a graduate wearing a cap and gown, standing at a podium, is seen from the back, addressing a large crowd of grads wearing caps and gowns, as well as a large audience of friends and families.

St. Petersburg College held its 144th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13 at Tropicana Field, bringing the number of degrees the College has awarded to 197,493 since it was founded in 1927.

SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams opened the ceremony with commendations.

“Our students are far from ordinary – they are extraordinary,” Williams said. “They are overcoming obstacles and juggling priorities to change their lives. Not only have they persevered, but they did so with academic honor.”

After Ryan Marr, pastor at Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg, led the invocation, and SPC music student Aaron Trill sang the National Anthem, Williams took back the mic for recognitions of members of the SPC Board of Trustees, faculty and students. She took a moment to talk about the new Promise Scholarship offered at SPC, which offers all graduates from Lakewood, Northeast, Pinellas Park, Clearwater and Tarpon Springs high schools the opportunity to earn an associate degree that is fully paid for by the scholarship.

“If you have a family member graduating from one of those high schools, and they want to be a Titan, SPC is where it’s at,” she said.

Award Winners

SPC Trustee Nathan Stonecipher presented this term’s award-winning students. The first, Elizabeth Hurley, is the 2023 Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve.

Hurley served as a vice president for Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, Eta Nu Chapter, and actively serves her community by volunteering at Dunedin Youth Sailing Association and participating in on-campus events such as Project HEAL (Healthy Emotions and Lives) and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that bring awareness to mental health. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at St. Petersburg College.

In her address, Hurley compared the journey of a life to a book.

“The first chapter of your book does not determine how your last chapter will end,” Hurley said. “You have everything you need inside of you: all the wisdom, all the knowledge, and an abundant world of resources. The world is in need of more people like you, and your voice has power. You have to use it – even if it shakes.”

Ke’Andre Chisom is the 2023 Alumni Achievement Award winner, which is the highest honor a bachelor’s degree graduate can achieve at the college.

Chisom, who attended SPC on a Take Stock in Children scholarship, is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, as well as The National Society of Leadership and Success Honor Society, Men Achieving Excellence and the Tampa Bay Bridge to Baccalaureate program. He serves his community by volunteering at Largo Middle and Largo High schools. He plans to pursue master’s degrees in both Project Management and Architecture from the University of South Florida.

Chisom emphasized the importance of setting goals.

“If you have not made a plan for your future, I encourage you to do that today,” he said, “Decide what you’re going to do; decide what you are going to be; envision it today and take action.”

By the Numbers

Check out some items of interest regarding this graduating class:

  • 1,530 degrees and certificates were awarded this semester:

685 Associate in Arts degrees
414 Associate in Science degrees
162 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
103 Bachelor of Science degrees
166 certifications

  • The college’s youngest graduate is 16 years old.
  • The oldest is 69 years old, and 13 graduates are over the age of 60.
  • 516 were the first in their families to graduate with a college degree.
  • 166 were Early College grads.
  • 156 were Collegiate High School grads.

Williams wrapped up the ceremony with parting words, sending the graduates off to start their careers or further their education.

“You have received a lot of knowledge from the finest faculty,” she said. “Now the challenge is to apply this knowledge with wisdom, and by doing so, you will most likely experience even more success in your lives.”

Watch the graduation ceremony in its entirety here.

See more photos from graduation here.

Learn more about becoming a future SPC graduate here.

In the middle of a crowd of grads in blue caps and gowns, a young woman hugs a professor in a black gown.

St. Petersburg College will hold its 144th commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 13, at Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg.

The event will also be streamed live on the college’s YouTube channel.

With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 197,493 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927, almost 100 years ago.

The college’s youngest graduate is 16 years old, the oldest is 69 years old and 13 graduates are over the age of 60. Exactly 101 graduates will be receiving more than one credential this semester.

SPC will award 1,530 degrees and certificates this semester:

  • 685 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 414 Associate in Science degrees
  • 162 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 103 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 166 certifications

SPC Trustee Nathan Stonecipher will present this term’s award-winning students. Ke’Andre Chisom is the 2023 Alumni Achievement Award winner, which is the highest honor a bachelor’s degree graduate can achieve at the college. Elizabeth Hurley is the 2023 Apollo Award winner, which is the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve.

For more information about the commencement, visit spcollege.edu/graduation.

