Archive for the ‘Collegiate High School’ Category

Newsweek has named St. Petersburg Collegiate High School (SPCHS) as one of “America’s Top High Schools 2015,” ranking them #1 in Florida and #48 in  the nation.

Collegiate High School“The Newsweek High School Rankings assess schools based on a broad range of data to determine which institutions do the best job of preparing students for college. A star next to a school’s name indicates that it meets our Equity measure by helping low-income students score at or above average on state assessments.” – Newsweek.com

SPCHS earned the top ranking in Florida and earned the star for their work with low-income students.

“I am grateful to the innovative and talented SPC/SPCHS staff and faculty who inspire and support our students to excel,” said Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School. “Congratulations to our dedicated and hardworking students.”

Other recent awards for SPCHS

Collegiate High School SPCLocated on SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School has earned:

A Pinellas County charter school, SPCHS has a unique mission to equip students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma, an Associate in Arts degree and a Bright Futures Scholarship.

Learn more about St. Petersburg Collegiate High School and St. Petersburg College’s other high school student options.

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SPC Alumni Amy Rice

SPC Alumni Amy Rice

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School alumni Amy Rice was recently awarded the prestigious Pritzker Research Fellowship in the Ph.D. program in Physics at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.

The Fellowship pays tuition, stipend and research funds totaling more than $200,000 over the four-year term of the award.

After earning her A.A. degree from St. Petersburg College in 2009, Rice transferred to IIT. Last year, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics.

“Biology was my first love,” said Rice. “It’s what got me interested in science in the first place.”

Looking back to her time at SPC, she remembers loving her anatomy and physiology class.

“The professor had a way of making the class incredibly interesting and bringing in his outside knowledge to make it more real to us,” she said.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Rice was homeschooled through eighth grade. In ninth grade she attended Veritas Academy and transferred to SPC’s Collegiate High School for grades 10-12.

“I have always been very motivated academically,” she said. “I thought it (Collegiate High School) would be a great program to be around others that took their education seriously.”

Like many Florida students, her plans were to stay in Florida and take advantage of the Bright Futures Scholarship she had earned. Her high SAT scores meant she was pursued by numerous colleges from around the country. A brochure from IIT caught her eye.

“I saw that they had a major in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and I thought that sounded like an awesome major,” she said. “It sounded like it would be very interdisciplinary.”

She applied for and got a full tuition scholarship and started her bachelor’s degree in the Chicago-based university the next fall.

During her undergraduate studies at IIT, she worked as a teaching assistant in biology and physics and a research assistant in microbiology and physics. She was involved in Alpha Sigma Alpha, the Honors Medical Society and competed on the university’s cross country and track teams. She was awarded the College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend in 2011 and 2013.

Entering the second year of her Ph.D., Rice’s research is focused on Computational Biophysics and is primarily computer based. While she has experimental collaborators that she works with, her research does not happen in a traditional laboratory.

“My project specifically is looking at a class of antimicrobial peptides produced by most animals,” she explained. “It is thought that bacteria don’t really become resistant to them. Not a lot is known currently as to why they work so well, but are not harmful to human cells.”

In Computational Biophysics computerized simulations are used to enable researchers like Rice to explore actions and reactions that happen within cells in very short time frames – nanoseconds – and very short distances.

“It’s hard from the experimental side to figure out what is happening on such small time and distance scales,” she said.

She is currently working with a team of researchers led by Dr. Jeff Wereszczynski at IIT. The Wereszczynski Group also includes two postdoctoral researchers and another Ph.D. student. This summer the group also has three undergraduate research assistants, two from a local community college. Rice is in charge of one of the assistants.

“I’m very excited to have an undergraduate student assistant!” said Rice. “I’ve been the undergraduate assistant to graduate students twice before, so it is really interesting and rewarding for me to be on the other side of that now and help mentor someone.”

Learn more about her research with the Wereszczynski Group at IIT.

Rice plans to continue her career in the same general field of research by teaching, working with graduate students and doing research.

“I love computational work,” she said. “It is a big up and coming field – new in the last 20-30 years. It’s exciting for me to think about where it will be in future when computers are even more powerful,” she said.

