St. Petersburg College will host a ribbon cutting and block party to celebrate the grand opening of the new Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, at the center at 1300 22nd St. S. The event is free and open to the public.

The new 45,000-square-foot, state-of-the art center will serve as the college’s flagship campus and community center for south St. Petersburg and will open for classes for the Fall 2015 term, which begins Aug. 17. The new campus is named in honor of the late Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr., a longtime legislator and a Florida Commissioner of Education. Jamerson, a graduate of St. Petersburg College, was one of the most prominent politicians in the state of Florida and a fierce advocate for education.

The event will include a grand opening ceremony, with presentations by prominent local officials and community activists, and a daylong block party, with:

  • Tours of the new facility
  • Live entertainment, including performances by the Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Choir, the Lakewood High School Jazz Band and Saxophonist Shawn Brown
  • Free barbeque and refreshments
  • A “Kids Zone” sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg Parks & Recreation Department
  • An appearance by Raymond, the mascot of the Tampa Bay Rays
  • Full registration services
  • Free vouchers for SPC’s “Learn to Earn” career development courses
  • Complimentary career and academic advising
  • Assistance with financial aid services
  • Roughly three dozen vendors and community organizations

The college application fee will be waived during the event, a $40 savings.

Guest speakers will include:

  • Rick Kriseman, Mayor, City of St. Petersburg
  • Alex Glenn, President, Duke Energy, Florida
  • William D. Law, Jr., President, St. Petersburg College
  • Kevin Gordon, Provost, Midtown Center, St. Petersburg College
  • Niki Johnson, Vice President of the Midtown Center Student Government Association
  • Alexis Clavizzao, President of the Downtown Center Student Government Association

In honor of their outstanding service to the community, St. Petersburg College will award six honorary Bachelor of Arts in College and Community Services degrees to distinguished members of the community during the grand opening event.

St. Petersburg College has long been dedicated to providing educational opportunities in Midtown. The original 10,000-square-foot Midtown Center at 1048 22nd St. So., opened in 2003 as part of a $2 million St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s HOPE VI project. It has been renamed the Cecil B. Keene, Sr. Student Achievement Center, in honor of the late educator and SPC Board of Trustees member, who died in 2008.

In 2012, as demand for classes and community involvement grew, SPC’s Board of Trustees approved a $14 million expenditure to build the new three-story building on land leased from the City of St. Petersburg. The new center includes multiple classrooms, two science labs, three computer labs, a book store, a community room, and a career center.

Beginning this fall, programs will be offered in:

  • Advanced Manufacturing (Certificate)
  • Clinical Medical Assisting (Certificate)
  • Computer Support CompTIA A+ (Certificate)
  • Early Childhood Education (Certificate)
  • Entrepreneurship (Associate in Science & Certificate)
  • Human Services (Associate in Science & Certificate)
  • Associate in Arts transfer degree

More than 400 graduates of St. Petersburg College crossed the stage during the 128th Commencement Ceremony at Indian Rocks Baptist Church on Saturday, July 25.

A total of 1,085 students earned 1,234 degrees this term, SPC President Bill Law told the crowd of graduates and well-wishers.

“You inspire us with your determination, and we celebrate your accomplishments,” Law said.

Graduates ranged in age from 17 to 72, with 12 graduates over the age of 60.

Of the summer graduates, 61 percent were female and 39 percent were male. Check out all the graduation stats. With this graduating class, the college has awarded 148,615 degrees since the college was founded in 1927. Before, during and after the ceremony, tweets, photos and videos were shared on social media.

Before diplomas were handed out, graduates Ernest Gant and Michael Nash addressed fellow students and guests.

Graduation speakers

SPC Summer 2015 graduation speakers Ernest Gant and Michael Nash, with SPC President Bill Law

Ernest Gant, Associate in Arts, Business

Gant was awarded the 2014 Student Life and Leadership Award for his work with SPC’s Men Achieving Excellence (MAX) Club and his numerous volunteer efforts. He was also active in Student Government and Phi Theta Kappa and was recently hired as the Outreach Specialist for SPC’s Downtown and Midtown centers.

Gant said he got his second chance at success by attending St. Petersburg College. Once a high school dropout, he graduated Saturday with a 3.9 grade point average and now plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree – at SPC.

“I want you to remember – I was a high school dropout with no plan. I could have gone the wrong way,” Gant said. “However, the team at SPC has helped me understand what Dr. Martin Luther King said: ‘Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.'”

Michael Nash, Bachelor of Applied Science, Technology Development and Management

Nash worked in the Learning Support Centers at the Tarpon Springs and Clearwater campuses and was hired as a full-time employee by Library Services in 2014. His perseverance in his work with other students and his studies and his commitment to care for his family during challenging times make him a model for others.

Nash acknowledged that many graduates, himself included, had to overcome obstacles to earn their college degree.

“You’re here because you were willing to sacrifice all that you were – for what you wanted to become,” Nash said.

President Law thanked the faculty, staff and administrators, as well as the families and friends who helped the graduates achieve their goal.