Solar panels against a blue sky with fluffy clouds

Many companies who provide clean energy sources – including those in the solar energy field – are struggling to hire people to fill open positions. St. Petersburg College (SPC) is seeking to address this problem in the Tampa Bay area, by partnering to support the first state-approved Solar Apprenticeship Program in Florida, sponsored by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC).

“SPC’s goal has been to strengthen the workforce through the use of apprenticeships, which include structured on-the-job training and related technical instruction,” SPC Apprenticeship Coordinator, Jennifer Bodnar said.

Participants (apprentices) must already be employed by a solar company that is an approved member of the apprenticeship solar consortium before participating in the program. While working, apprentices will also take courses – fully paid for by their employer – to prepare them for industry-recognized certifications.

“I think this will be the most comprehensive program in the state,” Bodnar said. “It includes curriculum that other programs don’t have, like thermal and plumbing, and it covers both commercial and residential solar.”

Of course, employers who are consortium members benefit greatly from the program by upscaling their workforce with skilled employees.

“Employers often struggle with retention,” said Jason Krupp, SPC’s Career Connections Director. “This program shows their employees they are valued, and their company is invested in providing them with formal training. It builds a level of commitment to the employer.”

A grant was awarded to the college in the last year that can help defray costs to businesses, the Expansion of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (ERAP).

“With the grant, SPC is able to offer funds to offset some of the expenses to employers, as well as explore additional funding resources,” Bodnar said. “As a state college, we have access to a wide network, to help reduce employer costs,” Bodnar said.

Colleen Kettles, FSEC Director of Workforce and Business Development, believes the program is integral to Florida’s workforce.

 “The Solar Energy Technician Apprenticeship program addresses the future needs in Florida’s workforce,” Kettles said. “I am very grateful that St. Pete College has stepped up and is working with us on the training.”

Any employer interested can complete this form. If you are interested in becoming an apprentice, complete this form.

a young man speaks to a counselor

St. Petersburg College continues to take the lead in responding to and meeting community needs with the launch of its new Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree. The degree includes an embedded Applied Mental Health Advanced Technical Certificate that will offer critical skill sets to professionals, particularly in the law enforcement field, who face mental health issues – both personally and among the citizens they serve. Fall Term registration is now open for both programs.

SPC will be the first in the Florida College System to offer a combined bachelor’s degree and certificate. Graduates will help fill a critical need for substance abuse counselors, case managers, outreach workers, and community and social services specialists. The certificate can also be earned as a stand-alone credential, particularly aimed at current and retired law enforcement officers. 

“As St. Petersburg College, we have stepped up to the plate, to assist our overall and law enforcement communities by giving them the specialized skills they need,” said Human Services Program Director Latresha Bighem-Moore. “The advocacy piece is crucial to raise awareness of these issues and to take better care of our community. This awareness is very important in how we support each other and face the challenges of our society. The support for this degree illustrates how an institution of higher learning can have a real impact – by preparing students who are on the front lines of our community.”  

Students who earn SPC’s Associate in Science in Social and Human Services degree are a great fit for the new bachelor’s degree, which can lead to higher wages, increased opportunities and licensure. The bachelor’s degree also prepares students for graduate work in human services, counseling, psychology, addiction studies, health sciences and social work. 

“A lot of our A.S. degree students are very interested in the new degree,” said Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social/Behavioral Sciences and Human Services at SPC. “They can move into the new program seamlessly and prepare to be part of meeting the growing human services workforce needs.” 

Other new programs for Fall 2023 

SPC will launch the following certificates aimed at filling industry needs. 

The Biotechnology Laboratory Specialist Certificate provides a credential for those who want to work in the field of biotechnology as soon as they graduate. This hands-on certificate covers the core skills that are part of SPC’s Biotechnology Laboratory Technology Associate in Science degree but can be earned as a stand-alone credential. Certificate courses can also be applied to SPC’s Biology Bachelor of Science degree and prepare students for the nationally recognized Biotechnology Assistant Credentialing Exam (BACE). 

The Business Analyst Specialist Advanced Technical Certificate is the perfect credential for those looking to expand their skills in business operations. The program gives students a blend of the most sought-after skills needed by businesses, including business operations, management, customer needs analysis, data flow and design, and continuous process improvement. The certificate is particularly suited for technology students who want to transfer to business roles and for business students who want to expand their technical and data skills. 

“In the process of speaking with businesses, we found there was no real training to bridge the gap between business management and technology,” said Greg Buschman, College of Business faculty member. “This certificate will help fill that niche and give graduates the tools to succeed in the ever-changing global economy.” 

