Underrepresented students from the Tampa Bay region and across the country learned the important role they can play in the future of transportation during the Garrett A. Morgan Youth Symposium held at Florida Polytechnic University on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
The symposium is part of the 48th National Meeting and Training Conference of the Conference of Minority Training Officials held in Tampa, Florida. Attendees included about 150 students from middle school through college.
“We try to inform them about careers in public transportation and let them know that public transportation is not just a bus operator or maintainer of the buses or rail system. It takes a lot behind the scenes to make that work,” said Florida Poly Trustee Frank T. Martin, who has been involved with the Conference of Minority Training Officials (COMTO) for many years. “This is piquing the interest of students to consider public transportation as a viable career.”
Students heard about the different ways they can help improve transit systems such as highways, rail, and buses if they become professionals in the industry. They also learned about autonomous vehicles as the main emerging technology in the future of transportation.
Speakers at the event included Alvin Burns III, a Florida native who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Ben Matthew Corpus, Florida Poly associate vice president for enrollment management, and motivational speaker Donald Dowridge Jr. The participants also toured the Florida Poly campus and learned about how the University helps students achieve careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
“I wish I would have heard of some of this stuff when I was younger, because I didn’t have this in Michigan,” said Justin Bicy, a Central Michigan University student and intern for the Michigan Department of Transportation. “I didn’t get to go to colleges like this when I was in middle school and learn about institutions and engineering. It’s especially important for people of color who are coming up.”
James Bradford, co-chair of the conference in Tampa and chief operating officer at Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in St. Petersburg, Florida, said the annual youth symposium provides a great opportunity for the students to gain exposure to new interests.
“We want them to learn about things they can take advantage of outside of high school, whether that’s different colleges or different careers,” Bradford said. “This gives them a chance to meet folks in the industry, ask questions, and hear motivating stories from other folks who have left high school and gone on to bigger and better things.”
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