Archive for September, 2011

Expanding ‘Star Wars’ universe is author’s niche

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Sudanese leaders tour SPC campus

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Reef cleanup

From left: Mark Jenkins, Jason Newel, Britney Stover, Travis Teuber, Peter Mavronicolas and Monica Lara, Associate Professor of Natural Science. Lara gives instructions on how to check and put together sets of dive gear in preparation of the underwater reef cleanup.

Faculty and students from SPC’s Clearwater Campus helped clean up the Gulf on Saturday, Sept. 24. The event, organized by the campus’ Science Adventurers Club, is the first for the newly formed organization. Twenty students signed up to pick up debris from Clearwater Beach at Rockaway Street.

See Bay News 9’s coverage of the event.

This effort is in conjunction with an underwater cleanup happening off Clearwater Beach. The organizing non-profit group, Reef Monitoring, was started by Heyward Mathews, Instructor of oceanography at the Clearwater Campus. As of Sept. 20, 175 divers signed up to participate.

“All sorts of divers signed up through the cleanup website for Reef Monitoring,” Monica Lara, Associate Professor of Natural Science, said. “It’s open to the general public. We also have a bunch of teams competing; the Sherriff’s Office dive team is going out with their boat, and USF is going out with their boat.”

Trash on the beaches and reefs is not only an eyesore but also an entanglement threat to wildlife such as birds, fish, marine turtles and dolphins.

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TIm North

Tim North

Gov. Rick Scott named an educator and a businessman to the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees Friday, Sept. 23, 2011.

Tim North, owner, CEO and president of AmeriLife with 24 years of experience in the health and life insurance industry, will replace Evelyn Bilirakis who became a board member in 1999. Previously, North served as a board member and past chair of the finance committee for the Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA). He received his bachelor’s degree from University of the South. His term ends May 31, 2015.

Robert Fine

Robert Fine

Capt. Robert J. Fine, headmaster at Admiral Farragut Academy since 1998, replaces W. Richard Johnston who began serving in 1999 after earlier spending 11 years (1969-80) on the board. Fine has been a member of the Florida Council of Independent Schools since 1989 and served on the board of directors from 2005 to 2009. He is currently a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools and National Association of Independent Schools and is past president of the Bay Area Association of Independent Schools. Fine received his bachelor’s degree from Carroll University and master’s degree from National Louis University. His term ends May 31, 2014.

“While we enthusiastically welcome our new members, it is sad to see two members who have meant so much to the college depart,” President Bill Law said. “Both Dick and Evelyn have been of exceptional value in the transition over the last 18 months. They will certainly be missed, but at the same time Capt. Fine and Mr. North bring new experience that will be of value to the college as we meet our community’s needs.”

Board Vice Chairman Deveron Gibbons and Ken Burke were reappointed to new terms. Gibbons has been extended until May 31, 2014 and Burke until May 31, 2015.

Chairman Terry Brett’s term expires May 31, 2013.

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Scott appoints 4 to SPC board of trustees

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College student abandons partying, takes refuge in powerlifting

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Universities, Colleges Crying for Classroom Space

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SPC, St. Pete may partner to expand Midtown campus

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Jason Strickland

Jason Strickland

Many have heard the analogy that life is like a card game: how well things end depend on what we do with the hand we’ve been dealt. This is Jason Allen Robert Strickland’s analogy for life.

Strickland, 26, a St. Petersburg College student, has been dealt several tough hands that could have left him bitter and angry, from the tough circumstances of personal family tragedies to the life-altering motorcycle accident on Oct. 14, 2005.

While returning from classes at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, where he studied business, Strickland was cut off by another driver, causing his motorcycle to swerve and hit a tree. The accident left him paralyzed with a complete spinal cord injury, the same injury suffered by actor Christopher Reeves.

Strickland, who lives in Seminole with an aunt he calls mom, Sarah Thompson, was told by doctors that due to the location of his injury, he would be unable to move from the neck down and would require a breathing machine for the rest of his life. Doctors also suggested the family consider a nursing home for Strickland.

