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alumni-skillsSt. Petersburg College alumni rank fifth in the nation and first in the state of Florida, among two-year colleges, for possessing the most valuable job skills, according to a recent report released by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, an independent, nonprofit think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The study, entitled “Beyond College Rankings, a Value Added Approach to Assessing Two and Four Year Schools,” used data from multiple government and private data sources, including the Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education, LinkedIn, and Burning Glass, a labor market intelligence firm. The study explored the median mid-career salary, earning potential, and student loan repayment rates of graduates.

SPC ranked fifth for two-year colleges in skill sets that garner higher wages, as reported on LinkedIn. The professional social networking site has 99 million user profiles in the United States alone, and is one of many emerging websites that collects data on salary and skills, some with institutional detail for millions of graduates.

The value of alumni skills is reported under occupational earnings power and represents the labor market value of the 25 most common skills listed on the LinkedIn resumes of college graduates. These skills were matched with data, compiled by Burning Glass, on skills and salaries advertised in millions of job vacancies.

For SPC graduates, the value of alumni skills came in at $65,499 compared to a national average of $61,048 (for graduates of two-year colleges), while the SPC graduate median mid-career salary was $54,000 compared to the national average of $52,945 (for graduates of two-year colleges).

“At. St. Petersburg College, we are working very closely with our business partners in the Tampa Bay area to align our programs with workforce needs so our students are prepared to compete for high wage jobs when they graduate,” said St. Petersburg College President Bill Law. “Our number one goal at St. Petersburg College is helping improve our students’ lives, and increasing earning power is a surefire way to do that. This study helps validate those efforts to give our students the skills and tools they need to be successful in today’s job market.”

The Brookings report provides insight into how well colleges prepare students for high-paying careers and is the first to provide “value-added” measures for a broad range of two- and four-year colleges. The new data available helped the report authors develop new ways of measuring the economic value that U.S. colleges provide.

By using non-traditional tools and analyzing data on economic outcomes for graduates, the Brookings report moves beyond other college rankings by focusing on how well colleges contribute to student economic success, rather than simply their ability to attract top students and the preparedness of such students.

“These college-specific data can be used to learn about, evaluate, and improve college performance,” said Brookings Fellow Jonathan Rothwell, co-author of the report. “Colleges serve very diverse populations. The advantage of measuring value-added is that it adjusts a school’s ranking based on the type of college and the characteristics of its student body.”

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GradPhotoMore than 1,200 graduates of St. Petersburg College crossed the stage during the 127th Commencement Ceremony at Tropicana Field on Saturday, May 16.

A total of 2,922 students earned 3,307 degrees from SPC this term, President Bill Law told the crowd of well-wishers. Graduates ranged in age from 16 to 76, with 31 graduates over the age of 60. Thirteen of the graduates received their diplomas on their birthdays. Check out all the graduation stats.

The Class of 2015 also includes the youngest student ever to receive a bachelor’s degree from St. Petersburg College, 18-year-old Richard Ramdohr, of St. Petersburg.

With this graduating class, the college has awarded 147,381 degrees since the college was founded in 1927.

Among other milestones, SPC celebrated the following:

  • 10,000th student to earn an Associate in Science degree in nursing
  • 8,000th baccalaureate graduate
  • 2,000th baccalaureate nursing graduate
  • 1,000th baccalaureate elementary education teacher graduate
  • The largest group ever of A.A. and A.S. degree students in one term, with 2,286

Inside and out, hundreds of tweets, photos and videos were shared on social media.

Before diplomas were handed out, the college’s Apollo and Alumni Achievement award winners addressed fellow students and guests.

Clearwater Campus student Amy Bhatt received the Apollo Award, the highest honor a two-year graduate can achieve. Seminole Campus student James Stanley Lenas was named the Alumni Achievement Award winner, bringing home the highest honor for a four-year SPC graduate.

Bhatt was a member of the Early College Program and graduated with her A.A. degree and a 4.0 GPA.

“In my two years at SPC, I found that this is a great place to learn and develop our ‘academic intelligence.’ But even beyond that, the interaction with faculty and students is phenomenal for developing our ‘practical intelligence’ in dealing with people and working as a team. And I quickly realized that in order to succeed, we need both – academic and practical intelligence. In just two years, I got so much from SPC, that I feel I will never be able to pay it back.”

Bhatt plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at SPC and would like to attend Stetson University’s College of Law and pursue her ultimate dream of serving on the Supreme Court. Professors at St. Petersburg College inspired students “to succeed every single day,” Bhatt said.

