A collaboration between Humboldt State University’s TRIO Talent Search and Gear Up programs, the University Police Department, and the Humboldt County Office of Education, the series was brought to fruition by Thomas Gray, a Criminology & Justice Studies student at HSU.
“The Public Safety Speaker Series program was created to educate Humboldt County students about careers in law enforcement, fire, and other public safety fields,” explains Gray, who is a TRIO Talent Search tutor at HSU.
In high school, Gray was exposed to career path opportunities as a part of his school’s TRIO Upward Bound program. After moving to Arcata, he noticed that a comparable program in Humboldt County would be a good way for law enforcement to give back to the community.
Working with TRIO program staff at HSU, Gray helped recruit the University Police Department and Humboldt County Office of Education to create the Public Safety Speaker Series. This spring, the program launched virtually at seven local schools with plans to expand this fall. So far, the Arcata Fire Department, Fortuna Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, Humboldt County Probation, and Loleta Fire Department have all contributed speakers.
“This program is important because students get to talk with working professionals from around our community and learn about their day-to-day jobs,” says Gray. “Teachers play a critical role by acting as hosts and facilitating a comfortable environment for students to ask questions.”
As the director of HSU’s TRIO Educational Talent Search, Rose Sita Francia worked with Gray to launch the series. She explains that Gray’s idea comes at a time when youth may feel powerless and disconnected, or even unsafe, due the isolation of COVID-19, and threat of wildfires and social unrest.
“Career ideation is so critical,” says Francia. “Learning about careers in public safety can help inspire a sense of hope and safety, and maybe an idea of how they would like to serve their community as adults.”
The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) are federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs. TRIO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRIO projects.