The Pinellas community has experienced many economic setbacks in the past year, given the number of jobs lost in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the holidays approaching, money woes are even more exacerbated, and many may find themselves wondering how they will feed and provide for their families. In response, St. Petersburg College has partnered with Hope Villages of America, formerly RCS Pinellas, to offer food packages for SPC students, staff and the surrounding community.

Funded by the Pinellas Cares grant, the program provided food for SPC’s participating campus provosts, Student Life and Leadership teams and volunteers to work together to create packages that include non-perishable items including canned fruits, vegetables and meats, along with pasta and sauce. The boxes will also contain community resource flyers, including information for mental health care.

SPC is planning a distribution in the coming week, as well as again in December. According to Misty Kemp, SPC’s Executive Director of Retention Services, anyone can sign up for a box, whether it be for themselves or someone else, though distribution is limited to one box per household.

“We want this food in the hands of anyone who needs it,” Kemp said. “We did have someone call and say they wanted to pick one up for their elderly neighbor. If you or someone you know is in need, please sign up for yourself or for them.”

Each of the eight campuses chosen for distribution will have 150 boxes of food for pickup. In order to get a box, people can fill out this survey and select the campus where they’d like to pick up. The food is first come, first served, so once all a campus’s boxes are claimed, that pickup location will disappear from the options list in the survey.

Kemp said she’d like to encourage all who have the need to fill out the survey, which also has a section that asks how households have been affected by COVID-19, which can alert SPC to other ways to help.

“The college can utilize that feedback from community to let us know of needs we may not be aware of,” she said. “We want the community to know we’re here. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s one step forward.”

Campus pickup times and places are as follows:

Clearwater: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., ES Building parking lot
Tarpon Springs: Monday, Nov. 23, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Agora Building
Tarpon Springs: Tuesday, Nov. 24, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Agora Building
Seminole: Monday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m. – noon, Conference Center
Midtown: Thursday, Nov. 19, 1-4:30 p.m., MTJC – 141
Downtown: Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1-4:30 p.m., DC-210
Carruth Health Education Center: Thursday, Nov. 17, 1-4 p.m., Auditorium
Allstate: Thursday, Nov. 19, 1-4 p.m., Student Services Suite
Gibbs: Tuesday, Nov. 24, 9 a.m.- noon, SA 135 Suite

Finances can often be a stumbling block to education, but many people are eligible for more financial aid than they may suspect. The process to apply for aid can be daunting, as well, so that’s why St. Petersburg College is hosting free Zoom events to offer virtual help for high school seniors and their parents, as well as current college students, who are navigating the process for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2021-2022 and/or the 2020-2021 academic years.

Attend an online FAFSA: Fill It Out! event.

Online Fill It Out events will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12, and Thursday, Nov. 19.

“This event provides families with the opportunity to get assistance from financial aid professionals,” said Todd Smith, SPC’s Executive Director of Financial Assistance Services. “We can answer any questions they may have and guide them through the process.”

Smith said families who attend events like this one are often surprised at how smooth and fast the process can be.

“Quite often, the financial aid process is about on par with completing your taxes, signing mortgage paperwork at closing or going to the dentist,” Smith said. “They eventually find out it isn’t as painful as they thought it would be.”

What to bring

Attendees should come prepared to fill out the FAFSA by having the following information on hand to ensure a successful online submission.

For the 2021-2022 FAFSA:

  • The student’s Federal Student Aid FSA ID, which can be obtained by visiting the FSA website
  • Student’s/parent’s 2019 federal income tax return (1040) and W2s
  • 2019 untaxed income (Social Security, disability, workman’s comp, etc.) 
  • Driver’s license or state ID
  • Social Security number, Alien Registration number, passports, date of birth for student, spouse and/or parents

For the 2020-2021 FAFSA: 

  • The student’s Federal Student Aid FSA ID, which can be obtained by visiting the FSA website
  • Student’s/parent’s 2018 federal income tax return (1040) and W2s 
  • 2018 untaxed income (Social Security, disability, workman’s comp, etc.)
  • Driver’s license or state ID
  • Social Security number, Alien Registration number, passports, date of birth for student, spouse and/or parents

Anyone who would like to attend a Fill It Out event to see what benefits they may be eligible for can register here.

Individuals with disabilities who require accommodations to participate in this activity, please call 727-341-7924 at least one week prior to the event.

For more information, go to spcollege.edu/applyforfinancialaid.

A transformational gift from The Hough Family Foundation has provided St. Petersburg College with the seed funding needed to grow its nursing, certified clinical medical assistant (CMA) and patient care technician (PCT) programs.

