The St. Petersburg College Alumni Association has named and would like to congratulate the college’s 2020 Apollo and Alumni Achievement award recipients.

Garrick Roe was selected as the Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve. Erika Ostos Perez received the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

2020 Apollo Award Recipient

Headshot of Garrick Roe, SPC's 2020 Apollo Award recipient

Garrick Roe

In 2017, Roe received the SPC Student Life and Leadership Award in recognition of founding the SPC Permaculture Club. With collaboration and support from the Gibbs Campus Student Government Association, the Permaculture Club had an amazing year hosting events such as membership drives and middle school class garden tours.

He is an active volunteer within his community. From 2015 – 2018, he served as campus representative, president, and events coordinator for the Honors Program Student Consortium.

Roe plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration at St. Petersburg College and maintaining the Gibbs Campus Food Forest.

“Graduating Summa Cum Laude and earning the distinction of the 2020 Apollo Award would be a testament to future late academic bloomers: that, even though we started later in life, it is never too late to grow, learn and reach one’s potential as students and leaders.”

2020 Alumni Achievement Award Recipient

Headshot of Erika Ostos Perez, SPC's 2020 Alumni Achievement Award recipient

Erika Ostos Perez

Ostos entered the college as an SPC Presidential Scholar. The two-year scholarship allowed her to focus completely on her studies, where she excelled.

She is no stranger to volunteerism. She volunteers in the activities/life enrichment department of Brookdale Senior Living where she assists in the delivery of wellness and recreation programs to meet the specific needs of residents of the assisted living facility (ALF) and of patients in the skilled nursing facility (SNF). In addition, she is a Weekday Warrior for Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer science tutor/mentor at her local church and volunteers at Moccasin Lake Nature Park through the Tri Beta National Biological Honor Society.

She plans to achieve a career in medicine and will be applying for admission to medical schools in Florida, preferably in the fall of 2021.

“I want to learn all the skills necessary to become an excellent doctor, both intellectually and through outstanding bedside manner.”

She aspires to complete her residency and fellowship programs. Her interests are in General Surgery, Urology and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“I am the living proof of the effort St. Petersburg College puts into helping its students succeed. SPC has taught me skills well beyond the books by allowing me to have access to an environment that constantly encouraged me to become a better student, classmate and person. I have maximized all of the resources and opportunities my college had to offer me and used them to become not only academically knowledgeable, but also socially responsible.”


Bill Baptiste, wearing medical gear including a mask, is standing at a testing site for COVID-19.

Bill Baptiste, an SPC 2018 PITCH Clinical Medical Assistant student, is working on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

The Baptiste brothers knew a cubicle job wasn’t for them. They had ambitions to work in a job where they could serve their community while gaining exposure to the medical field. Through the Providing Instruction for Tomorrow’s Collegians and Hires (PITCH) program, a partnership between St. Petersburg College and the City of St. Petersburg’s Cohort of Champions program, Bill and Timothy Baptiste earned their Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Certificates from SPC in 2018 and immediately gained full-time employment at a local community health center in South St. Pete.

Having served over 129 youth since 2017, PITCH continues to give back to the Pinellas County community, one graduate at a time. For students like Bill and Timothy Baptiste who want to lend and develop their skills in the medical field, more opportunities in CMA training are coming. SPC recently received a $199,739 Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant to establish a Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) Pre-apprenticeship Program that will support the growing workforce need for medical assistants. The program will also be a gateway for those interested in further pursuing a career in the medical field, such as in nursing or radiology.

The Baptistes are now fulfilling their ambitions, as they work on the front lines of a no-cost COVID-19 testing site in Pinellas County. The brothers can be seen supporting data entry, administrative needs, and pre-screening those walking into the community center. Bill, 22, credits the PITCH program with preparing him to handle everyday matters in the real world by teaching him to stay calm.

“I think this is especially applicable to now, working at a COVID-19 testing site,” Bill said.

Timothy, 24, agreed.

