Archive for the ‘Student Stories’ Category

Photo Courtesy of K. Fiorey Photography


are the numbers involved when a Business Analytics grad decides to propose to his girlfriend? For SPC alum Nathan Myles, it only took nine weeks, 200 hours of preparation, a 43-page itinerary and a 13-hour proposal day involving 35 accomplices, 15 stops and room 262 on the Tarpon Springs Campus’ Lyceum building.

Skylar Daigle first saw Myles in their American Government class at the Tarpon Springs campus in 2015. But they never actually talked.

“We were there a whole semester and I never spoke a single word to him,” said Daigle, noting her extreme shyness.

But the two crossed paths at a mutual friend’s birthday party in July 2015, and she recognized him from class. They chatted, discovering a shared love for all things Star Wars, Marvel Comics and the TV sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. To Daigle’s regret, they parted ways without exchanging numbers. But fate was still at work.

“When I got home,” she said, “I logged into my Facebook on my computer – which I almost never do. He was at the top of my suggested friends list.”

She sent him a friend request, which he instantly accepted, and then he sent her a movie trailer they’d discussed at the party. They began talking, and the two, both dual enrollment high school students, began spending time studying and seeing each other around their class schedules. After getting to know one another – and after Myles gained permission from Daigle’s parents to date their daughter – they went on their first official date in December 2015.

Over the next four years, the two earned associate degrees from SPC. Daigle went on to get her degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida (USF) St. Petersburg, and Myles a bachelor’s in Business Analytics and Information Systems from USF Tampa. Once they’d both finished their programs and found jobs, Myles felt like it was time to pop the question. When he got the all-clear from her parents, he began to orchestrate a very intricate plan.

“I planned every second,” Myles said. “Including the positioning of the sun. That factored in twice.”

The day began as a normal Saturday, with the couple having breakfast at their favorite place. Though they had discussed marriage, there had been no proposal, nor was Daigle expecting one that day. She’d even told Myles that he’d have to shave off the beard he’d grown before he even thought about proposing to her.

“I had no idea,” she said. “My hair was all frizzy and air-dried. I wasn’t dressed right at all.”

But when Myles stepped out to “take a call”, the waitress came over with a dozen roses and her first clue:

I had to leave without saying goodbye, because it is about that time for me to go shave my face…  But it’s okay, while I am gone, I arranged for you to go on an adventure and you won’t be alone.  As you step outside of this restaurant, you will be stepping into our new life. Go outside right now and see who is joining you! It’s time to make some room on that ring finger…

Photo Courtesy of K. Fiorey Photography

When she stepped outside into her new life, she found her boyfriend gone and a rented GMC Yukon waiting with a driver, Myles’ brother Christian, who picked up a couple of Daigle’s friends and took them through several more stops, leading them with clues and treats like a new dress and shoes, hair, makeup, nails, lunch and coffee, until at 5 p.m., they pulled up at SPC’s Tarpon Springs Campus – the 12th stop of the day – where Daigle was instructed to jettison her friends and proceed to the Lyceum building, room 262, the same place they first saw each other in their American Government class four years before.

“I figured it was just another stop,” Daigle said. “I had no idea that’s where he’d do it.”

She quickly saw that this would, indeed be the place, when she walked into the classroom, which had been transformed with low lighting and glowing battery-operated candles. There was an aisle set up, with the created walkway carpeted with rose petals and Ed Sheeran crooning in the background. Not the actual Ed Sheeran, but the song “Thinking Out Loud” playing on a loop through the portable speaker (see itinerary, page five, under room setup). Framed photos of the happy couple were placed all around.

“I was crying,” Daigle remembered. “He even thought to go ahead and do our engagement photos right then and there, so we could mark that off.”

After the agreement was sealed with a kiss and the engagement photos done, the couple headed out to a nice dinner, then on to Sand Key for a sunset walk. The night ended more than 13 hours after it began, at 10:15 p.m. after a visit to the site of their first meeting: Cold Stone Creamery, where they had dessert.

Photo Courtesy of K. Fiorey Photography

“I reserved the same table we’d sat at,” Myles said. “I had it all set up for when we got there.”

Myles said he’d had some inspiration from different sources for the scavenger hunt.

“I’d seen some scavenger hunts on different TV shows, like Parks and Recreation,” Myles said. “And I’ve always loved scavenger hunts because my family does them every year for Christmas.”

The wedding is tentatively planned for July 2020, and in the meantime, Daigle will settle into her new career as a kindergarten teacher, and Myles will continue in his position as a DevOps Developer at a software company.

Though the location of the wedding is to be determined, there was never any question in Myles’ mind as to where to propose.

“The first year of our relationship was at SPC,” Myles said. “It was the first place we saw each other, the first place we ever kissed. We spent so many afternoons there together before we could technically date. It’s where we really got to know each other.”

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SPC Alumni Amy Rice

SPC Alumni Amy Rice

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School alumni Amy Rice was recently awarded the prestigious Pritzker Research Fellowship in the Ph.D. program in Physics at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.

The Fellowship pays tuition, stipend and research funds totaling more than $200,000 over the four-year term of the award.

