Archive for the ‘Clearwater’ Category

More than 200 students celebrated Women’s History Month with a community fair at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus on Wednesday, March 26.

Thirty-five vendors and community organizations were on hand to share information and resources, some of which included Project Grace, Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Florida Small Business Development. The event was sponsored by SPC Career Services and Women on the Way.

See more photos on the college’s Facebook page.

Women's History Month celebration at the Clearwater Campus

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Students fish seining (netting) and going through their catch at Howard Park.

Students fish seining (netting) and going through their catch at Howard Park.

From cave rappelling to fossil gazing, the Science Adventurer’s Club at St. Petersburg College makes experiential learning fun and interactive for all students.

The Science Adventurer’s Club is one of three student science clubs at the Clearwater Campus. In this environment, students who are interested in natural sciences can participate in research projects, field trips, lectures and community service activities. They do not have to be science majors to participate—all that is required is a passion for learning an interest in all things science.

The club got its start about three years ago when students were dissatisfied that there wasn’t an extracurricular opportunity for students to enjoy science together in a social environment.

“On several occasions, students in my science classes made comments about how they wished there was some place they could hang out and speak with other students about science,” said Monica Lara, Instructor of Natural Science at the Clearwater Campus. She is one of the club’s four faculty advisors, along with Clearwater Campus instructors Carl Opper, Erin Goergen and Mike Stumpe.

Science clubs at SPC include:

  • Environmental Consulting Society – SPC Downtown
  • Environmental Science Club – Seminole Campus
  • Sustainability Club – Tarpon Springs Campus
  • Science Adventurer’s Club – Clearwater Campus
  • Undergraduate Science Research Society – Clearwater Campus
  • Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society – Clearwater Campus

Lara’s teaching assistant, Michael Goltz, who often was present when these conversations took place, asked whether she would be willing to serve as a club advisor if students started a new club. Goltz, who ended up serving as the club’s first president, has remained connected to the club even though he is now a student at the University of South Florida.

“I agreed to it because I thought it would be a lot of fun and that there had been a lot of people hinting that it was something they would be interested in,” Lara said. “It supplements a lot of what we discuss in class and helps it make more sense.”

Lara said the club also fosters a collaborative culture among the students. In this environment, students primarily learn from each other. As they share their experiences, they teach one another best practices on how to go about taking on various tasks and projects.

“We do have some fun, adventurous trips, but the main focus is that students have to do the science,” she said. Through the club’s many field trips, including rappelling into the Dames Caves in Citrus County, students learn about geology, sea level rises and drops, ecology and conservation.

In addition to field trips, students also participate in volunteer projects such as science fairs, beach and reef cleanups, and Marine Science Day at the University of South Florida. These opportunities and experiences allow students to network with professionals in the field and prepare them for the workforce or graduate level work.

Students also benefit from the club’s partnership with Lara’s out-of-class research group and Reef Monitoring, a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization that she helped establish with SPC instructor Heyward Mathews in 2005.

“I enjoy getting that experience as it is helpful in preparing me for a potential career in science,” said Shannon Senokosoff, 29, a biology major and vice president of the Natural Science Adventurer’s Club. Since graduating with a degree in art from the University of South Florida, he was not satisfied working as a motion graphics designer and decided to go back to school and pursue his passion for biology at SPC.

Students in the Science Adventurer’s Club go rappelling during a field trip to the Dames Caves.

Students in the Science Adventurer’s Club go rappelling during a field trip to the Dames Caves.

“Getting out there, getting involved in the community through volunteer work and conservation, it puts you in a position where you’re interacting with people that might have positions in different organizations like the Florida Wildlife Commission,” Senokosoff said. “It helps build those connections.”

Lara said the hands-on experiential learning serves as a way to get students to understand what science is really about by doing it and not just hearing about it in a classroom.

“Getting those kinds of experiences – that experiential learning – really sticks with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.


Want to learn more?

The Science Adventurer’s Club meets every other Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the marine biology lab (NM 161) at the Clearwater Campus.

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Those who have questions about the Affordable Care Act or who need help enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace can get assistance in English and Spanish from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  on Friday, March 21, on the Clearwater Campus of St. Petersburg College.

The deadline for enrollment is March 31.

