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To honor Constitution Day and Citizenship Day Sept. 17, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will hold a naturalization ceremony for 100 new American citizens at St. Petersburg College, a first for the college.

The ceremony will be:
1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 17
Fine Arts Auditorium
Clearawater Campus
2465 Drew Street
Clearwater, FL 33765

The ceremony helps commemorate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, held every Sept. 17 to honor the signing of the U.S. Constitution. This year marks the 227th anniversary of the Constitution. Celebrations are usually held the entire week and this year, USCIS will welcome more than 27,000 new citizens during 160 naturalization ceremonies from Sept. 17 to Sept. 23.

“We are a community institution and we thought this would be a wonderful place to hold this event, to kick off Constitution Week,” said Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences at SPC. “The very essence of our society is based on the Constitution. It’s the most important document to any person becoming a citizen.”

Since January, SPC has worked with USCIS to host free workshops for those interested in becoming United States citizens. During these two-hour sessions, citizen candidates learn about U.S. history and government through conversations with SPC professors and student citizenship ambassadors. SPC students lead lessons plans provided by USCIS covering 100 questions that could be asked on the citizenship exam.

“Our students are meeting people from all over the world and seeing America through their eyes,” said Preston, who has helped spearhead the citizenship project. “It is a privilege for our students to be a part of this life-changing process.”

Through the workshops, students have an opportunity to give back to their community, a focus of ongoing efforts by the college and its Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions (ISPS) to strengthen civics education and engagement.

Last fall, the college and ISPS hosted a statewide forum for academic and administrative officers from the Florida College System (FCS) to find ways to close the civics education gap that many American leaders see as a national crisis. The forum was co-sponsored by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida, the Education Commission of the States and the FCS Council of Presidents.

During the naturalization ceremony, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich will administer the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens, which originate from 35 different countries, including: Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

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Ridgecrest Elementary

SPC psychology students are learning, experiencing and giving back all at the same time. Seminole Campus Psychology Professor Sharon Olsen, herself a former SPC student, is teaching her students outside the classroom to make a difference at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Largo.

While Professor Olsen’s out-of-class assignments are the perfect marriage of academics and civic engagement, they also ignite a passion in her students.

Academics

After piloting the program over the last year, students from her beginning and advanced psychology classes will spend a minimum of one hour a week this fall serving as mentors, tutors and role models at Ridgecrest. Some are returning to serve again.

Students in her General Psychology class will write a 2,000-word reflective response to their experience, integrating their understanding of psychological theory into their experiences. More advanced students in her Developmental Psychology of the Life Span class will develop an action plan for a project that students in Olsen’s future classes can facilitate.

Olsen’s students come from a wide variety of majors. Some plan to be teachers. Some are pursuing careers in medicine or counseling. So her assignments are structured with enough flexibility to respond to the natural interests of her students.

One of her advanced students, Honey Smith, plans to pursue a career in substance abuse counseling. After serving in the Coast Guard for six years, she is finishing up her last few months on inactive duty ready reserve and pursuing an A.A. degree at SPC. Last year she tutored high school students in an afterschool program, helping them prepare for the FCAT. Next week she starts as a mentor at Ridgecrest Elementary.

Honey Smith“I am excited to develop and submit an action plan to begin an anti-bullying program within Ridgecrest,” said Smith. “I look forward to continuing my volunteering long after my time with Dr. Olsen comes to an end. It is such a wonderful program that allows us to give back to our community.”

Smith has found a real connection between what she is learning about the developmental stages of life in Olsen’s class and her volunteer work with students.

“It has really helped me to be a better mentor to see and understand what they may be going through or what their struggles are.”

Last term, some of Olsen’s students researched the differences and similarities between students in Ridgecrest’s gifted program and general education mainstream classes.

“They are all learning that it is a bigger world than their current experiences,” said Olsen. “They are seeing cognitive and psychosocial development a real world setting. They are learning to recognize and respect social and cultural diversity. This experience is providing a real world framework for their understanding of the theories we discuss in the classroom.”

