St. Petersburg College will honor its top graduates and alumnus during commencement ceremonies May 18 at Tropicana Field. Lorena Hmelas was selected as the Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve. Savannah Strandlof will receive the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Apollo Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards. It has been presented each year since 1966.

This year’s finalists are:

“Without St. Petersburg College I wouldn’t be where I am today and who I am today. This school has changed my life positively in so many ways, and what past year has taught me is that if I really want to accomplish something I just have to work really hard for it.”

Lorena Hmelas, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, Winner

Hmelas will receive an A.A. degree in Business Administration and Management and currently has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She is has served roles in the Student Government Association as Vice President, Historian, Public Relations and Senator. She served as a member of the International Student Club, Latinos United, Phi Theta Kappa, Women on the Way and was a Student Assistant in the Associate Provost’s office on the St. Pete/Gibbs Campus.

Her accomplishments include 2017 & 2018 Servant Leadership Award, 2017 Certificate of Completion of the Management and Supervision of Campus-Wide Student Government Association Skills and a 2017 Letter of Recommendation from Dr. Law for her achievements in managing a budget that exceeded $239,000 and devotion to the Student Government Association.

Hmelas served her community as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and through the Student Government Association collected food, books and toys for people in need and helped many homeless children learn to read and develop a love of books. She volunteered through Student Life and Leadership and Women on the Way to organize events and fundraisers.

She plans to transfer to the University of South Florida to eventually earn her master’s degree in Global Business. Her goal is to find a career that will combine both business and the different languages that she speaks such as working at the UN or NATO.

“When I first arrived at SPC, I was a GED recipient with hardly any academic or life skills. SPC took me in when my life looked bleak and turned me into the person I am today, a college student on his way to university, pursuing a career and a love for the community. Like a big family, everyone at SPC was invested in my success.”

Stanley Edward Kordecki III, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus

Kordecki will receive an A.A. in Biology and currently has a G.P.A of 3.9.

He was Student Government Senator in 2016, a member of the Outdoors Club, Harambe, Campus Community Service Committee Chair, Intervarsity Club and Intramural Sports Coordinator Assistant. He served as short time as SPC’s mascot – Titus the Titan.

In 2017 he was awarded by the Social and Behavioral Science and the Humanities and Fine Arts Department for academic excellence.

Kordecki has served his community by volunteering at the St. Pete Free Clinic, at the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, the Habitat for Humanity and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

His future plans are to attend USF in fall 2019 and eventually pursue a career in environmental conservation.

“My experiences at a young age taught me the value of life and the importance of utilizing life’s opportunities. My experience at SPC has taught me to lead with excellence, integrity and honor.”

Ronelia Bailey, Clearwater Campus

Bailey will receive an A.A. degree in Business and currently has a G.P.A. of 3.9.

Among her collegiate activities is membership in the Honors Program Student Consortium, Student Government Association, BSU Badeya Club, Multicultural Club, National Council for Black American Affairs, Phi Theta Kappa Tau Zeta, Golden Key International Honor Society, Women2STEM, and the Annual Collegiate Research Conference.

In 2018, Bailey received the Dr. Theodore J. Mazza Student of the Year Award and the Most Engaged Study Abroad Student Award. In 2017 she received the award for Outstanding Student in Fine Arts and Humanities.

She volunteered as a Peer Leader for the 2019 Florida International Leadership Conference, at the Eckerd Connects Raising Hope’s distribution center, for the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, the Salvation Army and various events on campus.

Bailey’s goal is to transfer to USF and major in both Global Business and Spanish. She would like to become a teacher in an under-resourced public school for a few years and then get a master’s degree in International Relations and Business Administration to fulfill her dream as an Ambassador of the United States or pursue a career in Global Banking.

“My enthusiasm for life in general and especially as it relates to animals is infectious and I know that as a SPC Veterinary Nursing graduate, I WILL make a difference. SPC has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and follow my passion.”