SPC will also offer a new degree track as part of its Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies and Community Leadership. The Training and Development specialization prepares graduates to fill careers as trainers, evaluators, policy analysts, researchers, and fundraisers working in community programs.

A man with a full beard, sunglasses and a white hard hat puts on safety gear

The Duke Energy Foundation has announced a $50,000 grant to the Electrical Lineworker Program at St. Petersburg College (SPC) to help meet the energy industry’s future workforce needs.

Since the program’s debut in March 2021, Duke Energy and the Duke Energy Foundation have contributed more than $350,000 to develop this workforce pipeline as well as to offer access to lineworker training and job skills opportunities. These workers, honored this week on National Lineworker Appreciation Day, help power the lives of millions across the country.

“It takes a diverse team of dedicated and talented people to power the lives of millions across our communities, often in the most difficult circumstances,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president. “Lineworkers consider it a privilege to serve their communities and they love what they do.”

“We are fortunate to have these passionate members on the Florida team, and we look forward to adding more,” said Seixas. “Graduates of lineworker programs at our local colleges are ideal candidates for lineworker roles at Duke Energy, and we are proud to continue to support the Electrical Lineworker Program at St. Petersburg College.”

Since partnering with SPC, more than 100 students have successfully completed the Electrical Lineworker Program. SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams said the continued partnership will build the next generation of the workforce.

“Strengthening the talent pipeline exemplifies the college’s vision of economic mobility,” Williams said. “Without the generous contributions and continued partnership with Duke Energy, the Electrical Lineworker Program’s success would not be possible.”

As Duke Energy continues to launch new grid and infrastructure improvement projects to modernize, harden and technologically advance the power grid, the need for skilled workers – especially entry-level lineworkers – is also on the upswing. Lineworkers play an integral role in a more efficient, more reliable digital grid. 

The company’s lineworker hiring strategy is transforming to fast-track and hire more aggressively. They also collaborate with local community colleges to identify lineworker talent, shorten the new hire onboarding process and deploy new hires more rapidly.  

The 14-week program at SPC’s Allstate Center in St. Petersburg provides students with practical lineworker skills so they are job ready. The class includes certifications in Restricted Class A CDL (in partnership with Pinellas Technical College), OSHA 10 Safety Training, Bucket Truck Rescue, Pole Top Rescue, and CPR/AED & First Aid.

The Electrical Lineworker Program is made possible through valuable relationships with Duke Energy, the Pinellas County Urban League, PowerTown Line Construction, Pinellas Technical College and CareerSource Pinellas.

For more information about this program, contact Christopher Cain at 727-302-6561 or cain.christopher@spcollege.edu. All interested applicants are encouraged to apply by completing a survey at stpe.co/lineworkerprogram. Once the survey is complete, applicants will be contacted about future classes that we will be conducting interviews for and filling.

Three students sitting with their arms wrapped around each other smiling.

So many Pinellas County high school students graduate with no idea how they might pay for a college degree or credential that will land them good-paying jobs and fulfilling careers. That’s why St. Petersburg College is offering the SPC Promise Scholarship to 2023 graduates from Lakewood, Tarpon Springs, Pinellas Park, Clearwater, and Northeast high schools.

“Providing avenues for economic mobility is key to our mission at SPC,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams. “This scholarship will provide access to a college degree to our most underserved residents, which benefits our entire community. We are thrilled to offer the ‘promise’ of a better future through a college education that prepares our students for sustainable, high-wage careers.”

The SPC Promise Scholarship, a pilot program, will cover all tuition and fees at St. Petersburg College – after any grants or scholarships a student receives are applied – for an Associate in Arts, an Associate in Science, or a financial aid-eligible certificate.

The scholarship is targeted toward the most impoverished communities in Pinellas County and is designed to provide graduates of the five high schools the opportunity to break a generational cycle of poverty. If the students are 100% fully Pell eligible, the SPC Promise Scholarship will provide an additional $500 award per semester to assist with expenses such as textbooks.

To apply, students must:

  • Complete a FAFSA
  • Complete the SPC application
  • Enroll for at least six (6) credit hours, beginning in the Fall 2023 Term following their high school graduation

Requirements to keep the scholarship include:

  • Complete the FAFSA each year
  • Be continuously enrolled for at least six (6) credit hours in both Fall and Spring terms
  • Complete an associate degree or a financial aid-eligible certificate by the end of their third academic year
  • Maintain a 2.0 GPA and a successful course completion rate

Monies are disbursed on a first-come, first-served basis. Once an SPC application is submitted, students will be sent next steps.

