Archive for the ‘graduates’ Category

The St. Petersburg College Alumni Association annually presents this award to honor alumni who, through their accomplishments, have made meaningful contributions to their professions and their communities. They are persons who exemplify how best to use and develop the education they gained at SPC and who, as a result, are outstanding representatives among our alumni.

Helen GilbartHelen W. Gilbart

St. Petersburg College as we know it today would look much different if it were not for this year’s Outstanding Alumna. Helen W. Gilbart graduated from St. Petersburg Junior College in 1964 with her Associate in Arts degree and returned to the school just five years later after completing a bachelor’s degree in English, Speech, and Journalism. Helen started out as a faculty member at the Clearwater Campus where she later became the program director for Humanities, Fine Arts and Communications.

A true example of a life-long educator and advocate of student success, Helen has published several student reading skills and test preparatory manuals throughout her career. She was one of the founding members of Women on the Way resource and support center, and along with her late husband Donald, was one of the early members of the St. Petersburg College Foundation’s Legacy Society. Helen continues to provide scholarship support for St. Petersburg College students through the Donald and Helen Gilbart Scholarship Fund, which recognizes outstanding students in the fields of Education, Social Service, Mental and/or Physical Health.

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Salina Som, a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar for the Class of 2014. More than 52,000 students applied for this honor which distinguishes her as a Leader for America’s Future™.

Aimed at helping minority students with financial needs for college funding, the Gates Millennium Scholarship program also provides academic support, leadership training and professional development for the 1,000 students chosen nationwide each year.

Salina’s strong leadership, community service and academic achievements contributed to her selection.

As a Gates Millennium Scholar, Salina will receive a scholarship to attend any accredited college or university in the United States. The renewable scholarship initially funds undergraduate studies, and can also fund Salina’s education through the master’s and doctoral levels.

This is the second consecutive year that St. Petersburg College has produced a Gates Millennium Scholar. Maria Thurber won the award last year and is now a student at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., studying international relations.

Salina plans to pursue a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Florida followed by a doctorate in Pharmaceutical Engineering. She discovered her passion for the lab in a Organic Chemistry class at St. Petersburg College’s Collegiate High School.

“One of the last labs was a multi-synthisis lab for Acetanilide, which is aspirin,” she said. “On the last day of the lab I just put the flask down and the crystals started forming from the solution. It was really big crystals because it was pure. I was so excited. It was the first real drug I synthsized.”

Exposure to college science labs and a research paper on the Evolution of Drug Discovery also fueled her passion for medicine.

Born in Cambodia, her family moved to Boston when she was 3 months old and then to St. Petersburg when she was in first grade. Her father, Savonn Som, just celebrated 10 years on the custodial staff at St. Petersburg College. Her father is still trying to take it all in.


Savonn Som and his daughter, Salina

“I can’t tell you because it is too much,” he said. “My whole life I never thought about something like this.”

After escaping from Cambodia and then to Thailand and eventually America, he never even dreamed of things like having a car or getting an education. He gives his daughter all the credit.

“I just worked hard to put her in school,” he said.

Salina came to SPC as a high school sophomore from St. Petersburg High School’s pre IB program.

“It was a great program but just not a good fit for me,” she said. “Here I found more hands-on learning. The teachers gave me more attention when I needed help. It was less competitive and more collaborative.”

“I am so proud of Salina,” said SPCHS Principal Starla Metz. “She is a humble and hardworking student who is most deserving of this honor.”


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GradSt. Petersburg College’s 124th graduation ceremony is at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 13, at Tropicana Field. About 1,200 graduates are expected to participate.

The ceremony will last about two hours. Winners of this year’s Apollo Award and Alumni Achievement Award will address their fellow graduates and guests.

Graduates will enter the stadium between 9 and 9:15 a.m. through Lower Gate 6 and proceed down the corridor to the field where marshals will assist in seating them.

Faculty and staff will be able to park free in Lot 1 by showing parking attendants their college ID badge. Full-time faculty members participating in the processional should arrive by 9:15 a.m. and enter the stadium through Gate 3A. Be sure to bring or wear your academic regalia. Others, including guests of graduates, will enter through Gates 3B and 5.

