Florida has some of the best international programs in the country, and students from around the world come to the Sunshine State to enjoy the warm climate, natural beauty and diverse culture while they learn to speak English. They can master the English language fast through St. Petersburg College’s Intensive English Program (IEP).

Group of students working at computer stations.

“The Intensive English Program at St. Petersburg College is designed especially for international students,” said Soyoung Preisel, Certificate Program Coordinator for IEP. “We offer cultural emersion in a supportive and fun academic learning environment. Our mission is to advance every aspect of the nonnative student’s skills through intensive engagement within a learning community.”

IEP will also begin awarding $1,000 scholarships per student that will be applied toward the program’s cost. Scholarships are available to all new and transfer F-1 Visa students who register for the program and will be offered on a semester-by-semester basis. Students can receive a scholarship award for up to two full semesters, totaling $2,000.

“The past year has been hard on everyone, and we can only imagine the new challenges and greater uncertainty one is faced with when considering studying in a foreign country. We felt that an attempt to make the journey a little easier was the proper thing to do at this time,” said Preisel. “SPC’s Intensive English Program goes the extra mile to put the student first. The students, professors and staff create a supportive, tight-knit community.”

Students interested in enrolling in the Intensive English Program at SPC and applying for the scholarship must submit their application by the end of Summer 2022. The program application can be completed by following the step-by-step instructions for international students studying in the United States.

To learn more about SPC’s Intensive English Program, visit spcollege.edu/iesl or contact the program directly at IntensiveEnglish@spcollege.com. The Summer 2021 Term for IEP begins on May 10 and the Fall 2021 Term begins on Aug. 30.

What started as an idea on their vision board became a reality for Lennise and Omar Germany, because their dream restaurant, Livy O’s, will be serving up a homestyle cooking at the new SPC Deuces Den at the Midtown Center starting Monday, April 12.

From the shrimp creole salad to the Titan Cuban sandwich and lemon pound cake, get ready to enjoy their delicious cuisines between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 8 a.m. – noon on Fridays. 

The SPC Deuces Den, dubbed after its location on St. Petersburg’s 22nd Street, locally known as “The Deuces”, is an innovative approach to facilitating collaborative work among small minority businesses. The Den offers aspiring restauranteurs a place to sell their cuisine to the public – at no cost to the vendors. Every semester, a new food vendor will rotate in to serve fresh food for customers to purchase.

SPC Downtown and Midtown Center Provost Dr. Tashika Griffith believes this space is more than just a café – it’s also a business incubator for small minority businesses. SPC is working with the City of St. Petersburg’s Urban Affairs to identify and attract these restauranteurs.

“This concept is very important to the college and is our way to engage with community members,” Griffith said. “Unfortunately, South St. Petersburg is labeled as a food desert. So we’re hoping to not only showcase Black, small businesses, but also offer fresh food options.”

The café incubator is a win-win for the community and for start-up businesses, allowing owners to expand their businesses without the burden of a costly overhead. It will also provide residents another fresh food option in the neighborhood. Griffith hopes it will also plant the seed for visitors to imagine their own educational futures.

“In an effort to serve the community, it’s important for them to feel comfortable. Some people may feel intimated about coming to college or believe it’s not for them,” Griffith said. “My hope is that, as individuals come into our doors, they can see themselves as students at SPC.”

Dreams do come true

From the moment they first met, the Germanys always aspired to break generational boundaries in their family. They may not have expected that one day they would have a café on a college campus serving up a healthy taste of home, but now they do, and they are setting an entrepreneurial example in their family. 

 “I never thought for once in my life I would own a business,” Omar said. “But now, that’s all our kids talk about – owning their own business.”

Livy O’s started as a family-affair catering business, with the couple making meals and packing them in traditional to-go containers. Six and half years later, this power couple employs more than 20 families and specializes in private chef services, cooking classes, corporate and private catering and so much more.

It’s a full circle moment for this dynamic duo. They are the first in their family to go to college, build a successful business and now they are serving meals to SPC students as they pursue their dreams to economic prosperity.

