Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Jaques Hakim with shoesWhen St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs Professor Jacques Hakim was growing up in Lebanon, his family had little money. Each year when school started, Hakim said if he was able to get a new pair of shoes, it was transformative. That’s why, when he was looking for a way to help those struggling in the community, he decided to donate 500 pairs of shoes to needy children in Pasco County.

“We were talking about the kids going back to school, and how a lot of them can’t afford new shoes,” Hakim said. “I remember when I was a kid, if I got new shoes, I felt like I could run faster and jump higher. It affected my self-confidence.”

Filling a Need

Hakim, who has been teaching Finance and Banking at SPC for 11 years, is also an entrepreneur whose business ventures include an online retailer, goSASS.com. Last year, when he decided to help, school was about to start and time was crunched.

“I only had about a week and a half to come up with shoes,” he said. “I bought 250 pairs, and vowed to have 500 the next year.”

Hakim made that goal, and over the next year, when buying shoes for his retail business, he set 10 percent of the pairs aside to donate. He hopes to double the number every year.

“We want to make sure that no kid goes to school any given year without brand new shoes on their feet,” he said.

Hakim delivered the shoes on Friday, Aug. 28, at an event, where he was joined by Congressman Gus Bilirakis, County Commissioner Mike Wells, representatives from FBI Tampa and Pasco County School Superintendent Kurt Browning. The schools will distribute the shoes through clothing closets and school social workers.

Dreams Do Come True

Hakim left Lebanon at the age of 18, with his 16-year-old brother and $400 in his pocket. The boys joined their cousins in New York and began the process of learning English and making the American dream a reality. Hakim enrolled at a community college in New Jersey, earned his bachelor’s from Rutgers and then an MBA from the University of Connecticut.

“I was the architect of my own destiny,” he said. “You have to believe in what you want to do and see it and go for it.”

Hakim’s work doesn’t end with the annual shoe donation. In addition to huge clothing and toy donations, he’s also heavily involved with his church and his community. When recently a young girl and her grandmother were invited into Hakim’s warehouse to select some free items, the girl told him that no one had ever done anything like that for her.

“I just told her, ‘Remember this, and when you grow older and can, do this for someone else,’” he said. “It’s not about the thanks, but it really made me feel like we were reaching the right people.”

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ribbon cuttingWhen St. Petersburg College and the community play together, everybody wins! On Tuesday, Sept. 10, SPC celebrated the ribbon cutting for the new Lurie Civic Building at SPC Seminole Campus. The building, a shared space with the City of Seminole’s Chamber of Commerce, will include public meeting spaces as well as classrooms and event spaces for SPC students.

The idea for the building, a collaboration between the college and the community, originated when Dr. Ed and Vivian Lurie proposed a donation of $500,000 for the construction of a civic building in Seminole. Dr. Lurie, who helped establish SPC’s entrepreneurial program at the Seminole Campus, has long had a relationship with the college, and SPC’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the generous donation and offered space at the Seminole Campus.

“This is an awesome example of a community coming together, which, in turn, will benefit its citizens,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams.

Seminole Provost Mark Strickland says the building will help SPC students as they prepare to enter their career fields.

“Since the Seminole Chamber will be housed there, our students will be able to network, intern and shadow with local businesses that are charter members,” he said.

Strickland also noted opportunity for civic awareness.

“Because it will serve as a meeting place for local clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary, our students will be able to become civically engaged and participate in activities led by those clubs,” he said.

In addition to the Luries, many Seminole community members contributed to the project. Mark Ely donated technology in the classroom meeting spaces, while Pat Marlowe from Flooring America donated flooring for the area.

“The Seminole Community came together and raised 80 percent of the funds to construct this building,” Strickland said. “This is a prime example of a community understanding the vision of Dr. Lurie, who believed there should be a building in Seminole that allowed for local clubs to meet, the chamber to be housed, and for our students to be engaged.”