Michelle M. Werden, Veterinary Nursing Center

Werden will receive an A.S. degree in Veterinary Nursing and currently has a G.P.A of 3.7.

She is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Florida Veterinary Technicians Association. She received the P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education Grant and was the recipient of the Pinellas County Veterinary Medical Association Scholarship.

She has been a volunteer since 2016 with the Pet Pal Animal Shelter where she assists with community events and educates the community on the importance of spaying and neutering their pets.  Through Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, she helped organize activities and meals for the guest of the Ronald McDonald House.

Werden’s future plans include taking a full-time position at the Pet Pal Veterinary Clinic and to continue her education by pursuing the Human-Animal Bond and Pet Nutritional Certifications.

Alumni Achievement Award Finalists

Four outstanding St. Petersburg College students have been selected as finalists for the annual Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Alumni Achievement Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards.

This year’s finalists are:

“SPC instilled a passion in me for community service and always striving toward the goals that I have set. The College has overwhelmingly equipped me for life after college as I have listened and learned in constructive environments with life-changing professors and inspiring colleagues. The guidance of everyone I have come in contact with at SPC has impacted me in the way that I hope to impact each and every one of the students in my future classrooms for years to come.”

Savannah Strandlof, Clearwater Campus, Winner

Strandlof will receive a B.S. degree in Elementary Education (K-6) with Reading and ESOL Endorsement and currently has a 4.0 G.P.A.

Strandlof is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Education Society – Education society which promotes excellence in teaching and fellowship. She is also a member of the Student Florida Education Association.

She participated as a member on the Model United Nations Academic team and attended the National Model United Nations conference in New York to represent the country of Bolivia. Ms. Strandlof was recognized by the National Collegiate Conference Association at the NMUN New York Conference as a Distinguished Delegate for her representation for Bolivia on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Strandlof served as the Chair of Model UN Women at the Pinellas County Model United Nations conference held by SPC where she led and monitored sessions and discussed issues affecting women globally.

Strandlof serves her community actively as a volunteer for Belcher Elementary’s Ninja Warrior Fun Run Family Day, Calvary Baptist Church preparing meals for families in need and Champions for Life Kids Camp as a buddy for abused, abandoned and neglected children.

She plans to obtain a Masters degree in Gifted Education and a Doctorates in Curriculum and Instruction or Educational Leadership.

“I invested my time and resources into this college and I have managed to make a second home here at SPC. I’ve built new relationships, developed new skills and actively served to spread the knowledge and blessing that SPC has to offer.”

Jerrick Rivera, Seminole Campus

Rivera will receive a B. A. degree in Management and Organizational Leadership and currently has a 3.5 G.P.A.

He has served as the 2018-2019 President of the SPC Student Government Association on the Seminole Campus and has served as an officer with SGA since 2013.

Rivera is active within his community serving as a volunteer for such organizations as Habitats for Humanity. Every Sunday he commits seven hours or more to his church’s production team as the lighting director, programming lights and commanding lighting queues. He also serves as a vocalist during worship and services. Mr. Rivera has also volunteered with several local 5K Marathons.

One of his most proud moments was being chosen to deliver the “2017-2018 Student Life and Leadership Annual Budget” presentation to the SPC Board of Trustees at their monthly BOT meeting.

Rivera plans to continue his education and obtain a Masters in Business Administration. His aspiration is to one day to earn a position as a CEO and serve his community as a city council member.

“I felt so proud of myself for attempting and succeeding in college. I am the first in my family to attend college and it has impacted my life greatly. SPC has taught me things about teaching and working with students I feel like I would have never learned anywhere else. It has allowed me to make close connections with great professors, advisers, and peers.”

Allison Rae Thompson, Tarpon Springs Campus

Thompson will receive a B.S. degree in Educational Studies and Community Leadership and currently has a 3.89 G.P.A.

She became a member of Phi Theta Kappa in September of 2015. Ms. Thompson served as a member of the Elite Educators which is a group of teachers/students who learn together in the same classes and workshops to become better leaders and teachers of the future.

