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One by one, audience members stood up as their country was called. By the time the 34 countries were announced, 100 people were standing in the Fine Arts Auditorium at SPC’s Clearwater Campus, ready to take the Oath of Allegiance to become American citizens.

Wednesday’s naturalization ceremony held by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was a first for the college. Since January, SPC has worked with USCIS to host free workshops for those interested in becoming United States citizens.

SPC student Vlora Neziri

SPC student Vlora Neziri

“It’s amazing that SPC helped organize this,” said SPC student Vlora Neziri, who addressed the audience and has been a Student Citizenship Ambassador since the program began. “Not only are they celebrating but we are celebrating with them. It shows that the college is there for the community.”

During the workshops, potential citizens learn about U.S. history and government through conversations with SPC professors and students. SPC students lead lessons plans provided by USCIS covering 100 questions that could be asked on the citizenship exam.

“We are a community institution and we thought this would be a wonderful place to hold this event,” 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.”

The USCIS ceremony helped commemorate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, held every Sept. 17 in honor of 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. 17-23.

Along with fulfilling class requirements for service, students are getting 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.

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

After issuing the formal oath, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich congratulated the group on their accomplishment and noted the responsibility that comes with it.

U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich

U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich

“By becoming a citizen, you’ve made a contract with every other person in this room and in the country,” said Kovachevich, herself an SPC graduate. “We are the people and we make this country what it is. Remember this date, Sept. 17, because it is your new birthday.”

The 100 new citizens came from the following countries: 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.

“What struck me about the ceremony was the sheer happiness of it,” said Neziri, who went through the naturalization process when she was 20. She will graduate in December with her A.A. degree and plans to pursue her bachelor’s at SPC. “I’m so honored to do this, because it’s important me to inspire people and give them hope. That’s the least I can do.”

USCIS invites new citizens, their families and friends to share their experiences from the ceremonies via social media using the hashtag #newUScitizen.

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Help spread the word and make a difference by joining St. Petersburg College and the local movement of people who will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 19, 2015 with a Day of Service.

This annual event draws hundreds of groups that volunteer their time and resources to make a difference in their local community. This is the third year SPC has received funds from the Florida Legislature for the event.

As part of the MLK Day of Service, you can:

  • Plan a service project and apply for a 2015 MLK Day of Service Award of up to $5,000 to fund the project
  • Serve as a volunteer in another organization or group’s service project on the MLK Day of Service
  • Organize a service project and have the project posted on this website
  • Become a donor or sponsor

To apply for a service award, applicants are strongly advised to attend an info session:

SPC Allstate Campus
3200 34th Street S., St. Petersburg, Desoto Room #103

  • Tuesday, Sept. 23, 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 25, 6-7:30 p.m.

SPC St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus
6605 5th Avenue N., St. Petersburg, AD 180

  • Saturday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m.-Noon

For more information visit www.spcollege.edu/mlkservice or contact James Robinson at Robinson.james@spcollege.edu or call 727-341-4121.

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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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In an upcoming joint meeting of the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees and the Pinellas County School Board, members of both governing bodies will discuss issues important to students in Pinellas County and major areas of collaboration between the two organizations.

The meeting will take place Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Pinellas County School Board Cabinet Conference Room, Administration Building, 301 4th St. SW, Largo.

“Our community benefits through the strong partnership between the Pinellas County School Board and St. Petersburg College,” said Michael A. Grego, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools. “The success of our two organizations is central to the advancement and economic development of Pinellas County and the region.”

The meeting’s agenda includes topics such as college and career readiness, dual enrollment, early college admissions and Pinellas Technical College articulation. The meeting will include a presentation and discussion on the Elite Educator Program, the newest collaborative between the two organizations.

“Pinellas County Schools is a great partner of St. Petersburg College, and we want to build even stronger partnership to move our students forward,” said Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College. “Our goal at the end of the day is student success and Pinellas County Schools plays a large role in that. St. Petersburg College is dedicated to continuing to grow and develop innovative programs focused on the success of students of all ages. This relationship is mutually beneficial.”

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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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In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, SPC’s International Programs, Clearwater Campus and the Mexican Consulate in Orlando will kick off a year-long International Film Series by screening FRIDA: naturaleza viva, a film biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

The screening will take place at:
6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18
SPC Clearwater Campus Arts Auditorium
Free and open to the public

The film portrays how Kahlo creatively channeled the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage into her work. The free event includes free refreshments and door prizes. Film contains mature subject matter. Viewer discretion advised.

Prior to the film, SPC will host a Hispanic food and Information Fair from 5-6:30 p.m. in front of the Auditorium. Information from community organizations and food from local Hispanic restaurants will be available as well as campus tours.

Other international film screenings during the 2014-15 year will take place on St. Petersburg/Gibbs, Tarpon Springs and Seminole campuses.

Learn more:
SPC’s International Programs
Frida Kahlo and her work
Hispanic Heritage Month

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