Lenas graduates with a B.S. degree in biology with a 3.65 GPA and is one of six students in the country to be accepted into Bayfront Health’s School of Medical Technology Laboratory Science program. During his time at SPC, Lenas presented research in microbiology at the American Society of Microbiology Summit in 2014 and was named a Biological Research Nominee, an award given to biology program students who complete outstanding research in the field.

“My experience tells me that my education as an SPC student, as well as yours, make us stand out,” Lenas said. “SPC is doing something right because it is producing competitive applicants for a number of careers.”

Lenas touted the college’s “small class sizes, where every instructor knew my name,”

Also honored at the ceremony was SPC’s 2015 Outstanding Alumnus, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway. Chief Holloway attended St. Petersburg Junior College in 1996 before transferring to Eckerd College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 1999 and his master’s degree in business administration in 2001.

During his 22-year career with the Clearwater Police Department, Holloway became the city’s first black police captain and eventually its chief in 2010. He was named chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department in 2014.

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See all our graduation numbersSt. Petersburg College will celebrate its 127th commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 16 at Tropicana Field, One Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg. About 1,200 of the 2,922 Spring 2015 graduates are expected to participate.

The youngest graduate is 16 years old and the oldest is 76 years old. The Class of 2015 also includes the youngest student ever to receive a bachelor’s degree from St. Petersburg College, 18-year-old Richard Ramdohr, of St. Petersburg.

With this graduating class, St. Petersburg College will have awarded 147,381 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

Among other milestones, SPC will celebrate the following:

  • 10,000th student to earn an Associate in Science degree in nursing
  • 8,000th baccalaureate graduate
  • 2,000th baccalaureate nursing graduate
  • 1,000th baccalaureate elementary education teacher graduate
  • The largest group ever of A.A. and A.S. degree students in one term, with 2,286

See all the graduation numbers for Spring 2015.

Amy Bhatt, winner of the 2014-15 Apollo Award, and James Stanley Lenas, recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award, will address their fellow graduates and guests.

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class,” said Bhatt, who has earned an Associate in Art degree. “While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC.”

Lenas, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, touted the active learning opportunities provided by professors with real-world experience that shaped his education at SPC.

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research and clinical field. I was a part of a group that gave me the chance to practice science outside the classroom in a relaxed, educational environment,” Lenas said. “I am not only proud to be an SPC graduate, but one who represents the school thereafter.”

St. Petersburg College also will honor St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway as its 2015 Outstanding Alumnus.

The cost for parking in Lots 1-7 is approximately $10. Disabled parking will be available in Lots 1, 6 and 7, and a drop-off circle is available by Gate 5 along 16th Street South. Guests can enter through Gates 3, 4 and 5.

Connect with our graduates
Use our social media images to share your well wishes and be sure to use #spcgrad to tweet your congratulations so it shows up on our Social Tagboard and on the Jumbotron at Tropicana Field the day of the big event.

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Anthony Holloway

Anthony Holloway

St. Petersburg College is honored to announce St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway as our 2015 Outstanding Alumnus. Holloway will be honored at SPC’s Spring graduation May 16, at 9 a.m. at Tropicana Field.

Chief Holloway attended SPJC in 1996 before transferring to Eckerd College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 1999 and his master’s degree in business administration in 2001.

During his nearly 22-year career with the Clearwater Police Department, Chief Holloway rose through the ranks to become the city’s first black police captain. He began as a patrol officer in 1985 and was named the city’s Outstanding Police Officer for his undercover narcotics work in 1989. During his tenure, he also served as patrol officer, community policing specialist, undercover vice and narcotics detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant (Economic Crimes Unit), Support Services assistant division commander, and Patrol Division commander.

Chief Holloway’s impressive service showcases his untiring commitment and steadfast passion to serving the community. These attributes have led to a number of awards: He is a two time recipient of the Clearwater Bar Association’s Allen L. Moore Memorial Gold Badge, and has been named the Joseph F. Cornelius Family Foundation Outstanding Police Officer of the Year (the highest honor given by the Clearwater Police Department), and the Fraternal Order of Police Officer of the Year. Chief Holloway also received the Chief’s Unit Citation.

In 2007, Chief Holloway was selected police chief of Somerville, Massachusetts. In 2010, he returned to Pinellas County after being chosen from a field of more than 200 candidates to succeed retiring Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein.

