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While continuing to provide students with free busing through the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, wellness services with BayCare and on-site food pantries, this year student government leaders at St. Petersburg College put a bigger emphasis on mental health and wellness.

Every year at SPC, the Student Government Association groups receive a portion of student activities funds to help support enriching activities and initiatives for their locations and students.

SGA leaders from the individual chapters presented plans for those funds for the upcoming year to SPC officials, including President Dr. Tonjua Williams, on Friday, September 27. Using five pillars to guide them—student success, health and wellness, leadership development, diversity and service—the SGA leaders put together well thought out and unique presentations that were well received.

All locations expressed how important they felt Project HEAL—a collaborative infrastructure at SPC targeting suicide prevention and mental health and substance abuse awareness—is and plan on adding events to help with mental health and wellness. The SGA for the Caruth Health Education Center plans to include self-care initiatives while student leaders for the Clearwater Campus want to add more events that incorporate meditation and yoga. Clearwater SGA leaders agreed that if you “feel well, you will do well,” and they want to support the mental and physical well-being of their peers across campus.

“I had the chance to talk to a student who was using the food pantry [at Seminole] and it was so encouraging,” said Dr. Williams, commending the SGA students for their continued dedication to supporting everyone at their campuses.

Student Success

Student success was also a very important initiative for the SGA leaders. While all SPC locations find it highly beneficial for students to have access to tutors, a few campuses came up with other innovative ways to help increase student success.

The Midtown and Downtown centers have found it valuable to host “Meet Your Professor” events and plan to continue hosting them throughout the 2019–2020 academic year. Several SGA chapters will also host student award ceremonies to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of their fellow SPC students.

Diversity and Community Service

In addition to enhancing student success, diversity and community service projects were big topics from all locations.  Each SGA chapter is very proud of the diversity on their campuses and plan on hosting events for Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, International Education week, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Women’s History Month, Pride and Greek Independence Day.

Each campus had several different community services that they support including the Habitat for Humanity, RCS Food Bank, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Some campuses have service events that are unique to their campus, including Honeymoon Island beach clean-ups and Holiday Blessings, which are food baskets that the Midtown Center puts together.

Budget Allocation

The SGA budget is split among the locations based on student semester hours at each campus. The Downtown Center received an increase in their funds and their SGA leaders are very pleased to be able to further ensure success for students. Student groups and clubs can also request funds for their events through SGA by explaining the budget and providing quotes either online or in-person to a member of the SGA. Campuses have allocated funds for new clubs throughout the 2019–2020 academic year.

Budget Breakdown:

  • Allstate: $77,887.09
  • Clearwater: $195,820.31
  • Downtown: $46,653.45
  • Health Education Center: $124,284.00
  • Midtown: $46,653.45
  • Seminole: $142,053.00
  • St. Pete/Gibbs: $169,896.00
  • Tarpon Springs: $150,250.17

St. Petersburg College has received a grant award of $323,446 from the U.S. Department of Education for the Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools (CCAMPIS) program. The goal of CCAMPIS is to increase access to high-quality, affordable child care and support services for low-income students with children, ultimately helping them persist and complete a postsecondary education.

“For many families in Pinellas, having a child can mean putting your higher education dreams on hold. Whether it be single or two parent households, lack of child care can be the number one reason mom or dad isn’t able to go back to school. I’m honored to announce this well-deserved grant to SPC, empowering parents across the Tampa Bay area to have both a family and obtain a college education,” said Congressman Charlie Crist.

In a recent survey of SPC students with children, more than 61 percent of respondents indicated that access and cost of child care has significantly impacted their ability to remain in school. The grant, renewable for up to four years, will allow SPC to develop a voucher-based child care program for low-income (Pell grant-eligible) students. Working with community partners, such as the Juvenile Welfare Board, Lutheran Family Services Head Start and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, SPC will offer vouchers for local, quality child care on a sliding fee scale, with priority given to full-time students needing full-time child care.