Fostering Economic Mobility

Wealth inequities have affected both large and small businesses in Midtown and throughout St. Petersburg. Since the closure of the local Walmart in 2017, Midtown has become a food desert, leaving residents without easy access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food. High poverty levels have deterred major retail grocers from opening stores in the area.

As a leader in engaging businesses, government and the community, SPC’s Deuces Den reinforces the college’s commitment to investing in the economic growth and stability of South St. Petersburg by connecting with local businesses and the community to promote economic mobility for minority entrepreneurs.

Welcome to the Titan family, Livy O’s!

After so many lost jobs and social upset in 2020, communities are relying on their colleges more than ever to offer programs that will get people back to work and improve their financial situations and peace of mind.

Since 1927, St. Petersburg College has been doing just that – staying true to our roots by offering a high- quality education to students seeking pathways to greater opportunity. SPC serves Pinellas County and beyond with more than 110 degrees and certificate programs, as well as high-demand workforce certifications and short-term programs that offer great rewards.

Since COVID-19 struck last year, SPC has launched a rapid credentialing program that aims to get unemployed and underemployed individuals back on their feet in as little as a few weeks. The program includes credentials in one of 17 programs in fields including business, technology, healthcare, public safety, or engineering and manufacturing.

“There are great jobs available now in Tampa Bay for people with the right skills and credentials. The challenge is that even before COVID, many workers could not meet the rising industry demand for a more skilled and technically competent workforce,” said Michael Ramsey, SPC’s Dean of Workforce Development. “This initiative is helping to bridge the gap between the skills the people in our community have and those that are in demand by employers, leading to better pay.”

Ranked the sixth Best College in Florida among participating colleges in the U.S. News & World Report 2020 Best Colleges study, we empower our students by offering educational opportunities – along with the support that will help them find success and great-paying jobs.

SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams believes that, through our students, we elevate our community by providing an educated and skilled workforce.  

“A lot has changed in our world, in our community and at St Petersburg College this past year,” Williams said. “Our purpose as a community college is more important now than ever as we are dedicated to getting our local residents to work in the best, shortest and most affordable way possible. As an inclusive institution, we work to help anyone who comes to us for a better education to improve their lives and their families’ lives economically, today and into the future. We proudly join our sister schools of the Florida College System in celebrating Community College Month knowing the huge impact community colleges have in our communities, our workforce and our economy.”

Here are some reasons that St. Petersburg College is a great asset to the community:

Work-based programs

SPC works closely with industry partners to make sure our curriculum aligns with local, regional and state business needs. Our workforce programs provide individuals and corporations with the skills and certifications that today’s fast-paced and ever changing workplace demands. Our basic skills, continuing education, lifelong learning, certification, and industry-recognized exam prep courses help professionals stay current and develop new skills.


Affordability is one thing that makes community college so vital, and it’s one of the ways that SPC brings an education within reach to all. SPC’s tuition is less than half that of a state university, and the work of our Student Financial Services department shows in the fact that over the past eight years, the amount of student loans borrowed by SPC students has plummeted by $50.5 million, and our Financial Aid awards amounted to more than $5.9 million in scholarships and more than $105.5 million in state and federal aid.


SPC curates its programs with an end result in mind: Our students get jobs in their chosen fields. The college ranks seventh among the 28 Florida colleges for the number of students obtaining targeted industry certifications in 2019-20, and our graduates rank first in the state for earning the highest entry-level wages. It feels good to know that after graduation, 88 percent our students who earn Associate in Science degrees are employed or continuing their education.


Our belief that community college is for all means that we make it available to all: from the recent high school graduate to the working parent. SPC serves around 45,000 students each year – all with varying needs. That’s why we offer more than 50 programs fully online, as well as day, evening and weekend options, so that students can schedule classes around their existing schedules. Since learning styles and preferences differ, we offer classes in person, online, a blend of the two, or in our new LIVE Online format, which allows students to have a full, interactive classroom experience from their home computer.