Throughout the event, trained and licensed Marketplace navigators and application counselors will be on-site to educate and help consumers through the application, plan selection and enrollment process.

The navigators and counselors will provide both general information and one-on-one assistance to consumers who may have specific situations or need help troubleshooting Marketplace applications.

The one-on-one sessions will take place in designated private areas.

Consumers are encouraged to make appointments for the event, but walk-in traffic is welcome.

Spanish-speaking assisters, as well as Marketplace literature and information (in English/Spanish), will be available.

The campus is at 2465 Drew St., Clearwater. The event will be on the second floor of the Ethics and Social Sciences (ES) building on the south side of the campus. Nearby parking is available.

Consumers should be prepared to enroll at the event with these documents and information:

  • Social Security Numbers & Immigration Documents (if applicable) for the household
  • Employer and income information for every member of the household (will be expected to provide a 2014 income projection)
  • Health insurance policy information if currently insured.
  • E-mail address (with username/password) for Marketplace account creation. Consumers can also create an e-mail address during the event with help from the assisters.

To make an appointment:

Call the Cognosante Tampa Bay Marketplace Office:

  • English: 813-281-4833
  • Spanish: 813-281-4683

Or email Cristian Ariza, cristian.ariza@cognosante.com or Cindy Conforti, cynthia.conforti@cognosante.com.

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act or the Insurance Marketplace:



Marketplace Hotline: 1-800-318-2596

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State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater announced Wednesday at a press conference at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater Campus that he will sponsor a bill in the Florida Senate that would clear the way for the children of undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition in Florida.

State Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater joined Latvala in support.


Latvala said he “decided in good conscience that there’s no reason the parents’ immigration status should be the determining factor of the tuition that our young people pay. Taxpayers in Florida get a reduced tuition rate….In this particular case, these children are the children of taxpayers in Florida who pay our sales tax, who pay our gas taxes, in many cases pay other taxes.

“I just think this is a disparity and a discriminatory issue that needs to go away,” he said.

The bill also includes language that would allow honorably discharged veterans to pay in-state tuition.

The legislators were joined for the announcement by SPC President Bill Law; Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe; Sandra Lyth, CEO of the InterCultural Advocacy Institute (Hispanic Outreach Center); Maria Edmonds, chairwoman of the Juvenile Welfare Board; and three SPC students.

Celeste Pioquinto, 17, who is an Early College student at the college, said she was born and raised in Clearwater, has attended Pinellas schools all her life and has always been on the honor roll.

“Ever since elementary school, I have dreamed about college or university. Now instead of dreaming it, I am preparing for it. I have applied to universities. I have applied for scholarships, but there is a barrier. I am not eligible for in-state tuition despite being documented because my parents are both undocumented,” she said. “This bill not only affects me, but affects many of my close relations.”

See more: Watch the video on the college’s YouTube channel.

See more: View photos from the conference on SPC’s Facebook page.

Read more: Coverage in the Tampa Tribune

Read more: Coverage in the Tampa Bay Times

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Dr. Shannon McQuaig works with bacteria samples

Dr. Shannon McQuaig works with some of the samples of bacteria.

In yellows, oranges and reds, the bacteria’s colors display as living art.

A curiosity about why some of those bacteria almost glow with color has led to an integration of science and art in St. Petersburg College labs.

It started when Shannon McQuaig, Associate Professor of Natural Science, was working in a microbiology teaching lab at the SPC Clearwater Campus. She noticed one of the agar petri dishes was contaminated with unknown bacteria. But what stood out as unusual about the contamination was that it was the bright color.

“When I took a closer look, the contaminating bacteria had a bright yellow color,” McQuaig said. Intrigued, she set it aside for further study. She noticed a similar contamination on another petri dish on another day, only that time it was bright orange.

With her curiosity in full swing, McQuaig did some research and discovered a variety of bacteria that produce certain pigments.

The colors of the bacteria depend on many factors including nutrients, light and temperature. In some cases, those pigments may be extracted and then used to write, draw or paint. Some bacteria even release compounds that glow under ultraviolet light when the microorganisms become stressed.

“I thought, ‘those are really pretty. I have some time – I’m just going to streak these out and let them grow,’” said McQuaig, who is working to sequence the DNA of the bacteria to identify it. “So that’s basically what started it. I got really interested in looking for the rainbow of colors.”

