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St. Petersburg College Information Services Librarian Chad Mairn told the room full of children that when he was a kid, he was out making and jumping ramps on his bike. He went on to say that he wanted them to do that kind of thing, too, but with all the amazing new technology available to them, he also expected them to do greater things – anything they wanted – and no one should ever tell them that their ideas were bad ones. And so began the Maker Boot Camp, where 450 kids, ages 10-13, attended monthly sessions at the Seminole Community Library that sparked the students’ interest and creativity with topics including video game design, circuitry, robotics and video editing.

Maker Boot Camp 1

The Boot Camp came about when Mairn, with the help of Seminole’s Youth Services Supervisor Jill Storm and Library Director Mike Bryan, submitted a grant application to the Association for Library Service to Children for their Curiosity Creates grant, which supports creativity programming for libraries. Their application, one of 400, was one of the 77 nationwide selected to receive $7,500 for their Boot Camp.

The college’s Innovation Lab at the library was a strong candidate for the grant, since they already had some cool tech pieces there, such as 3D printer, a virtual reality headset called an Oculus Rift, and several robots.

“The grant allowed us to buy even more,” Mairn said. “Enough to continue the project for many years.”

Mairn said Storm handled the organization of the project, while he wrote the curriculum, ordered the technology, and did a lot of teaching – as well as learning.

“I had to learn everything,” he said. “And because I had to teach it, I had to learn it a couple of steps ahead of them.”

Maker Boot Camp 2 Maker Boot Camp 3

Some SPC staffers were enlisted to help out with the sessions. Paul Sutton, who teaches video game design, taught a session on that topic, and professional photographer and recent SPC graduate Chris Demmons filmed the sessions and taught the final workshop on video and sound editing, where they took some of his footage and made their own videos.

“My session went great,” Demmons said. “The kids were actually really sharp, and a lot of them already knew how to edit video, and the ones who didn’t picked it up really fast.”

In one session, the kids designed an invention, which they were allowed to print from the 3D printer.

“The kids came up with some great inventions,” Mairn said. “One student was invited to share her invention, a cup to catch the drips from an ice cream cone, at a competition in Washington D.C.”

The Boot Camp culminated with a fun day, Makerfest, where they invited everyone to come to the classroom and play with all the tech toys, have some snacks and watch a screening of the kids’ videos and a documentary put together from the footage and stills that Demmons shot. Demmons said he was inspired by the enthusiasm of the children.

“There were three kids who were always there early – sometimes before I was,” he said. “They were always just rearing to go and learn something new.”

Mairn says the program was so popular that it will be expanded, with intermediate sessions added in addition to the next introductory sessions.

“I don’t think I had one kid who was disappointed,” he said. “Many of them told us they’d never had access to this type of stuff before, like the Oculus Rift. They were able to experience it and get into it.”

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Eileen LaHaie

Executive Director for the Center for Public Safety Innovation Eileen LaHaie poses with St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway at the Moxie Award’s ceremony.

When Executive Director for the Center for Public Safety Innovation Eileen LaHaie was a little girl, her father always told her, “You have moxie!” She now has an award to prove it, as she was recently given a Moxie Award from the Drug Free America Foundation at their May 18 event.

According to the DFAF website, the award celebrates citizens who have shown knowledge of the facts regarding the harms of drug use, used courage to stand against legislation that would weaken drug laws and proved determined to protect our nation’s children from addiction. To select their reward recipients, the organization looks at people who have worked with them and made efforts in the community.

After working with the DFAF for more than twelve years, LaHaie said most of her work at SPC has somehow related to drug prevention. “We do community outreach, counter-drug training programs, make videos and develop curriculum for them,” she said.

LaHaie said she grew up in a law enforcement family, and she’s seen how destructive drugs can be–especially to families. “Now that I’m a grandmother, fighting drug addiction is no longer work–it has become a mission.”

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Over the past year, Diana Wright, St. Petersburg College’s Director of Facilities Services, has organized several community service opportunities for the college’s Facilities department.

The department added a food drive to their holiday party, collected bags of healthy snacks for children in need, and on May 21, some of the Facilities group spent their Saturday representing SPC at a Habitat for Humanity house down the street from the Midtown campus.

Habitat1

Wright said she was inspired by the Leadership SPC volunteer group project to bring an SPC staff group together to do community service.

“It’s just something we’re doing informally right now,” Wright said.

The five Facilities staffers who could volunteer on Saturday were ready for work, which included painting, carpentry and installing insulation.

“They had a supervisor on-site who gave specific instructions on what to do,” Wright said. “He said our team was probably the best group he’s had in a long time because they needed very little direction.”