SPC’s dedication to our student success goes all the way to the individual student, which means that we address our students’ academic needs, as well as their non-academic ones. On the academic side, our advisors assist students in selecting a relevant and streamlined pathway to a degree or certificate, saving money and time. We offer tutoring that can be easily accessed at times convenient for students. When a student nears the end of their program, we offer career counseling and job fairs that help them polish up their resumes and network with potential employers.

Non-academic services can sometimes be what makes or breaks a student’s efforts to earn a degree. We offer food pantries, clothing closets, free bus passes and even access to affordable childcare, on a limited basis.

The college’s caring reach is not limited to our campuses. SPC is such a part of the Pinellas County community, that where there is need in the community, you’ll see SPC there helping to build a house, hand out food, and supply equipment or services, such as the college dental hygiene clinic. Whether it’s a hurricane or a pandemic, SPC is truly there for the entire community.

Community Resource

In addition to developing academic programs for Pinellas County residents seeking a college degree, SPC is committed to serving the diverse needs of families, businesses, professionals and individuals in the Tampa Bay area. From theater and musical productions to career service events, a museum, nature walk, the college offers something for everyone from students to residents.

So let’s give a cheer this month for SPC, and all the other community colleges that lift up their communities through education and outreach!

St. Petersburg College honored its Foundation donors at the annual Donors and Scholars Appreciation Event on Tuesday, March 30. The event, which usually includes a seated luncheon, was held virtually this year, but still sent a message of thanks and appreciation to all those who generously contribute to the lives of students through their donations.

Veronica Cintron, Vice President of Communications at Tampa International Airport, emceed the online event, which was sponsored by RBC. More than 100 people tuned in.

Student Stories

Monique Whitaker

St. Petersburg College graduate Monique Whitaker kicked off the student testimonies with her story of dedication and perseverance. Walker shared that, after having a son born with special needs, she used her income tax returns to begin organizing events for single parents with special needs children. She eventually formed her non-profit, Miracle for Michael, to fund these outings that the parents ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to afford. At SPC, she earned an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, was able to take a Study Abroad trip to Costa Rica, then earned her bachelor’s in Educational Studies and Community Leadership.

“SPC has truly given me the ability to go from poverty to purpose,” Whitaker said. “The scholarships I received took away the stress of how to pay for my classes. I appreciate every single donor who has helped to take the financial burden off my shoulders and allow me to focus on my studies.”

Karissa Rath

Karissa Rath, who rode a bus route from Pasco County to Tarpon Springs to get to classes, thanked donors for helping her make her dream of an education a reality.

“You, my wonderful donors, made it possible to look past my hardships,” she said. “Thanks to you, I will be the first in my family to receive a degree. Thank you for choosing me and allowing me to show you that I am a worthwhile investment. I hope I can be in your shoes one day and give back, as you do for so many students.”

Taquila Prentice, the final student speaker, hopes to take her Biology degree from SPC and use it to pursue her dream of going to medical school. She recalled a semester when she couldn’t afford textbooks – but then she heard about the Foundation Scholarship.

Taquila Prentice

“The Foundation Scholarship granted me peace of mind and allowed me to focus on my studies and earn my bachelor’s completely debt free,” she said. “Because of donors like you, I’ve been able to excel and reach my fullest potential. Thank you on behalf of myself, my family and every other family that has been blessed by you.”

Bettering Lives

SPC student Sierra Reynolds sang John Lennon’s Imagine, before Michael “Frenchy” Preston, owner of the local Frenchy’s chain of restaurants, took over to talk about his strong belief in SPC and supporting working students with his Frenchy’s Family Restaurants Business Scholarship Fund. Then, attendees broke out into small groups to share ways that education has made their lives better.

SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams was the final speaker. Williams expressed how donors provide for the vast needs of students, including scholarships, textbooks, technology, childcare, transportation, and even food and clothing – especially when so many lost jobs and faced hardships due to COVID-19.

“We needed your help, and you came through,” Williams said. “You are our friends, our supporters, and without you, the college would not be able to do as much as we do for deserving students. You keep them on the path to success. Not only for themselves, but to take their families from poverty to prosperity.”

