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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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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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Geekness Day is July 13 and St. Petersburg College has shared posts from some of our resident geeks, as well as information about the work they’ve done for and at the college.

Chad Mairn – Information Services Librarian at St. Petersburg College

ChadMairn

Chad Mairn

I consider myself a geek primarily because when I find something that interests me I become passionate about it and, as a result, I want to learn as much as I can. I like to tinker and take things apart too. Many years ago, I built computers. In fact, I had 12 in my house! I used a few for music composition, some for gaming, and a few were used as firewalls and honeypots. I wanted to be a hacker  – the good kind, but I was never any good at it.  I did learn, however, to be careful when using a computer and/or a mobile device and to not give hackers an easily opened window into my digital world. Now, I am primarily interested in emerging STEM technologies that benefit people and “geek out” over these technologies often!

My proudest geek moment happened just a few weeks ago during our Innovation Lab’s [Makerspace @ SPC] grand opening. The Tampa Tribune wrote a nice piece on the lab.  I was able to share my passion for technology and also share the philosophy behind the lab, which essentially is to provide a space for people to be creative with technology and share ideas and projects.

As of right now, the Innovation Lab [Makerspace @ SPC] has the following things:

  • FreeFab3D Monolith 3D Printer built locally using other 3D printers
  • littleBits Synth Kit
  • Arduino Genuine Mega 2560 Circuit Board Experimentation Kit
  • LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0
  • Avid Fast Track Duo Audio Interface with Pro Tools Express
  • An iMac, 2 Linux computers, and 1 Windows computer
  • A variety of Open Source Software applications for 3D printing, design etc.
  • MaKey MaKey: Original Invention Kit
  • Cubelets KT06 Kit
  • ProtoSnap LilyPad Development Board
  • 2 CanaKit Raspberry Pi Ultimate Starter Kits
  • Apollo Precision Tools 53-Piece Tool Kit
  • Parallax Programmable Boe-Bot Robot Kit
  • Elenco Deluxe Learn To Solder Kit
  • Samsung 32-Inch 1080p LED HDTV with Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype Calls
  • Chromecast for multimedia streaming to the TV
  • Atari 1040 ST computer
  • Reference Collection including books and magazines

Tim Staney - Assistant Director of Interactive Marketing at St. Petersburg College

TimStaney1

Tim Staney

Hi. My name is Tim Staney, and I work as St. Petersburg College’s Assistant Director of Interactive Marketing. I’m a geek; I have to be. It’s my job. I don’t read binary well, but the Mashable! RSS feed is like TV for me. In my spare time, I like to program, design and tinker with code. I dream in hexadecimal colors and I think life should be as logical as jQuery. And sadly, yes, that really is my license plate.

1. What makes you a geek? I get excited, probably more than I should, by new technology and have always been an “early adopter.” I had one of the earliest digital cameras, the Sony Mavica that used 3.5 inch floppies for picture storage. Looking back I can imagine how “geeky” I looked with my camera and a box of floppies. Today I just pine away for the latest Apple device or a new iOS beta – and dream about shaving a few microseconds off the load time of the SPC website.

2. What is your proudest geek moment? One of my favorite geek moments was tweeting for the college during President Obama’s visit to the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus on Sept. 8, 2012. I had one iPhone for tweeting and a “spare” phone for picture-taking.

3. What is your geek motto/favorite geek quote? It may be hard to imagine Henry Ford as a geek, but he famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” I think ‘geekiness’ is often about innovation — being disruptive, pushing the envelope, and maybe even making people a little uncomfortable with the status quo. Great technology fills needs we didn’t know we had.

4. Who is your geek role model? Steve Jobs, hands down.

SPC staff were asked by SingleHop to participate in Geekness Day. Get more information about SingleHop and private cloud hosting.

 

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About 25 prospective and current students attended the college’s Public Policy and Administration information session, held earlier this month.

Public policy pic

A crowd takes part in St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy and Administration information session held July 8.

St. Petersburg College is hosting a series of information sessions in July targeting several programs. Upcoming sessions are:

The Public Policy and Administration information session, held July 8, offered those interested a chance to learn about the program, which provides a foundation in policy formulation, implementation and analysis.

Another session, this time focused on the Elite Educator program, was held July 10. This program is a partnership between SPC and Pinellas County Schools and provides graduates with a paid internship and job with PCS when they successfully complete it.

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In a column for the June/July issue of the Community College Journal, SPC President Bill Law offers best practices on how colleges can improve student performance and retention. Touting the experience and results from implementing the “game-changing” The College Experience: Student Success at SPC, Law credits students, faculty and staff for making it work.