His passion and dedication extend beyond the role of police chief. He has taught the precepts of law enforcement to governmental, educational, and community organizations throughout Florida, sharing his primary philosophy of the “three E’s” – evaluate problems in the community, educate residents about services and public safety issues, and enforce laws.

Chief Holloway was appointed to the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar in June 2012 and has served as consultant/trainer to the Department of Juvenile Justice, the U.S. Department of Justice, and St. Petersburg College. In June 2011, he received a certificate of completion for the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government and Executive Education.

In 2014, Chief Holloway was named chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department, where he continues his mission as a powerful and dedicated servant of the public, committed to protecting our community and kick-starting programs that address the social ills that lead to crime.

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St. Petersburg College will honor its top graduates and alumnus during commencement ceremonies May 16 at Tropicana Field.

This year, for the first time, award winners were notified before the ceremony.

Amy Bhatt was selected as the Apollo Award winner, the highest honor an associate degree graduate can achieve.

James Stanley Lenas will receive the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Apollo Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards. It has been presented each year since 1966.

This year’s finalists are:

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class. While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC”.

“Education is not just the knowledge received in class. While I acquired my academic intelligence from my courses, much of the practical intelligence I gained came from extracurricular activities at SPC.” Amy Bhatt

Amy Bhatt, Clearwater Campus, Winner

Ms. Bhatt is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate and a member of the Early College Program. She served as co-president of
the Honors College and co-chairwoman of the Pre-Law Committee for the Legal Studies Society. She was named to the All Florida Academic Team. She was the editor of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Newsletter, which acts as a community resource for attorneys and paralegals. Ms. Bhatt has a 4.0 G.P.A.

During her first year at SPC, she received the “Student of the Year” award in Honors Interdisciplinary
Studies, one of the youngest students at SPC to receive the award. In 2015 she was chosen as a recipient of the
Presidential Scholarship Award, which recognizes high school students who have attained academic excellence.

Dr. Richard Mercadante, Faculty Senate President, said: “Amy Bhatt is one of those rare students who excels
in multiple areas: academics, service, and leadership. She has earned the respect of faculty and her student peers
for her ability to serve as a positive role model regardless of the challenges she encounters. When I grow up I want
to be just like Amy!”

Ms. Bhatt’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at SPC. She would then like to attend Stetson University’s College of Law and pursue her ultimate dream of serving on the Supreme Court.

“I have felt tremendously encouraged and welcomed by St. Petersburg College, especially by the Seminole Campus. Through its resources, my college has taught me that I should not be afraid of my future, but instead step into it with confidence and fervent dedication.

“I have felt tremendously encouraged and welcomed by St. Petersburg College, especially by the Seminole Campus. Through its resources, my college has taught me that I should not be afraid of my future, but instead step into it with confidence and fervent dedication.” Samantha Sue-Ellen Engelhardt

Samantha Sue-Ellen Engelhardt, Seminole Campus

Ms. Engelhardt is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She was a member of the Early College Program, the Intervarsity Christian Club, the SPC Community Band, and the Math Club. She has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She has been a math tutor in the Seminole Learning Commons and volunteered as treasurer of the Early College program. She also has volunteered at the Vineyard Inn, an assisted living facility, and at Horses for Handicapped.

She was a finalist for the All Florida Academic Team in 2015, is a Take Stock in Children Scholarship recipient,
and received the Early College Excellence Award for her outstanding academic success and leadership qualities.

Mathematics Instructor Jeff Taylor said: “She displays a level of intelligence and responsibility well beyond her years. The only thing more impressive than her intellect and kindness is her humility.”

Ms. Engelhardt will pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of South Florida with
the goal of eventually becoming a certified civil engineer.

“St. Petersburg College provides a learning environment for a melting pot of all different types of people. There are high school students trying to better themselves for higher education, retired veterans who want to go back to school, adults who would like to earn a higher degree to obtain a better job to provide for themselves or their families. I believe SPC has not only offered me a better education, but also a better future.” – Anita Thuy An Nguyen

Anita Thuy An Nguyen, Seminole Campus

Ms. Nguyen is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She participated in Phi Theta Kappa, Seminole Campus Soccer, the Great Eco Race, and volunteered in the Student Support Center to help plan events and activities. She has a 4.0 G.P.A.

She served as secretary of the Early College Program, and helped coordinate Spirit Week and the Halloween Costume event. She served as a volunteer math tutor in the Learning Commons on the Seminole Campus, giving over 15 hours a week to help struggling students. She also participated in the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital 5k run, the SPCA Toys for Toto drive, and Phi Theta Kappa monthly road cleanups.