The transformational gift will be used to expand SPC’s nursing simulation lab as well as provide additional training equipment and faculty support for the CMA and PCT programs.

“Bill and Hazel Hough were true philanthropists who worked tirelessly for their community. Longtime supporters of St. Petersburg College, they helped found our performance venue gem – The Palladium – and improved the lives of many students over the years,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams. “We miss them terribly but their spirits live on through their foundation and their beloved children. We are grateful beyond measure for this generous gift, which will help promote equity and excellence in education for our students and access to high-quality healthcare professionals for our community.”

Through 2026, there is a projected 21 percent job growth for nurses in Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. With the increase of COVID-19 testing and the high demand for healthcare workers even prior to the pandemic, employers are in even greater need of trained medical assistants at outpatient clinics and urgent care centers.

To combat these healthcare needs, SPC is prepared to greatly increase the number of nursing students through simulation expansion.

“The College of Nursing is so honored and grateful for the generous gift by the Hough family to our frontline workers,” said SPC Dean of Nursing Louisana Louis. “Words cannot express the difference this expansion will make in providing the additional space to educate student nurses while making a difference in our community.”

Expanding SPC’s simulation lab will:

  • Offer an alternative learning environment needed due to decreasing hospital time and space
  • Provide a safe, nonthreatening learning environment for students to demonstrate their clinical judgement and critical thinking abilities
  • Allow faculty to use a controlled environment to create or choose scenarios to meet specific learning objectives without risk to an actual patient

SPC also offers a variety of healthcare programs to help students advance their skill sets. The expansion of workforce institute programs will include:

  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA)
  • Patient Care Tech (PCT)
  • Cath Lab Tech

“Many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. We wanted to grow the capacity of the CMA training by doubling the number of students who complete the 18-week training and then can enter the medical field immediately,” said Dr. Susan Hough Henry, President of Hough Family Foundation, Inc. “SPC is very responsive to the needs of its students, and thoroughly prepares them to enter the workforce.”

Michael Ramsey, SPC Dean of Workforce, said the donation will provide opportunities for students to pursue their passion of helping others while providing a pipeline of skilled workers for area healthcare facilities.

“We are extremely thankful for this gift from the Hough Family Foundation. Their generosity will enable us to launch a new Patient Care Technician program and expand our Certified Clinical Medical Assistant program at the SPC Midtown Center,” Ramsey said. “These programs will help to open the door to a career in the healthcare field to the members of this community.”

To learn more about SPC’s health education programs, visit spcollege.edu/health.

For 95 years, St. Petersburg College has been a mainstay in the Pinellas community, offering opportunities to better lives through education. Still, there are so many offerings at SPC that it would be hard to know all of them. That’s why the college is gearing up for a virtual Majors Fair on November 18, from 6-8 p.m, which will offer insight on all that one can gain from attending SPC, as well as ways to make that happen. Best of all, the application fee will be waived for people who apply during the event.

The drop-in event will have virtual booths from each area of study, which will offer information on all of SPC’s degrees, some of which Reginald Reed, SPC’s Director of Recruitment Services, says people are often unaware.

“So many people don’t know all that we offer,” Reed said. “We’ve offered bachelor’s degrees for 15 years, and some people still see us as a junior college.”

Both long and short-term programs will be on display, including the popular short-term programs that offer job-ready skills in just a matter of weeks that lead to well-paying, in-demand careers. These credentialing courses have helped many people start new careers or better themselves in their current ones.

“There are great jobs available now in Tampa Bay for people with the right skills and credentials,” said Michael Ramsey, SPC’s Dean of Workforce Development. “Even before COVID, the rising industry demand for a more skilled and technically competent workforce could not be met ”

Transfer programs will be on display, showing attendees how they can start at SPC, then transfer to a designated program at the University of South Florida or Florida A&M University. There will also be an admissions booth, where attendees can get answers to questions surrounding the application process, financial aid and other steps to getting enrolled in a program.

Reed said the fair is simply a virtual platform for anyone seeking more information about how they can make a degree or credential happen at SPC.

“Students can meet the deans and chairs, as well as faculty who are industry experts, and ask questions regarding career paths and pursuing them at SPC,” Reed said.

Anyone interested in the Majors Fair can register here

A global pandemic couldn’t stop St. Petersburg College from celebrating its recent Spring and Summer graduates, a fact that the newest class of Titan alumni was incredibly grateful for.

A young woman in blue graduation regalia stands on stage next to Dr. Williams and Dr. Conner for a picture. They are all wearing face masks.

