This holiday season, St. Petersburg College has partnered with Operation Toy Soldier to help collect holiday gifts for families of our service members at several SPC campuses through Dec. 14. Donations are welcome from staff, faculty, students and the local community, so please help spread the word.

Operation Toy SoldierOperation Toy Soldier collects new and unwrapped toys for children of all ages, which are then distributed to parents or guardians to give to their children. One thing to keep in mind is since older children can be harder to buy for, great gifts for them could be movie theater gift cards, mall and specific store gift cards, and Visa and MasterCard gift cards.

Jim Rudolph, the owner of Veterans Funeral Care in Pinellas County, helped start the non-profit organization a few years ago to give back to service members who have sacrificed so much.

“Holidays and back-to-school time are big “stress points” for military families because of the financial demands placed on them. Operation Toy Soldier helps relieve some of that pressure,” Rudolph said.

Even though Operation Toy Soldier is a nationwide toy drive, all the toys that you donate stay local.

“Each of our communities are very dear to us, so it is essential that when we participate in a national drive, our local community benefits from the donations,” Rudolph said.

How to Donate

To donate to Operation Toy Soldier, please visit the campus locations listed below.  Donations will be accepted until Friday, December 14.

  • Tarpon Springs Campus, AG Building, Veterans Services Center, Room 132
  • Clearwater Campus, SS Building, Veterans Services Center, Room 102
  • Seminole Campus, UP Building, Veterans Services Center, Room 179
  • St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, SA Building, Veterans Services Center, Room 133
  • Midtown Campus, Jamerson Center, Main Lobby
  • Downtown Campus, Main Lobby
  • Health Education Center, Main Lobby
  • Allstate Center, Main Lobby
  • Epicenter Campus, Workforce Institute Lobby
  • District Office, Main Lobby

For more information on Operation Toy Soldier or the donation process, click here or contact Fred Tucker at 727-791-2409 or tucker.fred@spcollege.edu.

Operation Toy Soldier flier

Fall 2018 SPC Graduation

Jalessa Blackshear was a single mom working three jobs at the Jersey Shore when she decided it was time to make a change. So she and her daughter Gia, now 4, moved to St. Petersburg, where she has lots of family. She started looking around at colleges and settled on St. Petersburg College, setting her sights on an Associate in Arts degree. On Saturday, Dec. 8, Blackshear walked across the stage to receive her diploma at the college’s 138th commencement.

SPC awarded degrees, certificates and workforce certifications to more than 2,400 students this semester with approximately 900 attending the ceremony at Tropicana Field. The youngest Fall 2018 graduate was 18, and the oldest was 76 years old. Eight of them, including SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams, were also celebrating their birthdays. She praised all of the graduates in her address.

“You inspire us with your determination,” she said. “Our students are far from ordinary – they are extraordinary.”

This graduation marked 174,637 certificates and degrees awarded by SPC opened its doors in 1927.

After a processional of faculty and administrators entered to the tunes of the St. Petersburg College Band, directed by Acting Academic Department Chair Nathan Muehl, Williams welcomed the large crowd of graduates, friends and families. The Rev. Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church offered the invocation. SPC student Hannah White sang the National Anthem and later the Alma Mater. Williams thanked the faculty for their work in educating SPC students.

“You teach, nurture and guide our students on a daily basis,” she said. “Thank you for lifting them up.”

Survivor stories

SPC Graduate Ronelia Bailey

SPC Graduate Ronelia Bailey

Two students offered inspiration, encouragement and gratitude to their fellow graduates and those who helped them reach their goals.

Ronelia Bailey, who received her Associate in Arts degree in Business, spoke about her health challenges and thanked many of her instructors for their support and encouragement.

“I am a kidney failure survivor,” she said, before thanking her anonymous kidney donor. “I am a Lupus survivor. I am a kidney transplant survivor. I was able to get through because of the love of my family, friends, and faculty and staff at SPC. Grads, I implore you to thank those who helped you along the way.”

Alexander Fisher captured the audience with his story of how, eight years ago, he was homeless and completely dispirited with life. He was encouraged by someone to do the work it took to make things different, and he took that advice and started taking steps to make changes and shake off the fear that had prevented him from moving forward for so long. He encouraged his fellow graduates and their family and friends to forget any fears that might be holding them back.

“Strive for the life you want,” Fisher told them. “Work hard, and your dreams will come to fruition. You are all good enough – you just have to believe in yourselves.” he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Management & Organizational Leadership.

SPC Graduate Alexander Fisher

SPC Graduate Alexander Fisher with SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams

Setting an example 

With her degree in hand, Blackshear is passionate about what she can achieve in her future. She will pursue a bachelor’s degree and would like to initiate education reform and help communities reach their full potentials. She admits that, at times, it was a struggle to work two jobs, be a mom, volunteer in her community and succeed academically. She is thankful for the support services offered at SPC.

“I spent 20 hours a week at the Downtown campus with tutors. It was the only way I was going to pass,” she said.

And pass she did, because Gia and her family cheered her on as she received her diploma.

“I wasn’t going to walk,” Blackshear said. “But then I thought about my daughter and how it would be good for her to see me do this. I walked for her.”

See more photos from the event on the college’s Facebook page.

St. Petersburg College will hold its 138th commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8 at Tropicana Field, One Tropicana Dr., St. Petersburg.

The youngest graduate is 18 years old, the oldest is 76 years old and 19 graduates are over the age of 60. Sixty-two percent of the graduates are female.

