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.
“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.”