Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Degree provides lesson in persistence and perseverance

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — Kawanna Jenkins, 36, has a lengthy college transcript. It starts in 1994, when she graduated from high school.

But her story has been long, too. She had a son at 16, and her education often took a back seat to the demands of work and caring for him.

Jenkins' educational journey took a major step on Dec. 15 when she walked across the stage of the Mahaffey Theater during the USF St. Petersburg graduation ceremony.

Her newly earned bachelor's degree has provided an important lesson of persistence and perseverance for her now-20-year-old son.

But it also opens the door for greater opportunities for her at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, where she has worked since 2002 and has attained the rank of sergeant.

"Even though she missed classes and had to come late sometimes, she never gave up," said Mijeong Baek, a political science professor who has taught Jenkins.

• • •

As a single mother finishing high school, Jenkins knew she needed to support her infant son and needed a job. But most jobs she looked for required some type of further education or experience.

She was young and didn't have experience. So she decided she needed to get an education, enrolling in classes at St. Petersburg College.

That spring, she met someone at a party who was talking about working with troubled youth at the Florida Youth Academy.

With a desire to work in corrections, she got a job there, earning $7.50 an hour.

But she found herself dropping classes to take overtime shifts to make sure she could continue to pay bills. And the struggle balancing school and work began to tug at her.

"It was kind of wearing on me at the time," Jenkins said. "I was going to school, not making very much money."

• • •

One day, she received a call from the Sheriff's Office. She had been listed as a reference for a co-worker who was applying for a job there.

Jenkins said she knew she needed a change, as her schedule of work and homework and being a mother wasn't balancing out, even with the help of her mother and grandmother, who would watch her son while she worked.

After three years at her job, she was making $11 an hour, and she thought the Sheriff's Office might offer more career opportunities.

So she asked the woman on the phone if the Sheriff's Office was hiring, and when the woman said yes, she applied and landed a job as a deputy in the confinement housing unit at the Falkenburg Road Jail, where she was responsible for the custody and control of inmates.

Once again, Jenkins' education took a back seat, as her full-time schedule at the Sheriff's Academy made attending college classes difficult.

But over time, and with the help of the Sheriff's Office's tuition reimbursement program, Jenkins would earn an associate's degree from St. Petersburg College in 2007 and get promoted from corporal to sergeant — a management-level position in which she supervises other deputies.

• • •

Jenkins could have stopped there. But she felt compelled to earn her bachelor's degree — at least for her son's sake.

So she enrolled at USF St. Petersburg in 2008, pursuing a degree in political science.

"My son was getting older and I wanted him to know that you shouldn't give up on stuff," Jenkins said, her voice cracking. "But I went back and I could only take one or two classes a semester, because I worked a 12-hour shift."

This past semester wasn't too bad, Jenkins said. She worked a 7 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift at the Sheriff's Office 14 days a month. She would get home by 8 a.m., sleep until about 12:30 p.m. and attend classes in St. Petersburg at 2 p.m. "I always sat in the front to make sure I didn't fall asleep," she said.

Baek, who taught Jenkins for three courses, said she noticed Jenkins sometimes came to school in her uniform. She knew Jenkins had missed class a few times and assignment deadlines because work got in the way. But she didn't know she had a son and didn't know about the other responsibilities she juggled.

"Kawanna never asked for exceptions," Baek said.

Baek said she teaches many students who juggle work and school, and Kawanna's persistence stood out.

"She completed all the assignments," Baek said.

• • •

When Jenkins started pursuing her degree in political science, her intention was to one day go law school. But now, she thinks she'll stay with the Sheriff's Office, where her bachelor's degree will allow her to rise to the rank of lieutenant.

Her inspiration, she said, has been her son. She's trying to encourage him to apply to St. Petersburg College.

"I'm not an advocate of teen pregnancy or anything, but in the event you make a mistake, don't let it prevent you from moving forward," Jenkins said.

"I've never wanted to rely on anyone or anything to raise my son. I've always been a hard worker. He hasn't had everything he wanted, but he always had everything he needed."

Comments
Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

By BOB PUTNAMCLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot has long been a fixture on Jon Mott’s sporting calendar. Not even a 103-degree fever Tuesday could keep him away from the event, in its 39th year. Mott, a record four-time 10k champion, added ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

 
Updated: 3 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago
Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

LARGO — Sydney Pender, 27, loved riding her motorcycle, even though she knew the dangers. Three years ago, her friend said, a delivery truck hit her. But she kept riding. On Thanksgiving, it was a crash with a taxi cab that killed her.Pender, a St. P...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature’s Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.The cause of the depression is unclear, but the intersection was blocked off to traffic.Hillsborough C...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Published: 11/23/17