Platform guests, with academic regalia, will park in Lot 1 and enter the stadium through Gate 4.

Band members, marshals and volunteers will park in Lot 5 and enter the stadium through Lower Gate 6. They need to be in place by 8 a.m.

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In a roundup of graduation news, the Tampa Bay Times included information about St. Petersburg College’s upcoming spring ceremony.

The event will be held May 13 at Tropicana Field.

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St. Petersburg College graduate Melissa Dohme was recently profiled in a piece from ABC Action News where Bay area leaders, politicians and celebrities are asked 10 questions about themselves.

“Our person of the week is a young woman who is a domestic violence survivor. Melissa Dohme is also a voice for hope,” the article stated.

While attending SPC, Dohme was attacked by her ex-boyfriend. She recovered, went on to graduate with high honors and was one of the student speakers at the graduation ceremony.

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Fox 13 Tampa Bay aired a story about recent St. Petersburg College graduate Mirah Earle as part of its “What’s Right With Tampa Bay.”

Earle makes cards for sick children and sent 3,000 in the past year to everyone from elderly residents in nursing facilities to young cancer patients, according to the report. “Making a card for a child that’s in a hospital can just make the world a better place, and it doesn’t take a lot of money,” Earle said in the report.

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St. Petersburg College’s summer graduation is at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 20 at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo. About 300 graduates will participate. Student speakers will be Lisa Stevens, Tarpon Springs Campus, representing the A.A./A.S. graduates, and Christopher Blaine, Seminole Campus, representing the baccalaureate graduates. Blaine will be receiving his B.S. degree in Public Policy and Administration.

Faculty and platform guests who have signed up to participate in the processional should arrive at the church Fellowship Center by 9:15 a.m. in full academic regalia. Graduates with honors cords should arrive by 9 a.m. All other graduates should arrive by 9:15 a.m. The ceremony should last less than two hours.

Have a graduation story to share? Post your pictures and graduation information on St. Petersburg College’s Facebook page or tweet it using #spcgrad. We’ll include your submissions in the college’s coverage of the ceremony.

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Gov. Rick Scott wants to put Florida graduates to work. To help with his Hire Florida Grads initiative, Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance, WorkNet Pinellas and St. Petersburg College are teaming up to host a special event to assist recent graduates with their professional job search.

Attendees can find help with:

  • Job Search Techniques
  • What Employers Look For
  • Resume Writing
  • Interview Skills
  • Professional Networking Groups
  • TBWA & WorkNet Services

10 a.m. – noon
Tuesday, July 9
13805 58th St. N.
Clearwater, FL 33760

Business causal attire

To attend:

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Maria Thurber

A week ago, Maria Daniela Thurber, wasn’t sure she would be able to continue her education after her May 4 graduation from St. Petersburg College. Even with a 3.97 grade point average and a long list of honors, the reality of the cost of a university education was beginning to sink in.

“Education is so expensive,” said Thurber, who’d been dually enrolled at SPC while completing high school. “I had to sit myself down and say ‘you may not be able to do this right now.’”

A few days later, she got a package in the mail. She only got as far as the word congratulations before she knew her dreams had come true. The letter stated that she had received the coveted Gates Millennium Scholarship, giving her a full-ride, good-through-graduation scholarship at the college of her choice.

“I just started jumping up and down and crying,” said Thurber. “My mom and dad were there with me. My mom’s prayers have been answered. She has been praying so much because we can’t afford it. She is over the moon with this.”

Aimed at helping minority students with financial needs for college funding, the program also provides academic support, leadership training and professional development for the 1,000 students chosen nationwide each year.

“This scholarship will pay for her education costs through PhD studies,” said SPC President Bill Law. “In my 25 years of experience as a president, I’ve never encountered such a bountiful award.”

While initially funding undergraduate studies, the renewable program also provides graduate school funding for scholars like Thurber to pursue advanced degrees in fields like education.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program is one of 400 scholarships administered by the United Negro College Fund. UNCF partners with the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund to select and provide service to Gates Millennium Scholars.

This fall, Thurber, 17, and her parents will move to Washington, D.C. where she will attend Catholic University of America to pursue dual bachelors’ degrees in education and political science with international relations. She also plans to pursue a PhD.

