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More than 300 graduates of St. Petersburg College crossed the stage during the 125th Commencement Ceremony at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks Saturday, July 26.

A total of 1,121 students earned 1,257 degrees from SPC this term, just more than 9 percent earning multiple credentials. Graduates ranged in age from 17 to 72, with 14 graduates over the age of 60.

Bter0BHCAAE_ya9With this graduating class, the college has awarded 141,875 degrees since the college was founded in 1927, said President Bill Law.

“We thank our faculty, who are committed to teach, nurture and guide our students on a daily basis,” Law said. “They also contribute to the national reputation this college enjoys, so thank you to the faculty for investing in our students, for taking the time to lift them up and help ensure their success.”

To the graduates, Law said, “I hope you consider the role that SPC can have in your lives. I think it has been made clear today that SPC can put your dreams within reach. You have received the knowledge from some of the finest faculty. Now your challenge is to apply your wisdom, and with that, you will be a success.”

Graduate Crystal Hampton, who spoke for the four-year programs and earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration, implored her fellow graduates to “remember your past but live for the future.

“Think back to the challenges, the barriers and the adversity you have faced to get to this place. At the time they seemed insurmountable, but we learned something valuable along the way – Setbacks are just set ups for step ups,” said Hampton, becoming the first college graduate in her family.

Hampton, a nuclear medicine technologist at the Bay Pines VA, pursued a career in the health care field to honor her father, a veteran who died at the age of 53. Her respect for the military led her to the VA, where she hopes her degree will allow her to advance her career and continue helping others.

“We did not arrive here today by ourselves. We must remember the ones who supported us and helped us get here. I would not be standing here today without the support of my loving husband, my family, my friends and the faculty here at SPC,” Hampton said.

“Because of the love and support we have received, we also must remember to lend others a helping hand, to listen, and to support them, just like we have been supported.”

Btevge1CYAAwGFTTait Sorenson, who earned his associate of arts degree and spoke for the lower division programs, repeated the mantra that propelled him through school and other adventures, “Why not… Why not me?”

After working roughly 85 jobs in five states, and feeling rejected in all of them, Sorenson began asking himself why not.

“Things weren’t adding up, but deep down I continued to search for that missing something. I began to realize that I was limited, but as Michael Jordan said in his Hall-of-Fame induction speech, ‘limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.’”

Sorenson began with one class at SPC and soon found himself enrolling in Honors classes, joining student government, studying aboard in Costa Rica, becoming an officer in Phi Theta Kappa and interning at NASA.

“In the next two weeks I will have completed my NASA internship and will be making the transition to the University of Central Florida for Aerospace Engineering where I plan to work towards a Masters in Space Systems Design. And to think all of this because I had a chip on my shoulder and asked ‘why not me’?”

“I want to convey the very real implications of hard work and a genuine willingness to become involved in student group activities. No matter what direction you are headed, there will always be a plethora of ways to get plugged in. To me, this is the key value of networking and collaborating. Always remember that in order to get comfortable you must get uncomfortable. When an individual reaches out of their comfort zone is when new exciting doors of opportunity become visible and attainable. Looking back at my time at SPC, there is no way I could have envisioned my success without learning from others and always keeping an open-mind.”

See tweets about graduation at #SPCGrad, photos on the college’s Facebook page or watch the ceremony on the college’s YouTube channel.

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Share this moment with friends and family by using the #SPCGrad hashtag and any of our images for your social media accounts.

St. Petersburg College will mark its 125th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. About 350 of the 1,121 graduates are expected to participate.

“We congratulate the students – and their families – who have persevered to this graduation milestone. They always inspire us with their determination,” said President Bill Law.

SPC dates back to 1927 when it became Florida’s first two-year institution of higher learning. There were 48 members of the first graduating class in 1929.

Saturday’s ceremony is expected to last about an hour. Featured speakers include Crystal Hampton, representing four-year programs, and Tait Sorenson, representing lower division programs.

“I’m 35, but (my mom) still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker,” said Hampton, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration. Read her story here.

