Archive for July, 2011

St. Petersburg College began Operation Graduate this summer at its Clearwater Campus. The program provides a summer experience to teens in the North Greenwood, South Greenwood and Wood Valley neighborhoods and offers a positive alternative to the violence and crime that they see around them.

The idea of the program came from Clearwater Police Chief Anthony Holloway. He contacted St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus officials out of frustration because his department was arresting youth as young as middle school age, many of whom would then be arrested again in high school – some even incarcerated – for more serious crimes.

Holloway wanted to end the cycle.

Stan Vittetoe

Stan Vittetoe

“He had the idea that if we could keep these kids off the street in the summer and give them something positive to do, that we could prevent that from happening,” said Stan Vittetoe, provost, Clearwater Campus.

Together, Vittetoe and Holloway found a way to bring 17 youth to the Clearwater Campus to take a half-day college course over a six-week period. On Fridays, students took field trips to places such as the Health Education Center, Allstate Center, Brighthouse Networks and Bay News 9.

Holloway made sure students would be occupied during afternoons by helping them find part-time jobs with companies such as Target and Publix. He provided bus passes to enable students to get to and from work, as well as a pass to the Long Center in Clearwater.

An additional 20 youths on juvenile probation, ages 15-18, took online courses at the Clearwater Police Department’s North Greenwood substation.

“It has been a very successful program,” Vittetoe said. “We’d like to at least double that number next summer.”

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The college’s 116th commencement took place Saturday, July 25, 2011 at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. Summer term graduates totaled 1,022. View graduation slide show.

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A longtime crusader for St. Petersburg College was recently honored for her efforts in helping students at the college.

Michelle Piccione

Michelle Piccione

Michelle Piccione was named the Hometown Hero in the annual LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Awards competition sponsored by the Association of Florida Colleges. She will be honored at the group’s fall convention on Oct. 27 in Naples.

Piccione’s history with the college began as a student and hit a high point in the last year. In 2008, during one of her terms as President of the Alumni Association, she discovered that Women on the Way and Male Outreach (now Men Achieving eXcellence), needed financial assistance. She opened a thrift store as a fund raising project. Knowing the college could not assume liability for the project, she funded it – and directed it – herself. She has never taken a paycheck.

She formed the Dollars for Scholars of St. Petersburg chapter under the national organization, Scholarship America, and obtained non-profit status. SPC provided a building for the store, and Piccione used her own money to purchase fixtures and shelving. She canvassed the community in search of thousands of donated items. She passed out fliers, picked up donations, spoke at meetings, and talked to as many people as possible about the thrift store and what it could do for the community.

The shop opened in June 2009 and has provided jobs for high school and SPC students as well as AARP seniors. The store gives textbooks to students who simply present their IDs; new student EMS/Paramedic and Nursing uniforms are sold just above cost.

The thrift store project had the following objectives:

  • To expand access to higher education for residents of Pinellas County
  • To generate funds for student scholarships and awards
  • To create jobs and mentoring opportunities for students

Piccione’s attachment to the college began years ago when she enrolled as a student 25 years after high school. When she graduated from the college in 1993 she received the Apollo Award, given annually to the outstanding graduate. And SPC left a mark with her.

“St. Petersburg College changed my life and I wanted to play a role in doing the same for others,” she said.

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On July 13 the St. Petersburg Times published a story about SPC’s Summer of Success program.

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     St. Petersburg College honored Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young Friday for his efforts in bringing the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to the college.
     More than 200 people attended the noon luncheon at the Seminole Campus.
     “We want people to learn what their government is all about,” Young said.
      He also said the institute will offer elected and appointed officials an idea of what they need to know.
      “What do I do next” was something Young said he asked himself when he was first elected. “That is the story of this institute,” he said.

Congressman Bill Young

Young credited former SPC President Carl M. Kuttler Jr., who attended, for having the vision to bring the institute together.
     “Dr. Kuttler, this was your dream,” Young said. “It took a lot of hard work. Carl Kuttler probably kept me busier than anyone else in making this great institution what it is today.”
     In recognition of Young’s leadership in Congress and the Florida Legislature and his commitment to educational and economic development initiatives, the Florida Legislature in 2007 and 2008 appropriated a one-time $7.5 million endowment to establish the government institute at the college. It was envisioned as a way to offer a broad array of research, training, educational and policy analysis to support activities at the local, state, regional and national levels of government.
      The institute, founded in 2010, also serves as a repository for Young’s papers and related works, awards and honors.
     Young, who has served in Congress for 41 years and was in the Florida State Senate 10 years before that, wants to assure that students have the opportunity to learn about public policy.
     David Klement, executive director of the institute, said it is easy to take someone like Young for granted.    
     “Often, when someone has been a leader for a long time, as has Congressman Young, we tend to take him or her for granted,” Klement said. “We at St. Petersburg College don’t want to be guilty of that. That’s why we are taking the time today to recognize the work that went into this project.”
     Klement said it is a fortuitous time to be launching such an institute.
     “We are, at a time when our country – and the world at large – seems to be going through almost continuous crisis and uncertainty; when our agencies of government are severely challenged financially; when political factions are polarized and people yearn for enlightened leadership; and when debate too often degenerates into a shout-fest that only increases divisiveness and hardens negative attitudes toward those with whom we disagree,” Klement said.