Associate Vice President of Facilities Planning & Institutional Services Jim Waechter said their work was very much appreciated. Board Member Deveron Gibbons heard that the group would be there, so he stopped by to offer his support and thanks, and the future homeowner worked alongside them, as well.

“It was great to meet her and her appreciation was very gratifying,” Waechter said. “Everybody left with a nice sense of gratification and a willingness to do it again.”

Waechter worked on the team that was installing insulation that day, and he said the work was no joke.

“We were dripping with sweat,” he said. “I took a shower and a nap as soon as I got home.”

Wright said the group will definitely be doing more service projects in the future.

“I started this group of volunteers so that staff with similar interests could come together and serve in their communities,” Wright said. “Lending a helping hand is something that has personally helped me stay eternally thankful and serves as a reminder of how blessed we all are.”

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Students are invited to join the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and the county administrator in a Community Conversation to discuss county services and important topics such as housing, social services and transportation.

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The public meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 3, from 6 – 7 p.m. at the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus in the Digitorium, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole, preceded by an open house from 5:30 – 6 p.m.

Held in partnership with SPC and Bay News 9, the Community Conversation offers an interactive venue for citizens to talk about issues, with the convenience of social media, online video streaming and blogging. Residents can also participate in the event via phone and by watching live on PCC-TV or SPC-TV.

Citizen comments are encouraged as part of the conversation with Pinellas County Commissioners Chairman Charlie Justice, Vice Chairman Janet C. Long, Dave Eggers, Pat Gerard, John Morroni, Karen Williams Seel, Kenneth T. Welch and County Administrator Mark S. Woodard. The conversation will be moderated by Al Ruechel of Bay News 9.

There are five ways to participate in the conversation:

  • Be part of the live audience. The live event will be held at St. Petersburg College, Seminole campus, in the University Partnership Center Digitorium, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole.
  • Watch it live and blog on pinellascounty.org/CommunityConversation. The blog opens Tuesday, May 3, at 9 a.m.
  • Watch it and ask questions on Pinellas County’s Facebook or post on Twitter and Instagram accounts using #PinellasCC.
  • Call (888) 409-5380 to listen and ask questions.
  • Watch on PCC-TV (Bright House Channel 637, WOW! Channel 18 or Verizon Channel 44) and SPC-TV (Bright House Channel 636, WOW! Channel 19 or Verizon Channel 47).

For more information about the Community Conversation, including links to resources about the county’s strategic plan and the citizen survey, visit www.pinellascounty.org/CommunityConversation or call (727) 464-3000.

This blog post was provided by Irena Karolak, public information specialist with Pinellas County Communications. 

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Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) launched the 2016 New Ideas Conference with a reminder of what the event is – and isn’t – about.

“This is to give voice to the community, and this is a forum to talk policy, not politics,” said Jolly as he spoke words that resonated the ideas of free speech.

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The April 8 forum – now in its second year – featured local leaders and the community talking about critical issues. Jolly served as the event’s moderator.

Last year New Ideas jumped into discussions about budget, transportation, energy and education. This year featured three panels – Veterans’ Welfare, Government Reform and Emerging Threats of Terrorism.

Read tweets from and about the forum.

Veterans’ Welfare

“Our nations heroes deserve the very best we have to offer,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) during the discussion about veterans. “Too often the VA has fallen short.”

The Veterans’ Welfare panel brought with it highly emotional responses. Johnny Jones, a retired Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician who lost both of his legs in 2010 after he was deployed to Afghanistan, touched the audience with his inspiring words. He told the crowd that losing his best friend, another U.S. Marine, to suicide forced him to think about what causes someone to go that far. He spoke passionately about the misuse of medication to those with PTSD. His non-profit organization, the Boot Campaign, works to raise awareness for Veterans’ issues. It also provides assistance to military families.

“All Americans want this to change,” said Blaze Radio Network anchor Doc Thompson. “We have the right ideas, but it is not getting done.”

Government Reform

Continuing with the idea of not getting things done, the Government Reform panel talks addressed issues with government gridlock and corruption.

“Congress has gotten so dysfunctional that good candidates don’t want to do it anymore,” said Editor of Editorials for the Tampa Bay Times Tim Nickens. “They can never get anything done, and the problem is not the middle. It is the extremes on either side.”

The discussion addressed district gerrymandering, Congressional term limits, the use of filibustering and budget concerns. The workings of primary elections also came up.

“A lot of people feel disenfranchised due to closed primaries,” said former Congressman Jim Davis. “Open primaries give more control and more choice. Neither side will like it, but we need to do it.”

