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SPC graduates

SPC graduate Salwa Shamsi addresses fellow graduates.

About 680 St. Petersburg College graduates attended two commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 13, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. Prior to the 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. processionals, SPC student Robert Kruithoff sang Christmas classics on a stage adorned with lighted Christmas trees and garland. Graduates entered the Worship Center to the cheers and shouts of hundreds of friends and family.

Inside and out, hundreds of tweets, photos and videos were shared on social media.

SPC graduates

SPC graduates enter the morning ceremony.

“Among our 1,888 graduates are 238 who are receiving more than one credential,” said SPC President Bill Law. “One hundred and six are between the ages of 50 and 60, and 20 of us are over the age of 60. Today, our oldest graduate is 70 and our youngest is 17. For every male graduate, there are two female graduates….five of our graduates will receive their diploma on their birthday.

“Including those awarded today, the number of degrees and certificates awarded by SPC since 1927 is 144,074.”

In delivering the morning invocation, the Rev. Clarence Williams from Greater Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in St. Petersburg wished graduates well, noting that “education is the new currency.”

Tammy Mintler speaks at the morning graduation.

Tammy Mintler speaks at the morning graduation.

Of the four students who addressed their peers at the ceremonies, graduate Tammy Mintler traveled the farthest – from Montana. She received her Bachelor of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology.

“To my fellow graduates: You are the one person on whom you can always depend,” said Mintler, who plans to teach vet tech. “The influence of others will wax and wane throughout our lives but we are ultimately responsible for our choices, our successes and failures. … we have achieved a certain level of success today, but our education is a tool that can help distinguish ourselves.

“Education itself is an opportunity and learning is a lifelong process. Learning is what keeps life interesting and challenging. As we learn, we grow. Learning is limited only by apathy, and we only truly fail when we stop trying. Don’t ever hesitate to accept the challenge of a new opportunity.”

Celeste Edwards speaks to graduates

Celeste Edwards speaks to graduates

Graduate Celeste Edwards, who received an Associate in Arts degree with a focus in psychology, delivered a more spiritual message. She plans on working in social work to make a difference in the lives of at-risk Florida youths.

“I’m the eldest of eight children and the last to graduate in my family,” said Edwards. “I remember the day this journey began … it was the way in which God chose for me to re-enter my life … after the loss of the love of my life.

“Now today, December 13, 2014, we all are standing on a foundation of love, encouragement, prayer and strength, along with the help and support from the writing lab, learning centers and tutors for whatever subject we needed help in. And I cannot forget the support and guidance and encouragement from my counselors, professors, instructors here at SPC.

“Class of 2014, keep building on your foundation. Always be an encouragement to others and always be willing to lend a helping hand. Give back what was given to you.”

Salwa Shamsi and Kathleen Bryan post before the afternoon graduation ceremony.

Salwa Shamsi and Kathleen Bryan post before the afternoon graduation ceremony.

The afternoon ceremony featured student speaker Salwa Shamsi, who received her Associate in Arts degree and Kathleen Bryan, who received her Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Services Administration.

In that invocation, Joseph Smiley, dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences, asked that students receive the “grace to make a difference for good, to allow them to make great contributions to society and be a special blessing to all those they touch on life’s highway.”

Shamsi, who plans to enroll at the University of South Florida to earn a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, told her peers: “We have accomplished one of the most major milestones of our lives: this is the first step in the journey of our unknown future, and we all should be recognized for this significant success.

“The choice we took to further our education has, and will, open many doors of opportunities. But this is not the end of our road; it is instead part of a longer, larger journey within our lives.

“So let us be remembered by holding on to our best values: caring for others, performing random acts of kindness, and leaving a great impact on our fellow humans because we should all be loved and all be valued.

“May our success add to the wealth of excellence that has been part of this great institution since that first graduating class in 1929.”

For Kathleen Bryan, second and third chances were something to celebrate.

“Back in 2009, I was laid off twice in five years,” said Bryan, who traveled to graduation from Dunnellon. “In a whirl wind I was enrolled in college, sitting in a classroom, with no books and no idea what I was going to do.”

Now, three degrees later, Bryan works for a medical company in Ocala.

“Nothing can stop you if you have determination and persistence,” said Bryan. “Look around you today; everyone is here to celebrate us and our determination to reach this goal. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to quit, but with the support of my family and friends they pushed me which made me push myself.

“Just remember whatever dark cloud may linger over you, there is sunshine waiting to follow. Never give up on your dreams, go out and find a career that makes you happy, and you will never work.”

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Laurel Miller, an advisor on SPC’s Tarpon Springs Campus was recently spotlighted by the Florida Academic Advising Association in the December issue of the Sunshine Times:

“As a Student Support Advisor, Laurel Miller treats every student with care. She takes her time ensuring that students have left with all of the information that they needed. Every student is important to her and her true idea of giving our ‘customer’ quality service shows. From her experience as a student tutor and adjunct instructor, she takes her love for math and shares helpful tips with students struggling in math courses.

“Academic advisors are entrusted with planning out the futures of students and that can be a hard job to have. Laurel Miller is a great example of what an advisor should be by the way she goes the extra mile for each student she comes in contact with. Students are very grateful for the advising experiences that they share with Laurel and request to see her over and over again.”

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A headshot of Aimee Stubbs, Director of Disability Resources at St. Petersburg College

Aimee Stubbs

Aimee Stubbs, Student Support Manager at the Seminole Campus, will be the new Director of Disability Resources at St. Petersburg College beginning Jan. 5.

Stubbs joined the team as a Disability Resource Specialist at the Clearwater Campus in 2008. She spent almost five years as a Disability Resource Specialist and taught Career and Life Planning at the Clearwater Campus before transferring to the Seminole Campus in January 2013.