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A lot of people loved back-to-school shopping as children. There was something about freshly sharpened pencils, a pristine box of crayons, and a new backpack that would make the impending school year feel more tangible and exciting.

But not everyone has the luxury of new school supplies. For some, a new backpack every year ranks low on the priority list when money is stretched thin, and you have bills to pay and a family to feed.

The Care Fair was a family affair, with older siblings helping younger brothers and sisters pick out their favorite backpack design from 20 options.

That’s where Junior League of St. Petersburg (JLSP) and Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc. (CHCP) step in.

In partnership with the St. Petersburg College Midtown Center, the two local organizations hosted the 23rd Annual Back-to-School Care Fair on Saturday, July 27. SPC frequently teams up with area groups and businesses both on- and off-campus as part of its Community of Care initiative. A large part of the college’s mission is to make sure that the entire SPC family—students and employees—as well as the surrounding communities, have what they need to lead a healthy and productive life.

The Care Fair was busy from start to finish, with many guests showing up before it began at 8:00 a.m. Not only were there a plethora of local vendors and community resources located inside of the Jamerson Building at the Midtown Center, including an SPC recruitment table, but school-aged children could also pick up a free backpack filled with new school supplies. The backpacks and supplies were provided by JLSP and kids were able to choose from 20 different colorful designs.

Just next door at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Center, students received complimentary medical and dental exams from CHCP, ensuring that they show up on the first day of class with a bright smile and clean bill of health. Ten local barbers were also on-site to provide fresh haircuts for the kids.

Members of CHCP leadership officially cut the ribbon on their new Mobile Health Center at the Care Fair.

Outside in the SPC parking lot, fairgoers were treated to a live DJ, a drumline, fitness activities, a multitude of vendor tents, and even a police K-9 demo. Representatives from area professional sports teams handed out branded giveaways while the always colorful NOMAD Art Bus acted as a canvas for anyone feeling creative. Kids were given free teddy bears from the Tampa Rough Riders and a close-up look at a fire engine from St. Petersburg Fire Rescue’s Station 3.

The Care Fair was also an opportunity for CHCP to cut the ribbon on their new Mobile Health Center. The completely paperless clinic on wheels will allow for greater patient accessibility and is even equipped with a dental chair and dental x-ray machine. It is also wheelchair-friendly.

Overall, the Care Fair was a great success, and many kids and parents left the festivities with big smiles on their faces. SPC was happy to collaborate with so many local organizations and vendors as it continues to cultivate a Community of Care in Pinellas County.

To learn more about SPC’s Community of Care initiative, please visit stpe.co/communityofcare.

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Usually, St. Petersburg College grad Colin Treneff didn’t pay attention to job fairs, but something led him to attend one of the hiring events hosted at the Seminole Campus. There, he was pleased to meet with representatives from a local law firm, who offered the recent Digital Arts graduate an internship making videos for their marketing team. Treneff said he is gaining new experience, and the hands-on experience he earned at SPC more than prepared him to do the job.

“The Digital Arts facilities at Seminole rivals that of local news stations,” he said. “And the support from faculty and staff was incredible.”

Treneff’s was only one of the stories shared by a student panel made up of current students and graduates of SPC’s Career and Technical Education programs at the annual Workforce Connections event. Workforce Connections is a joint-advisory committee gathering where all members are invited to attend, and local business leaders learn about the ways SPC students can fill their job openings – as well as how they can inform SPC’s programs and curriculum. Career Connections Director Jason Krupp said Workforce Connections provides an opportunity to unify collegewide efforts for a common goal.

“The call to action is for advisory committee members to define and commit how they will engage with the college community,” Krupp said. “In turn, the college stands ready to connect them with SPC teams who will facilitate their participation.”