Civic engagement

This week, Olsen met six of her students at the University of South Florida to experience a lecture by Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned scientist known for her research on chimpanzee behavior and environmental conservation. As a result of the experience, some of her students are exploring how they could introduce Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program as part of their action plan assignment with the students at Ridgecrest.

Olsen’s work at Ridgecrest was inspired by Dr. Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences, who encourages all his faculty to be involved in civic engagement.

“Sharon Olsen’s collaborative partnership with the Ridgecrest Elementary School 360 Project is one example of how faculty are working to take SPC students to a new level of civic engagement,” Smiley said. “We strongly believe it is very important for faculty and students to give back to the community and it is important for the success of SPC students.”

Civic engagement is also part of SPC’s Seminole Community Educational Ecosystem that exposes students in nearby elementary, middle and high schools to the Seminole Campus to stress the value of attaining a college degree.

“This program provides an invaluable service for Ridgecrest students and an invaluable educational experience for SPC students,” said Seminole Campus Provost James Olliver.

The work at Ridgecrest started originally as a part of the 360-degree outreach efforts of Pastor Richard Landon, Anona United Methodist Church, who has since expanded to other elementary and middle school campuses in the area “educational ecosystem.” Landon addressed SPC students at last week’s Working Wednesday event on Seminole Campus.

This year, the SPC students in Olsen’s class will be wearing SPC t shirts provided by student government funding as they volunteer at Ridgecrest, further solidifying their connection to SPC and helping the students to envision a future for themselves as college students.

“I feel like the partnership with SPC is a true win-win,” said Michael Moss, principal at Ridgecrest Elementary. “It is great for the students at Ridgecrest, having a large group of students visiting our school that serve as mentors, tutors and role models. It is really having a positive impact.”

As part of the Ridgecrest 360 program, SPC students visiting the school offer great support for Ridgecrest teachers and enriches their experience by exposing them to the interests of others.

“I also see how it benefits the students from SPC,” Moss said. “I feel like it cultivates a sense of civic mindedness and service learning for them.”

Next week Aimee Stubbs, Learning Specialist in Disability Resources at SPC, will meet with some of Olsen’s students outside of class to help them understand learning differences, what potential challenges they may face with students and strategies and resources that will make them more effective in their roles as mentors and tutors.

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Some of the SPC Advisory Committee participants during the luncheon at the EpiCenter on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

Some of the SPC Advisory Committee participants during the luncheon at the EpiCenter on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

Jon Petrelli, a SPC student in the Music Industry/Recording Arts program, speaks about his internship experiences in Nashville, Tenn.

Jon Petrelli, a SPC student in the Music Industry/Recording Arts program, speaks about his internship experiences in Nashville, Tenn.

MIRA student Jon Petrelli swears his SPC internship got him back on track.

“This internship has offered me a second chance at life,” said Petrelli, 44. “St. Petersburg College has offered me a second chance at life.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 10, Petrelli talked about his experience during a luncheon held for SPC Advisory Committee members. Each year, SPC hosts two days of Advisory Committee meetings to discuss industry needs, goals, and efforts that have been successful.

Petrelli, who is pursuing an Associate in Science in Music Industry/Recording Arts at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, interned at Cupit Music Studios in Nashville, Tenn.

“Trying to get yourself into the door of the music industry – I don’t care how good you are; it’s like trying to pull teeth,” he said.

He said the best advice he received was from one of his MIRA professors who told him to check his ego at the door and not go into the internship with the mentality of a singer or a songwriter but instead to simply listen, learn and grow.

“I don’t know how to thank him for that,” said Petrelli, who heeded the advice and introduced himself as a MIRA student intern from St. Petersburg College in Florida rather than promoting himself or his own CD. About 80 percent of the people he met ended up giving him their business cards.

SPC 's non-clinical internships

SPC ‘s non-clinical internships show a steady increase each year. The goal for the 2014-15 year is to increase to 1,000.

SPC clinical internships

SPC clinical internships listed by year.

“They were inviting me into their world,” Petrelli said. “It’s all about building trust. It’s about building relationships, and that translates across all the fields that you have.”

Petrelli said his efforts have resulted in two job offers and a third offer that’s in progress.