The college also offers many other scholarships to students. In 2021-22, SPC awarded $6.6 million in public and private scholarships.

Jamelle Conner, Vice President of Student Affairs, said the SPC Promise Scholarship is an amazing investment in the potential of students within our community. 

“It’s exciting because it can truly be life changing for them to take part in this opportunity, to go to college, and to earn a degree without going into debt,” Conner said. “We can’t wait to welcome them into the Titan family!”

Learn more at spc.edu/promisescholarship.

A young man in sunglasses, long braids and wearing a cap and gown smiles beside a young woman in a cap and gown in a sea of blue caps and gowns in the background

April is Community College Month and a time to celebrate all that community colleges do for their communities.

Since 1927, St. Petersburg College has offered a means to better lives through education. Today, SPC serves Pinellas County through its award-winning programs — more than 80 of which are offered fully online — as well as workforce certifications and short-term training programs for in-demand careers. SPC is also a large contributor to the economic health of the community.

Community colleges also offer non-academic support. Last year, SPC’s students and employees logged 51,436 volunteer hours. And SPC’s strong support systems help get students to the finish line. One of the college’s newest programs, First to Finished, seeks to help first-generation students navigate college and make sure they have the resources to successfully finish their degrees or certificate programs at SPC.

“We create a space for them to talk about their concerns or needs or just have fun and build a network with their classmates,” said Shannon Ulrich, First to Finished coordinator. “We believe that the support they get in the group will increase the likelihood that they feel engaged with the college and complete their degree.”

Another way SPC is serving the community is through a new scholarship. The Promise Scholarship is offered to 2023 graduates from a select group of local high schools, in order to assist graduates who need help paying for a degree or credentials that would land them good-paying jobs and fulfilling careers.

“Providing avenues for economic mobility is key to our mission at SPC,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams. “This scholarship will provide access to a college degree to our most underserved residents, which benefits our entire community. We are thrilled to offer the ‘promise’ of financial freedom through a college education that prepares our students for sustainable, high-wage careers.”

The Promise Scholarship covers tuition and fees at SPC — after any grants or scholarships a student receives — through a student’s graduation from an associate degree or eligible certificate program.

It’s a great time of year to begin work on a degree, certificate, or short-term training program at St. Petersburg College! The annual Explore SPC event is coming up in April, which offers information and guidance to help attendees choose a career path and get enrolled at SPC. But best of all, application fees will be completely waived at Explore SPC.

“This is such a great opportunity for anyone who feels a little daunted by the process of getting started, or perhaps is unsure of what they’d like to study,” Jacob Wortock, Director of SPC’s Recruitment Services, said. “We can answer just about any question regarding SPC and offer assistance with application and enrollment.”

This year, anyone interested in Explore SPC can choose from online events April 18-20 or in-person events April 24-27. Or mix and match!

Online Events

From April 18-20, two virtual meetings will be offered each day from 10-11:30 a.m. and again from 6-7:30 p.m., with different topics each day.

On April 18, the focus is on Program and Career Exploration. Faculty and staff will be available online to discuss and answer questions about SPC’s degree and career options.

On April 19, How to Pay for College brings financial aid experts to talk about the many ways to fund a college education, including scholarships, grants, loans, payment plans and opportunities for tuition vouchers from CareerSource Pinellas. They’ll also be on hand to answer questions regarding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA).

April 20’s topic is How to Get Started and Be a Titan, where prospective students can get help with the application and admissions process – and apply for free.

“The online option is designed to make sure that anyone and everyone can attend, without having to take off work, cut into family time or even leave the house,” Wortock said.

In-Person Events

SPC’s on-campus events from April 24-27 will all take place from 3-7 p.m. at a different campus each day. Check the Explore SPC web page for details. These events will include:

  • Free application
  • Degree exploration
  • Admissions documents
  • Information on paying for college
  • Campus tours
  • College faculty and staff meet-and-greets
  • Summer and fall registration for classes

Get more information and register for Explore SPC on our website today.

A young boy in a dinosaur shirt works intently on gluing something small, as his young friend looks on.

St. Petersburg College is offering many opportunities for students of all ages – from kindergarteners to high school seniors. Check out the lineup of summer programs SPC has to offer this year:

College for Kids

SPC’s College for Kids offers a variety of fun, safe, and enriching programs over seven weeks for area students from kindergarten through eighth grade. College for Kids offers themed weekly experiences, including visual arts, robotics, entrepreneurship and much more. The program, which is $120 per week, runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Before and after care is also offered for $55 per week, beginning at 7:30 a.m. Scholarships may be available, based on financial need. Please visit their webpage to register, learn more and see a listing of classes, dates, and times.