Ms. Thompson serves her community as a volunteer for many nonprofit organization. Through Feeding Children Everywhere-Hunger Project she helped package several bags of food to families all around the world. She also volunteers at Heritage United Methodist Church in the nursery.

Ms. Thompson was the recipient of the Juvenile Welfare Board Scholarship and Helios Education Foundation First Generation Scholarship.

She plans to become a VPK teacher in a Pinellas County School and giving back to the community through her love for learning. Thompson plans on continuing her education and enroll in additional classes at SPC to further enrich her learning within the field of Education.

“My experience here at SPC has had a profound impact on my life. I have found the desire to advocate on issues relating to veterans. Because of my experience as a student veteran, I have developed a desire to assist future student veterans in succeeding throughout their transition and academic careers.”

Eric Tsai, Clearwater Campus

Tsai will receive a B.S. degree in Public Policy and Administration and currently has a 3.62 G.P.A.

Tsai has been very active at St. Petersburg College serving as a member of Student Veterans Association, International City/County Management Association (ICMA), Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honors Society, Golden Key International Honors Society and St. Petersburg College Underwater Research Society (SURS).

He obtained his A.A. degree with Honors and was the recipient of the 2017 Veteran Scholar Award, an award that recognizes Student Veteran Scholars who have demonstrated exceptional work in their courses.

Tsai is active within his community. He volunteers with the Avian Veterans Alliance assisting with the care and handling of bird of prey at The Narrows. He also volunteers with Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch and assists the organization through photography and setup of event displays and has participated in the Great American Teach-In as a guest speaker addressing 5th-grade classes of Blanton Elementary School.

Tsai’s goal is to obtain a meaningful career as a Law Enforcement Officer where he can continue to make a difference in the lives of the people he meets and continue his work in veteran advocacy where he can influence policies related to veteran issues. Academically, Tsai would like to obtain a Juris Doctor degree.


St. Petersburg College will hold its 139th commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 18 at Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Dr., St. Petersburg.

The college’s youngest graduate is 17 years old, the oldest is 75 years old and 28 graduates are over the age of 60.

With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 176,808 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

SPC will award:

  • 978 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 459 Associate in Science degrees
  • 303 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 223 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 208 Certifications

Savannah Strandlof and Lorena Hmelas will address fellow graduates and guests. Strandlof is the Alumni Achievement Award Winner, which is the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve. Hmelas is the Apollo Award Winner, which is the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve.

In an effort to restore the popular “Hurricane Hole” near Bay Pines and protect Tampa Bay estuary waters and habitats, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) has awarded St. Petersburg College (SPC) a grant that will be used to create a living shoreline.

The $10,071.47 grant focuses on restoration and rehabilitation of a living shoreline at the SPC Bay Pines STEM Center, part of the Tampa Bay estuary known as Hurricane Hole. TBEP believes empowering citizens through programs such as this helps foster an environmental ethic and promote community stewardship of the bay.

This project – low-cost, long-term alternative to repairing and/or replacing the dilapidated seawall at the site – will fill in gaps in the deteriorating structure, restore native habitation and create a living shoreline. SPC students from various ecological classes will engage in restoration efforts and ongoing monitoring of the environment.

“The TBEP grant will allow our faculty and students the opportunity to create a living shoreline that will provide wildlife habitat, as well as the natural interface between the water and the land here on the property,” SPC STEM Center Director Erica Moulton said. “While still relatively a new concept, living shorelines are innovative and cost-effective techniques for coastal management and will provide us with a demonstration site that is welcoming to both the students and faculty here, but also the native flora and fauna.”

Coastal engineering planning with TBEP and coastal engineer consultants will help develop a long-range restoration plan for the site. For future projects, they’ll also provide advice and recommendations as needed about removing and deconstructing sections of the seawall.  Enhancement at the site will focus on preserving the present salt tern habitat to preserve the hypersaline environment. Native plants will be installed in this area as well.