While SPC would normally host a full in-person commencement ceremony at the end of the Spring Term for graduates, a modified celebration was planned to keep everyone safe and healthy. The college organized two individual celebrations for recent degree recipients on Saturday, October 10, one in the morning at the Clearwater Campus followed by one in the afternoon at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. The events allowed graduates the opportunity to cross the stage, pose for a picture with college leadership, and celebrate their accomplishments with loved ones outside.

A young man in blue graduation regalia and a surgical face mask snaps a selfie with Dr. Williams outside the Gibbs Campus Music center.

“Saturday was amazing and meant a great deal to our students,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams.

Graduates were limited to four guests each and had to register for time slots ahead of the Saturday festivities. All participants were also required to wear face masks and encouraged to maintain social distancing whenever possible.

Despite the face mask requirement, the joy on the faces of guests was very obvious with many happy tears being shed by proud parents, siblings, children, and partners. Some graduates even took the opportunity to accessorize their masks to match their decorated caps, turning an otherwise somber symbol into one of celebration.

A young woman in blue graduation regalia with a red face mask and a red flower in her hair flashes the peace sign while taking a picture on stage with Dr. Williams.

More than 200 graduates were able to attend the Saturday celebrations with many expressing their happiness over SPC finding an innovative way to recognize this important milestone in their life.

“I’ve received emails of gratitude from students because many who attended were the first in their family to earn a college degree. Walking across the stage was very meaningful to them and their families,” said Dr. Williams.

The college is already preparing for the Fall 2020 Commencement Ceremony, which will be entirely virtual and feature video speeches from college leadership as well as the traditional calling of graduate names. Graduating students who want to be recognized and have their name announced during the ceremony must register online by Friday, November 6.

For more details on Fall 2020 graduation, please visit spcollege.edu/graduation.

St. Petersburg College is excited to join forces with the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) for a new workforce education initiative aimed at raising awareness of short-term career and technical education programs. Get There Florida highlights the key benefits of the programs available locally in Pinellas Countyand to all Floridians statewide.

“SPC’s short-term training programs provide students with the opportunity to advance their career,” SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams said. “Our partnership with the Department of Education ensures the needs of the workforce are met and our local residents are thriving.”

In as little as a few weeks, students can fast track their future by earning a credential in a high-wage, in-demand industry. The college’s Job Training web page offers plenty of helpful information that will get people on the path to a new career.

Get There accelerates student success, preparing them for their future and ensuring a talented workforce,” said Kathy Hebda, Chancellor of the Florida College System. “With 28 state colleges and 48 technical colleges and centers spanning the state, there is a program for everyone. Whether you’ve recently experienced job loss, graduated high school or are simply looking for a career change or opportunity to stack your credentials into a degree – we want to help you Get There.”

At SPC, students can enroll in an in-demand, high-quality workforce program and quickly gain critical skills needed in Pinellas County’s essential and emerging industries. Programs include:

  • Accounting Technology Operations Certificate
  • Certified Production Technician
  • Community Health Worker Certificate
  • Computer Programming Specialist Certificate
  • Water Quality Technician Certificate

“Career and technical education matters more than ever,” said Henry Mack, Chancellor for Career, Technical and Adult Education. “Get There raises awareness about CTE and helps everyone envision the power of a workforce training opportunity for professional and personal well-being. By connecting students to a high value credentials at our state colleges, we will be sure to reach our goal of becoming #1 in workforce education by 2030.”

Career and technical education, often referred to as “CTE,” serves as a critical component in preparing individuals for occupations important to Florida’s economic development. Program offerings are organized into 17 career paths and are geared toward middle school, high school, district technical school, and Florida College System students throughout the state. 

SPC also works closely with industry leaders to ensure our graduates gain the skills they need – through training as well as apprenticeship and internship opportunities – to quickly enter the workforce.

For more information about SPC’s programs, visit now.spc.edu/training. Learn about the state initiative at GetThereFl.com.

St. Petersburg College has received a $100,000 grant from Jobs for the Future, Inc. (JFF) to provide unemployed and underemployed residents a scholarship to earn a Google IT Support Professional Certificate. In as little as three months, students can complete the self-paced program fully online.

This flexible certificate prepares completers for an entry-level role as an Information Technology Support Specialist. They will gain job-ready skills to start or advance their career in IT, which offers opportunities to work remotely or in person.

The program is entirely developed by Google. After completion, students will be connected with employer-partners who participate in the Google IT Hiring Consortium

“In order to help Pinellas County’s economy to recover, we must provide accessible workforce training solutions that quickly prepare our community members for well-paying jobs that are in high demand,” said SPC Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey. “This new program is designed to help people that are having a tough time right now, to enter a growing career field that will enable them to better provide for themselves and their families.”