In his welcome, Krupp thanked the group for making sure our students get experiences and opportunities they need to complete their educations and become employed. SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams served as keynote speaker, noting in her address rising unemployment and poverty rates and a decrease in the number of citizens who can afford housing in Pinellas County. Williams said that Workforce Connections is the key to ensuring that SPC reduces the number of under-educated and under-employed people in Pinellas County and implored guests to communicate their needs to the college.

“Thanks for coming today and investing in our students,” Williams said. “Advisory committees lead us and let us know what programs we should or should not be offering. We cannot do what we do without you. No suggestion you could make would be wrong. What would be wrong would be what you don’t say. Our students need you.”

Chris Paul, Manager of Information Systems at Melita and Chair of SPC’s College of Computer Information Systems Advisory Committee, encouraged everyone to continue their support by serving on advisory committees.

“It is an obligation and professional responsibility to ensure that this school teaches relevant skillsets,” Paul said. “It’s also an opportunity to give back, and the network I’ve gained is tremendous.”

Michelle Hentz-Prange, Human Resources Manager at TSE Industries serves on the Engineering Technology Advisory Committee. She addressed the crowd, noting the many SPC students who turned their internships at TSE into careers, as well as the value of serving on an SPC advisory committee.

“It’s a win/win,” she said. “As a local employer, it’s great to be able to support an educational institution while making connections with future employees.”

Maureen Lucido, Area Human Resource Director with Hyatt Hotels, said she attended the event because she wants to hire SPC students as interns with the hotel chain.

“It’s an opportunity to give students the chance to see the great pay and benefits Hyatt has to offer them in the hospitality industry,” she said.

The student voices rounded out the session, which was followed by advisory committee meetings. The student panel was made up of DeeAnne Brooks, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Biology, Dane Janssen, an Information Technology student, Fatima Hedeia, a Human Services student and Colin Treneff, a recent Digital Arts graduate. The group, moderated by Public Safety, Public Policy and Legal Studies Dean Susan Demers, discussed how internships had increased their knowledge and led to employment.

“As employers engage further with the college to guide programs to meet industry needs, students gain the skills and experiences necessary to join the workforce,” Krupp said. “Employers get the talent they need and students get the jobs they want.”

Hedeia interned as an assistant to the director of the Homeless Empowerment Project, where she said she got insight into the real needs of the homeless population. Brooks scored an internship with Solar Source and was offered a job, though she turned it down so that she could complete her bachelor’s degree. Brooks implored the audience to give interns a chance.

“Believe in us,” she said. “We really want to make an effort to be great in the community.”

Interested in becoming an Advisory Committee member? Find out more here.

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Enjoy St. Petersburg College’s Third Annual Touch-a-Truck event on Saturday, April 22, at the Allstate Center.

Touch-a-Truck is a free and fun community event, where families can see impressive vehicles up close, learn about their functions and find out about the exciting careers associated with them. Last year more than 650 participants attended.

When: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on April 22

Where: Allstate Center, 3200 34th St. S., St. Petersburg

Celebrating Earth Day


2nd Annual Touch-a-Truck 2016

Remarkable vehicles used to recycle waste, purify water, save lives and much more will also be on display to celebrate Earth Day.

During the event, participants will learn about Public Safety programs at SPC and other careers that positively impact our environment and help sustain our communities.

Activities will include Earth Day crafts, a recycling relay, and Earth Day awareness education. There will also be food options available for purchase, music, games, and a rock-climbing wall.

Get more information

For more information about sponsorship and participation, contact Dee Mortellaro at 727-614-7019 or Mortellaro.Dee@spcollege.edu.


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tarpon-springs-community-resource-fairSt. Petersburg College’s Tarpon Springs Campus will host its first Annual Community Resource Fair on Feb. 25.

There will be more than 30 vendors providing employment assistance, financial aid workshops and children’s activities. Representatives from Pinellas County Veterans Services as well as Social and Human Services will also be in attendance.

The college will waive the application fee for individuals who complete an SPC application this Saturday.

