miami Dade College.

In September, MDC President Eduardo Padrón announced $21 million in grant funding from a variety of public and private sources. Some of these grants included $10 million from the Department of Labor to fund the establishment of a Training and Certification program in Manufactured Construction, a $100,000 grant from Citi Foundation to expand the Small Business Education Program/Grow Miami Initiative and a $50,000 award from AT&T to expand the College’s pre-college advisement programs to ten local high schools.

At the Wolfson Campus, a $2.18 million grant from the Knight Foundation facilitated the Idea Center, an entrepreneurial hub meant to promote student startups and business ideas.

“[We want to] build the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to all students,” said Idea Center executive director Leandro Finol.

The College initiated a new bachelor’s program in information systems technology and supply chain management. The College’s School of Entertainment and Design Technology at North Campus also expanded their bachelor’s degree offerings. John Rhames, a former detective and patrol officer at the Riviera Beach Police Department in Palm Beach County, took over as chief of North Campus Public Safety.

The Book Fair featured a new Florida-centric venue called The Swamp featured events like a conversation between musical icons Questlove and George Clinton and a community outreach project entitled #6WordsMiami. Visitors also saw a piece of the Berlin Wall donated to Wolfson campus by the City of Miami on the 25th anniversary of the dismantling of the Wall.

The College’s Entrepreneurial Education Center, or Meek Center, renovated its library with new computers and newly organized workspaces. Workers completed Hialeah Campus’ seven-floor parking garage featuring more than 1,000 parking spaces and a community multi-purpose room.

“The garage is very aesthetically pleasing and welcoming in its design,” Hialeah Campus President Mattie Roig-Watnik told The Reporter last year.

The baseball and women’s volleyball teams had strong seasons. Head baseball coach, Danny Price, was named the Regional Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association for the National Junior College Athletic Association following his 1,200th victory on March 22nd, when the Sharks defeated Palm Beach State College 14-6.

Student life across all campuses offered diverse programming including MDC>AIDS Initiative, a partnership between the College and the Greater than AIDS Campaign.

“On World AIDS Day, all campuses held awareness events to distribute the materials and campaign paraphernalia to students,” said Crystel Lewis, director of Student Life at the InterAmerican Campus. “The morning began with a [livestreamed] lecture by [AIDS United, Inc. President & CEO], Dr. Michael Kaplan … free HIV testing was also held at each campus.”

Vice President Joe Biden addressed one of the largest graduating classes at the Kendall Campus Gymnasium for their commencement ceremony. He recognized the difficult circumstances that many of students present overcame in their studies.

“America is on the cusp of so many innovations that will change the world, and you’re gonna be part of it,” Biden told the crowd.