“The faculty and the advisors at SPC really encouraged me in finding the roadmap that would get me where I wanted to be,” said Sorenson, who will earn his A.A. degree from SPC and pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida in the fall. Read his story here.

Graduates and guests can check our instructions page for the big day. You can also follow social media posts and catch a live stream of the ceremony on our page dedicated to the ceremony.

Here are our summer graduates by the numbers:

Summer-2014-graduation-infographic[1]

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Tait Sorenson at his NASA internship

Tait Sorenson at his NASA internship

Waiting tables and bartending in St. Petersburg wasn’t cutting it for Tait Sorenson.

After graduating from high school in Montana, Sorenson made his way to Florida in 2008. What he found during the recession, however, was a very unstable living and future.

“During the recession, it was so hard to keep a job or get enough hours to live on,” said Sorenson, who will graduate from St. Petersburg College Saturday with his A.A. degree and will speak at commencement.

Sorenson took a cue from friends who were attending SPC and from his father and brother, both in engineering. This fall, Sorenson will pursue his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida.

“I figure it’s a little easier to stay employed as an engineer in a recession rather than sales or something. It’s a little more stable.”

In two weeks, Sorenson will complete a summer internship at NASA, where he has been assisting with the website. He plans to eventually pursue a master’s degree in Space Systems Design.

Sorenson started with only a couple classes at SPC in the fall of 2011 but soon found himself immersed in college life. While taking an Honors class, he was encouraged to become an officer for his Student Government Association. At an SGA event at the Downtown Campus, he signed up for a Study Aboard trip to Costa Rica, where he met some students in Phi Theta Kappa who encouraged him to join them.

“I learned from other students how to be successful, how to study and get good grades,” said Sorenson, who was named to the 2014 All-Florida Academic Team for his academic achievement, leadership and service to the community. “I encourage every student to get plugged in, to network and collaborate with others. A lot of students just came and go to class, and they never know what else is there for them.”

Sorenson also credits SPC’s faculty and advisors for getting him on the right path.

“They really guided and encouraged me in the whole process,” Sorenson said. “The advisors sat me down and really helped map out what it would take for me to receive a bachelor’s in aerospace. SPC really helped mold that roadmap for me.”

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Crystal Hampton

Crystal Hampton

When Crystal Hampton crosses the stage during SPC’s summer graduation on Saturday, it will be an achievement not just for her but also for her family.

With a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration in hand, Hampton will become the first college graduate in her family.

“I know they’re all very proud of me,” said the native of London, Ky. “My mom talks about being proud of me all the time. I’m 35, but she still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker.”

Prior to pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she completed an associate degree in nuclear medicine from Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, Ky., and worked for two years at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Hampton pursued a health care career because of her late father, Carl Cupp, a veteran who died of heart disease at age 53.

“Nuclear medicine is a field that involves cardiac imaging, among other things,” she said. “I thought maybe I could help keep another daughter from losing their father by working in this field.”

Hampton’s deep respect for the military and sacrifices made by U.S. military servicemen led her to pursue a career at the VA.

“My father was a veteran, but I also have the utmost respect and appreciation for all veterans,” Hampton said. “It’s nice to be able to give back and help serve those that so bravely served us.”

In addition to being a full-time student, Hampton also works full-time as the Lead Nuclear Medicine Technologist for the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

“Working full-time and going to school full-time was challenging, especially while trying to maintain my 4.0. GPA,” said Hampton, who has leaned upon the steadfast support of her husband, Troy Hampton, and the advice and guidance of her SPC advisor and professor, Floyd Butz. To fit in classes around her busy work schedule, she mainly took classes online.

She is considering going on to pursue a master’s degree in health care administration. Her ultimate goal is to continue working at the VA and to move up as a health care administrator or manager in radiology and to continue help saving lives and serving our nation’s heroes.

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St. Petersburg College graduate and blogger Maria Thurber now has another entry on her resume – embassy intern.

Maria, who writes the college’s “Ask Maria” blog, also is interning this summer in the Ambassador’s Office at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington, D.C. In one of her posts, she creditsembajada-630x210 social media for getting in touch with the embassy about a possible internship.