“We’re thrilled to be the recipient of the CCAMPIS grant, which will help remove the barrier of affordable child care and enable students to complete their education and achieve their goals,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams. “This program adds one more layer to our Community of Care initiative and creates lasting, meaningful impact for our students and their families.”

First authorized in 1998, the CCAMPIS program grant is housed under the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. CCAMPIS provides grant awards to colleges who aid low-income student parents with child care. In 2018, Congress passed a spending package that increased funding for the program to $50 million.

At SPC, the program will serve an estimated 85 students per year through vouchers for local child care services, provided by outsourced contracts with licensed and accredited child care providers near SPC’s 11 learning sites. The program also includes wraparound support services, such as career and academic advising, financial literacy and life skills workshops to help students succeed.

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College will present a free forum titled Progress for Mental Health Today: Policy and Practice on Wednesday, Oct. 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N. This program is presented in partnership with SPC’s Project H.E.A.L. (Healthy Emotions and Lives) whose mission is to prevent suicide and promote a college community dedicated to mental health wellness.

Progress for Mental Health Today event

The forum will feature the Honorable Steve Leifman of the 11th Judicial Circuit. Judge Leifman championed a transformation of criminal justice in Miami-Dade County for those entering the system due to mental illness and addiction. Panelists Ruth Power of the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network and SPC Psychology Professor Dr. Carleah East will highlight local efforts underway to ensure that treatment and support are accessible for community members who are struggling with mental health challenges. Moderating the discussion will be Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters, who has worked at both the state and local level to advance change in the mental health and addiction arenas.

Judge Steve Leifman

Judge Steve Leifman

Awarded the 2018 international Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health, Judge Leifman served as the Special Advisor to the Florida Supreme Court on criminal justice and mental health for three years and has fought for almost two decades to direct support and funding toward helping individuals rather than incarcerating them. He currently serves as the Chair of the Steering Committee on Problem Solving Courts for the Florida Supreme Court.

“Diversion to treatment for people with mental illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system improves public safety, saves critical tax dollars and affords individuals with these illnesses an opportunity to live a life in recovery with hope,” said Judge Leifman.

The societal stigma of mental illness, mental health challenges in general and drug addiction have for many years hindered individuals from seeking help and hampered efforts to implement effective delivery of support and resources to those who suffer. Ranking 50th in the nation for mental health funding, Florida is faced with a mental health crisis that burdens families and communities, and strains public and private agencies alike. Locally, many of those in need of services end up in jail, in the revolving doors of 3-day involuntary Baker Act commitments, or cycling in and out of emergency rooms.

Representatives of local mental health resource and support organizations will have information tables in the Music Center Lobby before and after the program. Admission is free, but advance registration is requested at solutions.spcollege.edu. For further information, call 727-394-6942.

Growing up in Syracuse, New York, St. Petersburg College’s Engineering Technology Program Director Lara Sharp came from a science-minded family. Her mother and grandmother were nurses, her father a science teacher and grandfather a math teacher. So when her seventh-grade math teacher invited her to take an exam that would allow her to take a higher-level math class, she didn’t even flinch.

“She gave us all a study packet. I brought it home, and every night after dinner for the entire school year, I would walk across the street to my grandparents’ house, where my grandfather would tutor me,” Sharp said. “It was hard, and sometimes there were tears, but he wouldn’t let me quit.”

The hard work at her grandparents’ kitchen table paid off when Sharp made a perfect score on the test. Years later, it’s still paying off, because on Sept. 13, Sharp was named one of the 2019 STEM Women of the Year from Girls Inc. of Pinellas.

Girls Inc. of Pinellas offers opportunities for girls to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields through hands-on experiences and leadership roles, giving them room to take risks and make mistakes, free from distractions. Each year, the organization honors local people who encourage young women to enter careers in STEM.

“It is very humbling to get this award,” Sharp said. “Though I never thought of myself as a trailblazer or a woman engineer. Only an engineer. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

A Scientific Journey

Sharp, who earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Buffalo, said her interest in the field stemmed from one of her sci-fi heroes: the chief engineer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Scotty.