This project led her to apply for her third SPC Foundation Innovation Grant for an interdisciplinary project called Creative Integration of Art and Science. She shares this grant with three other science instructors at the Clearwater Campus who are implementing science projects to encourage students to explore the ways science and art intersect, as well as develop critical thinking skills and exercise creativity.

Some of the bacteria samples for the project.

Some of the bacteria samples for the project.

With a portion of the funding from the $3,477.80 combined innovation grant, McQuaig plans to host a mini workshop for a limited number of students. They will study and grow microbes in the lab from the soil and water samples they collect out in the field.

“From there, we’ll isolate the bacteria or fungus and try to extract pigments, after which I’ll host a ‘painting party’ with the microbe-derived pigments,” she said. Students with microbiology experience will sequence the DNA of the bacteria or fungus to identify it. They also will be able to create “living art” by inoculating agar petri plates with a variety of pigmented microbes.

Her goal is to display the art in a combined art exhibition in January, which will allow students from all the innovation grant’s projects to showcase their work.

“Art and science are very closely related, and so the pigmented bacteria allow us to reach broader populations of people,” said Courtney Cain, a bachelor’s degree biology student at the Clearwater Campus.

Cain was working on an independent project that involves swabbing casino slot machines buttons for bacteria. She then uses DNA sequencing to classify and identify the bacteria on these frequently-touched surfaces.

Courtney Cain, a biology student at the Clearwater Campus, works with samples from her casino project.

Courtney Cain, a biology student at the Clearwater Campus, works with samples from her casino bacteria project.

When she heard about McQuaig’s project, she took a closer look at her own bacteria samples and realized that some contained similar pigmentations.

As someone with a penchant for art, Cain wants to combine her love for science and art to create some artwork for the upcoming art show.

Originally an art education major when she started attending the college in 2002, she had always enjoyed science but never felt encouraged to pursue her interest. Years later when she came back to SPC, Cain got into the science field due to the encouragement of several female SPC Natural Science instructors.

“I felt empowered by SPC’s female staff,” said Cain, who had taken an Intro to Chemistry class and fell in love with the process. “My teacher made it seem achievable to be a successful in science.”

According to the Association for Women in Science, women represent only 24 percent of the workforce in STEM fields. At SPC, the female to male instructor ratio skews higher. Of the 1,404 individual STEM courses taught in fall 2013, 649 were taught by the college’s 204 full-time and part-time female faculty members.

“Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Lara and Dr. McQuaig have been very influential on just pushing me to further my education, to do research and to get a more well-rounded education,” she said. “Their influence is one of the major reasons I’ve decided to stay for my baccalaureate degree at SPC. The fact that we have this kind of research available is so incredible and it’s just a huge opportunity.”

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ES buildingAt the Florida Education Facilities Planners’ Association (FEFPA) Winter Conference earlier this month, the Ethics & Social Science Building at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus won the First Place Award in the Architectural Showcase for the College Category.

In his letter of recommendation for the award, SPC President Bill Law said Harvard Jolly Architects exceeded expectations with a design that “allows for an ease of interaction between students and faculty outside of the classroom, resulting in truly meaningful collegiate experiences.”

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At the recent Honors College Conference, SPC students Gentian Kruja and Thong Van discuss how they engineered a fully functioning full scale rocket engine.

At the recent Honors College Research Conference, SPC students Gentian Kruja and Thong Van discuss how they engineered a fully functioning full scale rocket engine.

To stoke the curiosity of their fellow St. Petersburg College students about rocket science, Gentian Kruja and Thong Van decided to build one.

This summer, they hope to witness the static firing of their supersonic creation, which uses their own hybrid engine design. The rocket will not take flight but remain on the ground when it’s fired, a mighty accomplishment for the budding engineers.

“The idea started in the Engineering Club,” said Kruja, who graduates in May. “It snowballed from there and we got more ambitious.”

At the recent Honors College Research Conference held at SPC’s Collaborative Labs, Kruja and Van presented their project and what went into it. Turns out taking it to their engineering professor John Williams was their first obstacle.