Her advice to other students is practical:

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Rice. “In science you fail a lot. I’ve had to start my research project over nine times now. The first eight times I failed. If you are not failing, you are not at the cutting edge of your field.”

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Niche rankingsSt. Petersburg Collegiate High School was in the spotlight again this week ranking #1 in the 2015 Niche Rankings for Best Public High School in the Tampa Bay Metro area and the top charter school in the state.

Niche’s Best High Schools ranks more than 14,000 schools nationwide based on academics, health and safety, diversity, survey responses, teachers grade and resources and facilities.

SPC’s Collegiate High school was compared with 65 public high schools in Tampa Bay. They were also ranked as the #16 charter school in the nation.

Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School

Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School

“I am thrilled with the results of this survey because it affirms our mission to provide an exceptional experience for young adults that encompasses all the benefits of college and high school,” said Starla Metz, Principal, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School. “I am also thankful for the support of St. Petersburg College faculty and staff as they share in this accomplishment.”

Located on SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School has earned an A from the state of Florida every year since it opened in 2004. This year, they also received the Bronze award for Best High Schools from U.S. News and World Report.

A charter school, SPCHS has a unique mission to equip students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma, an Associate of Arts degree and a Bright Futures Scholarship.

Learn more about St. Petersburg Collegiate High School and St. Petersburg College’s other high school student options.

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Bernedette Mead

Bernedette Mead

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School senior Bernadette Mead has been selected as a 2015 Bank of America Student Leader® based on her commendable commitment and service to her community. Bernadette is the only recipient from Pinellas County and one of only five students selected from the Tampa Bay Area. Bernadette will graduate with her high school diploma and Associate in Arts degree from St. Petersburg College in May.

As part of the Student Leaders program, Bank of America will facilitate Bernadette’s participation in an eight-week paid internship at the Boys and Girls Club of America this summer. In addition, Bank of America will fully sponsor Bernadette’s trip to the Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., July 12-17 where she will gain valuable tools to continue to serve her community, inspire others, and lead positive change.

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Salina Som, a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar for the Class of 2014. More than 52,000 students applied for this honor which distinguishes her as a Leader for America’s Future™.

Aimed at helping minority students with financial needs for college funding, the Gates Millennium Scholarship program also provides academic support, leadership training and professional development for the 1,000 students chosen nationwide each year.

Salina’s strong leadership, community service and academic achievements contributed to her selection.

As a Gates Millennium Scholar, Salina will receive a scholarship to attend any accredited college or university in the United States. The renewable scholarship initially funds undergraduate studies, and can also fund Salina’s education through the master’s and doctoral levels.

This is the second consecutive year that St. Petersburg College has produced a Gates Millennium Scholar. Maria Thurber won the award last year and is now a student at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., studying international relations.

Salina plans to pursue a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Florida followed by a doctorate in Pharmaceutical Engineering. She discovered her passion for the lab in a Organic Chemistry class at St. Petersburg College’s Collegiate High School.

“One of the last labs was a multi-synthisis lab for Acetanilide, which is aspirin,” she said. “On the last day of the lab I just put the flask down and the crystals started forming from the solution. It was really big crystals because it was pure. I was so excited. It was the first real drug I synthsized.”

Exposure to college science labs and a research paper on the Evolution of Drug Discovery also fueled her passion for medicine.

Born in Cambodia, her family moved to Boston when she was 3 months old and then to St. Petersburg when she was in first grade. Her father, Savonn Som, just celebrated 10 years on the custodial staff at St. Petersburg College. Her father is still trying to take it all in.


Savonn Som and his daughter, Salina

“I can’t tell you because it is too much,” he said. “My whole life I never thought about something like this.”

After escaping from Cambodia and then to Thailand and eventually America, he never even dreamed of things like having a car or getting an education. He gives his daughter all the credit.

“I just worked hard to put her in school,” he said.

Salina came to SPC as a high school sophomore from St. Petersburg High School’s pre IB program.

“It was a great program but just not a good fit for me,” she said. “Here I found more hands-on learning. The teachers gave me more attention when I needed help. It was less competitive and more collaborative.”

