Taking initiative: Volpi’s past arrest becomes motivator behind platform
According to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Website, 53,664 people were arrested nationwide in 2012 on charges of driving under the influence. Two years ago, these numbers did not mean much to Florida Gulf Coast University student body presidential candidate Domenic Volpi. In 2013, that changed.
This past November, Domenic Volpi, a senior resort and hospitality management major, became a number in that statistic when he was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI charge. He said the experience has been life-changing and has taught him humility. He appreciates the small things because he realizes they can be taken away. Volpi also advocates education, maintaining that it is the key to spreading his message to help prevent others from making a similar mistake.
“In the past year, I realize that nothing can be taken for granted,” Volpi said. “Everything can come crashing down in a matter of minutes with a couple of bad and immature decisions. I was 20 years old, feeling invincible and entitled.”
According to the arrest report filed by Cpl. Leonard Gould of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the car Volpi was driving was “swerving all over the roadway … reaching speeds of up to 60 miles-per-hour in a 45 miles-per-hour speed zone.”
“The Nissan then made an abrupt motion to the right and attempted to enter a right turn lane. The front passenger side tire struck the curb, blowing out the tire,” Gould wrote.
During the traffic stop, the deputy reported smelling a very strong odor of alcohol on Volpi’s breath. Volpi told the officer he had been drinking at the beach earlier that evening.
Following a field sobriety test, Volpi declined to take a Breathalyzer test and was transported to the Lee County Jail. “While en route to the jail, Volpi said he was sorry for tonight’s incident,” Gould wrote.
Volpi is running for president under the party banner “For the Eagles.” One of the party’s initiatives is a late-night shuttle bus running to and from Gulf Coast Town Center on weekends. Volpi said that his arrest is a motivating factor behind the initiative.
“I had disappointed important people in my life,” Volpi said. “A full attitude change can come out of it. I am successfully accomplishing it, it’s achievable. I work toward more and want more for myself, the people around me, and my family. I ran for president to show you don’t have to be this superstar. You can have faults and blemishes. You can still be a great leader.
“My main message to come across to students is that (drinking and driving) is a real issue that happens to real people. It’s important to get educated to learn that there is a support system is out there. It is better to call someone than to get behind the wheel of a car.”
Volpi says that he does not wish this experience upon anyone, especially not a student.
“When I was arrested and I stayed those hours in jail, I looked around and thought, ‘This isn’t what I am meant to do, this is not how my life is supposed to be,’” Volpi said. “My eyes opened. This is real life; this actually did happen to me. So you move on and you just had to grow up a little faster than others. It’s both financially and mentally draining.”
In the past year, Volpi has been forced to face a number of challenges. After his arrest, Volpi, who says he was in line for a leadership position on the Programming Board, was removed entirely. He was placed on a one-year suspension, required to perform community-service hours, and has personally paid his court costs and fees. His position with the Programming Board has since been reinstated.
As a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, Volpi has had a large on-campus family to lean on while he went through his transition.
“It wasn’t really a negative in my mind,” Volpi said. “Of course, dealing with the trials and tribulations of it is not the best way to spend junior year, but it’s something you learn to be grateful for. You know your friends haven’t been through that because your message has come across, that’s the biggest part. It proves that one mistake can help form you into a leader.
“It’s the best things that’s ever happened to me in college, which I know is not something a lot of people say, but it truly is,” Volpi said.
Through his story, Volpi hopes that students realize the importance of taking precautions when they go out to have a good time and understand that his story is not unique.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Volpi said. “Everyone is human. It takes one bad decision to change your life. (The court system) is a very long process. It is not something I would ever wish upon anyone. I don’t want other students to go through what I’ve had to deal with.”
Volpi said this experience contributes to his leadership skills.
“A true leader isn’t someone who has it easy. It is someone who is challenged,” Volpi said. “This arrest has presented me with a lot of challenges.”
Wes Kirk also contributed to this report.