“I was somewhat negative about it because of safety and legality,” said Williams, who has taught at SPC since 2001. “I tried to discourage them because I thought it was too dangerous. That kind of spurred them on to keep asking about it.”

Once cleared for, ahem, takeoff, the pair talked to everyone they could who knew about rocket science. They read extensively about the best propellants for their rocket, beginning with the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They also reviewed free graduate course materials on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Open Courseware website.

Usually a graduate level mission, Kruja and Van didn’t let that stop them.

“They called a lot of people who do this for a living,” Williams said. “They got a feel for what is possible, and what is doable, all spurred by their interest in rocket design.”

The pair quickly became experts and were completely at ease taking their Honors Conference audience through the basics of how they designed their hybrid engine rocket. The conference gave them an opportunity and a sense of urgency to organize their thoughts and experiences.

Their rocket will use a combination of a solid fuel (acrylic) and nitrous oxide. Working with an engineering firm in Miami, they are in the final stages of the 8-inch diameter prototype.

“They’re helping us, making sure our design will work,” Kruja said. “And making sure as little as possible can go wrong.”

As Van put it: “There’s a lot more that can go wrong than right.”

With an estimated price tag of $10,000 to $15,000, the pair is still looking for sponsors and funding. Several local machine shops will donate time in their shops, which will cut expenses.

“That’s the hard part, the money,” said Williams, who is hoping the project can land financial assistance from the SGA, the Florida Engineering Society or local aerospace and engineering firms to complete the mission.

SPC became an official chapter of the Florida Engineering Society in 2007 when students began spearheading efforts to install solar panels at the college. Members of the Florida Engineering Society SPC Student Chapter helped choose the best solar installation for the Clearwater Campus’ newest building, the Ethics and Social Sciences Building, which opened in spring, 2013.

SPC also became the first state college in Florida to be selected for Duke Energy Florida’s SunSense Schools Post Secondary School Award, which brings more solar panels to Clearwater and a set to the Seminole campus this year.

As for their rocket’s design, Kruja said it will cause “extreme thrust in the supersonic engine – about five times the speed of sound. It’s extremely cool.”

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All St. Petersburg College campuses will celebrate African-American History Month with events and awards ceremonies throughout February.


Angie Shaghaghi

Among the highlights will be an appearance by Tarpon Springs native Angie Shaghaghi, a successful entrepreneur who has appeared on a number of Food Network shows, including Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Hey, Can You Cook?

She will be the keynote speaker at the north county Mac J. Williams Excellence Awards at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Clearwater Campus Arts Auditorium. The Mac J. Williams awards honor outstanding high school students.

Shaghaghi runs a business called Creative Cooks, which teaches cooking classes to children in public/private after-school programs, community centers, nursing facilities and homes.

Other highlights include:

  • African-American History Month Quad Event, all day, Feb. 13, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus
  • Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy, 1 p.m. Feb. 13, Clearwater Campus
  • Munch & Learn: Race & Ethnicity: Perceptions, Prejudice 7 Power, 12:30 p.m., Feb. 18, Seminole Campus
  • Taste of Soul, noon, Feb. 19, Tarpon Springs Campus
  • The Rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King, 12:30 p.m., Feb. 19, Clearwater Campus
  • Poetry Slam, 5:30 p.m., Feb. 19, Clearwater Campus
  • South county Mac J. Williams Excellence Awards, 7 p.m., Feb. 24, Palladium
  • Soul Food Festival, noon, Feb. 25, SPC Midtown
  • Black Trivia Competition, 6 p.m. Feb. 25, Clearwater Campus
  • Soul Food Festival, noon and 4 p.m., Feb. 26, SPC Downtown

For complete listings, see www.spcollege.edu/aahm.

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The Imaginary InvalidGet ready to audition for St. Petersburg College’s spring theater production The Imaginary Invalid.

Written by Moliere and directed by Susan Demers, The Imaginary Invalid is about a hypochondriac who wants to marry his daughter off to a wealthy doctor to get himself the best health care he can. Throw in a greedy second wife, a romantic suitor and a sassy maid and you have an evening of laughter and fun for everyone.

