Providing free Microsoft Office programs and counseling services to St. Petersburg College students has proven to be very popular. For the third straight year, Student Government Association leaders from SPC campuses will support both items in their 2014-15 budgets.
Each year, SGA groups receive 25 percent of student activities funds to develop spending plans that support enrichment activities for campuses and students. They present their budgets to SPC officials, who this year included Tonjua Williams, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, and Jamelle Conner, Associate Vice President for Business Services.
“I can’t wait to see what you do this year,” said Williams. “This is what leadership is about – when you realize it’s not about you, but your students and those you serve.”
The SGA budget is split among campuses based on student semester hours at each location. Student groups and clubs can request funds for their events and groups through their SGA by explaining their budget requests in an online form or making their cases to their SGA in person.
“We require clubs to get multiple quotes for events and appear before the SGA” to be considered for funds, said Dee Evans, treasurer of the SGA at the Health Education Center, which didn’t have a strong student government group until two years ago. The SGA office at HEC is now located in the cafeteria and officers routinely scout the campus for new members.
Williams took note of their progress.
“I want to applaud how far you’ve come in two years,” she said. “It’s hard to get an SGA up and running, and it’s pretty brilliant having your office near the food.”
Direct from Athens, Greece
This year, Clearwater SGA President Euripides Stephanou presented his campus’ budget from Athens, Greece, via Skype.
“I’m honored that I can represent my campus from 6,000 miles away,” said Stephanou, who believes community events are one of the best recruiting tools the college has. “Our community events engage individuals who may want to enter college life and further their education.”
Supporting the College Experience
Many SGA groups developed their budgets in line with the college’s values as detailed in The College Experience. For example, the Seminole Campus allotted $15,000 for peer advising last year. It was so successful the college picked up the tab this year. Tarpon Springs is adopting the initiative this year with their own allocation of $15,000.
“It really bridges the gap between professional career advising and academic advising,” said Melissa Dabydeen, vice president of Seminole’s SGA. “The best feeling in the world is when they give you back the (electronic paging) buzzer and seeing them satisfied and their questions answered.”
Williams became a true fan of peer advising after sitting in on some sessions with students.
“It’s less intimidating for students, who don’t feel judged and were able to be candid. Any campus that is not doing this is missing out,” she said.
Campus by campus
This year, the $1.3 million will be divided as follows:
- Allstate Center – $34,637
- Health Education Center – $145,983
- Clearwater Campus – $265,072
- Seminole Campus – $206,857
- SPC Downtown – $66,023
- SPC Midtown – $21,651
- St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus – $257,489
- Tarpon Springs – $196,800
Other hot topics
Another topic on the minds of students was transportation. In the past, the Seminole Campus SGA provided passes for students to ride Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses. Currently the college is in talks with PSTA to provide free bus rides for all students to and from the college’s nine locations beginning in the fall.
Creating opportunities for fellowship among students, like intramural sports and campus events, remains a priority for SGA groups. Providing counseling and referrals through BayCare Student Assistance Program is also crucial.
“Most students go to BayCare because of stress so activities like intramurals are very important to relieve some of that,” Williams said. “I’m really addressing stress this year because our students really struggle with it. It affects everything they do, how they act, eat, perform in school, everything.”
The BayCare program offers expanded support services and counseling for students in addition to training for faculty and staff in dealing with student concerns and assistance after incidents that would impact students collegewide. Students get three counseling sessions a year through the program.