Emerging Threats of Terrorism

Discussion of the threat of cyberterrorism entered the picture last. The panel featured Katherine Bauer, senior fellow at the Washington Institute; Congresswoman Gwen Graham (FL-2) and Chief Operating Officer for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity Sri Sridharan.

“Our military is protecting and defending us. We are working hard every day providing security here in the U.S,” said Graham.

Attendees were looking for answers on conflicts involving Syria, ISIS and Iran. Intellectual property, proper “cyber hygiene” and blocking ISIS online were also discussed.

“Syria, it is a humanitarian crisis,” said Graham. “You can’t make sense of whose fighting who for what reason.”

People from around Pinellas County joined students and faculty within the crowd at the SPC Seminole Campus Digitorium.

“I really enjoyed the Veterans panel,” said SPC Biology student Torin Clark. “It was awesome to hear that they were truly trying to figure out ways to help veterans.”

Clark also got a lot out of the Government Reform panel talks. Not someone who has kept up-to-date with politics, he said he learned a lot from the panel.

Local business owner Bruce Elliot said “This event is awesome, but once it is over, we have to think, ‘Well, what’s next?’”

At the end of each panel, people were told how they could get in touch with the panelists as well as others who can push for change. Many in the audience left with new answers and new questions.

Missed the forum? See video from the event online.

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Ride 2 Recovery members and officials open their newest training facility on SPC's Clearwater Campus Friday, Feb. 12.

Ride 2 Recovery members and officials open their newest bicycling training facility on SPC’s Clearwater Campus Friday, Feb. 12.

On Friday, Feb. 12, officials from Ride 2 Recovery, a national physical and psychological rehabilitation and recovery program for veterans, opened an indoor bicycling training facility at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus.

The center, called Project HERO (Healing, Exercise, Rehabilitation, Opportunity) Central Florida, strives to enhance the lives of area service members and veterans through adaptive cycling. According to Ride 2 Recovery, the mental and physical challenges of cycling have proven an aid in the recovery process of veterans, who train in an environment of support and camaraderie among like-minded riders.

At the center, veterans receive tailored fitness regimens and dietary and lifestyle counseling as they progress through individual cycling programs.

“We want to thank St. Petersburg College and the Student Veterans Association for hosting our program,” said John Wordin, President and CEO of Ride 2 Recovery. “It’s an extremely important project, and I think that over the weeks, months and year ahead, it will become a source of pride for the campus. There is no other program like this that combines the hard work and the reward of completing a goal you set for yourself that you were not sure you could accomplish.”

Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe noted that nearly 7 percent, or 500 of the 7,300 students that call the Clearwater Campus home are veterans.

“The classroom experience is enriched and enhanced by the presence of our veterans,” Vittetoe said. “They provide a model of leadership, organization and self-discipline that you just don’t often see. The entire campus is better with them here … and they support each other. We are looking forward to having the students and community members participate in Ride 2 Recovery.”

The new facility opened the day before Ride 2 Recovery’s Honor Ride Florida at Tropicana Stadium in St Petersburg, where more than 500 cyclists supported injured veterans from across the state. Project HERO Central Florida is the fifth such center in the nation opened by Ride 2 Recovery.

See more photos on the college’s Facebook page.

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eco-seminole
Since the Seminole Community Educational Ecosystem began three years ago, nearly 2,000 elementary, middle and high school students have visited St. Petersburg College to help hone their focus on their academic end goal – a college credential that will change their lives.

The educational ecosystem in Seminole stemmed from a grassroots effort in 2013 among five school principals and their School Advisory Committee members who wanted to reach beyond the traditional role of SACs. The educational ecosystem is based on research and best practices that champion the idea that it takes a community to educate a child.

“It’s about engaging the community in the educational process,” said Jesse Coraggio, Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Academic Services at SPC. “It’s the idea that educating the youth in the community shouldn’t be the response of just the school district or just the college; it really should be the response of the community and only together are we going to be successful.”

Coraggio helped spark the ecosystem idea when he was a SAC volunteer SAC at Bauder Elementary School, where his daughter attended. He and other parents wanted to explore how groups could work together across grade levels to prepare students and facilitate key transitions, such as those between elementary and middle school, middle school and high school, and high school and college.

As part of the program, fifth-graders visit SPC for “Picture Yourself Here” events, designed to inspire them to think about college at an early age. High school juniors and seniors attend SPC “Majors Fairs” and other programs with their parents to help explore, investigate and decide on college choices, and navigate the steps to successfully enroll and register.

The ecosystem idea has gained momentum and is now sparking conversations among SPC, communities and schools in Clearwater, south St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs.

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