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.” 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.” 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
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 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
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
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
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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