Check out details, reports and videos about The College Experience: Student Success on our new website at www.spcollege.edu/collegeexperience.
Or visit the site created for students at www.collegeexperience.com

“Eighteen months into this effort, I couldn’t be prouder of what our students, faculty and staff have accomplished together by being intensely focused on our goals and working together across the organization to analyze what works while making continuous adjustments for improvement,” said Law, in the journal’s Lessons in Leadership section. “It is clear that the day-to-day, boots-on-the-ground, ‘try it, fix it, live it’ approach is working for our students.”

ccj coverLaw’s efforts to improve student success and retention were prompted by a common malady at community colleges: Far too few students finishing their courses with a C or better and low student success rates in the 10 most highly enrolled courses, considered the gateway to an associate degree. SPC’s dismal success rates among minorities mirrored those at state and national levels, and Law found them unacceptable.

In 2012, he instituted The College Experience: Student Success to keep the college focused on giving students the support they need to earn the degree or certificate that will change their lives. Those efforts are paying off, as SPC students, particularly minority males, have improved their academic performance and are returning from one semester to the next to complete their degree.

The Community College Journal is a publication of the American Association of Community Colleges, the primary advocacy organization for community colleges at the national level. AACC supports and promotes its member colleges through policy initiatives, innovative programs, research and information and strategic outreach to business and industry and the national news media.

Read the article.

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4thofjuly

While celebrating the Fourth of July this extended holiday weekend, be sure to take a moment to thank our nation’s veterans and military for their service. Show them that their sacrifices – and the sacrifices of their families – have not gone unnoticed and are appreciated each day.

At St. Petersburg College, we celebrate the freedom and opportunities our veterans have to explore educational opportunities. Ranked as a Top Military-Friendly College or University in 2014 by Military Advanced Education magazine, our four Veterans Service Student Support Advisors are here to serve those who serve by helping answer questions about veterans’ education benefits, VA deferments and more.

Nearly all the SPC Veterans Service staff are veterans or have veterans in their families. They understand the hardships often faced by our veteran students and are prepared to assist them in any way possible.

This year, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida G.I. Bill, which waives out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans, no matter where they live.

“This bill means that all veterans, regardless of home state, may share equally in the promise of an education,” said Jeff Cavanagh, Director of Veterans Services at St. Petersburg College.

Our Veterans Services staff shared this message from President Barack Obama:

Hi everybody. I hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth of July, filled with parades, cookouts, fireworks and family reunions.

We celebrated at the White House with a few hundred members of the military and their families. And we took a moment amid the festivities to remember what our Independence Day is all about – what happened 237 years ago, and what it meant to the world.

On July 4th, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal – free to think and worship and live as we please. It was a declaration heard around the world – that we were no longer colonists, we were Americans, and our destiny would not be determined for us; it would be determined by us.

It was a bold and tremendously brave thing to do. It was also nearly unthinkable. At that time, kings and princes and emperors ruled the world. But those patriots were certain that a better way was possible. And to achieve it – to win their freedom – they were willing to lay it all on the line. Their lives. Their fortunes. Their sacred honor.

They fought a revolution. Few would have bet on our side to win. But for the first of many times to come, America proved the doubters wrong.

And now, 237 years later, the United States – this improbable nation – is the greatest in the world. A land of liberty and opportunity. A global defender of peace and freedom. A beacon of hope to people everywhere who cherish those ideals.

Generations of Americans made our country what it is today – farmers and teachers, engineers and laborers, entrepreneurs and elected leaders – people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, all pulling in the same direction.

And now we, the people, must make their task our own – to live up to the words of that Declaration of Independence, and secure liberty and opportunity for our own children, and for future generations.

I want to say a special word of thanks to the men and women of our military, who have played such a vital role in the story of our nation. You have defended us at home and abroad. And you have fought on our nation’s behalf to make the world a better, safer place. People in scattered corners of the world are living in peace today, free to write their own futures, because of you. We are grateful for your service and your sacrifice, especially those still serving in harm’s way and your families here at home.

So, God bless you all. And may God bless the United States of America.Celebrating our independence through education

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Let the community know St. Petersburg College and the Palladium are the best!

Pall-Burger-Avator10487193_10152922933968368_7299788676637385648_n

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce has named both SPC and the Palladium at St. Petersburg College as “Good ‘Burgers,” honoring each for their positive community contributions in education and arts and culture.

Now both need your help to become the “People’s Choice” winners in each category.

Voting runs through July 17 with the winners announced Aug. 28. Anyone can vote online at StPete.com/GoodBurger.

“We’d like to think of your nomination as a ‘love note’ from the Chamber on behalf of the citizens of St. Pete,” according to information from the Chamber.

SPC and the Palladium were selected by a committee of ten volunteers who spent several weeks looking through 70 nominees from approximately 1,000 Chamber members.

Vote today and encourage others to help the college and the Palladium shine as winners in education and arts and culture. Share the news on social media by liking and sharing SPC posts about the nominations on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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SPC President Bill Law celebrates the tuition equity bill with Celeste Pioqunito, Nancy Hernandez and Jose Flores.

SPC President Bill Law celebrates the tuition equity bill with Celeste Pioqunito, Nancy Hernandez and Jose Flores.

St. Petersburg College graduate Celeste Pioquinto will save an estimated $18,000 a year in tuition when she heads to Florida Polytechnic University this fall thanks to the tuition equity bill passed this year by the Florida Legislature. Her $5,000 annual tuition cost will actually be covered by a scholarship and is a far cry from the $23,000 she would have paid as an out-of-state student.