The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art will offer free admission to the museum.  There will be lots of giveaways including $1,200 worth of gift cards, donated by the Tarpon Springs Rotary. In addition, there will be refreshments at the event as well as complimentary shuttles provided by Friendly Kia.

The event, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., will be held in the Agora Courtyard, at 600 Klosterman Rd., Tarpon Springs. The fair will include:

  • Waiver of SPC’s $40 application fee
  • Employee assistance table
  • Financial Aid workshops
  • Children’s activities
  • Financial services  
  • Health Care services
  • Social and Human services
  • School supply refresh/book giveaway for students

For more information, contact Coleen Ghozali at ghozali.colleen@spcollege.edu or 727-712-5477.

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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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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.


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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SPC_WOW_BThe Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women will now expand services in Pinellas County thanks to a new collaboration with St. Petersburg College’s Women on the Way (WOW) Program.

“The Centre for Women was looking for a home in Pinellas County to offer our unique services to help women succeed both personally and professionally,” said Ann W. Madsen, Executive Director of the Centre for Women. “We have found an excellent partner with the Women on the Way Program at St. Petersburg College.”

CFW logo_LARGE“The Centre for Women will offer free workshops and counseling for women and men who qualify as ‘displaced homemakers,’ helping them to prepare for and find employment through training and placement programs,” Madsen said. “Additionally, our Women’s Business Centre, funded by a grant from the Small Business Association, will provide workshops and training for aspiring and nascent entrepreneurs.”

The Women’s Business Centre is the only SBA-designated Women’s Business Centre on the West Coast of Florida and serves a six-county area. It also offers services at the Greenhouse in St. Petersburg.

“The Centre for Women is able to broaden our services to serve a greater number of individuals in Hillsborough County, and to now provide more services in Pinellas County as well, thanks to funding from the State’s Office of Economic Opportunity for Displaced Homemakers,” Madsen said.

Displaced Homemakers Programs are distinct from general training and job search programs in that the primary goal is to assist women, and men, in their efforts to achieve lasting economic self-sufficiency. The program helps individuals focus on careers that can provide long-term support and a realistic, livable income for families.

“This program fits in well with the goals of the Women of the Way Program,” said Dr. Linda Hogans, Executive Director of Retention Services at St. Petersburg College. “We have a shared mission to help women succeed both in college and in life, personally and professionally.”

WOW is a resource and support center at the college, developed to help women succeed in college.

“We are excited about this partnership. It comes at a time when the Women on the Way program will be expanding to other campuses to help students succeed,” Dr. Hogans said.

Many women trying to enter or return to college face time and resource challenges. In addition to meeting some basic needs for members, WOW offers opportunities for leadership, friendship and community service. The collaboration with The Centre for Women makes available new, specialized services for students, as well as for other members of the community.

The Centre for Women office will be adjacent to the Dr. Vilma Zalupski Women on the Way Center at the Clearwater Campus, 2465 Drew Street. The Centre for Women’s employment services staff will be on campus two days a week. An annual schedule of Women’s Business Centre workshops will be developed as well and will be open to the community.

About The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women

photo-3Founded in 1977 by Florida’s iconic champion for women, the late Helen Gordon Davis, The Centre for Women is today an innovative nonprofit with a mission to help women in the Tampa Bay Region to succeed personally and professionally. Programs include: Women’s Leadership Programming, Employment Services, Counseling & Wellness, a Women’s Business Centre for entrepreneurs, a Centre for Girls, and a Construction Services Program to help seniors with emergency home repairs and to help women learn the construction trades.

About Women on the Way at St. Petersburg College

WOW_TeamWomen on the Way (WOW) is a resource and support center at St. Petersburg College developed to help women succeed in college. Services provided by WOW include: scholarship assistance; workshops and seminars; a clothing boutique; a Textbook Lending Library; and access to additional resources and referral information for social services. The program also provides scholarships – administered by the St. Petersburg College Foundation – to students who demonstrate financial need.

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