He also showed his appreciation to the students, who are the heart and soul of SPC.

“Graduates, thank you for choosing this college.” Law said. “We were privileged to serve you.”

St. Petersburg College will celebrate its 128th commencement ceremony at Saturday, July 25. About 440 of the 1,085 Summer 2015 graduates are expected to participate in the 10 a.m. event that will be held at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo.


With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 148,615 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927. Learn more about our Summer 2015 grads.

The ceremony is expected to last about an hour. Ernest Gant and Michael Nash will address their fellow graduates and graduation guests.

Ernest Gant, Associate in Arts, Business
Ernest Gant was awarded the 2014 Student Life and Leadership Award for his work with SPC’s Men Achieving Excellence (MAX) Club and his numerous volunteer efforts. He was also active in Student Government and Phi Theta Kappa and was recently hired as the Outreach Specialist for SPC’s Downtown and Midtown campuses.

“Ernest studies hard to maintain his high grade point average, all while participating in various leaderships roles,” said Keron Jean-Baptiste, Associate Provost of SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “He volunteers as a tutor and mentored young students at the local Boys and Girls Club. He has also volunteered for the Edible Peace Patch, Habitat for Humanity and the Relay for Life.”

Michael Nash, Bachelor of Applied Science, Technology Development and Management
Michael Nash worked in the Learning Support Centers on Tarpon Springs and Clearwater Campus and was hired fulltime by Library Services in 2014.

His perseverance in his work with other students and his studies and his commitment to care for his family during challenging times make him a model for others.

“His work in the Learning Support Commons and his overwhelming dedication to SPC student success has been remarkable,” said Sharon Setterlind, Dean of SPC’s College of Computer and Information Technology. “Time after time he has assisted students in out-of-classroom support in the technology field where the subject matter has been in many cases difficult for students to learn.”

Graduates and guests can check our instructions page for the big day. You can also catch a live stream of the ceremony.

Connect with our graduates
Use our social media images to share your well wishes and be sure to use #spcgrad to tweet your congratulations so it shows up on our social Tagboard and on the display in the auditorium the day of the big event.

Johnnie Ruth Clarke Scholars

Boca Ciega High School graduates Tatyana Hudson and Quatia Gordon, two of this year’s Johnnie Ruth Clarke Scholars.

Seventy-five recent high school graduates were honored Monday night at the 2015-16 Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Scholars celebration at the Music Center at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus.

View image gallery on Facebook.

SPC President Bill Law welcomed the students, who attended with family members and friends.

“We couldn’t be prouder of you,” Law said.

The annual scholarship – one of the college’s most comprehensive – honors the legacy of Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke, an educator and humanitarian who spent her life improving the lives of others. Clarke taught in Pinellas County public schools, Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University. She served as Dean of Gibbs Junior College serving African-American students in the 1950s. When Gibbs became part of St. Petersburg Junior College in the 60s, she became Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs.

The award covers tuition for 12 credit hours per term for two consecutive years. It is offered to disadvantaged and/or other underrepresented Pinellas County high school students with at least a 3.0 GPA.

Destinee Bullard, a spring 2015 SPC graduate and 2013 Clarke Scholar who is headed to the University of Florida this fall, spoke to the students about the importance of getting involved in the activities and organizations the college has to offer and seeking out help from tutors and professors should they need it.

Bullard talked about how much she has grown, personally, at St. Petersburg College.

“SPC has become home to me…The faculty and staff at SPC are amazing,” Bullard said.

She encouraged the new Scholars to use all of the resources the college provides, from free tutoring to academic and career advising.

And she challenged them to challenge themselves: “Do something that scares you, because something great will come out of it,” she said.

The evening included musical selections by Joy Gann, who was accompanied on piano by Geoffrey Nugent. The event also included the presentation to the honorees, and a reception with refreshments. The Master of Ceremony was Darryl Henderson, Senior Administrative Services Specialist, and closing remarks were given by Dr. Albert Farr, President of the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Chapter of the National Council on Black American Affairs.

Halle Kozlowski-Coward, from East Lake High School senior poses with SPC President Dr. Bill Law during Tuesday's ceremony.

Halle Kozlowski-Coward, from East Lake High School, poses with SPC President Dr. Bill Law during Tuesday’s ceremony.

The 2015 Presidential Scholars Award Ceremony and Recognition was held Tuesday at the James Olliver Digitorium at the Seminole Campus.

View image gallery on Facebook.

This year, 65 students were selected as SPC 2015 Presidential Scholars. They will receive a total of more than $460,000 in tuition scholarship awards.

“Our purpose tonight is to recognize you, the students, and your accomplishments,” said SPC President Bill Law.

The Scholars and their family members were treated to a speech by Amy Bhatt, who graduated with her Associate in Art degree in May. Bhatt talked about the importance of joining clubs and organizations, and working to get published, while attending SPC. She explained how important it was to expand their world through networking and reaching out for support to help them reach their goals.

The attendees also heard from Bill McCloud, Chairman of the SPC Foundation Board of Directors. McCloud is an alumni of the Gibbs Junior College – the county’s black junior college – which merged with St. Petersburg Junior College in the 1960s.