Between Sept. 9 and 10, more than 425 members attended Advisory Committee events, which featured SPC students and alumni whose lives were transformed through internships. In all, 525 community members represent about 350 companies on the college’s 39 Advisory Committees.

Jason Krupp, Director of Workforce Services at SPC, acknowledged the major role committee members play in the college’s efforts to help students become competitive players in today’s workforce.

“You play a critically important role in guiding our programs and curricula to ensure SPC students are gaining the knowledge, skills and workplace experiences needed to be competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce,” Krupp told the gathering.

For the 2014-15 academic year, SPC wants to offer 1,000 non-clinical workplace learning experiences to its students. Last year, SPC students completed a total of 781 non-clinical internships.

President Bill Law noted the college is changing its approach to workforce education, placing more emphasis on industry-recognized certifications. SPC’s goal is for every workforce area to include at least one industry certification within its degree or certificate program.

“Certifications are required to get jobs,” Law said, adding that it is important to know which certification of skills employers are looking for in job applicants. “If those are tied to our credit programs, I’m delighted. If they’re not tied to the credit programs, I’m even more delighted because that’s the space we have not paid any attention to previously.”

He said the support of advisory committee members is fundamental to the success of the college’s internship program.

“We have resources that we can bring to bear to continue to strengthen the work that you expect from students when they leave us,” Law said. “You don’t have to lower your expectations. Indeed, you can continue to raise your expectations in partnership with us.”

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Months of efforts to get students enrolled this fall at St. Petersburg College have paid off, as enrollment for the term is up 2.2 percent over Fall 2013. As of Monday, the first day of fall classes, 32,350 students were enrolled in 276,620 semester hours at SPC.

“We’re in good shape and I’m very glad to present these numbers because it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to report enrollment gains,” Patrick Rinard, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services, told SPC’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday. “A number of our sister institutions across the state are reporting enrollment declines” the first day of classes.

At SPC, First-Time-In-College student enrollment was up 8.8 percent, with even stronger gains among minority FTIC students. Enrollment among FTIC African-American students was up 19.7 percent while FTIC Hispanic student enrollment was up 18.3 percent.

Bachelor’s degree programs saw a 6.7 percent increase in students, continuing a trend of several years. Students seeking a bachelor’s degree now make up 12.7 percent of overall enrollment at SPC, up from 9.4 percent in Fall 2009. The top bachelor’s degree programs at SPC by enrollment and student hours are nursing, business administration and education.

“We’re really proud of the data,” said Tonjua Williams, Senior Vice President for Student Services. “This would not have happened without changing the way we did business. We had to undo some of our processes and remove some obstacles to enrolling.”

“As an institution, it’s easy to give yourself kudos, but it’s much harder to look at yourself and say maybe we need to change some processes,” said BOT member Lauralee Westine. “This came from all of you and we are thankful.”

Rather than attend a required orientation and get a student ID, new students at SPC now see an advisor when they register for classes to make sure they are on track. Previously, students were also required to take a career assessment, apply for financial aid, activate their SPC OneCard and get their textbooks before they could register.

Other strategies implemented by college staff to increase enrollment included:

  • Enhanced marketing and publications, particularly on social media
  • Stronger student communications that are more personal and timely
  • A weekly Fall 2014 enrollment webinar among staff so enrollment efforts could be better coordinated and communicated

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St. Petersburg College is partnering with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to provide free bus rides for SPC’s 45,000 students and 3,900 employees over the next year. The agreement, which was effective as classes began this week, will cost the college $75,000 this year, through student activity fees.

“I want to thank the board for looking out for the best interests of the students,” said Seminole Campus Student Government Association President Jonathan Jacques in a video message to SPC’s Board of Trustees Tuesday. “This addresses a concern students have had for years.”

In the past, bus service to the Seminole Campus was intermittent during the day and non-existent on evenings and weekends, making class attendance difficult for many students. Route 58, which serves the campus, now runs more frequently “so students can attend Seminole Campus events and classes at night,” Jacques said.

The Universal Pass, or UPASS, provides unlimited bus service for SPC students, who can ride free any time on all routes, including regular and express routes, shuttles and trolleys by using their student ID. All 3,898 college employees, full and part-time, faculty and staff also can ride any bus service for free by showing their ID.

