Archive for the ‘St. Petersburg College’ Category

A global pandemic couldn’t stop St. Petersburg College from celebrating its recent Spring and Summer graduates, a fact that the newest class of Titan alumni was incredibly grateful for.

A young woman in blue graduation regalia stands on stage next to Dr. Williams and Dr. Conner for a picture. They are all wearing face masks.

While SPC would normally host a full in-person commencement ceremony at the end of the Spring Term for graduates, a modified celebration was planned to keep everyone safe and healthy. The college organized two individual celebrations for recent degree recipients on Saturday, October 10, one in the morning at the Clearwater Campus followed by one in the afternoon at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. The events allowed graduates the opportunity to cross the stage, pose for a picture with college leadership, and celebrate their accomplishments with loved ones outside.

A young man in blue graduation regalia and a surgical face mask snaps a selfie with Dr. Williams outside the Gibbs Campus Music center.

“Saturday was amazing and meant a great deal to our students,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams.

Graduates were limited to four guests each and had to register for time slots ahead of the Saturday festivities. All participants were also required to wear face masks and encouraged to maintain social distancing whenever possible.

Despite the face mask requirement, the joy on the faces of guests was very obvious with many happy tears being shed by proud parents, siblings, children, and partners. Some graduates even took the opportunity to accessorize their masks to match their decorated caps, turning an otherwise somber symbol into one of celebration.

A young woman in blue graduation regalia with a red face mask and a red flower in her hair flashes the peace sign while taking a picture on stage with Dr. Williams.

More than 200 graduates were able to attend the Saturday celebrations with many expressing their happiness over SPC finding an innovative way to recognize this important milestone in their life.

“I’ve received emails of gratitude from students because many who attended were the first in their family to earn a college degree. Walking across the stage was very meaningful to them and their families,” said Dr. Williams.

The college is already preparing for the Fall 2020 Commencement Ceremony, which will be entirely virtual and feature video speeches from college leadership as well as the traditional calling of graduate names. Graduating students who want to be recognized and have their name announced during the ceremony must register online by Friday, November 6.

For more details on Fall 2020 graduation, please visit spcollege.edu/graduation.

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St. Petersburg College is excited to join forces with the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) for a new workforce education initiative aimed at raising awareness of short-term career and technical education programs. Get There Florida highlights the key benefits of the programs available locally in Pinellas Countyand to all Floridians statewide.

“SPC’s short-term training programs provide students with the opportunity to advance their career,” SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams said. “Our partnership with the Department of Education ensures the needs of the workforce are met and our local residents are thriving.”

In as little as a few weeks, students can fast track their future by earning a credential in a high-wage, in-demand industry. The college’s Job Training web page offers plenty of helpful information that will get people on the path to a new career.

Get There accelerates student success, preparing them for their future and ensuring a talented workforce,” said Kathy Hebda, Chancellor of the Florida College System. “With 28 state colleges and 48 technical colleges and centers spanning the state, there is a program for everyone. Whether you’ve recently experienced job loss, graduated high school or are simply looking for a career change or opportunity to stack your credentials into a degree – we want to help you Get There.”

At SPC, students can enroll in an in-demand, high-quality workforce program and quickly gain critical skills needed in Pinellas County’s essential and emerging industries. Programs include:

  • Accounting Technology Operations Certificate
  • Certified Production Technician
  • Community Health Worker Certificate
  • Computer Programming Specialist Certificate
  • Water Quality Technician Certificate

“Career and technical education matters more than ever,” said Henry Mack, Chancellor for Career, Technical and Adult Education. “Get There raises awareness about CTE and helps everyone envision the power of a workforce training opportunity for professional and personal well-being. By connecting students to a high value credentials at our state colleges, we will be sure to reach our goal of becoming #1 in workforce education by 2030.”

Career and technical education, often referred to as “CTE,” serves as a critical component in preparing individuals for occupations important to Florida’s economic development. Program offerings are organized into 17 career paths and are geared toward middle school, high school, district technical school, and Florida College System students throughout the state. 