“We {staff} are just as stressed out as those coming to be tested,” Timothy said. “All of the processes we have to go through to get people tested efficiently, accurately and quickly require a lot of man power in the tents.”

The brothers are currently enrolled at SPC in the Health Sciences associate degree program and plan to apply for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program. They also are interested in exploring other opportunities, such as FAMU, Florida’s public Historically Black College/University.

The City of St. Petersburg’s Cohort of Champions funds entrepreneurial and educational training opportunities for African American male youth at SPC. The program also provides participants with opportunities for skill building, leadership-focused workshops and events, mentoring, tutoring, academic advising, and wraparound services. Participants must be male, 18-24 years old, African American and City of St. Petersburg residents.

For more information on eligibility and enrollment, email Ernest Gant, Acting Pitch Coordinator, at gant.ernest@spcollege.edu.

More information on the city initiative can be found here: www.stpete.org/MBSK. Details about PITCH are available on the college’s website at spcollege.edu/pitch.

SPC Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey

St. Petersburg College’s Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey believes that now is a great time for unemployed workers to reskill or upskill. Ramsey was recently a panelist on Tampa Bay Business & Wealth’s Virtual Connect Series on May 19. The weekly webinar addressed the topic, “Supporting our Furloughed or Laid-Off Employees.”

More than 80 people logged on for the webinar, where, alongside Jessica Muroff, CEO of the United Way Suncoast, and David Pizzo, Market President at Florida Blue, Ramsey discussed the current job market.

Use Time Off to Hone Skills

Ramsey reminded the audience that if one is currently furloughed or laid off, there are free options for taking classes at SPC, including financial aid or funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. He also reported that SPC is offering free courses for a limited time.

“Through June 30, the Workforce Institute is offering 10 free online courses, where there are a ton of information, resources and skill development opportunities for anyone looking to upskill or reskill,” Ramsey said. “We definitely want to do our part to help the community as they look to rebound.”

Looking for Work

The panel then turned to tips for looking for work. Ramsey suggested an updated resume that highlights one’s skills. He said that though many companies are waiting to see what happens, others, as their business increases, see an opportunity to grab some high-quality employees who may have been displaced due to COVID-19.

“It’s a good time to highlight the transferrable skills you have, so make sure you do a good job of describing the work you’ve done in a certain area that may transfer to another field,” he said.

He suggested using keywords such as “urgently hiring,” “remote” and “working from home” in order to narrow searches down to employers who are hiring right now.

Ramsey also noted that there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned networking.

“Professional organizations and a personal network are time-tested strategies to make sure you’re abreast of any opportunities that are about to become available,” he said.

The New Normal

The panelists then tackled the topic of working remotely and the issues that can arise from that, especially with pets and kids in the house. Ramsey noted the isolation that can set in when working remotely.

“The communication piece cannot be understated,” he said. “When you’re in the office together, you chitchat and catch up and loop yourself into ways you can help one another. In the virtual environment, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone if you’re not very intentional about setting up those communication touchpoints.”

He went on to praise SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams for how she handled transitioning the college to being fully online with a remote workforce in just a couple of days.

“The center of that was creating a Community of Care,” he said. “She encouraged us to be understanding of one another as everybody was trying to deal with this pandemic and the psychological impacts that come with it, as well as understanding that working from home is not the norm. She encouraged us to be as human as possible as we made this transition.”

TBBW Publisher and CEO Bridgette Bello, who serves as a member of SPC’s Board of Trustees, moderates the Virtual Connect series. She couldn’t resist bragging about the college.

“I’m a proud Vice-Chair of SPC’s Board of Trustees, and it makes me happy and proud to see what we’re doing to give people the opportunity to get back into the workforce,” Bello said.

St. Petersburg College will award more than 2,100 degrees and certificates to its spring graduates, who successfully completed their academic journey this month while also facing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak during their final term.

SPC President Tonjua Williams offered her congratulations and shared her pride in the achievements of the college’s latest Titan graduates.