“The first time I ever thought about being an engineer was after seeing a Star Trek movie,” she said. “Everyone wants to be Kirk, but I wanted to be Scotty. It wasn’t Kirk saving the day. It was Scotty.”

Sharp went to work as a chemical engineer after earning her degree, and immediately began work on a Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Massachusetts. Though she loved her engineering job, she wanted to teach like her father and grandfather, so she began teaching high school chemistry. Sharp’s career trajectory ultimately brought her to her current position at SPC four years ago.

“Education is where I belong,” she said. “I love it. Being able to do both engineering and teaching is very rewarding.”

Sharp, who just finished a second master’s degree from the University of South Florida three years ago, said that as a woman, she understands the challenges that young women entering STEM fields face.

“I was one of three girls in a class of 40, with no female instructors,” she said. “At times it was difficult. One professor actually told me it was a privilege for women to be able to go to college.”

The opposition only motivated her more.

“I may have had to work harder in undergrad than the boys,” Sharp said. “I probably did have something to prove, and I had to develop a shell. But I never had to compromise who I was. I didn’t have to stop being a woman.”

A Role Model

SPC Workforce Institute Program Director Susan Garrett nominated Sharp for the award, noting her creativity, innovation and inspiration in furthering SPC’s efforts to encourage women and young girls to enter STEM fields.

“Lara is a great role model of a STEM professional,” Garrett said. “Not only has she overcome some stereotypes of women in engineering, she has also worked hard to mentor and encourage other women to be bold and take the steps to the career paths they have both interest in and intelligence for. She is a great role model.”

SPC Lab Specialist Sara Warmouth earned her Associate of Arts degree in Engineering Technology under Sharp’s tutelage. She says Sharp inspired her and gave her space to develop confidence in her own abilities.

“She was always supportive as a teacher,” Warmouth said. “But her ideas never outweighed mine. It was always a collaborative effort. She wanted me to carve my own path and succeed.”

Sharp says that though great strides have been made in making education more equitable, there is still important work to be done.

“One stat that bothers me is the fact that more women are getting degrees, but the numbers aren’t changing in the workforce,” she said.

Sharp says she is humbled by the honor of the award.

“I’m very proud, and I like being recognized for my achievements, but I look forward to a time when there are no more “firsts” when it comes to women in STEM, and there is total equity in the educational and professional world, and people are recognized not as men or women who are leaders in their field, but as people being the best at what they do.”

ribbon cuttingWhen St. Petersburg College and the community play together, everybody wins! On Tuesday, Sept. 10, SPC celebrated the ribbon cutting for the new Lurie Civic Building at SPC Seminole Campus. The building, a shared space with the City of Seminole’s Chamber of Commerce, will include public meeting spaces as well as classrooms and event spaces for SPC students.

The idea for the building, a collaboration between the college and the community, originated when Dr. Ed and Vivian Lurie proposed a donation of $500,000 for the construction of a civic building in Seminole. Dr. Lurie, who helped establish SPC’s entrepreneurial program at the Seminole Campus, has long had a relationship with the college, and SPC’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the generous donation and offered space at the Seminole Campus.

“This is an awesome example of a community coming together, which, in turn, will benefit its citizens,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams.

Seminole Provost Mark Strickland says the building will help SPC students as they prepare to enter their career fields.

“Since the Seminole Chamber will be housed there, our students will be able to network, intern and shadow with local businesses that are charter members,” he said.

Strickland also noted opportunity for civic awareness.

“Because it will serve as a meeting place for local clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary, our students will be able to become civically engaged and participate in activities led by those clubs,” he said.

In addition to the Luries, many Seminole community members contributed to the project. Mark Ely donated technology in the classroom meeting spaces, while Pat Marlowe from Flooring America donated flooring for the area.

“The Seminole Community came together and raised 80 percent of the funds to construct this building,” Strickland said. “This is a prime example of a community understanding the vision of Dr. Lurie, who believed there should be a building in Seminole that allowed for local clubs to meet, the chamber to be housed, and for our students to be engaged.”