SPC also works closely with industry leaders to ensure our graduates gain the skills they need – through training as well as apprenticeship and internship opportunities – to quickly enter the workforce.

For more information about SPC’s programs, visit now.spc.edu/training. Learn about the state initiative at GetThereFl.com.

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St. Petersburg College has received a $100,000 grant from Jobs for the Future, Inc. (JFF) to provide unemployed and underemployed residents a scholarship to earn a Google IT Support Professional Certificate. In as little as three months, students can complete the self-paced program fully online.

This flexible certificate prepares completers for an entry-level role as an Information Technology Support Specialist. They will gain job-ready skills to start or advance their career in IT, which offers opportunities to work remotely or in person.

The program is entirely developed by Google. After completion, students will be connected with employer-partners who participate in the Google IT Hiring Consortium

“In order to help Pinellas County’s economy to recover, we must provide accessible workforce training solutions that quickly prepare our community members for well-paying jobs that are in high demand,” said SPC Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey. “This new program is designed to help people that are having a tough time right now, to enter a growing career field that will enable them to better provide for themselves and their families.”

To qualify for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Complete the application here: co/googleit
  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be unemployed or underemployed

Scholarship opportunities are limited and are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, contact Dan Fumano at fumano.dan@spcollege.edu.


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City of Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski will defend her seat against Vice-Mayor Heather Gracy during a virtual candidate forum on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Moderated by former news anchor Al Ruechel, the forum will focus on the mayoral and City Commission Seat 3 races.

This virtual event is from 7-8:30 p.m. and is a collaboration involving the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC, the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, the Dunedin Council of Organizations and the Downtown Merchants Association. To register and view forum information, visit stpe.co/dunedinforum.

Bujalski was elected to the Dunedin City Commission in 2006, served two peer-appointed terms as vice-mayor, and was elected mayor twice, beginning in 2014.

Gracy is currently serving her second term as Seat 3 commissioner. Her first term was from 2012-2016 and her second from 2016-2020. She was appointed vice-mayor in 2014 and currently serves in that position.

Mike Quill and John Tornga are vying for Commission Seat 3, currently held by Gracy.

Quill served as a police officer with the Gulfport Police Department and was promoted through the ranks to command level as lieutenant and acting chief. He served on the Collective Bargaining Team for the city to negotiate labor contracts, write policy and prepare budgets, and also was the department’s public information officer.

Tornga previously served as a Dunedin city commissioner from 2014 to 2018. He served in the United States Marine Corps during Vietnam. He is the founder and president of Capital Data Consulting Inc.

For more information, visit isps.spcollege.edu or call 727-394-6942.

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U.S. News & World Report ranked St. Petersburg College third among the 28 colleges in the Florida College System, according to their 2021 Best Colleges study.

The ranking is based on the college’s academic reputation as noted by peer institutions, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, financial resources per student, student selectivity, low student indebtedness rates, social mobility and alumni giving.

“It is a huge honor for SPC to be recognized as a 2021 Best College and we celebrate our faculty and staff for all of their hard work and dedication to our students and community,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams. “We continue to focus on lifting up our community by offering a high-quality, affordable and accessible education to all who seek pathways to a better future for themselves and their families.”

The report listed SPC #21 among public colleges in the southern region. These are the highest-ranked public colleges out of schools that participated in the study in the 12 states that make up the regional south.

Overall, SPC ranked 68th among all private and public institutions in the southern region.

SPC offers more than 110 degree and certificate programs, including many high-demand, high-skill industry-recognized workforce certifications. The college’s career-focused curriculum is created with input from industry experts to give students the skills they need to meet the needs of today’s employers. SPC’s Pathways Program offers students a clear roadmap to success to ensure they are taking the right courses – in the right sequence – to meet their goals.

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America Amplified logoSt. Petersburg College students are influencers! The college recently partnered with National Public Radio to curate content regarding voting. National Public Radio’s America Amplified National Listening Session about Voting recorded the input from 25 SPC students during a virtual webinar on August 27. Florida was one of five states chosen for the virtual listening sessions, and SPC was one of two Florida schools chosen to contribute. The sessions will inform the content of a national talk show launching this fall.