“I follow the ambassador and her office through Twitter and one day I tweeted to her office regarding possible internships opportunities. She responded back with the contact information to apply,” Maria wrote. “Through this experience I learned to never underestimate social media ever again and that opportunities can come in all formats.”

In May 2013, Maria graduated from SPC with an Associate of Arts degree. She received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which provides a full-ride, good-through-graduation scholarship to the student’s college of choice. She now attends Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She has been blogging for SPC, answering questions from potential and current students, since Fall 2013.

Read more about Maria’s internship and other posts on her Ask Maria blog.

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Officials from St. Petersburg College, LumaStream and the City of St. Petersburg recently celebrated the grand opening of LumaStream’s new high-tech manufacturing facility headquarters, where three SPC graduates are now working.

LumaStream, a low-voltage LED solutions provider, relocated from Canada last year to Midtown with the support of St. Pete’s Enterprise Zone initiative. The facility’s launch highlights a job training partnership between LumaStream, SPC and the Florida TRADE Consortium, a federal grant program that St. Petersburg College is spearheading to train workers in advanced manufacturing.

“Our definition of student success is that students finish what they start,” said SPC President Dr. Bill Law. “In working with LumaStream, we put together an idea of how we might do some workforce development differently: How we might start together and finish together at the same time; How our students could benefit by not just our instruction but by being part of the operation itself. And we sit here today with the first results. The students have made it to the finish line. We put the medal around their neck, we congratulate them, and we say ‘what’s next?’ ”

SPC graduates Frank Arent, Brandon Carver and Bryan Calhoun join SPC President

SPC graduates Frank Arent, Brandon Carver and Bryan Calhoun join SPC President Bill Law at LumaStream’s grand opening Friday, May 23.

After completing their 18-week computer numerical controlled (CNC) training, three SPC graduates were hired by LumaStream. For machinist assistant Bryan Calhoun, making the switch from dental technician to manufacturing was much easier with SPC’s training.

“I really had no experience working in manufacturing on this level,” said Calhoun, who worked as a dental technician for 25 years but had a hard time finding work the past three years. “For once, I’m not looking at other places for work. I’m happy, I’m satisfied, and I want to see where this is going.”

Law joined St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and LumaStream CEO Eric Higgs in cutting the ribbon for the new building at 2201 First Ave. S. LumaStream currently employs 25 people, but will likely need up to 200 over the next five years, as the business expands, Higgs said. The new facility will triple the production capacity of LumaStream, whose primary customer base includes restaurant and retail chains.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for students,” Higgs said. “They not only learn their specific job but how their job impacts the organization. The college has moved at an astounding pace to make this happen.”

LumaStream partners with SPC through Florida TRADE, which serves displaced, unemployed and incumbent workers, students and veterans. The grant program provides short-term, hands-on training for high-wage, high-demand jobs in today’s technology-driven manufacturing market. Trainees can receive national certifications, paid internships and job placement services in a relatively short amount of time: 18 weeks or less.

“We do not have to move at a snail’s pace,” Law said. “We can, in fact, meet the needs of business and industry on a timely basis, step-by-step every way.”

Another CNC training class begins at the end of July. Students can apply by contacting:

Jill Flansburg, Florida TRADE at SPC Program Coordinator
flansburg.jill@spcollege.edu
727-791-2508

This workforce product was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The product was created by the grantee and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The U.S. Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership. 

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Spenser ReedSt. Petersburg College alumnus Spenser Reed joins Class of 2014 Cornell University graduates on May 25 for the prestigious school’s commencement ceremony in Ithaca, NY. Reed completed a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Food Science and Nutritional Science, with a concentration in molecular nutrition.

A serious illness during high school did not keep him from pursuing his education. In fact, he spent most of his high school years in and out of hospitals, unable to go to school and compete in sports.

“Immense struggles with my health served to spur my passion for science and medicine and inspire me to pursue a career as a pediatric endocrinologist,” he said.