To qualify for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Complete the application here: co/googleit
  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be unemployed or underemployed

Scholarship opportunities are limited and are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, contact Dan Fumano at fumano.dan@spcollege.edu.


City of Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski will defend her seat against Vice-Mayor Heather Gracy during a virtual candidate forum on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Moderated by former news anchor Al Ruechel, the forum will focus on the mayoral and City Commission Seat 3 races.

This virtual event is from 7-8:30 p.m. and is a collaboration involving the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC, the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, the Dunedin Council of Organizations and the Downtown Merchants Association. To register and view forum information, visit stpe.co/dunedinforum.

Bujalski was elected to the Dunedin City Commission in 2006, served two peer-appointed terms as vice-mayor, and was elected mayor twice, beginning in 2014.

Gracy is currently serving her second term as Seat 3 commissioner. Her first term was from 2012-2016 and her second from 2016-2020. She was appointed vice-mayor in 2014 and currently serves in that position.

Mike Quill and John Tornga are vying for Commission Seat 3, currently held by Gracy.

Quill served as a police officer with the Gulfport Police Department and was promoted through the ranks to command level as lieutenant and acting chief. He served on the Collective Bargaining Team for the city to negotiate labor contracts, write policy and prepare budgets, and also was the department’s public information officer.

Tornga previously served as a Dunedin city commissioner from 2014 to 2018. He served in the United States Marine Corps during Vietnam. He is the founder and president of Capital Data Consulting Inc.

For more information, visit isps.spcollege.edu or call 727-394-6942.

U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Petersburg College third among the 28 colleges in the Florida College System, according to their 2021 Best Colleges study.

The ranking is based on the college’s academic reputation as noted by peer institutions, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, financial resources per student, student selectivity, low student indebtedness rates, social mobility and alumni giving.

“It is a huge honor for SPC to be recognized as a 2021 Best College and we celebrate our faculty and staff for all of their hard work and dedication to our students and community,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams. “We continue to focus on lifting up our community by offering a high-quality, affordable and accessible education to all who seek pathways to a better future for themselves and their families.”

The report listed SPC #21 among public colleges in the southern region. These are the highest-ranked public colleges out of schools that participated in the study in the 12 states that make up the regional south.

Overall, SPC ranked 68th among all private and public institutions in the southern region.

SPC offers more than 110 degree and certificate programs, including many high-demand, high-skill industry-recognized workforce certifications. The college’s career-focused curriculum is created with input from industry experts to give students the skills they need to meet the needs of today’s employers. SPC’s Pathways Program offers students a clear roadmap to success to ensure they are taking the right courses – in the right sequence – to meet their goals.

America Amplified logoSt. Petersburg College students are influencers! The college recently partnered with National Public Radio to curate content regarding voting. National Public Radio’s America Amplified National Listening Session about Voting recorded the input from 25 SPC students during a virtual webinar on August 27. Florida was one of five states chosen for the virtual listening sessions, and SPC was one of two Florida schools chosen to contribute. The sessions will inform the content of a national talk show launching this fall.

Tara Newsom, Director of SPC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, said SPC students were especially appealing to the producers.

“With student ages ranging from 17-70, we are such a diverse group,” Newsom said. “We also have a high number of registered voters.”

NPR held the listening sessions in groups of three to 10 people facilitated by a member of the America Amplified team. Session feedback will be used to inform a national talk show this fall, and session participants may even be invited to be on the show.

“They’re looking for real people’s input on the issues of the 2020 election,” Newsom said. “Rather than us paying attention to issues in mainstream media, NPR wants to use these sessions to allow voters to drive issues that they cover.”

Vera Law, a first-year Nursing student who took part in the session, said she loved being actively involved.

“Seeing people have such passionate beliefs about what’s going on influenced me and made me want to be even more involved,” Law said. “Though some had different views than others, we still found that we agreed on some things.”

Newsom, who facilitated a breakout session in which smaller groups discussed questions provided by NPR, said it two things became clear: the students who participated are tired of the division of our country, and they want to be sure that they are consuming unbiased media.

“It’s hard for them to understand where to get their media and make informed choices,” Newsom said. “They want to be informed voters, but they don’t know how to find unbiased information.”

More than anything, Newsom said the opportunity allowed students to make a difference.

“This was a way to curate an oral history,” she said. “And our students offer a snapshot of the I-4 corridor, a key area in the election.”