Tara Newsom, Director of SPC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, said SPC students were especially appealing to the producers.

“With student ages ranging from 17-70, we are such a diverse group,” Newsom said. “We also have a high number of registered voters.”

NPR held the listening sessions in groups of three to 10 people facilitated by a member of the America Amplified team. Session feedback will be used to inform a national talk show this fall, and session participants may even be invited to be on the show.

“They’re looking for real people’s input on the issues of the 2020 election,” Newsom said. “Rather than us paying attention to issues in mainstream media, NPR wants to use these sessions to allow voters to drive issues that they cover.”

Vera Law, a first-year Nursing student who took part in the session, said she loved being actively involved.

“Seeing people have such passionate beliefs about what’s going on influenced me and made me want to be even more involved,” Law said. “Though some had different views than others, we still found that we agreed on some things.”

Newsom, who facilitated a breakout session in which smaller groups discussed questions provided by NPR, said it two things became clear: the students who participated are tired of the division of our country, and they want to be sure that they are consuming unbiased media.

“It’s hard for them to understand where to get their media and make informed choices,” Newsom said. “They want to be informed voters, but they don’t know how to find unbiased information.”

More than anything, Newsom said the opportunity allowed students to make a difference.

“This was a way to curate an oral history,” she said. “And our students offer a snapshot of the I-4 corridor, a key area in the election.”

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

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

Filling a Need

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams Do Come True

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

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

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

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

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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt by many in the area’s workforce, who have lost jobs or seen their income shrink. St. Petersburg College is offering free short-term training so Pinellas County residents can get back on their feet in high-demand industries.

SPC’s Rapid Credentialing Scholarship Program, which is now available, provides full-tuition scholarships to eligible applicants. In as little as a few weeks, they can earn credentials in one of 17 programs and re-enter the workforce in fields including business, technology, healthcare, public safety, or engineering and manufacturing.

The scholarship program offers employees displaced by and those at risk of losing their jobs due to COVID-19 the chance to quickly gain skills and re-tool for a new, stable career. SPC will provide students with support services to help with courses and job placement. In addition to tuition, certification test preparation and exam costs may be covered.

“There are great jobs available now in Tampa Bay for people with the right skills and credentials. The challenge is that even before COVID, many workers could not meet the rising industry demand for a more skilled and technically competent workforce,” said Michael Ramsey, SPC’s Dean of Workforce Development. “This initiative will help to bridge the gap between the skills the people in our community have and those that are in demand by employers, leading to better pay.”

Scholarship funds are limited. More information, including eligibility requirements and application information, is available at spc.edu/jobtraining.

This program is supported through more than $2.2 million in grant funding awarded to SPC through the Florida Department of Education’s Rapid Credentialing Economic Recovery and Prosperity Initiative. The funding supports those who are unemployed, underemployed or furloughed due to COVID-19 by providing skills in an in-demand area of the regional workforce board. It also will support efforts at SPC to enhance current and develop additional workforce programs.

Through funding allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is assisting Florida College System institutions and district postsecondary technical centers in their ability to enroll and complete students in short-term, in-demand workforce/career and technical education (CTE) credentialing and certificate programs.

DeSantis’ goal is for Florida to become No. 1 in workforce education by 2030.

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St. Petersburg College will host a conversation that looks at the future of art collecting, equity in the art world and increased support for Black artists. Systematic Inequalities and Arts Intuitions: Race, Equity and Institutional Responsibility in the Art World will take place from 6 -7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 16, via Zoom.

The SPC Foundation, the college’s Humanities and Fine Arts department and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (LRMA) will host this collaborative discussion about increasing equity within the arts community and providing resources for Black artists to advance their careers.

Assistant Curator of the SPC Foundation Art Collection, will moderate the conversation with a panel of art professionals, including Dr. Barbara Hubbard, Chris Bedford, Elizabeth E. Baker and Conrhonda A. Baker. Panelists will share their views and experience from working in different areas of the art world.

“SPC desires to be a convener for equitable progress among the arts community by understanding and meeting the needs of the underrepresented Black artists,” Bryson said. “Through this conversation, we’re able to glean from leaders like Chris Bedford and Elizabeth and Conrhonda Baker who are filled with a wealth of knowledge.”

