Emergence Cohort 2201 Graduates 31 Participants

Lauded as the leaders of the future who will be responsible for our nation’s strategy and policy, 31 participants were graduated from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Emergence Program cohort 2201 at Herrmann Hall at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, on Jan. 20. 

The Emergence Program is designed as an academic journey and innovation lab for homeland security enterprise officials in the first half of their careers to think critically about homeland security, explore emerging trends, and initiate change in themselves and their organizations. 

Emergence Program lead David O’Keeffe urged the graduating cohort to maintain the knowledge they gained and the relationships they built as they move forward in their careers. 

“Don’t let this just be a certificate on the wall, put this into practice,” O’Keeffe said. “Stay in touch with each other. Challenge yourself. We’re counting on you. Your country is counting on you.” 

The cohort’s graduation ceremony included not only the presentation of NPS-CHDS certificates but also a special commendation from U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to each graduate. The Secretary’s certificates were presented by Emergence graduate Laritza Puentes, a DHS/TSA executive assistant from Miami, FL. 

It took little time for two Emergence 2201 graduates to realize the benefit of the CHDS educational program, as they secured career promotions while in the program. 

Prince George’s County, MD, Police Department/County Government Public Information Officer and Spokesperson for Hispanic Affairs Julian Perez was appointed the DHS/ICE Deputy Assistant Director of Public Affairs as he was completing the Emergence Program, and is slated to move into the new position by the end of January. 

Perez said his CHDS experience helped immensely in securing his new position, especially during the vetting process. 

“I felt like a different person,” he said. “I felt a lot more prepared because of the people I spoke with during the program. I felt like I belonged. [CHDS Emergence] is a very prestigious program.” 

Perez said his only regret is leaving his Emergence change initiative unfinished at his previous job. Entitled “Transforming Language Barriers into Cultural Bridges,” the proposal called for creating the first-ever Prince George’s County Police Department Hispanic Advisory Board in an effort to build on progress made on relationships between the department and the Hispanic community. 

He said the police department leadership responded very favorably to his proposal and he’s hoping his successor, who he is currently helping to vet, will continue its implementation. 

At the same time, Perez said he looks forward to working in the Biden-Harris Administration and working on policy at DHS/ICE. 

Fellow Emergence grad Katie Simon has already started her new job with the U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office of Emergency Preparedness as an analyst while she was studying in the CHDS program. 

The former Arlington County, VA, emergency management analyst said she was encouraged to apply for her new position by the same CHDS alumni who encouraged her to apply for the Emergence program. 

Simon said she benefitted from the Emergence Program’s “diversity of experience” within her cohort. 

“There was an incredible range of experience and perspectives, in many ways different than my own,” she said. “I’ve also never been in a room with so many passionate people in my life.” 

Simon’s new position is responsible for providing the management structure to oversee and integrate security and emergency preparedness planning, policies, and programs, and works in close cooperation with the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the House of Representatives, and the Capitol Police on continuity of operations training and assistance to the Senate, and integrating Senate security plans. 

Emergence Program cohort 2201 participants: 

  • Adam Barresi, Sergeant, California Highway Patrol, Sacramento, CA  
  • Genevieve Bennett, Special Agent, DHSl – United States Secret Service, New York City, NY  
  • Jeremy Bersin, Deputy Chief, DC Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC  
  • Cameron Box, Lieutenant, United States Coast Guard, Fort Lauderdale, FL  
  • Adam Chromik, Business Continuity Specialist, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Phoenix, AZ  
  • Christian Cunnie, Local Coordinator, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Boston, MA  
  • Arwen De La Torre, Analyst, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Aurora, CO  
  • Jake Debevec, Director of Operations, Prehospital, Austere, & Disaster Medicine at UNM Health System, Albuquerque, NM  
  • Lisa Desamour, Captain, Philadelphia Fire Department, Philadelphia, PA  
  • La Rhonda Eason, Investigative Specialist, DHS – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Washington, DC 
  • Meredith Gerhardt, Emergency Management Analyst, Cupertino Office of Emergency Management, Cupertino, CA  
  • Carlos Johnson, Special Agent, Department of State – Diplomatic Security Service, Panama  
  • Jennifer Konopka, Senior Intelligence Analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, IL  
  • Daler Latif-Zade, Police Officer, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC  
  • Erica May, Emergency Communications Supervisor, Memphis Police Department, Memphis, TN  
  • Erin McDonough, Emergency Medical Technician, Fire Department of the City of New York, Port Washington, NY  
  • Timothy Morris, Police Officer, San Bernardino Police Department, San Bernardino, CA  
  • Julian Perez, Public Information Officer/Spokesperson for Hispanic Affairs, Prince George’s County Police Department, Crofton, MD  
  • Amber Powell, Master Security Training Instructor, DHS – Transportation Security Administration, Peoria, IL  
  • Laritza Puentes, Executive Assistant, DHS – Transportation Security Administration, Miami, FL  
  • Briana Reardon, Emergency Medical Technician, Fire Department of the City of New York, Broad Channel, NY  
  • Robert Rikard III, Police Officer, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC  
  • Samantha Santana, Senior Manager, Sensitive Information Protection, The Walt Disney Company, Orlando, FL 
  • Katie Simon, Emergency Preparedness Analyst, U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office of Emergency Preparedness, Washington, D.C.  
  • Gary Spector, Homeland Security Planning Coordinator, Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, Philadelphia, PA 
  • Joseph Tafralian, Trooper, Michigan State Police, Taylor, MI  
  • Hannah Thomas, Training and Exercise Specialist, Maryland-NCR Emergency Response System, Towson, MD  
  • Philip Weisbord, Police Officer, New York City Police Department, New York, NY  
  • Sebastian Willer, Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician, Cobb County Fire Emergency Services, Austell, GA  
  • Christopher Williams, Firefighter/Paramedic, District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Washington, DC  
  • Alex Yoo, Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Riverside, CA 

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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