With this graduating class, St. Petersburg College will have awarded 174,637 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

SPC will award:

  • 1075 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 399 Associate in Science degrees
  • 298 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 211 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 483 Certifications

Ronelia Bailey and Alexander J. Fisher address fellow graduates and guests. Fisher will earn a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Management and Organizational Leadership. Bailey will earn an Associates in Arts in Business.

Fall 2018 Graduation By The Numbers

Dr. Angela Cashwell CarneySt. Petersburg College President Dr. Tonjua Williams fondly remembers her time working at the Health Education Center with her friend, the late Dr. Angela Cashwell Carney. The two often lunched together, planning their career moves and solidifying plans to earn their doctorate degrees. On November 29, Williams was one of several to speak in honor of Carney, whose husband, Dr. Conferlete Carney, endowed a scholarship for SPC Health Information Management students in her memory.

“She had such a warm, giving heart,” Williams said. “I’ve seen her do miraculous things for people at this college, including myself. It was such a blessing to the college to have had her here.”

Based on financial need, The Dr. Angela Rose Cashwell Carney Endowed Scholarship for Health Information Management Studies will be awarded each year to two students who are pursuing the Health Information Technology associate degree or the Health Service Administration bachelor’s degree. It covers the students’ tuition for the entirety of their program, as long as they stay eligible. Allied Health Sciences Dean Deanna Stentiford said Carney left a legacy that will live on forever.

“She dedicated her career to her students and SPC, and she really demonstrated the difference people can make,” Stentiford said. “Her legacy was spearheading and transforming the program into what it is today, and she was integral in getting the courses online in order to reach more students. She was a wonderful role model and example of what a professor should be. The endowment of this scholarship will allow her legacy to live on forever.”

Dr. Tonjua Williams, Denise Fonzo and Dr. Conferlete Carney

Dr. Conferlete Carney, a retired SPC educator and administrator, decided upon the endowed scholarship as a way to keep his wife’s name going and hopes it will generate awards to students for years to come.

“I wanted to do something good that was bigger than the human experience of Angela and I,” he said. “There is no better way to do this than with this scholarship.”

Keys to ManhoodOn Saturday, February 23, 2019, St. Petersburg College will be host the seventh annual Keys to Manhood Seminar at the Allstate Center from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by Transamerica Corporation, aims to address issues faced by male students.

Call for Proposals

The college is inviting community partners to submit proposals that focus on a range of engaging topics specifically for middle and high school students. If you’d like to submit a proposal, please complete this survey

About the Event

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Koco Eaton of Eaton Orthopedics. Dr. Eaton also serves as the orthopedic surgeon for the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rowdies. Students will learn firsthand about the obstacles Dr. Eaton had to overcome as a man of color. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to all student participants.

This year’s breakout sessions will include:

  • Career and professional development
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Masculinity/personal identity
  • Social/community engagement
  • Hands-on activities

Scholarship Opportunities

During this year’s Keys to Manhood seminar, 10 high school seniors will be awarded scholarships to attend SPC. These scholarships are sponsored by Verizon (five $1,000 scholarships), GTE Financial (one $1,000 scholarship), and Transamerica Corporation (one $1,000 scholarship). More scholarship sponsors are expected.

For more information, please contact Todd Smith at Smith.Todd@spcollege.edu.


St. Petersburg College has received an $83,450 grant from the Department of Education as part of its Pilot Program for Cybersecurity Education Technological Upgrades for Community Colleges initiative.  In partnership with NSF ATE National Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance, SPC will enhance its College of Computer and Information Technology’s (CCIT) existing cybersecurity program and work toward an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity degree to meet the growing workforce needs in Tampa Bay.

Once developed, the Cybersecurity bachelor’s degree will be the first of its kind at the community college level in the Tampa Bay region and only the second in Florida, providing students with an affordable, flexible option for high-wage, high-demand sustainable careers in cybersecurity.

“St. Petersburg College is honored that the Department of Education has awarded us this grant to enhance our cybersecurity program,” said SPC CCIT Dean Dr. James H. Stewart. “This grant project will strengthen regional and national partnerships with institutions in cybersecurity education, sharing resources and best practices for other community colleges seeking to develop bachelor’s programs.”

The grant will also support faculty and staff efforts for curriculum development, new equipment for virtual training activities and faculty certification training.

The U.S. Department of Labor designates Florida as the fourth-largest cyber employment market and projects a 28 percent increase in employment of information security analysts through 2026, with Tampa Bay being the state’s leading tech hub.

St. Petersburg College is partnering with the Gasparilla Music Foundation to support music and education through the community outreach program, Recycled Tunes. Gently used instruments can be donated from Nov. 13-16 at three SPC Campuses. The instruments will be refurbished by Recycled Tunes and then donated to Pinellas County Schools’ music programs.

All donors will receive a ticket to the 2019 Gasparilla Music Festival

The donation drop-off times include:

  • 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13 – Thursday, Nov. 15
  • 9 a.m. – noon on Friday, Nov. 16

The SPC drop-off locations include:

  • SPC Clearwater Campus (ST 122), 2465 Drew St.
  • SPC St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus (SS Lobby), 6605 5th N.
  • SPC Tarpon Springs Campus (AG 114), 600 Klosterman Rd.

For more information, contact Rosaria Pipitone at 727-314-4722 and visit www.spcollege.edu/recycled-tunes/.