TSA agents walk many roads to college, some on four legs

Elsie Torres shows off her certificate. She came from Puerto Rico to work at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration after her sister died Sept. 11. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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Those who start as U.S. Transportation Security Administration officials only need high school diplomas, but at LaGuardia Community College Friday, 50 agency employees from Queens’ two airports completed the first step toward furthering their education and careers.

“This is a wonderful achievement,” LaGuardia College President Dr. Gail Mellow told the class, “and like all good leaders I want you to keep going.”

In partnership with the TSA, the college, at 31-10 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City, has been one of many in all 50 states to offer the TSA Associates Program.

Patrese Roberts, the national manager of the program, said its employees take four associate degree classes — one per semester — paid for by the agency. These classes not only help the officers in their current position, but the agency hopes it gives them encouragement to get their associate degrees and onward.

“Education makes you a better candidate for a position,” Roberts said.

The ceremony Friday recognized TSA employees who had completed the first three classes: Introduction to Homeland Security, Intelligence Analysis and Transportation and Border Security. LaGuardia International Airport in East Elmhurst graduated 21 officers, who dressed in businesswear, while John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica graduated 29 officers, who dressed in their uniforms. A canine, Belgian Tervuren Dzuka, also graduated.

“You do great work and you are great people serving a very important mission,” said Gale Rossides, the TSA deputy administrator and keynote speaker, to the participants.

Those interested in furthering their education will take Introduction to Criminal Justice in the spring, then will continue their associate degree with their own funds and nine credits.

Elise Torres, a TSA supervisor at JFK, said she left Puerto Rico to join the TSA in 2007 because her sister died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She said she would often work late at JFK Saturdays and come in to LaGuardia College for 9 a.m. Sunday classes.

“All the knowledge I have in order to fight the terrorism is very important to me,” Torres said.

Jamaica resident Terrance Brown, who works as an agent at LaGuardia Airport, has been a part of the TSA since its inception in 2002. He said he signed up for the associates program for the opportunities to further his education.

“I wanted to play a role in keeping our country safe,” Brown said.

LaGuardia Airport employee Sabrina Bojko-Sosa, a Jackson Heights resident, used to work in an airport bookstore but joined the TSA in 2007 at the suggestion of an employee who visited her store. She said she had always been interested in homeland security and joined the program for that reason.

She plans to continue getting her associate degree at LaGuardia Community College and attend the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan for her bachelor’s degree.

“The program definitely made it easy as far as juggling our work schedules,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 5:46 pm, February 29, 2012
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Reader feedback

Bea from Astoria says:
Correction: "the agency" doesn't pay to further indoctrinate these bozos; taxpayers do.
And exactly how much "education" does one need to grope women and fondle little kids? All these criminals should be ashamed of themselves. And know this: Americans hate you for what you've done to us and to our freedom.
March 4, 2012, 7:01 pm
Ashley from West New York says:
That's a lot of hate and ignorance you are putting out there. Quite frankly, it just makes you sound like you are the one in need of an education. They have done nothing to you and your freedom. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believed terrorists carried out 9/11, not future TSA agents. They deal with selfish and impatient people, like yourself, everyday, but have the patience and determination to continue to put the safety of our country first. Luckily for you, they will continue to look out for your safety regardless of how you treat them.
Nov. 5, 2012, 9:57 pm

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