“I’m very grateful my family never considered this option,” said Strickland, who, after three months in ICU and six months of physical therapy, went home in a wheelchair without a respirator.

“I am a very stubborn person, you tell me that I’m not going to be able to do something then most likely I’m going to think of a way to make it possible,” he said.

After many surgeries and countless hours of therapy, Strickland said he realized that he needed to focus on other things and decided to return to his studies at SPC, first online, and now six hours in a classroom at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, where he initially enrolled to meet new people. Strickland has since changed his major and is working toward his associate degree to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.

“The limitations presented by my injury don’t keep me from remaining active and preparing for my future,” he said. “I realized that I will need to be able to provide for myself someday, so I started taking courses at SPC. I will attend USF for my last two years.”

Strickland continues to overcome. Today, his mobility has improved so much that his diagnosis has been changed from a ‘complete’ to an ‘incomplete’ spinal cord injury with the possibility of further progression. Strickland has remained committed to his weekly water therapy and in-home physical therapy sessions and now is able to stand with little or no assistance. It’s a tremendous achievement that not only makes his mother proud, but also brings tears to her eyes.

“People give up too easily if something is hard, anybody can give up,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has an excuse when it comes to anything. I feel if you set your mind, amazing things can happen and you can accomplish anything. You may not always get the best hand in life, but you make the best out of that hand because you never know what’s going to be next. You improvise and overcome.”

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Daniel Wallace

Daniel Wallace

Embrace your inner geek and come to hear Daniel Wallace, internationally renowned comic book expert and sci-fi genius, and self-proclaimed life-long geek, who will speak at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus on Sept. 23 at 11 a.m.

Wallace, who works as Associate Media Director, Digital DNA at Haworth Marketing + Media, in Minneapolis, graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in advertising. He has authored and co-authored more than two dozen books, including “The Art of Superman Returns,” “The DC Comics Chronicle,” “The Marvel Encyclopedia” and the New York Times bestseller “Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters.”

“I’ve been writing for 15 years or so, doing a lot of freelance and a lot of publishing sci-fi things and comics-related projects,” said Wallace, who had been working in the automobile industry advertising when he began writing.

He partly attributes his successful start to luck and good timing.

“I had some contacts at Lucasfilm” Wallace said about the film company that produced Star Wars. “As a fan – not as a paid writer – I created a guide for other fans about Star Wars planets and somebody at Lucasfilm had seen it and said, ‘Wow, this is really detailed and comprehensive, and a lot of research has gone into this’.”

“I wanted to audition to create a licensed book that was gonna be about planets, and I ended up getting that,” he said. “It’s also just a coincidence that the people at Lucasfilm were really looking for a researcher and writer to tackle this particular topic and it was something I’d already done a lot of groundwork on.”

Wallace, who connected with his fan side through the Internet in the mid-90s, posted the guide on America Online’s file libraries. He thinks this helped make him more visible. “Not everyone was using the Internet, and so it’s kind of a sense of uniqueness that you could get discovered that way,” he said.

In the years since, he has expanded his writing to include a greater breadth of topics.

“I’ve done a lot of things, even on the basic level, like magazine work or longer work such as making an encyclopedia and things like that,” Wallace said. “Now, I do a lot of researching and writing within popular entertainment. That would be things like ‘Star Wars,’ DC Comics and Marvel Comics; TV shows like ‘Smallville’ and ‘Supernatural,’ and ‘Indiana Jones’.”

When he visits the college on Sept. 23, he will speak to students, staff and the community about his writing and creative processes, share behind-the-scenes stories about Star Wars and his visit to Skywalker Ranch – Lucasfilm headquarters – and host trivia games with giveaways.

The event is funded by the Friends of the West Community Library at SPC and will be in the campus Music Center. Oh, and don’t forget your Jedi costume.

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