Interested in learning more about making a donation to better someone’s life through education? Please visit our Foundation website.

Many teens struggle with navigating the reality of the world around them, while also working towards their goals and dreams. St. Petersburg College will address these struggles at the ninth annual Keys to Manhood (K2M) Seminar on Saturday, March 27, 2021, from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.   

Success Stories

In the past nine years, this free seminar has reached over 1000 young men, normally from underserved backgrounds. This year’s free K2M seminar will engage middle and high school males of color in discussions about college and career readiness, self-awareness and community engagement. These young men hear from others who have faced adversity and how they overcame obstacles in life. 

SPC Student Life and Leadership Coordinator Jason Nicholson says it is important for young men to hear success stories of others who have struggled.

“Every one of us faces certain challenges along the path to our goals,” he said. “In many cases, these challenges are not things we can change or fix. All a person can do is adjust and keep moving forward. It’s important for young men to not only know and understand that, but to hear how others have succeeded when things seemed tough.”

Special Guests

Each year, the conference is highlighted by a keynote discussion panel. The theme this year is “When Reality Speaks” and will feature keynote speaker Marquez Valdez-Scantling, who attended Lakewood High School and now plays for the Green Bay Packers. He will be joined on the panel by his father, Marcellus Scantling, and his football coach at Lakewood, Coach Cory Moore.

Nicholson says the one constant in the nine years of the program would have to be the audience’s takeaways.

“These speakers really get personal,” Nicholson said. “There is usually a healthy-dose of ‘real talk’ that young men don’t always get to hear. You can feel the buzz in the room. We are going to provide the same experience this year, but virtually.”

Other offerings at the seminar will include information regarding mental health, community resources, and a parent and family panel. There will also be random drawings among attendees for scholarships and prizes, thanks to generous sponsors. But Nicholson said the real prize is the experience.

“In a little over two hours, our participants will have the chance to engage with experts on the resources and support strategies available to help them meet their dreams,” he said.

Register Now

Registration is now live and, though the event is for middle and high-schoolers and their families, anyone is welcome. Speaker information, session details and the full event schedule are also available on the site.

St. Petersburg College (SPC) is continuing to support students and their goals with the help of a $100,000 Perkins grant. The grant is part of the Florida Department of Education’s Entrepreneurial Education and Training (EET) program and will help SPC’s students, faculty and staff cultivate their entrepreneurial mindset and launch high-quality businesses.

The award will be used to support training and curriculum for SPC faculty and teachers with Pinellas County Schools that will help them bring entrepreneurial concepts into their career and technical education (CTE) classes.

“Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in our local economy,” SPC Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey said. “This funding will allow us to further develop the entrepreneurial mindset within the career and technical education students here at the college, as well as the school district. Our desire is to help them chart their path to business ownership, and the foundation we provide will propel them to ultimately become job creators for our community.”

On March 15, SPC will launch an online, self-paced Entrepreneurship Essentials course. In as little as eight weeks, individuals will learn how to develop an idea and launch a business or simply learn to think like an entrepreneur. The college partnered with the award- winning, nonprofit organization Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) to develop the course. NFTE is internationally known to offer programs that empower individuals to own their future.

Florida’s Perkins V State Plan commits to creating a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem through career and technical education. Business equity is the second largest source of wealth behind home equity, and for special populations, self-employment and the ability to effectively create value contributes to Florida’s greater economic security. In short, becoming an entrepreneur is a viable path to improving Florida’s economic and social mobility rates. CTE does not just prepare students to take jobs but to create the jobs of the future. 

For more information about the Entrepreneurship Essentials course, visit now.spc.edu/jobtraining or contact Program Coordinator Sondra Seiter at seiter.sondra@spcollege.edu.

St. Petersburg College and Year Up have been working closely over the last few years to help students complete certificate programs in IT or Business. At the recent graduation celebration for SPC’s Year Up class, SPC was awarded the Cornerstone Award, an annual accolade given to an individual or organization that embodies Year Up’s mission to close the opportunity divide. 