Auditions will be held on Clearwater Campus:

  • Monday, Dec. 2, 4-7 p.m., SS 107
  • Tuesday, Dec. 3, 4-7 p.m., Arts Auditorium
  • Wednesday, Dec. 4, 4-7 p.m., callbacks

View printable version of audition flyer.

Performances will be April 2-6, 2014.

Visit www.spcollege.edu/theater for more information on The Imaginary Invalid and SPC’s Theater program.

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International student from Mali

Sane Haidara, an international student from Mali, was one of the panelists at the forum World Peace: Let It Begin With Me, sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions on Thursday.

In a world filled with war and violence, St. Petersburg College student Sane Haidara believes peace can only be achieved through education.

Sane, 23, an international student from Timbuktu, Mali, came to SPC in December 2012 to get a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration. He wants to take what he learns to help implement change in his homeland.

“With education, I can help people by working with different organizations and officials on making things better,” said Sane, who wants to serve as a human rights activist and help educate his fellow Malians about their rights. He hopes to one day work with the United Nations to help make a difference.

He said that ignorance of laws and human rights is one of the biggest issues Malians face.

“Even though we have democracy in Mali, people still don’t know what democracy really means,” he said. “My goal upon completing my education is to go back to Timbuktu and help improve educational opportunities and human rights—especially women’s rights—health, sanitation and malnutrition.”

In spring 2013, he began prerequisite courses at the Clearwater Campus. While he finds the classes exciting, they also are challenging. In Mali, education is very different; math is not required for all majors and students often are taught strictly to memorize rather than develop critical thinking skills.

In Timbuktu, poor families often do not send their children to school. Girls in particular are largely uneducated. His father graduated from middle school and completed a two-year training school to become a teacher. His mother was illiterate.

Despite the community sentiment, his father believed education was paramount and sent all of his seven children to school, including his daughters.

“He tried to speak up in the community, saying that everybody should send their girls to school,” Sane said. “Others responded that he was a poor man and asked why he would send all his children to school when they could work in the field and help earn money.

“My father said that he has lived in the darkness because he did not have much education. He was determined for his children to not know that darkness,” Sane said. This ideology is a driving force behind his desire to learn.

At age 9, he began delivering bread to the U.S. military before school to earn some money to help support his family and pay school supplies. After school, he often would help Mali tourists around the city because his home was located between two hotels.

“I would help the tourists around the city so I could practice more of my languages,” said Sane, whose native language is Songhai but also fluently speaks Tamasheq, Bambara, English and French, as well as limited Italian and German.

Helping the tourists also had another unexpected outcome. During their visit to Timbuktu, he met tourists Tony and Patti Leisner from Tarpon Springs. They corresponded with him throughout the years, sending him books and encouraging his education.

After high school, he studied literature for two years at the University of Bamako before putting his linguistic skills to use as an interpreter for the U.S. military.

“I realized this is a good way to start a business because there are not a lot of interpreter businesses in Mali,” said Sane. A few months later, he ended up with contracts with the U.S. and Canadian governments to provide interpreters for trainings.

While he was living and working in Bamako in early 2012, Islamic extremists and insurgents invaded northern Mali. They imposed their version of Sharia Law by first burning churches and attacking Christians and tourists. Women no longer were allowed to speak to men and were forced to wear burkas to cover their bodies.

“The people who resisted, who were activists and marched to protest it, got publicly beaten,” Sane said. “Some got their hands chopped off; some got stoned to death.”

He worried about the safety of his family and neighbors in Timbuktu, particularly due to his business affiliation with western military forces. He decided the only way to ensure their safety was to help facilitate their escape to Bamako, where they stayed for nine months before returning to Timbuktu.

When the U.S. forces began suspending aid in Mali, he lost his business contract and was uncertain what to do. That’s when the Leisners helped him to get a U.S. student visa so he could study Public Policy and Administration at St. Petersburg College. They invited him to stay at their Tarpon Springs home until he could get situated.

Now at SPC, Sane is using every available opportunity to learn and work toward his goal of future activism. He is gaining leadership experience as vice president of the International Club, a member of the Clearwater Campus Student Government Association and is part of the Model United Nations team.

He often thinks about when he said goodbye to his family and friends in Timbuktu before coming to the U.S. The people there said their hope was in him, that they know he will come back to help them.

With every class he takes, Sane is determined to not let them down.

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