SPC and PSTA will coordinate program promotion. PSTA will capture information on ridership, which set a record in June, as riders boarded PSTA vehicles nearly 1.2 million times, up 4.4% from June 2013. This continues a strong upward ridership trend for PSTA, which had a record year in 2013 with 14,459,180 riders.

About SPC: St. Petersburg College was Florida’s first two-year college (founded in 1927) as well as the state’s first community college to offer bachelor’s degrees (2002). Today, SPC is one of 28 state colleges and, with 11 learning sites, serves as a model for incorporating bachelor’s degree programs into traditional two-year institutions.

About PSTA: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is the public transit provider for Pinellas County, providing more than 14.4 million rides per year. PSTA operates nearly 40 bus and trolley routes with a fleet of 203 vehicles.

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Student success rates continue to climb at St. Petersburg College, particularly among First-Time-in-College minority students.

Since 2012, SPC has focused on improving student success rates, defined as earning a grade of A, B or C in a course. Rates for FTIC students taking summer classes have jumped 7.6 percent since 2012, a positive sign since, traditionally, these students have struggled academically and dropped their classes more often than other students.

Gains among FTIC African-American males were particularly strong, rising 23.3 percent since Summer 2012. FTIC Hispanic males saw gains of 17.5 percent.

“These results are a testament to all the hard work that has been put into improving ‘The College Experience’ for our students,” said Jesse Coraggio, Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Grants. “The term-to-term comparisons continue to show impressive course success gains for all students while at the same time narrowing the ‘achievement gap’.”

SPC launched The College Experience in Fall 2012 to keep the college focused on giving students the support they need to earn the degree or certificate that will change their lives. The College Experience includes five tools: out-of-class support, integrated career and academic advising, an online learning plan that specifies courses, new student orientation and early alerts, which identify struggling students early on so they stay enrolled in the courses.

Overall success rates among all students also improved, climbing 2.3 percent to 80.8 percent.

Registration at SPC continues for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 18.

 
summer-success14

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St. Petersburg College is partnering with Complete Florida, an online initiative designed to help adults, veterans and active duty military personnel finish their college degree. In Florida, about 2.2 million adults, or 20 percent of adults over 25, have earned some college credit but have not completed their degree.

9GODhDmj_400x400With the majority of future jobs in Florida expected to require training beyond high school, Complete Florida is focused on increasing the number of Floridians with a postsecondary credential. It is widely estimated that by 2018, nearly 60 percent of jobs in Florida will require postsecondary credentials beyond a high school diploma. Currently, 35 percent of the state’s adults have an associate degree or higher.

Created and funded by the Florida Legislature, the initiative is a joint effort between the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System to address the critical education gap while giving priority to veterans and active duty military.

“Complete Florida’s goal is to get adults back to school and help them meet their educational and professional goals through personalized coaching, concierge-based wraparound support systems and accelerated program completion,” said Pam Northrup, Executive Director of UWF’s Innovation Institute. “Ultimately, we want to connect graduates with job opportunities in Florida.”

Led by the University of West Florida’s Innovation Institute, Complete Florida offers 50 fully online, flexible and accelerated degree programs and certificates. All programs align with high-wage, high-skill workforce needs in the areas of information technology, health care, business, education and general studies. Currently, 11 state and private institutions in Florida are partnering in Complete Florida.

As part of Complete Florida, SPC received a $100,000 grant to help devise ways to incorporate prior-learning assessments, competency-based learning and advising into the delivery and support service model for students to succeed.

Coaching and extensive support systems are the backbones of the Complete Florida program. Personal coaches act as student advocates working to integrate students’ existing college credit and prior learning experiences into their program of study. Complete Florida’s personal learning coaches help students fit courses into busy schedules and align skills and interests to programs and jobs, putting them on a personalized path to a college degree.

For now, SPC offers the following programs through Complete Florida and plans to add more:

Scholarships and financial aid opportunities are available for qualified students. For additional information on Complete Florida, visit http://www.completeflorida.org.

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