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Archive for the ‘graduates’ Category

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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SPC psychology student Celeste Edwards

Celeste Edwards will receive her Associate in Arts degree in psychology on Saturday, Dec. 13.

St. Petersburg College’s Fall graduation ceremonies will be at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo. Celeste Edwards will represent the A.A./A.S. graduates at the morning ceremony while Tammy Mintler will represent the B.S./B.A.S. graduates. Each ceremony should last about one and a half hours.

St. Petersburg College grad Celeste Edwards wants to put her education to use in making a difference in the lives of at-risk Florida youths.

On Saturday, Dec. 13, she will graduate with an Associate in Arts degree in psychology and will serve as the lower division speaker at the college’s 9:30 a.m. commencement ceremony.

Motivated by experiences in her own life, Edwards said she wants to help children who are in bad situations get the help they need and to serve as their support.

“People look at what they call a ‘bad kid,’ and I don’t see them that way,” she said. “I just say that they have some problems. I can see the light in them that’s way down deep, whereas other people may not see that light or want to give up on them.”

Edwards said that no one should ever give up on a child, regardless of the difficulty of the circumstances they face.

Social work was not her original goal when she enrolled in college years ago.

“I first started college when I came out of high school at 17, and then I had the opportunity to travel with my aunt and my uncle, who were in the military,” said Edwards, who initially took classes for a degree in respiratory care.

She took classes on and off but eventually stopped when she married her husband, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Melvin Bernard Edwards. They were married for 32 years before he died in 2010 at age 56.

Right before he passed, her husband encouraged her to go back to school and to keep living.

“I needed to get back up,” Edwards said. “I needed to live, and I had promised him I would fight and pick myself up after he was gone.”

Her children, Actavious Jermaine Edwards and LaToya Edwards-Devito, also encouraged her to go back to college and get a degree. She initially started at Eckerd College but felt it wasn’t the right fit. She switched to SPC to study psychology.

“My goal is to help as many children as I can to see the person within themselves,” she said. “I want to help them discover who they are, not who society or statistics say that they are.”

Starting in January, Edwards will pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of South Florida. Her goal is to go on to earn a master’s degree in clinical child psychology and work with children.

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fall graduation statisticsSt. Petersburg College will mark its 126th commencement in two ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. About 680 of this semester’s 1,888 graduates are expected to participate.

Each ceremony is expected to last about one and a half hours. Featured speakers include:

Morning ceremony

Afternoon ceremony

Of the 2,199 degrees and certificates being conferred this fall, 1,469 are associate degrees, 412 are bachelor’s degrees and 318 are certificates and advanced diplomas. See all the numbers in our infographic.

Graduates and guests can check our instructions page for the big day. You can also follow social media posts and catch a live stream of the ceremony on our page dedicated to the ceremony.

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With a love for research and a dream to discover some of the world’s future diseases or treatments, St. Petersburg College student Salwa Shamsi wants to make a difference with her life through work in the field of microbiology.

On Saturday, Dec. 13, Shamsi, 22, will cross the stage to receive her Associate in Arts degree. But the path hasn’t been easy; she had to overcome cultural and language differences along the way.

SPC student Salwa Shamsi graduates with an Associate in Arts microbiology transfer degree on Saturday, Dec. 13.

SPC student Salwa Shamsi graduates with an Associate in Arts microbiology transfer degree on Saturday, Dec. 13.

St. Petersburg College’s Fall graduation ceremonies will be at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo. Salwa Shamsi, Clearwater Campus, will represent the A.A./A.S. graduates at the afternoon ceremony while Kathleen Bryan will represent the B.S./B.A.S. graduates. Each ceremony should last about an hour and a half.

“I had very little strength in the English language, and I really was not familiar with the culture here,” said Shamsi, who attended the Clearwater adult education center for four months to improve her English language skills before enrolling in SPC’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

“So when I look at myself now and compare it to four years ago, I see that I have really improved a lot in language, personality, and overall everything,” she said.