This one-year project is in partnership with Florida Native Plant Society, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Madeira Beach Fundamental School.

St. Petersburg College (SPC) was honored with two awards from the Association of Florida College (AFC) at the College Teaching and Learning Conference in St. Petersburg this month. Professor Sharon Olsen was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award, and SPC’s Veterinary Technology associate degree program was presented the Teaching and Learning Center Award.

The Distinguished Faculty Award honors a faculty member who best exhibits a dedication to academic teaching and scholarship. The award is designed to pay tribute to educators who are guiding 21st-century students into the future with new pedagogical techniques and creative thinking.

Olsen is an associate professor for the department of Social/Behavioral Sciences & Human Services at SPC. Her experiences include teaching undergraduate Psychology and Student Life Skills courses. During her tenure, she has had numerous accomplishments. Additionally, she consistently has high student success rates and a strong degree of rapport with her students. She is committed to academic excellence and community engagement.

SPC’s Veterinary Technology associate degree program received AFC’s newest award, the Teaching and Learning Center Award. This award pays tribute to exemplary teaching and learning centers that inspire and advance teaching and learning. It highlights exemplary institutional programs and the accomplishments of college centers that have demonstrated their impact on student success, retention and graduation rates.

Also, Dr. John Kurnik, a professor in the College of Business, was a finalist for the Boyer Award. The Boyer Award is in honor of the late Ernest L. Boyer, former chancellor of the State University of New York and the United States commissioner of education. The award honors educator contributions that have a broad, significantly positive effect on student learning, motivation, and creativity beyond their own departments and institutions.

St. Petersburg College (SPC) is ranked first in Florida and sixth in the nation among associate colleges for sending students abroad, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE) 2018 Open Doors Report. Over the last year, more than 150 SPC students have traveled to other countries while earning college credit.

SPC Study Abroad in ParisDr. Ramona Kirsch, Director of the Center for International Programs, highlighted that the program’s success is attributed to a collegewide collaboration and the students’ willingness to expand their out-of-classroom experience.

SPC student Maria Dotsok strongly encourages other students to travel abroad and experience new cultures.

“It is a wonderful experience to travel abroad and become a global citizen,” Dotsok said. “I would give one bit of advice to the students: don’t think – do it!”

SPC has a broad range of study abroad programs throughout the world. For 2019-20, the planned programs include:

  • Students will study the Maori culture in New Zealand while living with host families in the Maori village.
  • Social and health sciences students will study at the Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.
  • Humanities students will travel to Greece and the island city of Kalymnos.
  • Students will travel to Costa Rica to study biology.
  • Students will study the theatre arts in England, which includes viewing a performance at the Globe Theatre and visiting Shakespeare’s home Stratford on Avon.
  • Students will study the Spanish language in Spain.
  • Dental hygiene students will travel to Jamaica to offer community volunteer services.

Learn more about SPC’s Center for International Programs online, or email studyabroad@spcollege.edu.

Through the contributions of our award-winning faculty, St. Petersburg College has been the anchor institution for higher education in Pinellas county since 1927.

SPC is looking for energetic, dynamic and creative people with expertise in their field to join our team of part-time faculty. The college will hold an Adjunct Recruitment Fair, where interested parties can learn about course offerings, meet with program deans and other faculty, and receive assistance filling out the college employment application.

The two-day event will be held at the SPC EpiCenter, 13805 58th St. N. Clearwater:

  • 5-7 p.m. on Friday, April 26
  • 10 a.m. -1 p.m. on Saturday, April 27

The college offers more than 100 degrees and certificates online and face-to-face, and it is this flexibility which allows adjunct professors the ability to expand their professional portfolio. Teaching opportunities include the following areas:

  • Arts, Humanities, and Design
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Education
  • Engineering, Manufacturing, and Building Arts
  • Health Sciences and Veterinary Technology
  • Public Safety, Public Policy, and Legal Studies
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences and Human Services
  • Technology

Attendees are encouraged to bring copies of their resume and college transcripts.