“They have faced challenges and overcome obstacles unlike any other graduating class in the history of St. Petersburg College,” Williams said. “Titans exemplify strength. And their perseverance, ingenuity and creativity proves their excellence. Their hard work and dedication inspires us all.”

SPC will award 2,162 degrees and certificates to Spring 2020 Term graduates, including:

  • 975 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 463 Associate in Science degrees
  • 255 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 238 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 230 Certifications

This term, the college’s youngest graduate is 17 years old, the oldest is 75 years old, and 15 graduates are over the age of 60. With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 180,843 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

The St. Petersburg College Alumni Association also named and congratulated the college’s 2020 Apollo and Alumni Achievement award winners. Garrick Roe was selected as the Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve. Erika Ostos Perez received the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The college announced earlier this year that it was postponing its May graduation ceremony due to concerns about COVID-19. Currently, SPC is reviewing the possibility of holding commencement for this graduating class at a later date, which has yet to be determined.

Right now, SPC is celebrating with graduates online. The college has created a personalized webpage for them at spc.edu/celebration. They can find their name and the degree or certificate they’ve earned, a special video message from SPC’s president, and some interesting facts about their graduating class, plus social media tools so they can share their success.

Earlier this month, college administration, instructors, graduates, their families and even some cats and dogs all logged on to celebrate SPC’s 153 nursing graduates. Due to social gathering restrictions during the pandemic, they became the first class in the 64 years of the program to graduate via Zoom conference.

The college’s Veterinary Technology program also celebrated their 39 graduates virtually.

Experts will discuss the balance of customer confidence and readiness for reopening businesses safely.

St. Petersburg College will host a collaborative and informative virtual discussion with industry experts about best practices to help re-open businesses from 1-2 p.m. on Friday, May 8. From providing a safe environment for guests and employees to rebuilding a business model to adjust to evolving guidelines, this session will provide new information and new ideas for re-opening.

Local leaders who will provide insight on how to safely reopen will feature:

  • Ryan Griffin, Board of Governors Chair of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Restaurateur
  • Danielle Egger, Founder and CEO, Florida Food Safety Systems and former State Regulator

The virtual conversation topics will include:

  • How do I interpret guidelines from state and local officials regarding re-opening?
  • What are some of the safeguards I can implement to protect my staff and customers?
  • How can we boost consumer confidence in eating out again?
  • How should I balance my food costs and alter my inventory with reduced seating capacity? How can I communicate effectively and efficiently with employees and patrons?

To register, visit stpe.co/safehospitality.

St. Petersburg College’s application fee will be waived during its virtual college fair Explore SPC on May 12 and 14. Attendees can connect with faculty, along with financial aid and academic advisors, to have questions answered online and in real time so they can take the next step in their careers.

Explore SPC will offer day and evening sessions from 10 a.m. – noon and 5-7 p.m. The event will feature:

  • Online breakout sessions, including “How to become a Titan”, “How to Pay for College” and “Titan Student Life”
  • Virtual expos for participants to learn more about SPC’s academic community and student services
  • Live Q&As with career and academic advisors

“We are excited to offer Explore SPC in a virtual format this year,” said SPC Director of Recruitment Services Reggie Reed. “Unfortunately, many individuals have experienced employment hardships due to the pandemic and it’s important to us that we introduce students to opportunities to re-skill with our short term training options so they can return back to the workforce.”

SPC offers more than 110 degrees and training programs that lead to high-wage and in-demand careers. Expert speakers will provide insight on how SPC will support students throughout their academic journey from application to graduation and beyond. Speakers include:

  • SPC Director of Recruitment Services Reggie Reed
  • SPC Online Student Activities and Services Coordinator Brandie Ebert
  • SPC Executive Director of Financial Assistance Services Todd Smith
  • SPC Career and Academic Advisor Terry Hogan

Attendees can learn more about SPC’s university partnerships with the University of South Florida System (FUSE) and Florida A&M (Ignite). These partnerships guarantee admission into select bachelor’s degree programs for eligible students who complete their associate degree at SPC.