“International diplomacy has always been a passion of mine,” said Thurber. “Working for the Department of Education is my dream.”

A St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus student, Thurber graduates from SPC May 4 with an Associate in Arts degree where she will also be honored as a finalist for this year’s Apollo Award. Earlier this year, she was named a 2013 Coca-Cola New Century Bronze Scholar and received a $1,000 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

While studying at St. Petersburg College, Thurber served as:

  • Student Coordinator and presenter at the Honors College annual research conference
  • Vice President of Leadership for Phi Theta Kappa
  • Member of Student Government
  • Member of the Hispanic Leadership Council
  • Member of SPC’s Model United Nations Team

“I’ve been very involved at SPC,” said Thurber. “It has given me the perspective that I can do this – I can achieve my dreams and succeed.”

One of her proudest accomplishments this year was the development of the Gabe Cazares Scholarship, named after Clearwater’s first Hispanic mayor.

“I never thought I could do something like that,” she said. “I live in a community with a large Hispanic population and I brought my concerns to SPC. They gave me their feedback and now we have a $20,000 endowment.”

A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador, Thurber moved with her family to St. Petersburg at age 9.

“My motivation for trying my hardest to do well in school is my dad,” said Thurber. Her U.S. Air Force veteran father did not graduate from high school and later obtained his GED. “My parents really are my inspiration, and I want to be one of the first in my family to obtain a higher education.”

While Thurber has been a shining star at SPC, her path has not been without challenges. A few years ago, she began to have back problems that required intense physical therapy. Her mom drove her to school and back every day because riding the bus was too difficult.

“We have all had to make a lot of sacrifices so I could continue to go to SPC,” she said. “It has been a real family effort with my education for the past two years.”

In addition to being fluent in Spanish and English, Thurber studied French at SPC and volunteered as a peer tutor in the Learning Support Commons on her campus.

“I have received so much from SPC that I just want to keep giving back,” she said. “I feel like it is my duty.”

Long after all the service learning projects and volunteer hours were completed — Thurber keeps on giving. She continues to work at the Ronald McDonald House where she has cleaned rooms for the families of critically ill children for the past two years. She plans to spend her summer volunteering on campus at the library and training next year’s Phi Theta Kappa and Student Government leaders.

“I spend more hours at SPC every day than I do at home,” she said jokingly. “I’ll just keep volunteering if they let me.”

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SPC Fall 2012 graduation ceremonies

The student speakers at SPC’s 120th Commencement ceremonies spoke about dreams, aspirations and hope. Their words earned cheers and, in one case, a standing ovation.

About 600 students walked out of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks with diplomas on Saturday, Dec. 15.


Melissa Dohme

Among them was Melissa Dohme, the survivor of a brutal domestic violence attack earlier this year. Dohme earned an associate degree and graduated with high honors. She didn’t talk in detail about what had happened to her. Instead she focused on her recovery, being named Clearwater campus’ student of year and the future.

Dohme told the audience that she went from learning how to walk again to being able to walk across the stage at the ceremony. She did it in high heels and without a cane. The crowd responded by getting to their feet and applauding.

It is these moments that define who we are and what we can become, Sam Frontera told his fellow graduates during the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. He received a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management. During the afternoon ceremony, Health Services Administration graduate Patricia Colin and Ryan DeJesus, who earned an associate degree, addressed the crowd. “It is never too late to reinvent yourself,” Colin said. “Aspire to leave your own legacy. Don’t strive to be the next Steve Jobs. Be the next you,” DeJesus said.

SPC President Bill Law congratulated the graduates and their families during the commencement ceremonies. But, before the diplomas were handed out, he talked about the shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Conn. Twenty-six people were killed including 20 children.

“These are all of our children,” Law said. “We should all hug each other a little tighter today.”

Area news agencies were at the morning commencement ceremony and reported on Dohme’s graduation including Bay News 9, the Tampa Bay Times, ABC Action News and 10 News – WTSP.com.

Watch the morning and afternoon graduation ceremonies on the college’s YouTube channel or see photos on SPC’s Facebook page.

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