Celeste Pioqunito

Celeste Pioqunito

“For this bill to pass, it’s such a big part of my life,” said Pioquinto, who earned her A.A. degree from SPC’s Early College Program this spring. “Not only is this bill good for all the students who just graduated, but for all the future generations coming up.”

The tuition equity bill, known as the Florida Dream Act, allows some children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates, which are about one-quarter the amount paid by non-Florida residents. To celebrate the bill’s passage, key sponsors of the bill, including Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, were honored Tuesday morning at SPC’s Clearwater Campus.

“I’m happy we were able to deliver this,” said Latvala, who kicked off the effort to pass the bill at the Clearwater Campus in February. “I hope this is the first step of trying to bring more equity across the board to the diverse population that we have here in Florida.”

SPC graduate Nancy Hernandez told the audience of more than 100 students, faculty, administrators and community members the impact is immeasurable.

Nancy Hernandez

Nancy Hernandez

“So many students are saving their money to go to school, and with this bill, their lives have been changed, and will be changed forever,” said Hernandez, who is majoring in communications at the University of South Florida. “This is the moment, this is my dream, this is their dream. The dream I have been waiting to live has become a reality.”

Latvala’s inspiration for supporting the bill stemmed from his desire to connect with heavily Hispanic precincts in his district. At an ensuing community forum, he heard the story of a Clearwater woman who had attended a Pinellas County medical magnet school program, but could not afford to attend a state university or medical school.

“The limiting factor was the fact that her parents were illegals,” said Latvala, who co-sponsored a similar bill that failed last year. He also came across a newspaper opinion piece supporting the measure penned by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

“If a young Republican politician who’s going to take a lot of heat within his party for sponsoring and pushing an issue like this can do that, then the least I can do is help him.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, celebrates the Florida Dream Act at the Clearwater Campus Tuesday.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, celebrates the Florida Dream Act at the Clearwater Campus Tuesday.

On the House side, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez sponsored the bill, which ended up being packaged with other measures to ensure support. Versions of the tuition bill had been introduced since 2003 and drew strong opposition every time.

The new law also eliminates automatic inflation adjustments for tuition and blocks most state universities from raising their differential tuition rates. The law also reduces the costs of Florida Prepaid College Plans, dropping the price of the 4-Year Florida University Plan by nearly $20,000, from its current price of $54,000.

“Senator Latvala builds bridges and is one of the few people in the Florida Legislature that gets things done,” said Deveron Gibbons, chair of the SPC Board of Trustees. “I think it’s phenomenal that Celeste is going to pay $30 whereas before she would have paid $23,000.”

New and current SPC students with questions about the impact of the new legislation can contact a student advisor. Students can work through the college’s admissions processes to establish residency for tuition purposes. Required documentation will include a Florida high school transcript reflecting three consecutive years’ attendance and proof of graduation within the past two years.

“The impact of this historic legislation is going to have a direct affect on the future of this state, of this county, and most of all in the lives of the many thousands of children that want a better life and a better community,” said Maria Edmonds, chair of the Hispanic Leadership Council. “Now, their dreams, years in the making, have come true and will become a reality.”

SPC President Bill Law added, “This law upholds a promise to students – the promise of access to degrees and certificates that can change their lives.”

Watch the event on the college’s YouTube channel:

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St. Petersburg College has received national recognition for making significant strides in its effort to increase minority student enrollment and success.

SPC made the list as No. 83 in the Top 100 Four-Year Colleges and Universities Enrollment Undergraduate Degrees by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine in May 2014.

The move to increase Hispanic student enrollment at SPC is underway in light of the recent passage of House Bill 851, more commonly known as the immigrant tuition bill. The bill allows Florida colleges and universities to waive out-of-state fees for undocumented immigrants who attended state high schools.

Stan Vittetoe, Provost at the SPC Clearwater Campus, said the Hispanic population is underserved.

“They make up more than 20 percent of the Clearwater population but represent only 10 percent of our enrollment,” he said.

In 2012, SPC launched The College Experience, a major initiative to increase student success and graduations. While the plan is producing positive results, the greatest advances have been among African-American and Hispanic males.

“All of the components in The College Experience have a demonstrated impact on the success rates of students, particularly minority students,” Vittetoe said.

In addition to these institutional initiatives, the college also is reaching out to the international community, including Hispanics, in a variety of other ways. The most recent outreach activity was the FIFA World Cup viewing party at the Clearwater Campus on June 17. More than 100 community members attended the free event, which was open to SPC students, staff and members of the public.

“We think that these kinds of events will help members of the Hispanic community become aware of the campus and the educational opportunities here,” Vittetoe said.

Success among minority students

Success Among Minority Students infographic

Narrowing the Achievement Gap

A comparison of First-Time-in-College male ethnicities shows that the achievement gap between key ethnic groups at SPC is narrowing.

Narrowing the Gap infographic

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