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SPC students and faculty members will tutor economically disadvantaged children throughout Tampa Bay.

SPC’s College of Education and the United Way of Tampa Bay are partnering to provide extensive literacy tutoring to economically disadvantaged children at 20 non-profit sites throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Research shows that children of poverty often fall behind in reading during the summer, and expert instruction can reverse the trend. To accomplish this, the United Way of Tampa Bay has provided funding for 10 SPC College of Education seniors to work with 240 struggling readers attending summer camps at partnering agencies.

As part of the Ready-Set-Read Program, each SPC tutor will be assigned to two non-profit camp sites for 15 hours a week for eight weeks, and will work with 12 children per site. The tutors will conduct a pre- and post- assessment, using the Basic Reading Inventory 10th edition; conduct anecdotal observations on the children’s literacy development; and provide extensive literacy tutoring sessions weekly.

Marie Biggs, Professor of Literacy and Reading Coordinator for the College of Education, and Nancy Watkins, Professor of Literacy and Elementary Education, will train tutors, provide materials and assessment instruments, and conduct site visits. At the end of the summer, Biggs and Watkins will analyze the assessment data and summarize the impact the SPC tutors had on the performance of these 240 struggling readers.

In addition to the 10 tutors, an additional 35 SPC College of Education students enrolled in summer reading education courses. Each student will complete 10 hours in a summer camp of one of the United Way’s partners. This will result in an additional 350 hours of assessment and tutoring for “at-risk” children in the region.

Biggs, Watkins, and their colleagues at SPC’s College of Education hope to continue this partnership, and explore innovative new ways to address the reading achievement gaps of children in the community.

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When Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe visited a local Boy Scout camp on Flag Day in June, he had no idea that the young singer who did such a beautiful a cappella performance of the Star Spangled Banner was one of his own Clearwater students.

But Vonabell Sherman of Clearwater has been surprising and impressing people for quite a while. Though only 16, she has been singing since the age of seven. She’s been enrolled at St. Petersburg College since the age of 14, and is close to completing her requirements for an associate’s degree.

Vonabell Sherman

Vittetoe didn’t recognize her as an SPC student when he visited Camp Soule, but she got his attention as soon as she started singing.

“She got up outdoors and sang the National Anthem a capella, and I can tell you she just blew us all away,’ Vittetoe said. “It is a difficult song to sing and to do it outdoors with no accompaniment was really something to experience.”

In her young career she has a number of accomplishments to her credit. She tried out for American Idol earlier this year, and made it through four preliminary rounds, good enough to earn the right to sing before judges Jennifer Lopez, Stephen Tyler and Randy Jackson. While she didn’t progress further, she said the judges urged her to try again next year.

She also had a tryout on the X Factor, in addition to a busy schedule of local performances. She has sung the National Anthem at Blue Jays Stadium in Dunedin, has performed for the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, and has sung for a state event for children with disabilities.

She has been home-schooled for the past five years and has completed her high school studies.

“Previously I went to private school, and various elementary and middle schools before that,” she said. “There came a point in time when I knew public school wouldn’t be right for me. In the 10th grade, I passed an exam which allowed me to dual-enroll at St. Petersburg College, and that’s where I have been studying for the past two years.”

“I will get my associate’s degree this fall,” Sherman said.

She has other passions besides singing. She is fluent in American Sign Language, and has a great love for all things Japanese. She speaks the language reasonably well, she said, and has ambitions to teach English as a Second Language in Japan.

She and her brother have visited Japan. She said her interest in that country began with an interest in Anime, cartoon animation which originated in Japan nearly 100 years ago.

“I love the people and the culture, and I want to go back there and further my studies,” she said.

Vittetoe said he hopes Vonabell’s future includes further studies at St. Petersburg College.

“She is a remarkable young lady who is thinking about where to go for four years,” Vittetoe said. “She could go just about anywhere she wants to go – I think she has a GPA around 4.0. I hope she’s thinking about SPC for her bachelor’s degree.”

Some of Vonabell’s singing performances can be viewed on her YouTube channel.


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