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St. Petersburg College welcomed its newest alumni – more than 1,000 graduates – at the college’s 137th commencement on Saturday, July 21.

Summer 2018 SPC Graduation photo

“Today, we congratulate our students and their families who have persevered to graduation, which is a huge milestone,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams. “You inspired us with your determination and today we celebrate you.”

The college awarded more than 600 associate degrees this term. The top degree awards included respiratory care and advanced technology diploma emergency medical technician.

11 and a college graduate

One of SPC’s new alumnus is just 11-years-old. William Maillis walked across the stage, shook hands with President Williams, and graduated with an Associate in Arts. Up next? Attending the University of South Florida and working toward completing his doctorate by the time he’s 18, William said.

Graduates share their stories

Two student speakers, Kevin Wesley and Alessandra Korber, addressed their fellow graduates and relatives with messages of perseverance, courage, and hope that drew cheers from their audiences.

Wesley earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Safety Administration. Korber earned an Associate in Science.

“There are no questions in anyone’s mind that each and every one of us have experienced our own adversities, hardships, successes, and triumphs throughout our educational journey,” Wesley said. “Whatever your story, whatever your motivation, be sure to continue forward.  Remember to be persistent through all adversities that life may bring to you.”

Korber shared a quote from John F. Kennedy, “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

Graduation by the numbers

SPC’s oldest graduate this term is 69 years old. Eight graduates are over the age of 60. Fifty-eight percent of the graduates are female.

With this graduating class, SPC has awarded 171,685 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

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St. Petersburg College will hold its 137th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 21 at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo.

The youngest graduate is 11 years old, the oldest is 69 years old and eight graduates are over the age of 60. Fifty-eight percent of the graduates are female.

With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 171,685 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

SPC will award:

  • 659 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 153 Associate in Science degrees
  • 51 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 39 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 168 certifications

Kevin Wesley and Alessandra Korber will address fellow graduates and guests. Wesley will earn a Bachelor of Science in Public Safety Administration. Korber will earn an Associate in Science.

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This year, 35 of the best and the brightest students from across Pinellas County were selected as the St. Petersburg College 2018 Presidential Scholars. They will receive a total of more than $230,000 in tuition scholarship awards. An awards presentation was held on July 10 at the Seminole Campus Digitorium to honor the scholarship recipients. At the event, Presidential Scholars were congratulated by:

The Scholars and their family members were also treated to remarks from Fraire, who is currently enrolled in the A.S. Web Development Program.

“I am thankful to SPC for not only awarding me with funds to go to school, but also creating a place where learning is encouraged and respect is displayed,” Fraire said.

Theresa McFarland, Acting Executive Director of SPC Foundation Presenting Medal to 2018 Presidential Scholar

SPC’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship recognizes outstanding achievement among Pinellas County high school students. Graduating seniors from public, private, parochial, and home school environments who have a minimum weighted GPA of 3.5 are eligible to apply.

The scholarship provides full tuition for 60 credit hours of study at SPC. As Presidential Scholars, these students are automatically accepted into the SPC Honors Program, which is committed to ensuring the optimal educational experience for dedicated and talented students.

Presidential Scholarship recipients are selected annually based on merit and test scores.

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The dust has settled – and the smoke cleared – at St. Petersburg College (SPC) as the institution approaches its second anniversary of being tobacco free. The student-led initiative to ban all forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, on all SPC campuses and properties was formally adopted in June 2016.

“Secondhand smoke is a major hazard, and a lot of people do not want to be around it,” SPC St. Petersburg Gibbs Campus SGA President Fallia Zacharopoulou said. “I’m very proud to be at SPC where we look out for each other.”

The Truth Initiative, a national foundation dedicated to ending tobacco use, awarded SPC a $10,000 grant through its Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Community College grant program to assist with implementing and publicizing the new tobacco-free policy.

“Our students raised a concern, performed research and professionally presented their findings,” said Dr. Jamelle Conner, Provost of SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “Being awarded the Truth Initiative grant was further validation of their good work, and we greatly appreciate the support that the grant provided in making SPC smoke and tobacco-free.”

The grant wrapped up earlier this spring. However, SPC will not cease efforts to promote its smoke-free policy.

Under the Truth Initiative grant, SPC held multiple Wellness and Awareness events on campus. Tobacco Free Forums were also held on multiple SPC campuses to encourage open dialogue between students, faculty and staff on the new policy and related concerns to smoking and tobacco use. Information on the tobacco-free policy was regularly disseminated to ensure new students were aware of the new rules at the start of each term.

Zacharopoulou has helped to inform and educate her peers on the benefits of the initiative.

“I believe the tobacco-free campus policy is a great addition to the College,” Zacharopoulou said. “I strongly believe in being environmentally friendly, especially on a college campus, where students are here to learn with limited distractions.”

In Florida, 18-to-24 year-olds have the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking, compared to all other age groups. Many college students believe their current tobacco use is harmless, that they are not addicted and that they will quit smoking when they graduate, but studies show otherwise. Research demonstrates that young adults who smoke find that it leads to a lifetime of addiction, resulting in tobacco-related disease and premature death.

More than 20 colleges and universities have enacted smoke-free campus policies in the Sunshine State.

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St. Petersburg College will join USF St. Petersburg (USFSP) for a press conference on May 23, 2018 to detail new initiatives, scholarship opportunities and expansion of existing programs to increase higher education access for all students in Pinellas County. Representatives from the Florida Legislature, USFSP and SPC will highlight how they are creating greater pathways for students from middle school through graduate school to attain their educational goals. The event will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the USFSP Waterfront.