Prior to working for SPC, she was with Pinellas County Schools for 15 years, working with students with varying exceptionalities and developing learning strategies for students with disabilities. During this tenure, she helped develop the Community Based Instruction Program. She then received her Clinical Education Certification and became an Intern Supervisor for Pinellas County Schools and the University of South Florida.

Stubbs has received numerous awards and nominations and serves in the following groups and initiatives:

  • Pinellas Interagency Networking Council for Students
  • Bridging the Achievement Gap Advisory Board
  • Ridgecrest 360 Initiative
  • Delta Kappa Gamma Key Women Educators Organization
  • Florida Association on Higher Education and Disability

Stubbs holds a bachelor’s degree in specific learning disabilities, a master’s degree in varying exceptionalities and an education specialist degree in counseling.

She will succeed Peg Connell, who retires on Friday, Dec. 19.

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After spending 20 years in U.S. Army intelligence, Tammy Mintler decided to finally pursue her lifelong dream of working with animals.

She earned her associate degree in veterinary technology from Colby Community College in Kansas, and then pursued another dream: to live in Montana.

On Saturday, Dec. 13, she will graduate from St. Petersburg College’s online bachelor’s degree program in veterinary technology. She will use her degree to teach vet tech.

“For an online program, it was much more challenging than I expected,” said Mintler, who will represent upper division graduates when she addresses her peers at the morning commencement ceremony.

While Mintler found the courses demanding, she values the knowledge she has acquired.

“I wish I had known a lot of this stuff when I first started out as a technician, like OSHA, legal and ethical issues and dental classes,” said Mintler, who made the President’s Honor Roll at SPC four times. “I feel more rounded now. And as an instructor, I can draw from my personal experience and the new things I have learned.”

Mintler spent 10 years working as a veterinary technician and always enjoyed working with high school groups when they came into the practice where she worked. She would show them around, give tours and quiz them.

“They said ‘you should be a teacher.’  But I really couldn’t afford to move to get my bachelor’s.”

After finding St. Petersburg College’s program online, Mintler got a call from Dean Rich Flora, inviting her to apply.

“The faculty was extremely supportive,” Mintler said. “Everyone is willing to go the extra mile to help students. I never expected (the dean) to call me like that.”

Mintler plans to remind her fellow graduates that “education itself is an opportunity and learning is a lifelong process. Learning is what makes life interesting and challenging. […] Learning is limited only by apathy, and you only truly fail when you stop trying.”

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SPC psychology student Celeste Edwards

Celeste Edwards will receive her Associate in Arts degree in psychology on Saturday, Dec. 13.

St. Petersburg College’s Fall graduation ceremonies will be at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo. Celeste Edwards will represent the A.A./A.S. graduates at the morning ceremony while Tammy Mintler will represent the B.S./B.A.S. graduates. Each ceremony should last about one and a half hours.

St. Petersburg College grad Celeste Edwards wants to put her education to use in making a difference in the lives of at-risk Florida youths.

On Saturday, Dec. 13, she will graduate with an Associate in Arts degree in psychology and will serve as the lower division speaker at the college’s 9:30 a.m. commencement ceremony.

Motivated by experiences in her own life, Edwards said she wants to help children who are in bad situations get the help they need and to serve as their support.

“People look at what they call a ‘bad kid,’ and I don’t see them that way,” she said. “I just say that they have some problems. I can see the light in them that’s way down deep, whereas other people may not see that light or want to give up on them.”

Edwards said that no one should ever give up on a child, regardless of the difficulty of the circumstances they face.

Social work was not her original goal when she enrolled in college years ago.

“I first started college when I came out of high school at 17, and then I had the opportunity to travel with my aunt and my uncle, who were in the military,” said Edwards, who initially took classes for a degree in respiratory care.

She took classes on and off but eventually stopped when she married her husband, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Melvin Bernard Edwards. They were married for 32 years before he died in 2010 at age 56.

Right before he passed, her husband encouraged her to go back to school and to keep living.

“I needed to get back up,” Edwards said. “I needed to live, and I had promised him I would fight and pick myself up after he was gone.”

Her children, Actavious Jermaine Edwards and LaToya Edwards-Devito, also encouraged her to go back to college and get a degree. She initially started at Eckerd College but felt it wasn’t the right fit. She switched to SPC to study psychology.

“My goal is to help as many children as I can to see the person within themselves,” she said. “I want to help them discover who they are, not who society or statistics say that they are.”

Starting in January, Edwards will pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of South Florida. Her goal is to go on to earn a master’s degree in clinical child psychology and work with children.

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fall graduation statisticsSt. Petersburg College will mark its 126th commencement in two ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. About 680 of this semester’s 1,888 graduates are expected to participate.

Each ceremony is expected to last about one and a half hours. Featured speakers include:

Morning ceremony

Afternoon ceremony

Of the 2,199 degrees and certificates being conferred this fall, 1,469 are associate degrees, 412 are bachelor’s degrees and 318 are certificates and advanced diplomas. See all the numbers in our infographic.

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.

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SPC Sign Language Students visit Gallaudet University in D.C.For the third consecutive year, graduates of St. Petersburg College’s Sign Language Interpretation program traveled to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. with ASL/INT instructors Professor Carol Downing and Dr. Beth Carlson to experience its historically significant environment.

Gallaudet University was the first college established for the Deaf in the United States. Students in SPC’s Sign Language Interpretation Program learned about Gallaudet’s long and rich history, the first deaf president of the university and the importance of accessible education for the Deaf. They also experienced deaf-friendly architecture, from past to present, and the impact and importance of the Deaf Community. Also of significance, this year was Gallaudet University’s 150th anniversary.

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