About the speakers:

Dr. Barbara Grazul Hubbard is an artist and educator who serves as Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at SPC. She is also the Creative Director of The Right Brain Workshop, an organization specializing in institutional advancement, educational marketing, graphic design and creative consulting.

Diana Bryson is the Assistant Curator of the SPC Foundation Art Collection and recently celebrated her fourth year of independent curatorial work in the Tampa Bay area. Bryson’s career focuses on facilitating greater accessibility to art by curating dynamic exhibitions and hosting engaging events in hopes of building lasting relationships with her audiences. She also works with emerging art professionals to help build their careers.

Chris Bedford is the Dorothy Wagner Walls Director of The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). Since assuming his position with the BMA in 2016, Bedford has worked to implement institutional policy that collects and values the work of underrepresented populations, strengthens the relationship of the museum in the Baltimore community, and increases equity within his staff. His work has paved the way for the BMA to evolve into an institution that is setting standards for expanding into a 21st-century style of art collection and artist support.

Elizabeth E. Baker refers to herself as a “New Renaissance Artist” and embraces the constant stream of change and rebirth in her practice. This expands into a variety of media, mainly exploring how sonic and spatial worlds can be manipulated to personify a variety of philosophies and principles – both tangible as well as intangible. She has received international recognition from the press, scholars, and the public for her conceptual compositions and commitment to inclusive programming. Baker also is well versed in helping focus awareness on the importance of increasing equity and is known as a fierce advocate for the support of living artists.

Conrhonda A. Baker’s passion for the performing arts is grounded in her dance background, sparked by taking after-school classes at a countywide recreational facility in rural northeast Georgia. Having grown up with limited access to the arts, she understands the importance of exposing children to creative outlets and creating opportunities for artistic expression. She founded The Bese Saka in 2018 as a way to actively intervene and build equity into the process of securing institutional funding support. She also currently serves as an advisor to The Albireo Group and as the Grants/Program Associate at the Howard Gilman Foundation.

For more information, contact Diana Bryson at bryson.diana@spcollege.edu.

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U.S. Representative Charlie Crist presented St. Petersburg College (SPC) $1 million grant at the SPC Midtown Center for the Tampa Bay Bridge to the Baccalaureate Alliance (TB-B2B) program to help increase diversity and support the advancement of Black, Hispanic, and underrepresented communities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

“This grant will increase Black and Hispanic students in Pinellas County’s access to a STEM education, opening the door to better paying jobs and strengthening the workforce in our area,” said Crist. “I’m proud of the work being done by SPC and their regional partners, leading the charge to create greater opportunities for minority students in cutting edge fields where we need more skilled workers.”

“It takes a village to meet the needs of our minority students,” SPC President Tonjua Williams said. “We are proud to collaborate with our regional institutions to continue the great work of increasing access to STEM programs and to meet the needs of the Tampa Bay workforce. Thank you, Representative Crist for your continued support of the Tampa Bay Bridge to the Baccalaureate Alliance.”

The grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will allow SPC to fund activities focused on student recruitment and retention through advising, mentorship, and peer connections. The funding will also be used for undergraduate research experiences, career exploration, and professional development, activities which will be supported by a network of regional partners, including four-year institutions, research centers, and STEM enterprises to help minority students graduate with STEM degrees and successfully step into the workforce.

“The TB-B2B Alliance has accomplished so much in its first grant cycle,” said SPC B2B Project Alliance Manager Kelliann Ganoo. “The Alliance has provided many opportunities for underrepresented minority students majoring in STEM to enhance their resumes and prepare them for transfer into a baccalaureate degree.”

A member of the Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, with jurisdiction over NSF funding, Congressman Crist successfully fought for increased NSF funding. He worked alongside his colleagues to pass legislation funding the NSF at $8.55 billion in FY’21, an increase of $270 million from last year, to support and foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness.

TB-B2B is led by St. Petersburg College in partnership with Hillsborough Community College and State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, with the University of South Florida as an informal partner.


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