“I am so proud of Salina,” said SPCHS Principal Starla Metz. “She is a humble and hardworking student who is most deserving of this honor.”


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Anna Laird

Anna Laird

At 24, Anna Laird has seen more of the world than many adults get to see in a lifetime. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Collegiate High School graduate has visited or lived in 11 countries. She also spent two years in the Peace Corps as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) instructor in the Kyrgyz Republic.

“SPC was an important stepping stone to achieving my goals and getting me to where I am today,” said Laird, who now teaches English to kindergarteners in a small private school in Seoul, South Korea.

As one of 57 students in the first class at SPCHS, she graduated with a high school diploma and an Associate in Arts degree from SPC simultaneously in May 2007. She credits SPC for helping bring the world to her door by preparing her for university life and the work force beyond.

“SPC and SPCHS helped prepare me to be not only a successful student, but also a successful member of my community,” said Laird, who graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies in August 2009. “Some of the classmates and teachers I encountered during my time at SPC helped inspire me to see as much of the world as possible and to give back to the community.”

She has nothing but fond memories of her time at SPC and has stayed in contact with some of her professors over the years, keeping them up-to-date with all that she has accomplished and experienced.

Laird is applying for graduate school at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, where she plans to study International Development and Human Rights in the fall.

“My time in the Peace Corps exposed me to the need for professionals with sustainable development experience,” she said. “I hope to work in this field after receiving a master’s degree.”

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Juan Borbon, second from left, and the Rice University Solar Car Team placed second for its Solar Power Prototype at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas compeition in downtown Houston.

Year after year, SPC has helped place  students on the path to reaching their dreams. But the success stories don’t always start at the college level; they start as early as high school. The staff at SPC’s Collegiate High School has been equally effective in paving the pathway for students to recognize their dreams.

Collegiate High School graduate Juan Borbon was a dreamer, who is now watching his dreams come to fruition. A freshman majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University in Houston, Borbon realized his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer was within reach when he joined SPC’s Innovative Engineering Club at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. Now on full scholarship at Rice, Borbon in his first year has had some exciting experiences. During his first semester, Borbon joined the Rice Solar Car Team in building an energy-efficient vehicle to use to compete against 130 other teams in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas. The road to the competition, which took place March 30 in downtown Houston, proved challenging. Novices to the world of building solar cars, Borbon and his team had plenty of work to do in a short time, beginning with raising the funds and acquiring the resources they would need before starting construction.

“By the end of the semester, we had $90,000 in sponsorship and $10,000 worth of donated software,” Borbon said. “We did run into one problem though … by the time we were fully funded, there were only three months left until the competition.”

The time constraint would only add more pressure to an already tense situation. Not only did the Rice Solar Car Team have to work quickly, but also efficiently if it wanted to place in the competition.

“To be honest, we didn’t expect to win because our design was too rushed,” Borbon said.

Therefore, instead of setting their sights on a win this year, the Rice team decided to use the event as an opportunity to announce the university’s presence in the solar car racing world and set up the platform to compete at a higher level in the future against industry leaders like Stanford, University of Michigan and MIT. The decision  proved to be a win-win situation for the team and the university, as the team’s Solar Power Prototype took second place in the solar category.

“I don’t know how or why we did so well, but I haven’t been this happy in a while,” he said. “With second place under our belt, our team has much more support. I am very confident that from now on it will be easier to acquire the funding to build the winning solar car for next year’s competition.”

Borbon attributes his success to the nurturing and motivation he received from the Collegiate High School staff. Before enrolling in the collegiate high school, Borbon said he really didn’t have a sense of direction and wasn’t even sure he would end up attending a university. But with the help and guidance of Collegiate High School staff, Yulonder Betts, Connie Boyle, and Principal Starla Metz, his life found direction.

“He is a remarkable young man, I’m immensely proud of Juan. In fact, he won an SPC award for our campus for his leadership in the engineering club when he was senior here,” Metz said. “That is what’s so wonderful about the collegiate high school, when students are on the college campus, they look around and all of a sudden the dream becomes a reality and they realize, ‘I am college bound. My dreams can come true, I can do this.’”

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