For more information, contact Christian Moriarty, Professor of Ethics and Law, Academic Chair, Applied Ethics Institute, at Moriarty.Christian@spcollege.edu or (727) 614-7265.

Usually, St. Petersburg College grad Colin Treneff didn’t pay attention to job fairs, but something led him to attend one of the hiring events hosted at the Seminole Campus. There, he was pleased to meet with representatives from a local law firm, who offered the recent Digital Arts graduate an internship making videos for their marketing team. Treneff said he is gaining new experience, and the hands-on experience he earned at SPC more than prepared him to do the job.

“The Digital Arts facilities at Seminole rivals that of local news stations,” he said. “And the support from faculty and staff was incredible.”

Treneff’s was only one of the stories shared by a student panel made up of current students and graduates of SPC’s Career and Technical Education programs at the annual Workforce Connections event. Workforce Connections is a joint-advisory committee gathering where all members are invited to attend, and local business leaders learn about the ways SPC students can fill their job openings – as well as how they can inform SPC’s programs and curriculum. Career Connections Director Jason Krupp said Workforce Connections provides an opportunity to unify collegewide efforts for a common goal.

“The call to action is for advisory committee members to define and commit how they will engage with the college community,” Krupp said. “In turn, the college stands ready to connect them with SPC teams who will facilitate their participation.”

In his welcome, Krupp thanked the group for making sure our students get experiences and opportunities they need to complete their educations and become employed. SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams served as keynote speaker, noting in her address rising unemployment and poverty rates and a decrease in the number of citizens who can afford housing in Pinellas County. Williams said that Workforce Connections is the key to ensuring that SPC reduces the number of under-educated and under-employed people in Pinellas County and implored guests to communicate their needs to the college.

“Thanks for coming today and investing in our students,” Williams said. “Advisory committees lead us and let us know what programs we should or should not be offering. We cannot do what we do without you. No suggestion you could make would be wrong. What would be wrong would be what you don’t say. Our students need you.”

Chris Paul, Manager of Information Systems at Melita and Chair of SPC’s College of Computer Information Systems Advisory Committee, encouraged everyone to continue their support by serving on advisory committees.

“It is an obligation and professional responsibility to ensure that this school teaches relevant skillsets,” Paul said. “It’s also an opportunity to give back, and the network I’ve gained is tremendous.”

Michelle Hentz-Prange, Human Resources Manager at TSE Industries serves on the Engineering Technology Advisory Committee. She addressed the crowd, noting the many SPC students who turned their internships at TSE into careers, as well as the value of serving on an SPC advisory committee.

“It’s a win/win,” she said. “As a local employer, it’s great to be able to support an educational institution while making connections with future employees.”

Maureen Lucido, Area Human Resource Director with Hyatt Hotels, said she attended the event because she wants to hire SPC students as interns with the hotel chain.

“It’s an opportunity to give students the chance to see the great pay and benefits Hyatt has to offer them in the hospitality industry,” she said.

The student voices rounded out the session, which was followed by advisory committee meetings. The student panel was made up of DeeAnne Brooks, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Biology, Dane Janssen, an Information Technology student, Fatima Hedeia, a Human Services student and Colin Treneff, a recent Digital Arts graduate. The group, moderated by Public Safety, Public Policy and Legal Studies Dean Susan Demers, discussed how internships had increased their knowledge and led to employment.

“As employers engage further with the college to guide programs to meet industry needs, students gain the skills and experiences necessary to join the workforce,” Krupp said. “Employers get the talent they need and students get the jobs they want.”

Hedeia interned as an assistant to the director of the Homeless Empowerment Project, where she said she got insight into the real needs of the homeless population. Brooks scored an internship with Solar Source and was offered a job, though she turned it down so that she could complete her bachelor’s degree. Brooks implored the audience to give interns a chance.

“Believe in us,” she said. “We really want to make an effort to be great in the community.”

Interested in becoming an Advisory Committee member? Find out more here.