Since the announcement of the creation of St. Petersburg College’s state-of-the-art Midtown Center, some Midtown citizens expressed concerns about the college’s agenda for the previously abandoned property. But their fears were unfounded, said Dr. Kevin Gordon, Provost of the Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center.
“Our only agenda is community partnership and providing high-quality educational opportunities to our local community,” Gordon said.
“All hands on deck”
Since the grand opening one year ago, more than 30 civic organizations, have collaborated with the college to impact St. Petersburg’s historical “Deuces” community, confirming Gordon’s belief that the Midtown Center serves as a community connector.
The Midtown Center has expanded the vision of St. Petersburg College’s Educational Ecosystem, a collaboration of Pinellas County educators who help elementary, middle and high school students successfully transition through grade levels and to inspire them to think about college at an early age. SPC’s students, faculty and staff mentored students at Melrose Elementary in hopes of providing a positive connection within the community.
“The St. Petersburg College Mentor Partnership has made a positive impact on the mentees at Melrose Elementary School by giving their time, commitment and building quality relationships with the students they served,” said Melrose Elementary Family and Community Liaison Demetrice Lane. (View the appreciation video, provided by Melrose Elementary, thanking St. Petersburg College and several volunteers for their support.)
Making a difference in the “Deuces” community has become a shared adventure among SPC and community leaders to revitalize the minds and well-being of the people.
“Our connections to the community is our way of reaching families to provide more than just an education,” said SPC Community Relations Coordinator La’Kesha O’Neal. “The partnerships we’ve established are a shared responsibility to mentor, collaborate and educate the community.”
According to Chuck Egerter, President of Deuces Live Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes revitalization to the 22nd Street South district, St. Petersburg College has already jumped in as a strong community partner.
“St. Petersburg College has been a partner of the Deuces Live Main Street since our organization relaunched in December 2011,” Egerter said. “Deuces business owners have been invited by the college as featured speakers, and SPC routinely allows the use of its’ facilities for workshops hosted by other community organizations.”
Faith-based community leader, Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, provides outreach services targeted to single mother’s at Midtown every second Tuesday of the month.
“It has been our desire to be centrally located in Midtown in efforts to meet with and provide services to the single mothers population,” said Outreach Leader Jewel Murphy. “St. Pete College allows the ministry to utilize the Midtown Center’s Community Room to execute this endeavor. The ministry participants appreciate the location and the warm reception that we receive upon our entry there.”
“Transforming property to new economic opportunities”
The original 10,000-square-foot Midtown Center at 1048 22nd St. S., opened in 2003 as part of a $2 million St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s HOPE VI project.
In 2012, as demand for classes and community involvement grew, SPC’s Board of Trustees approved a $14 million expenditure to build the new three-story building on land leased from the City of St. Petersburg. The new center includes multiple classrooms, two science labs, three computer labs, a book store, a community room and a career center.
Shortly after opening in August 2015, St. Petersburg College received the 2015 EPA Brownfield Phoenix Award for being an innovative leader in solving critical environmental problems by transforming the abandoned property into a productive site for new economic and community opportunities and assets.
The new campus is named in honor of the late Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr., a longtime legislator and a Florida Commissioner of Education. Jamerson, a graduate of St. Petersburg College, was one of the most prominent politicians in the state of Florida and a fierce advocate for education.
“The first-year of operations at the Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center has been filled with excitement,” said Dr. Gordon. “We have experienced a tremendous amount of community engagement and look forward to countless more opportunities to partner with our friends in Midtown.”