Born in Eau Claire, Wis., Shamsi was raised in Saudi Arabia and Syria with her family. After graduating high school in Saudi Arabia, she came back to the U.S. with her younger sister in 2010 to live with her grandparents and continue her education.

During her time at St. Petersburg College, Shamsi got involved in student life on campus, joining Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Undergraduate Science Research Society student club. Originally focused on a pharmacy track, she discovered her passion for research during her time at SPC.

“And since I am a member of the undergraduate research society club, I got involved in the research. I enjoyed it a quite a bit,” she said. “I loved going around collecting samples, processing samples, then observing the results. So I kept in mind that I want to do more research in the future.”

In February, along with her Undergraduate Science Research Society colleagues, Shamsi helped conduct research about the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA. The goal was to discover how much of a presence the bacteria had on cell phones, cash and credit cards.

“You can’t imagine how much I loved going around to collect samples, run my samples, and then finally get the exciting results,” she said. “That’s also why I changed my major to microbiology. I am very excited to experience more about microbiology and get involved in more research.”

After graduation, Shamsi plans to enroll at the University of South Florida to earn a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. Further down the road, her goal is to earn a doctorate in cancer biology or immunology with a microbiology concentration.

“I want to know and understand all there is to know about all the causes for diseases around us,” said Shamsi. “I want to understand the treatments for these specific diseases because I am hoping that one day I’ll reach my goal.”

SPC Undergraduate Science Research Society students Salwa Shamsi and Maria Hernandez participate during a research project about MRSA.

From left: SPC Undergraduate Science Research Society students Salwa Shamsi and Maria Hernandez participate during a research project about MRSA.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women made up 26 percent of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce in 2011. In life and physical science, they made up 41 percent of the workforce. Shamsi is excited to be able to pursue her passion for science and research and join the growing trend of women in a historically male-dominated field.

“I want to prove to society and the community that a woman can do it because men are not better than women,” she said. “It’s what I love and I want to do it.”

She said she wants other women to feel inspired to do the same.

“No matter what their goals, no matter whatever the field is, they can do it,” Shamsi said. “We’re in the 21st century; this is 2014. Women can do it. We can go ahead and we can rise.”

Shamsi will serve as the lower division speaker for one of the two commencement ceremonies at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo.

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In 2009, Kathleen Bryan had what she considered a pretty decent job with mortgage lending firm Taylor, Bean & Whitaker in Ocala. And then one day in August, the company was raided by the FBI and the majority owner arrested for federal securities, bank and wire fraud, leaving more than 1,000 employees, Byran among them, without jobs.

Top officials were eventually convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the multi-billion-dollar fraud at the country’s third-largest FHA lender.

“I was laid off twice in less than five years,” said Bryan, who will graduate with honors from St. Petersburg College on Dec. 13 with her bachelor’s degree in health services administration. “With the economy tanking, I knew I needed a change … real estate was not working.”

After attending a job fair at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Bryan decided to pursue an associate in science degree in health information management.

“I figured the medical field always has openings and is much more stable,” said Bryan, who will address her fellow graduates during the afternoon graduation ceremony Dec. 13 at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. “One minute I was unemployed, the next I’m a student.”

After finishing her A.S. degree and sending out her resume 64 times in one month alone, Bryan eventually got a job with Radiology Associates of Ocala as a patient services coordinator.

“I told them I was looking for a place I could feel at home, somewhere I didn’t dread coming to. Before my first week was over, that’s what I felt.”

She decided a bachelor’s degree would improve her career viability. The program needed to be completely online however, because she was working full-time by then and her mother was ill.

“It was very convenient,” said Bryan, who was offered a promotion at Radiology Associates as she neared the completion of her bachelor’s degree. “The faculty is excellent and really care about their students.”

When she speaks to her peers, she will stress the importance of tenacity.

“Persistence and determination is the way to go.”

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