The Year Up team works with our students each week to help them by the providing career mentorship and academic support they need to succeed. After they complete the Year Up program, students begin a six-month professional internship, and then Year Up assists the students with full-time career placement. 

Year Up staffer Walter Joseph said the award celebrates organizations who fully support their cause.

“Cornerstone Award winners go above and beyond to change minds about what is truly possible in this country by supporting our students, our staff, and the Year Up organization as a whole,” Joseph said.

The program takes place at the St. Petersburg College’s Midtown Center, where Associate Provost Patrick Booth says they work closely with the Year Up team to ensure student success.

“Advisors Takita Cuthbertson and Linda Huetson are assigned all of the students in the program and meet each week with the Year Up team to help register the students and provide advisement, Heather Disler’s team helps with tutoring and Roslynn Tarver helps all of the students with their Financial Aid needs,” he said. “We hold a monthly and quarterly meeting with the Year Up team, as well.

In addition, the Midtown team hosts an orientation for the new class, which includes games and prizes. In spite of all their efforts, Booth said the team was completely surprised by the award.

It was awesome – we were really excited about it,” he said. “We were not expecting it when they shared the news during their graduation ceremony.”

To learn more about Year Up, please visit their FL Tampa Bay website

St. Petersburg Collegiate High Schools offer students the opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate in Arts degree – all at no cost to the family.

If you are a Pinellas County resident and have a rising sophomore or junior, here’s great news! There is still time to learn more about this award-winning program at the St. Petersburg Collegiate High School – Tarpon Springs by registering for an informational webinar about the campus on March 23. Attendees can learn about SPCHS as well as how to apply.

A Florida School of Excellence, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School has been labeled an “A” school since it opened at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus of St. Petersburg College in 2004. The charter high school has been a highly successful and much sought-after option in the community, so successful in fact, that a second campus was opened in 2019 in Tarpon Springs to accommodate more families, especially those in North County.

Many SPCHS graduates have earned prestigious honors. Counted among SPCHS alumni are a Gates Millennium Scholar, a Bank of America Leadership Program participant, and Ryan Nece Student Service Program members.

Starla Metz, SPC’s Associate Vice President of Accelerated Programs, said SPCHS provides students with a unique and innovative educational experience.

“Our mission is for our students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma, an Associate in Arts degree, and qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship,” Metz said. “They study the same course material as SPC students, but they get the encouragement and support they need to achieve their dreams.”

In addition to academic excellence, another aspect of the program fosters leadership among its students. They learn business etiquette, are encouraged to seek leadership roles and complete a college leadership course, showcasing their portfolio at their Senior Capstone Event.

“This learning experience is so authentic and supportive,” Metz said. “Our students excel as learners and leaders.”

Erin Murphy, 19, was salutatorian of the SPCHS Class of 2020. Now at Florida State University, she is studying computer engineering in the Honors Program and was the first student-athlete to be selected as a Presidential Scholar at FSU. Erin has taken on leadership roles, as well, especially in her beach volleyball team’s commitment to service hours, for which they won the 2020 Director’s Cup for Service. She alone completed 125 hours of community service, dedicating her time to children, seniors and the homeless. Her mother, Roni Murphy of Pinellas County, partially credits her daughter’s proven leadership to the St. Petersburg Collegiate High Schools program.

“At SPCHS, they teach them what they need to know to courageously go forward and pursue their goals,” Murphy said.

The high school experience is not lost in this program. Students are a cohort, so are part of a smaller community within the college campus, though they walk the same halls as SPC students and meet the same high expectations. There are many options for clubs and activities to broaden students’ knowledge and perspective, build confidence, cultivate leadership skills and, best of all, have some fun and bond with their peers.

Program application deadlines are March 30 for entering sophomores and April 6 for entering juniors. The webinar is a requirement for admission, so anyone interested can register here for the March 23 webinar, which will begin at 6 p.m.

Please see the admission requirements, which must complete by the application deadline.

For more information, call Dr. Ian Call, Principal, SPCHS Tarpon Springs Campus, at 727-791-5891 or email him at call.ian@spcollege.edu.