For more information about Explore SPC, visit spc.edu/explore.


Coming off the heels of Earth Day, former NASA astronaut and SPC alumna Nicole Stott hosted a virtual Q&A session with student science enthusiasts. Nearly 70 students from seven Florida state colleges listened closely as Stott candidly shared what sparked her aerospace career and her latest passion project as the founder and director of Space for Art Foundation.

The online event took place Friday, April 24, and was open to students, some from St. Petersburg College, who are taking part in National Science Foundation (NSF) STEM programs.

Stott’s journey into space began as child, when her parents exposed her to their passion of flying planes. Over time, her curiosity about how planes actually fly grew, and she decided to enroll at St. Petersburg College and pursue an Associate of Science in Aviation Administration. Stott attributes her time at SPC to be the launching pad for her educational journey.

“My time at SPC really made a difference and set the foundation for my education,” Stott said.

During the online session, SPC student Maia Hassan asked Stott what advice she had for her younger self.

“Don’t second-guess yourself,” she said boldly. “Don’t take yourself out of the running. Without the conversations I had with my mentors, I would have never picked up the pen and applied.”

Stott’s career started at the Kennedy Space Center. But, when the opportunity came for her to apply for the astronaut program, she was hesitant to consider the position.

“My mentor motivated me to push forward with the application,” Stott said.

Even though she didn’t get the job, more doors opened until she was selected in 2000 to join the crew.

In 2009, Stott flew aboard space shuttle Discovery for STS-128, a NASA space shuttle 91-day mission to the International Space Station. She became the 10th woman in history to complete a nearly seven-hour spacewalk. She vividly recalled how she felt the moment the space shuttle took off.

“My body shook like it never has ever before,” she said.

Polk State College student Lizvette Santibanez ask Stott to recall some of her fondest memories in space.

“My time in space was the highlight. To feel your body that way, the view out the window, it was overwhelming beautiful,” Stott said.

Every view from space reminded Stott of art. During her time in space, she was first person to complete a watercolor painting.

“I remember looking out the window, and it looked like someone painted earth on a canvas.”

Hillsborough Community College student Alana was curious to know how science and art come together.

“The work of science from the beginning has always had art,” she answered.

Stott is the founder and director of the Space for Art Foundation, where she combines her love of space and art to inspire creative solutions to planetary challenges. Projects led by the Space for Art Foundation focus on the sublime.

“We want to show the awe and wonder of space exploration and the connection between personal and planetary health; and raise awareness of our role as crew members, not just passengers, on Spaceship Earth.”

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, College of Central Florida student Autumn Lloyd wanted to know what advice Stott would give after being in isolation for nearly 100 days.

“I’m looking around me in a whole new way, to see things I haven’t seen before,” she said. “We do the same thing on the Space Station. Our connection to nature is by appreciating it. I am encouraging people to look around and appreciate what you do have.”

Closing out the one-hour conversation, Stott reminded the viewers, “We’re all crew of Spaceship Earth. We live on a planet. We are all Earthlings. Be crew!”

The Future of STEM

The students who were invited to the virtual session are a part of the Tampa Bay Bridge to the Baccalaureate (TB-B2B) Alliance, the Central FL STEM Alliance and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) programs, all of which operate under NSF. The overarching goal of the alliances is to significantly increase the number of underrepresented minority students transferring from two-year to four-year baccalaureate programs in STEM.

TB-B2B Project Manager Kelliann Ganoo said the alliances are making significant strides and impact for students.

“STEM related degrees can demand a lot of time, resources and brainpower. Our program offers a community of peers, faculty and staff committed to supporting student success,” Ganoo said. “Our staff also creates tons of opportunities, like the Q&A event with Nicole Stott, to help our students with career exploration and expanding their network.”

To learn more about the Tampa Bay Bridge to the Baccalaureate Alliance, contact Kelliann Ganoo at Ganoo.Kelliann@spcollege.edu.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1712738. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.