Duke Energy Director of Workforce Planning and Development LaTonya King, Duke Energy Workforce Development Consultant Isabel Nieto, Duke Energy Government and Community Relations Manager Jeff Baker, SPC Natural Science and Engineering Dean Natavia Middleton, SPC President Tonjua Williams, SPC VP of Student Affairs Jamelle Conner and SPC Acting VP of Academic Affairs Tom Furlong

St. Petersburg College received a $30,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation to create powerful communities in Pinellas County. SPC is one of 18 organizations in Florida to collectively receive $715,000 in grants from the foundation.

This grant, Engineering in Energy (E2), supports SPC’s initiative to increase community awareness of energy careers and support greater academic achievement and persistence of Engineering Technology students. SPC will host three hands-on community workshops in the upcoming academic year for anyone who may be interested in learning more about careers in energy and engineering.

The grant also decreases the financial burden of college by providing up to 50 scholarships for new and current engineering technology students. In addition, the funds will help to provide academic support through tutoring.

“SPC is grateful for the generous contributions from Duke Energy,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams. “Through this partnership, we’re able to empower our underrepresented communities with opportunities to pursue degrees in engineering technology. Ultimately, meeting the needs of the workforce and ensuring economic mobility for students by obtaining high-wage jobs through in-demand careers.”

“We are proud to support St. Petersburg College’s Engineering in Energy program,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president. “Developing a talented local workforce benefits the Tampa Bay region, our company and the entire energy industry with higher retention rates. Our workforce development grants help build stronger communities across the state by empowering a well-prepared workforce to meet needs in high-demand fields.”

The Duke Energy Foundation’s Powerful Communities program makes strategic investments to build powerful communities where our natural resources thrive, students can excel and a talented workforce drives economic prosperity for all. The foundation annually funds more than $30 million to communities throughout Duke Energy’s seven-state service area.

Grant managers recognizedOn September 5, 2019, St. Petersburg College (SPC) held its first Grant Manager Award ceremony. Five grant managers were recognized for their leadership on projects ranging from federal to locally funded projects.

“Implementing a grant-funded program adds a level of complexity, as one faces challenges that can be difficult to manage, especially at an institution as large as SPC,” noted Katie Shultz, SPC Executive Director of Grants Development. “Our grant managers are often the unsung heroes who keep our grant programs going, balancing the needs of the College, the funder and the students served.”

On average, 30 federal, state, foundation and local grants are awarded and managed through the Grants department annually. Grants enhance and support the impact that SPC has on its students and the greater Tampa Bay community. Funded projects vary in subject areas and focus, from workforce development, STEM programs, scholarship based programs, academic pathways, student support and more.

Among those recognized at September’s Grant Manager Award Ceremony were:

Rookie of the Year: Kelliann Ganoo

Ganoo was recognized for her work on the Bridges 2 Baccalaureate (B2B) program, a National Science Foundation-sponsored project that supports underrepresented minorities in STEM programs, as they transfer to Baccalaureate programs across three community colleges, including SPC.

Marvelous Multitasker: Marie Couch

Couch won her award for her role in Perkins, a Florida Department of Education-administered grant that envisions all students will achieve challenging academic and technical standards and be prepared for high-skill, high-wage or high-demand occupations in current or emerging professions.

High Five Award: Ernest Gant

Gant was recognized for his role in PITCH (Providing Instruction for Tomorrow’s Collegians and Hires), a City of St. Petersburg Cohort of Champions program. The PITCH program provides high-quality educational, career and character-development training for African-American males through industry-wide certifications or college degree support.

Mountain Mover: Susan Biszewski-Eber

Biszewski-Eber moved mountains in her work on Apprenticeship, a consortium grant led by Florida State College of Jacksonville. She works with businesses and other partners to close the workforce skills gap faced by the Information Technology, Manufacturing, Healthcare and Construction/Trades industries across Florida, by promoting the growth and expansion of quality and innovative apprenticeships programs.

Time After Time: George Carbart

Carbart has worked for 20+ years on TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), which provides year-round mentoring and support for college students through a textbook lending library, workshops, academic advising, tutoring and other activities.