Ms. Nguyen received the 2015 Early College Academic Excellence Award, and was a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship awarded to students who excel academically and maintain that excellence throughout high school.

Associate Professor Pelagia Mazarakis said: “She is an exceptional student, both academically and personally… respected and admired by her teachers and her peers.”

Her goal is to attend Nova Southeastern University’s College of Optometry with the ultimate career goal of becoming a practicing optometrist.

“Most memorably, SPC gave me the opportunity to realize my leadership potential by leading community service initiatives that benefited children and motivated my peers to go above and beyond.” Bernadette Praxides Mead

“Most memorably, SPC gave me the opportunity to realize my leadership potential by leading community service initiatives that benefited children and motivated my peers to go above and beyond.” Bernadette Praxides Mead

Bernadette Praxides Mead, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus

Ms. Praxides Mead is a 2015 A.A. degree graduate. She was a member of the  Student Government Association. She has served as a First Aid Responder for the Student Athletic Training Program at Boca Ciega High School. She has a 3.9 G.P.A.

She served as vice president of the National Honor Society, where she coordinated holiday gift drives, beach cleanups and social events. She was a member of the Interact Club and coordinated the Red Hand Day Commemoration Event, a worldwide initiative to stop the use of child soldiers. She also served as a volunteer
for All Children’s Hospital.

She received numerous awards, including: the President’s Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence from her high school, an Excellent Service Award from Junior Achievement, and the National Honor Society’s Community Service and Recognition for Outstanding Leadership award.

Leadership/Resource Instructor Sally Hoogewerf said Ms. Praxides Mead “represents everything admirable about SPC. Her contributions to class discussions were thought provoking, and she acts with joy in her heart
and a smile on her face.”

Her goal is to attend Georgetown University and become involved in international and development economics and then embark on her dream of helping the people of the Philippines escape extreme poverty.

Alumni Achievement Award Finalists

Four outstanding St. Petersburg College students have been selected as finalists for the annual Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor a bachelor’s graduate can achieve.

The Alumni Achievement Award is presented annually by the SPC Alumni Association. Winners are chosen for their outstanding leadership abilities, scholastic standing, community service, honors and awards.

This year’s finalists are:

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research/clinical field.

“I learned about science from SPC professionals who have been in the research/clinical field. I was a part of a group that gave me the chance to practice science outside the classroom in a relaxed, educational environment. I am not only proud to be a SPC graduate, but one who represents the school thereafter.” James Stanley Lenas

James Stanley Lenas, Seminole Campus, Winner

Mr. Lenas will receive a B.S. degree in biology. He has a 3.65 G.P.A.

He was a member of the Tau Delta Tau chapter of the National Science Honor Society, a senator in the Student Government Association and is a member of Golden Key.

He presented research in microbiology at the American Society of Microbiology Summit in 2014. He served as a microbiology tutor at the Health Education Center, where he also helped run workshops teaching students various lab techniques that applied to their curriculum. He served as the lead microbiology assistant for more than 120 students on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus.

He has participated in the Great American Teach-In and served as a judge for the 2015 Pinellas County Regional Science Fair. He was the recipient of an SPC Foundation grant and was named a Biological Research Nominee, an award given to biology program students who complete outstanding research in the field.

Dr. Katherine Siegler said: “Jimmy was one of two students whose research we supported with a stipend funded by the SPC Foundation. He is one of the few undergraduate students I have known that possesses the ability to pose independently, thought-out hypotheses.”

Mr. Lenas’ goal is to work as a medical technologist in the Tampa Bay area.

“I believe I am leaving SPC with a legacy for other students to follow. A legacy that shows them that hard work and integrity can give you a better life.” Robert Hurley

“I believe I am leaving SPC with a legacy for other students to follow. A legacy that shows them that hard work and integrity can give you a better life.” Robert Hurley

Robert Hurley, Clearwater Campus

Mr. Hurley will receive a B.A.S. degree in paralegal studies. He has a 3.69 G.P.A.

He is founder and president of the Legal Studies Society, president of the Titan Blue Club, a senator in Student
Government, treasurer of the MAX program, and has spearheaded scholarship workshops for SPC students.

He has volunteered for the Salvation Army, participated in the Student Veterans Club Trash Cleanup and in the annual Turkey Trot for Student Government. He helped advertise and collect Thanksgiving food contributions with the MAX club, participated in the Christmas toy hand-out through Student Government, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity through Phi Theta Kappa.