After graduating from high school, Spenser studied molecular biology and genetics at SPC, earning an A.A. Degree.

“Isaac Newton once said: ‘If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants,’” Reed said in a speech to the Florida Board of Education soon after graduation from SPC. “My faculty here are my true giants and SPC has provided a superb learning environment with which to realize my academic passions. As I look to the future I can say without a doubt that I am a more dedicated student, have a more inquisitive mind, and see my professional career more clearly because I am an SPC alum.”

After graduating from SPC, Reed transferred to Cornell where he dove into research and published three studies, two as first author. Before applying to medical schools, he plans to complete his research at Cornell and present at major conferences in San Diego, Brazil and Ethiopia.

“It has been so exciting to be involved in research at Cornell, especially in work that is so pertinent to public health and medicine,” said Reed. “I am working on a study now, in collaboration with Israeli scientists involving micronutrient deficiencies, which affect upwards of 4 billion people around the globe.”

Awards:

  • National Science Foundation Scholars
  • Hunter Rawlings III Presidential Research Scholar
  • SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence
  • President of the Honors College Consortium
  • All-USA Community College Academic Team
  • Florida Coca-Cola New Century Scholar
  • SPC Presidents Award winner

His struggles, his achievements and his life serve as an inspiration to other students facing obstacles to their education.

“Whatever your passions are – whatever makes you tick – continue to explore your interests and continue to investigate how you can you can use your aptitudes to impact our world.”

Related stories:

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spring 14 graduation

More than 1,200 graduates of St. Petersburg College crossed the stage during the 124th Commencement Ceremony at Tropicana Field Tuesday, May 13.

A total of 2,547 students earned 2,849 degrees from SPC this term, the highest ever for the college, President Bill Law told the crowd of well-wishers. Graduates ranged in age from 17 to 74, with 23 graduates over the age of 60.

With this graduating class, the college has awarded 140,618 degrees since the college was founded in 1927, Law added.

Before diplomas were handed out, the college named its Apollo and Alumni Achievement award winners.

Five outstanding SPC students were finalists for the annual Apollo Award, the highest honor a two-year graduate can achieve. Four students also were finalists for the annual Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor for a four-year SPC graduate.

Seminole Campus student Oldrin Bataku received the Apollo Award while Clearwater Campus student Eunmi Ko was named the Alumni Achievement Award winner.

“My experiences have had a profound effect and stimulated me in and out of the classroom,” said Oldrin, a math and science tutor and Honors College student. Oldrin attributed his achievement to his parents, who moved from Albania 18 years ago this month “with nothing but a clear vision in mind for a better future. Although at times it has seemed beyond our grasp, I owe any and all success to the hard-working immigrants who made this all possible. I love you mom and dad.”

He plans to attend a research university and pursue undergraduate science and mathematics research.

Originally from Korea, Eunmi Ko said she dealt with language and cultural barriers and family challenges by working harder.

“My situation has given me the chance to be independent,” said Eunmi, who graduated in December with her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education. “With the support of professors, staff and fellow students, I was empowered to achieve my goals.”

Eunmi also thanked her parents in Korean for helping her succeed. She plans to attend graduate school and teach high school mathematics.

Also honored at the ceremony were St. Petersburg Collegiate High School student Salina Som, who became the college’s second Gates Millennium Scholar in two years, following Maria Thurber’s award last year. Helen W. Gilbart was recognized as SPC’s Outstanding Alumnus.

See photos from the graduation on the college’s Facebook page and Facebook posts and tweets at #spcgrad. Or watch the ceremony on the college’s YouTube channel.

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About 1,200 St. Petersburg College students are expected to participate in the college’s 124th commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 13, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at the 2014 Spring Graduation:

graduation-infographic1

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The Tampa Bay Times reported on SPC’s newest Gates scholar Salina Som, a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School.

Salina will graduate next week with her high school diploma and an associate of arts degree from SPC. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry from the University of Florida, followed by a doctorate in pharmaceutical engineering.

This is the second consecutive year that SPC has produced a Gates Millennium Scholar.

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