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Meet the team! Here are the CERT Program Directors and a little bit about them

Program Leadership

Meet the team! Here are the CERT Program Officers and a little bit about them

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Elizabeth received her Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of South Florida in Global Disaster Management and Humanitarian Relief. In 2013, she was invited to teach at USF as an instructor for the public health undergraduate program in homeland security & emergency management. She is currently pursuing her Doctor in Public Health (DrPH) degree in Public Health Leadership.​ 

​In 2013, Ms. Dunn started training students, faculty, and staff in the FEMA Basic CERT in an effort to bring CERT to the university. She now serves as a FEMA CERT Instructor, Train-the-Trainer for future CERT Instructors, and organizes HSEEP compliant exercises in Hillsborough County. In addition, Ms. Dunn is a Shelter Manager, a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Lead, Adult & Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor, and Hands-Only CPR Lead Trainer for the American Red Cross. She serves as the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Refugee and Migrant Women's Initiative (RAMWI), and serves as the faculty advisor for the USF Red Cross Club, United Nations Association, Global Health Student Association, and MedLife.

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Elizabeth Dunn, MPH, CPH
Program Director
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Building a resilient community takes a team, and the CERT program is designed to bring people together to strengthen communities before the storm & be able to respond to the needs of others during & after a disaster

Madelyn received her bachelor's degree in Public Health from the University of South Florida. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Global Health Practice at USF and is a member of the Delta Omega Public Health Society. Madelyn served with the USF CERT team during Hurricane Ian where she helped deploy special needs shelters and served as a shelter manager. Since then, Madelyn has continued to serve the USF and Tampa Bay communities. Madelyn has also worked with the Tampa Office of Emergency Management, where she assisted with developing Incident Actions Plans, HSEEP-compliant exercises, and managing the Tampa CERT program.

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To me leading means setting an example to your peers. The ability to guide your team with compassion, humility, and consistency.

Madelyn Minner
Deputy Director

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The vulnerability and need brought by a disasters must be met with compassionate resilience.

Katherine Patino
Co-Deputy Director

Kat received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health with a concentration in Community Engaged Homeland Security and Emergency Management from the University of South Florida. During Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Ian, Kat served as a Shelter Manager, serving the county as a member of CERT. She also assisted in deploying special needs shelters during Hurricane Ian. Currently, she works as a Program and Outreach Administrator at Refugee and Migrant Women’s Initiative, which focuses on empowering and supporting the refugee and migrant population in Tampa Bay. She plans on pursuing an MPH in the Global Health Practice in Fall 2024.

Izzy is a senior studying Public Health with a concentration in Community Engaged Homeland Security and Emergency Management. She is a member of a multicultural sorority, Delta Tau Lambda Sorority Incorporated and is actively involved in the community through volunteering. Upon graduation she hopes to pursue a JD/MPH dual degree program close to her hometown in Virginia.

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Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position. 

 

- Brian Tracy

Izzy Abbondanza
Administration & Finance Director
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“Sometimes things fall apart    so that better things can fall together” ― Marilyn Monroe

David Wright
Training Director

David Wright is pursuing his MPH in Global Health at the USF College of Public Health. Currently serving in the Navy reserves as a combat medicine and public health specialist. Highlights during his time in service include when he served multiple roles as a junior advisor to training teams with the US Navy, and US Marine Corps while stationed in Japan, internationally working with Japanese Defense Forces medical teams, training Taiwan's Navy and Marine Corps in combat medicine tactics, teaching trauma management strategies to Cambodia's mine action teams, and combat medicine techniques to the Philippine special forces. During last tour when he was on active duty he was instrumental to the initial force health mitigation plans for the COVID - 19 pandemic at NSA Panama city while serving as the sole preventive medicine technician in the area leading to the Secretary of the Navy's recognition in 2020.

Sarah Petrone is a Senior at the University of South Florida and is perusing her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a Minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. After graduating high school she enlisted in the United States Marine Crops. She was stationed in Camp Pendleton, California for the duration of her enlistment. She reached the rank of Corporal before getting out in 2019. After getting out of the Marine Corps she returned to South Florida where she was born and raised. She then attended Broward College, graduating with an Associate of Arts degree, and then relocated to Tampa in 2022 to transfer to USF.

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You don't lose if you get knocked down;
you lose if you stay down. -Muhammad Ali

Sarah Petrone
Communications Director
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To me leading means setting an example to your peers. The ability to guide your team with compassion, humility, and consistency.

Madelyn Minner
Research Director
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Ava Rettig is currently a USF senior completing a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) with a minor in Community Engaged Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Following the completion of her GED in 2018 she completed an Associate of Arts (AA) degree at Hillsborough Community College in 2021 before transferring to University of South Florida. Ava is also an honorary member of SALUTE National Veterans Honors Society as a Bravo Tier military dependent. She plans to complete her Bachelor of Science this fall and hopes to earn an MPH in Epidemiology in the future. Ava is passionate about animal rescue, disaster preparedness, and promoting community health.