Mr. Hurley received the Lynch-Reed-Wakefield Scholarship, and was a student speaker at the annual SPC Foundation employee giving event.

Student Life and Leadership Coordinator Stephanie Henningsen said: “He has worked tirelessly through the
Student Government Association and helped make students aware of opportunities.”

Mr. Hurley’s goal is to earn an M.B.A. from the University of Florida and return to St. Petersburg College as a professor.

“SPC has given me opportunities I have embraced and used to allow myself to grow as a professional.” Zayda Jania

“SPC has given me opportunities I have embraced and used to allow myself to grow as a professional.” Zayda Jania

Zayda Janiak, Clearwater Campus

Ms. Janiak will receive a B.S. degree in elementary education. She has a 3.75 G.P.A.

She was a member of Kappa Delta Pi and is an active blogger for SPC Learning Resources. She was a member of the
Early College Program, completed ethics training in the College of Education and has attended NASA Professional Development Education Workshops.

She volunteered as a student assistant at the Clearwater Campus Library and served as an intern at M.K. Rawlings Elementary School. She has completed more than 120 field-based hours as a student teacher in language arts, mathematics, and science.

She was the winner of several scholarships, including the prestigious Presidential Scholarship, which is awarded
for outstanding academic excellence. She is a member of Golden Key.

Adjunct Professor Cynthia Freed said: “Over the past seven years I have come into contact with hundreds of students. Few stand out as much as Zayda. She understands the meaning of diligence.”

Her goal is to earn a Ph.D. in education and teach at the college level.

“I and my family are staunch believers in the educational programs at SPC After taking the time to have a family, I decided at the age of 38 to go to college and now I am graduating with honors.” Angela Sue O’Connor

“I and my family are staunch believers in the educational programs at SPC After taking the time to have a family, I decided at the age of 38 to go to college and now I am graduating with honors.” Angela Sue O’Connor

Angela Sue O’Connor, Tarpon Springs Campus

Ms. O’Connor will receive a B.S. degree in elementary education. She has a 3.77 G.P.A.

She was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the Pinellas Reading Council, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

She participated in a teaching trip to Jamaica, where she served as lead teacher of third- and fourth-graders. She was a Girl Scout Leader for 15 years, leading her troop to a Bronze Award and a Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor.

She has volunteered at the Safety Harbor Library and participated in the Christmas Toy Drive in St. Petersburg.
Dr. Cher N. Gauweiler said: “Angela is among the highest achieving students in the College of Education.

She exudes a positive, friendly spirit and has the ability to make others feel at ease. The glowing feedback I
receive is indicative of her teaching ability.”

Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in education and become a full-time teacher.

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SPC graduates

SPC graduate Salwa Shamsi addresses fellow graduates.

About 680 St. Petersburg College graduates attended two commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 13, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. Prior to the 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. processionals, SPC student Robert Kruithoff sang Christmas classics on a stage adorned with lighted Christmas trees and garland. Graduates entered the Worship Center to the cheers and shouts of hundreds of friends and family.

Inside and out, hundreds of tweets, photos and videos were shared on social media.

SPC graduates

SPC graduates enter the morning ceremony.

“Among our 1,888 graduates are 238 who are receiving more than one credential,” said SPC President Bill Law. “One hundred and six are between the ages of 50 and 60, and 20 of us are over the age of 60. Today, our oldest graduate is 70 and our youngest is 17. For every male graduate, there are two female graduates….five of our graduates will receive their diploma on their birthday.

“Including those awarded today, the number of degrees and certificates awarded by SPC since 1927 is 144,074.”

In delivering the morning invocation, the Rev. Clarence Williams from Greater Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in St. Petersburg wished graduates well, noting that “education is the new currency.”

Tammy Mintler speaks at the morning graduation.

Tammy Mintler speaks at the morning graduation.

Of the four students who addressed their peers at the ceremonies, graduate Tammy Mintler traveled the farthest – from Montana. She received her Bachelor of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology.

“To my fellow graduates: You are the one person on whom you can always depend,” said Mintler, who plans to teach vet tech. “The influence of others will wax and wane throughout our lives but we are ultimately responsible for our choices, our successes and failures. … we have achieved a certain level of success today, but our education is a tool that can help distinguish ourselves.