If you missed out on the first round of free and fast credentialing programs at St. Petersburg College, you’ve got another chance. Scholarships are back, and new programs are included.

SPC’s Rapid Credentialing program, which prepares students to work in secure, high-demand jobs in only weeks, is now offering scholarships for eight programs. All offer new employees great salaries.

“Even before COVID, many workers could not meet the rising industry demand for a more skilled and technically competent workforce,” said Michael Ramsey, SPC’s Dean of Workforce Development. “This program helps to bridge the gap between the skills the people in our community have and those that are in demand by employers.”

SPC’s Career Connections Director Jason Krupp said the job opportunities are, indeed, plentiful.

“There are hundreds of local manufacturing jobs that require workers for assembly, soldering and building circuit boards,” Krupp said. “These jobs lead to long-term career opportunities.”

Due to a generous $2.2 million grant awarded to SPC through the Florida Department of Education’s Rapid Credentialing Economic Recovery and Prosperity Initiative, any Pinellas County resident who is unemployed, furloughed or making less than $25,500 per year could qualify for a full scholarship for one of these programs.

With such a wide variety of programs, there is something for everyone. Some of the new programs added are a Public Safety Telecommunications Certificate that can be earned in only eight weeks, with four of those online; a 60-hour Certified Production Technician program, and a 10-week Electrical Lineworker program. All opportunities are listed on the college’s Job Training webpage.

Krupp said these programs not only get people back to work quickly but are stepping stones to stable careers.

“These are great opportunities for quick trainings,” he said. “And these jobs are immune to COVID, so they’re more secure than other occupations.”

Act quickly, as scholarship funds are limited. More information, including eligibility requirements and application information, is available at spc.edu/jobtraining.

To help fill critical local job demands for correctional officers, qualified applicants can train at St. Petersburg College’s Corrections Academy for free.

Scholarship opportunities are available through the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) as well as SPC’s Rapid Credentialing program, which offers residents displaced by and those at risk of losing their jobs due to COVID-19 the chance to quickly gain skills and re-tool for a new, stable career through full-tuition scholarships.

“We are very excited to partner with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and all the possibilities this presents,” SPC Public Safety Programs Director Michael Dibuono said. “We look forward to working together, filling these immediate vacancies in the workforce and ensuring a safer community.”

Individuals interested in this program should visit now.spc.edu/correctionalofficer to find out if they are eligible for this opportunity and ready to apply.

Students sponsored through PCSO are eligible to receive a salary of $39,220 during the 13-week training and will earn $50,000 a year once they complete the State Officer Certification Exam.

The sponsorship covers academy tuition, books and Florida Department of Law Enforcement certification exams. The agency offers opportunities for special assignments, career development, opportunities for promotion and advancement, and benefits, including life insurance, health insurance, dental and vision insurance, shift differential, Florida Retirement System (FRS), educational assistance, uniforms, and paid vacations, holidays and sick leave.

“The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is excited to partner with SPC to offer scholarships that will take a financial burden off of students as they train to become correctional officers,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “This money opens the door to a viable career in protection and service to the community.”

Since this certification is recognized statewide, an individual also can attend the Corrections Academy as an “Open Enrollment Student” who is not sponsored by PCSO. Once certification is completed, they will become eligible to fill vacancies in correctional facilities anywhere in Florida. 

To be considered for admission to the academy, applicants need to be at least 19 years old and must meet SPC admission requirements and minimum qualifications, including a background check and physical assessment.

At the academy, recruits are trained in correctional operations and procedures, firearms, defensive tactics, first-responder techniques, officer survival, and emergency preparedness.

“Correctional officers are a vital part of our community’s essential workforce,” SPC Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey said. “We are thankful that the Governor and the Florida Department of Education have made it possible for us to offer scholarships for this program as a part of the Get There Florida initiative.”

Corrections Academy graduates looking to advance their career can continue their education at SPC seamlessly. All courses are transferrable to SPC’s Associate in Science in Criminal Justice Technology degree program, which transfers to the college’s bachelor’s degree in Public Safety Administration.