We cannot stop natural disasters, but we can arm ourselves with the knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness. 

- Petra Nemcova

Ava Rettig
Health & Medical Director
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Shamaniqua Lessane is a Senior studying Public Health and Biomedical sciences at the University of South Florida. She is also a member of the National Council of Negro Women, and Triumph over Trafficking. She is eager to support and become a well-rounded advocate for her community. After graduating she plans to continue her education and earn an MD, pursuing a career in maternal fetal care.

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“The first and most important choice a leader makes is the choice to serve, without which one's capacity to lead is severely limited.” - Bob Marley

Shamaniqua Lessane
DAHR President

Instructors

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Being a CERT       Leader is simply put as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart."

Matt Stephens
Instructor

Matt Stephen was a member of the US Army Reserves and volunteer fire fighter and part of the fire police. Currently serves as a US Coast Guard Auxiliary Staff Officer and works with Pinellas County Sunstar Paramedics. In addition to his work as a medical responder, he is a trained radio operator for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue with ARES/RACES where he served with Battalion 3, Station 32 for Hurricane Ian during his last deployment. Matt is an Instructor for the USF CERT program and brings unique opportunities for our members to get involved in the community supporting local first responders and out veterans, and provides trainings for our members to gain valuable skills in various areas of emergency response.

Maria Paula Ibarcena Woll received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health with a minor in Community Engaged Homeland Security and Emergency Management from the University of South Florida. She is currently pursuing her Master's in Public Health (MPH) in Global Epidemiology with a certificate in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from Emory University in Atlanta. Previously Maria Paula went to medical school in Peru before moving to the United States to further her education. She serves as a CERT Basic Training Instructor and assists with health and medical response training for the lay responder for the CERT program. 

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A leader is someone you look to that will help you become the best version of yourself. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Maria Paula Ibarcena Woll
Instructor
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Being a CERT       Leader is simply put as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart."

Noah Wiskoff
Instructor

Noah Wiskoff is an alumnus of the USF College of Public Health who received his Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health with a minor in Community Engaged Homeland Security. Currently he works in Environmental Health and Safety at Busch Gardens. He is passionate about Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response and serves as an Adult and Pediatric CPR/AED and First Aid Instructor, and one of our CERT Basic Training Course Instructors. In his spare time enjoys watching sports and playing games with friends.

Allison received her Bachelor’s Degree in the spring of 2021 at the College of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health from the University of South Florida. Although Allison has been previously serving her community with her optical services as a Licensed Dispensing Optician, she will be transitioning to her future career in Emergency Management in the Tampa Bay Area. Allison will also be furthering her education by pursuing her Certification in Public Health. Allison aspires to further support the public by engaging and training community response efforts to increase awareness and strengthen bonds in the community.

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A leader is someone you look to that will help you become the best version of yourself. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Allison Turner
Instructor
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Jay Rajyaguru, FAEM
Emergency Management Advisor & Instructor

Jay Rajyaguru is an alumnus of the USF College of Public Health with his Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) with a minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He is currently pursuing his Master's in Public Health (MPH) with a focus in Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief, and Homeland Security. Jay serves as the Regional Director of Public Health Preparedness at the Florida Department of Health for Region IV.

 

Jay is a certified FEMA CERT Instructor, Incident Command System (ICS) Instructor, and has been with the CERT program since Fall 2016 and remains an active supporter of the USF CERT program serving on the board as an Advisor. He is an American Red Cross Shelter Manager, Hands-Only CPR Instructor, and a certified Stop-The-Bleed Instructor.

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​Kelly received his Master of Arts in Emergency Management and Homeland Security from Arizona State University. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) with a minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management from USF. Kelly works as an Emergency Management Coordinator for Tampa Electric Company. Kelly’s experience includes being a medic in the Army National Guard, as well as a supervisor for a private ambulance company. Kelly volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician and is on the board of directors for the Sun City Center Emergency Squad. Kelly is a certified instructor for the FEMA CERT, Stop-the-Bleed, Emergency Medical Responder, CPR and NAEMT courses. Kelly serves on the Higher Education Committee for the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA) and is working towards his Florida Professional Emergency Manager (FPEM) certification. Kelly has been a member of USF CERT since 2014.

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Kelly Knigge, M.A.
Emergency Management Advisor & Instructor

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APPLY FOR A LEADERSHIP POSITION

​If you are interested in applying for a leadership position click on the Join our Team button below. We currently have the positions of public information officer, secretary, instructor, and assistant instructor open. You may also apply to be a non-voting member, this is someone who sits in on the meetings and can take on additional tasks but does not have a designated position.

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