SPC Summer Musical Theater Program

Area high school and college students can join this annual summer theater experience. This summer’s show will be The Drowsy Chaperone. Auditions will be held May 22–23 and tech interviews on May 18. Rehearsals begin May 22, with performances June 23–25. For more information, contact Scott Cooper at cooper.scott@spcollege.edu.

Summer of Success

This program, which takes place June 20–July 28, is a six-week “introduction to college” program for graduating seniors from Pinellas County high schools who are either the first in their family to attend college, are disabled or low income, or plan to enroll at SPC in the fall. With their Summer of Success scholarship, participants will be able earn college credits, become familiar with their SPC campus and the resources available to them, meet new friends and enroll in Fall Term classes. Interested seniors must apply and be accepted into the program. Learn more on our website.

The Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs® Camp

The Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Camp introduces middle and high school students to exciting career choices in manufacturing. In hands-on activities, students create take-home projects to gain exposure to manufacturing facilities and the skills needed for high-tech manufacturing careers. Campers will receive a one-year student license for SolidWorks™ CAD software and a customized camp T-shirt. The camp runs from June 5–9, and registration is $175. Register here, and learn more by emailing Dr. Andres Cardenas-Valencia at cardenas-valencia.andres@spcollege.edu.

Green Innovations Summer Program

This program, which runs from July 10–20 at SPC’s Downtown Center, offers current high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to study Corporate Social Responsibility and work with businesses to create solutions for the planet and its people. Students will use cutting-edge technology like VR/AR and 3D printing to create real and innovative solutions to social and environmental problems. The cost is $150, and college credit may be earned if the attendee enrolls at SPC. Sign up here or email rivera.jerrick@spcollege.edu for more information.

Food Truck Boot Camp

This boot camp, offered from ­May 30–June 23, will teach how to apply the processes of developing a food truck business plan by creating a brand, name, menu and project financials, identifying funding sources and more. The program also provides a platform to pitch your concept and sell food samples at an event at the conclusion of the camp. The $462 registration fee includes preparation for the certification exam required for legal food truck operations. Students who register for Summer or Fall term courses in the SPC Business or Hospitality programs could receive a scholarship. Pre-register by completing this survey.

a young woman and man wearing goggles work on a piece of machinery.

St. Petersburg College will partner with the Pinellas County Urban League and the Homeless Empowerment Program to present the Manufacturing, Engineering, Construction and Architecture (MECCA) expo. This one-day event is free and community members, middle school and high school students are invited to explore careers in Manufacturing, Engineering, Construction and Architecture and learn first-hand from professionals in those fields.

The event will be held at SPC’s Clearwater Campus on April 4 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. SPC’s Engineering Technology Program Director, Sidney Martin, said SPC will open their engineering labs, offering interactive displays and activities to teach about careers in the engineering and architecture fields. The day will include many interesting activities and speakers, including people representing their companies, demonstrating interesting things about their careers and helping students visualize what the work in these fields entails.

“We want to expose middle and high school students to careers that they might not normally consider,” Martin said. “They’ll see that there are many great jobs in manufacturing and construction that aren’t necessarily dirty or dangerous.”

The program will feature keynote speaker, Dr. Dean Bartles, President and CEO of the Manufacturing Technology Deployment Group, Inc., a not-for-profit holding company of both the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining and Advanced Manufacturing International, Inc.

SPC will have a table showcasing their programs in the manufacturing, engineering, construction and architecture fields, as well as information about financial aid. There will also be information about the new Biomedical Engineering Technology high school program, in which students graduate with a high school diploma as well as an Associate in Science degree that includes three certifications in the BMET field. They can immediately get jobs or continue their education.

“I hope students and community members will leave the event with a better understanding of the potential income within these career fields,” Martin said. There are many opportunities right here in Pinellas County that provide high income.”  

Participating businesses and sponsors for this event include Plasma-Therm, A.D. Morgan Corporation, Moss Construction, Creative Contractors, Fastenal, Smith Fence, FleischmanGarciaMaslowski Architecture, and McCormick Stevenson.

To learn more, contact Sidney Martin at martin.sidney@spcollege.edu. A full program for the MECCA event is also available as a PDF.