“We’re very proud of you and commend you for your outstanding efforts,” McCloud said.

This year’s Scholars had an average weighted GPA of 4.29, an average SAT score for Reading and Math of 1102 and an average ACT score of 25.

SPC’s Presidential Scholarship provides full tuition for 60 credit hours of study at St. Petersburg College. As Presidential Scholars, this select group of students is invited to join the President’s Scholars Counsel and will meet with President Law during their enrollment to gain an inside look at college operations and activities and share their perspectives on student affairs.

Presidential Scholarship recipients are selected annually based on merit and test scores.

SPC Alumni Amy Rice

SPC Alumni Amy Rice

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School alumni Amy Rice was recently awarded the prestigious Pritzker Research Fellowship in the Ph.D. program in Physics at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.

The Fellowship pays tuition, stipend and research funds totaling more than $200,000 over the four-year term of the award.

After earning her A.A. degree from St. Petersburg College in 2009, Rice transferred to IIT. Last year, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics.

“Biology was my first love,” said Rice. “It’s what got me interested in science in the first place.”

Looking back to her time at SPC, she remembers loving her anatomy and physiology class.

“The professor had a way of making the class incredibly interesting and bringing in his outside knowledge to make it more real to us,” she said.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Rice was homeschooled through eighth grade. In ninth grade she attended Veritas Academy and transferred to SPC’s Collegiate High School for grades 10-12.

“I have always been very motivated academically,” she said. “I thought it (Collegiate High School) would be a great program to be around others that took their education seriously.”

Like many Florida students, her plans were to stay in Florida and take advantage of the Bright Futures Scholarship she had earned. Her high SAT scores meant she was pursued by numerous colleges from around the country. A brochure from IIT caught her eye.

“I saw that they had a major in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and I thought that sounded like an awesome major,” she said. “It sounded like it would be very interdisciplinary.”

She applied for and got a full tuition scholarship and started her bachelor’s degree in the Chicago-based university the next fall.

During her undergraduate studies at IIT, she worked as a teaching assistant in biology and physics and a research assistant in microbiology and physics. She was involved in Alpha Sigma Alpha, the Honors Medical Society and competed on the university’s cross country and track teams. She was awarded the College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend in 2011 and 2013.

Entering the second year of her Ph.D., Rice’s research is focused on Computational Biophysics and is primarily computer based. While she has experimental collaborators that she works with, her research does not happen in a traditional laboratory.

“My project specifically is looking at a class of antimicrobial peptides produced by most animals,” she explained. “It is thought that bacteria don’t really become resistant to them. Not a lot is known currently as to why they work so well, but are not harmful to human cells.”

In Computational Biophysics computerized simulations are used to enable researchers like Rice to explore actions and reactions that happen within cells in very short time frames – nanoseconds – and very short distances.

“It’s hard from the experimental side to figure out what is happening on such small time and distance scales,” she said.

She is currently working with a team of researchers led by Dr. Jeff Wereszczynski at IIT. The Wereszczynski Group also includes two postdoctoral researchers and another Ph.D. student. This summer the group also has three undergraduate research assistants, two from a local community college. Rice is in charge of one of the assistants.

“I’m very excited to have an undergraduate student assistant!” said Rice. “I’ve been the undergraduate assistant to graduate students twice before, so it is really interesting and rewarding for me to be on the other side of that now and help mentor someone.”

Learn more about her research with the Wereszczynski Group at IIT.

Rice plans to continue her career in the same general field of research by teaching, working with graduate students and doing research.

“I love computational work,” she said. “It is a big up and coming field – new in the last 20-30 years. It’s exciting for me to think about where it will be in future when computers are even more powerful,” she said.

Her advice to other students is practical:

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Rice. “In science you fail a lot. I’ve had to start my research project over nine times now. The first eight times I failed. If you are not failing, you are not at the cutting edge of your field.”

Related links:

Niche rankingsSt. Petersburg Collegiate High School was in the spotlight again this week ranking #1 in the 2015 Niche Rankings for Best Public High School in the Tampa Bay Metro area and the top charter school in the state.

Niche’s Best High Schools ranks more than 14,000 schools nationwide based on academics, health and safety, diversity, survey responses, teachers grade and resources and facilities.

SPC’s Collegiate High school was compared with 65 public high schools in Tampa Bay. They were also ranked as the #16 charter school in the nation.

Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School

Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School

“I am thrilled with the results of this survey because it affirms our mission to provide an exceptional experience for young adults that encompasses all the benefits of college and high school,” said Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School. “I am also thankful for the support of St. Petersburg College faculty and staff as they share in this accomplishment.”

Located on SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School has earned an A from the state of Florida every year since it opened in 2004. This year, they also received the Bronze award for Best High Schools from U.S. News and World Report.

A charter school, SPCHS has a unique mission to equip students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma, an Associate of Arts degree and a Bright Futures Scholarship.

Learn more about St. Petersburg Collegiate High School and St. Petersburg College’s other high school student options.


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