“Education itself is an opportunity and learning is a lifelong process. Learning is what keeps life interesting and challenging. As we learn, we grow. Learning is limited only by apathy, and we only truly fail when we stop trying. Don’t ever hesitate to accept the challenge of a new opportunity.”

Celeste Edwards speaks to graduates

Celeste Edwards speaks to graduates

Graduate Celeste Edwards, who received an Associate in Arts degree with a focus in psychology, delivered a more spiritual message. She plans on working in social work to make a difference in the lives of at-risk Florida youths.

“I’m the eldest of eight children and the last to graduate in my family,” said Edwards. “I remember the day this journey began … it was the way in which God chose for me to re-enter my life … after the loss of the love of my life.

“Now today, December 13, 2014, we all are standing on a foundation of love, encouragement, prayer and strength, along with the help and support from the writing lab, learning centers and tutors for whatever subject we needed help in. And I cannot forget the support and guidance and encouragement from my counselors, professors, instructors here at SPC.

“Class of 2014, keep building on your foundation. Always be an encouragement to others and always be willing to lend a helping hand. Give back what was given to you.”

Salwa Shamsi and Kathleen Bryan post before the afternoon graduation ceremony.

Salwa Shamsi and Kathleen Bryan post before the afternoon graduation ceremony.

The afternoon ceremony featured student speaker Salwa Shamsi, who received her Associate in Arts degree and Kathleen Bryan, who received her Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Services Administration.

In that invocation, Joseph Smiley, dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences, asked that students receive the “grace to make a difference for good, to allow them to make great contributions to society and be a special blessing to all those they touch on life’s highway.”

Shamsi, who plans to enroll at the University of South Florida to earn a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, told her peers: “We have accomplished one of the most major milestones of our lives: this is the first step in the journey of our unknown future, and we all should be recognized for this significant success.

“The choice we took to further our education has, and will, open many doors of opportunities. But this is not the end of our road; it is instead part of a longer, larger journey within our lives.

“So let us be remembered by holding on to our best values: caring for others, performing random acts of kindness, and leaving a great impact on our fellow humans because we should all be loved and all be valued.

“May our success add to the wealth of excellence that has been part of this great institution since that first graduating class in 1929.”

For Kathleen Bryan, second and third chances were something to celebrate.

“Back in 2009, I was laid off twice in five years,” said Bryan, who traveled to graduation from Dunnellon. “In a whirl wind I was enrolled in college, sitting in a classroom, with no books and no idea what I was going to do.”

Now, three degrees later, Bryan works for a medical company in Ocala.

“Nothing can stop you if you have determination and persistence,” said Bryan. “Look around you today; everyone is here to celebrate us and our determination to reach this goal. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to quit, but with the support of my family and friends they pushed me which made me push myself.

“Just remember whatever dark cloud may linger over you, there is sunshine waiting to follow. Never give up on your dreams, go out and find a career that makes you happy, and you will never work.”

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Tammy Mintler addresses her fellow graduates.

After spending 20 years in U.S. Army intelligence, Tammy Mintler decided to finally pursue her lifelong dream of working with animals. After earning her associate degree in veterinary technology from Colby Community College in Kansas, she pursued another dream: to live in Montana.

Last fall, she graduated from St. Petersburg College’s online bachelor’s degree program in veterinary technology. She will use her degree to teach vet tech.

“For an online program, it was much more challenging than I expected,” said Mintler, who will represent upper division graduates when she addresses her peers at the morning commencement ceremony.

While Mintler found the courses demanding, she values the knowledge she has acquired.

“I wish I had known a lot of this stuff when I first started out as a technician, like OSHA, legal and ethical issues and dental classes,” said Mintler, who made the President’s Honor Roll at SPC four times. “I feel more rounded now. And as an instructor, I can draw from my personal experience and the new things I have learned.”

Mintler spent 10 years working as a veterinary technician and always enjoyed working with high school groups when they came into the practice where she worked. She would show them around, give tours and quiz them.

“They said ‘you should be a teacher.’  But I really couldn’t afford to move to get my bachelor’s.”

After finding St. Petersburg College’s program online, Mintler got a call from Dean Rich Flora, inviting her to apply.

“The faculty was extremely supportive,” Mintler said. “Everyone is willing to go the extra mile to help students. I never expected (the dean) to call me like that.”

Mintler plans to remind her fellow graduates that “education itself is an opportunity and learning is a lifelong process. Learning is what makes life interesting and challenging. […] Learning is limited only by apathy, and you only truly fail when you stop trying.”

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