Speakers include:

  • Senator Jeff Brandes, Florida Senate
  • Representative Chris Sprowls, Florida House of Representatives
  • Stephanie Goforth, USF St. Petersburg Campus Board Chair and USF Trustee
  • Martin Tadlock, USF St. Petersburg Interim Regional Chancellor
  • Tonjua Williams, St. Petersburg College President

“A major priority of the Pinellas County delegation this legislative session was to secure critical funding that will expand educational access and begin to provide every student in our county the resources to earn a college degree,” said Representative Sprowls.

During the last legislative session, Senator Brandes, Representative Sprowls and the Pinellas County delegation were instrumental in securing new funds for both USFSP and SPC. Some of these funds will be dedicated toward providing scholarships and programs that create a more seamless transition for SPC students and recent graduates who attained their associate’s degree to attend USFSP and earn a bachelor’s degree.

A new Blue Gold Scholarship will be offered by both USFSP and SPC that officials hope will create a greater pipeline between the two institutions and increase the overall number of students who begin at SPC and go onto USFSP. Nearly 25 percent of USFSP undergraduate students are St. Petersburg College transfers, according to data from the 2017-18 academic year.

“SPC and USFSP are working collaboratively to ensure that middle and high school students in public, private, charter and home schools know there are pathways to higher education in Pinellas County,” said Williams. “Thanks to the legislature, there are now increased resources to support these pathways so students can secure an undergraduate degree from USF St. Petersburg.”

Another scholarship opportunity will increase the number of students eligible for FUSE. FUSE is a partnership between SPC and USFSP that allows students to start earning an associate’s degree from SPC while receiving many of the perks of being a USF student, from access to campus events to specialized advising. When it’s time for a bachelor’s degree, FUSE guarantees that students who earn an associate’s degree in three years with a minimum grade point average of 2.0 will be admitted to either USFSP or USF Tampa, based on which academic path students pursue. The FUSE Program is designed to promote timely bachelor’s degree completion for students who have earned an associate’s degree from a participating regional Florida College System institution.

“USF St. Petersburg and St. Pete College have a longstanding and rewarding partnership. We continue to enhance that partnership in new and exciting ways. These new scholarship opportunities will help ensure that pathways are available for every student in our community who wants to earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree,” said Tadlock.

Other potential initiatives that may come out of the increased legislative funding include increasing the number of higher education advisors in Pinellas County high schools, establishing a winter transition program for SPC students coming to USFSP and establishing education fairs for private schools and home-schooled students.

“As both a graduate of St. Petersburg College and USF St. Petersburg, I know firsthand the impact these institutions have on changing students’ lives, and I am excited to see the ripple effect these new scholarships and programs will have for our community,” said Goforth.

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St. Petersburg College will hold its 136th commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 12 at Tropicana Field, One Tropicana Dr., St. Petersburg College. Approximately 1,300 of the 1,949 graduates are expected to participate.

The youngest graduate is 16 years old, the oldest is 68 years old and 19 graduates are over the age of 60. Sixty-seven percent of the graduates are female.

With this graduating class, St. Petersburg College will have awarded 169,426 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

SPC will award:

  • 1,042 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 342 Associate in Science degrees
  • 265 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 251 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 72 certifications

Joey Bower, winner of the 2017-18 Apollo Award, and Amanda Hunt, recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award, will address their fellow graduates and guests.

Bower received an A.S. degree in Technology Management in 2017 with a 3.55 GPA. Bower is an active volunteer and donates his time to The Family Café, which exists to connect individuals with disabilities and their families with information, training and networking opportunities. He is also active with Cure Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, and is the Chairman of the School Advisory Council for the Nina Harris School.

“Imagine being the parent of a special needs child, working full-time, who decided to go back to school at 40 years old. Not only did I finish my degree, but I graduated Cum Laude,” Bower said.

Hunt will receive her B.A.S. degree in Management and Organizational Leadership and has a 4.0 GPA. She is a member of the College Entrepreneur’s Organization and Aletheia Christian Club.  Hunt won the 2017 Jane Till Nonprofit Startup Competition and received funding to start her charity organization, United by Love. As a dedicated volunteer, Hunt serves at the St. Vincent De Paul soup kitchen, organizes her local church youth group and empowers children through Global Celebration.

“I am extremely grateful for all that I have gained, learned and experienced from my time at St. Petersburg College. I will enter the nonprofit community knowing that I now have the skills and knowledge that align with the passion I have always had: to love people and help them however I can.”

Spring 2018 Graduation Infographic

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St. Petersburg College (SPC) is ranked second in Florida and sixth in the nation, among associate colleges, for sending students abroad, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE) 2017 Open Doors Report. Over the last year, more than 140 SPC students have traveled to other countries.

Study Abroad report

Dr. Ramona Kirsch, Director of the Center for International Programs, celebrated the report naming SPC among leading institutions for study abroad education and emphasized the importance of out-of-classroom experience for students.

“When I arrived at SPC a little more than five years ago, SPC was not even on the radar for study abroad,” said Kirsch. “Now, in just a little over five years, we have increased study abroad participation by 113 percent.”

SPC has a broad range of study abroad programs throughout the world. The upcoming 2018-19 programs include:

  • Veterinary Techology students will be working to assist troubled sea turtles in Australia
  • Students will discover what makes India a cultural and religious force
  • Social psychology in a global context will be explored in Ireland
  • Students will be working with varying ecosystems and scuba diving in Israel
  • Students will be studying World Literature and Culture in Japan
  • High school students will say Bonjour Québec as they study International Relations and do service learning activities in Canada

Learn more about SPC’s study abroad program online or email studyabroad@spcollege.edu

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