After earning her A.A. degree from St. Petersburg College in 2009, Rice transferred to IIT. Last year, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics.

“Biology was my first love,” said Rice. “It’s what got me interested in science in the first place.”

Looking back to her time at SPC, she remembers loving her anatomy and physiology class.

“The professor had a way of making the class incredibly interesting and bringing in his outside knowledge to make it more real to us,” she said.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Rice was homeschooled through eighth grade. In ninth grade she attended Veritas Academy and transferred to SPC’s Collegiate High School for grades 10-12.

“I have always been very motivated academically,” she said. “I thought it (Collegiate High School) would be a great program to be around others that took their education seriously.”

Like many Florida students, her plans were to stay in Florida and take advantage of the Bright Futures Scholarship she had earned. Her high SAT scores meant she was pursued by numerous colleges from around the country. A brochure from IIT caught her eye.

“I saw that they had a major in Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and I thought that sounded like an awesome major,” she said. “It sounded like it would be very interdisciplinary.”

She applied for and got a full tuition scholarship and started her bachelor’s degree in the Chicago-based university the next fall.

During her undergraduate studies at IIT, she worked as a teaching assistant in biology and physics and a research assistant in microbiology and physics. She was involved in Alpha Sigma Alpha, the Honors Medical Society and competed on the university’s cross country and track teams. She was awarded the College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend in 2011 and 2013.

Entering the second year of her Ph.D., Rice’s research is focused on Computational Biophysics and is primarily computer based. While she has experimental collaborators that she works with, her research does not happen in a traditional laboratory.

“My project specifically is looking at a class of antimicrobial peptides produced by most animals,” she explained. “It is thought that bacteria don’t really become resistant to them. Not a lot is known currently as to why they work so well, but are not harmful to human cells.”

In Computational Biophysics computerized simulations are used to enable researchers like Rice to explore actions and reactions that happen within cells in very short time frames – nanoseconds – and very short distances.

“It’s hard from the experimental side to figure out what is happening on such small time and distance scales,” she said.

She is currently working with a team of researchers led by Dr. Jeff Wereszczynski at IIT. The Wereszczynski Group also includes two postdoctoral researchers and another Ph.D. student. This summer the group also has three undergraduate research assistants, two from a local community college. Rice is in charge of one of the assistants.

“I’m very excited to have an undergraduate student assistant!” said Rice. “I’ve been the undergraduate assistant to graduate students twice before, so it is really interesting and rewarding for me to be on the other side of that now and help mentor someone.”

Learn more about her research with the Wereszczynski Group at IIT.

Rice plans to continue her career in the same general field of research by teaching, working with graduate students and doing research.

“I love computational work,” she said. “It is a big up and coming field – new in the last 20-30 years. It’s exciting for me to think about where it will be in future when computers are even more powerful,” she said.

Her advice to other students is practical:

“Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Rice. “In science you fail a lot. I’ve had to start my research project over nine times now. The first eight times I failed. If you are not failing, you are not at the cutting edge of your field.”

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Rafael Murga

Rafael Murga

St. Petersburg College’s Public Policy Administration program is not just about politics. Senior Rafael Murga will graduate this summer with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy but hopes to use the degree to pursue a career in technology.

“My initial reaction is to say that this program changed the entire direction of my life — but the truth of the matter is that it gave me one,” he said. “Professor (Jeffery) Kronschnabl sparked the drive inside of me the first time I set foot in his classroom and made me realize what a true educator is. He has instilled the fact that what I am doing is truly a calling.”

In March, Murga was one of eight SPC students among 22 who took part in the inaugural Exploratory Lab Boot Camp.

Murga took advantage of the additional coursework made available to the team and earned his Cisco Certification. He was recently offered a summer internship at Tech Data that he hopes will result in a full-time job with their Cisco solutions team.

The boot camp took place at local companies Tech Data and Valpak and was designed as a business integration experience that compliments traditional classroom curriculum. The goal: to close the skills gap and increase interest in the technology industry among non-technology degree seeking students like Murga. View more pictures on Flickr.

He found being immersed in the Tech Data culture for a week with access to high-level executives invaluable.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “But I never would have stood out at Tech Data and the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp if not for being a Public Policy student at SPC.”

When Murga enrolled at SPC as a part-time student in 2012, he was working full time. His work for Best Buy’s Geek Squad, Verizon and Home Shopping Network sparked his interest in technology.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to see firsthand how communication and teamwork have become intertwined with technological leaps forward,” said Murga. “I always tell people that my degree says public policy, but it is really a course of study in leadership and collaboration.”

He was recently honored at the Seminole Campus as an outstanding student in the Public Policy program.

“Rafael is approachable, engaging and professional,” said Professor Kronschnabl. “His leadership traits are best demonstrated by the fact he would be the first to tell you that it wasn’t all about him – it was about how he could help others achieve their maximum potential.”

During his recent capstone project, a semester-long project that pulls together all the student has learned during their time at SPC, he presented a plan to create a framework to bring the Public Policy & Administration program fully online.

“His attention to detail was both concise and profound,” said Kronschnabl. “Rafael was never hesitant about taking on new challenges and often as a result, the resolutions suggested by him were both creative, effective and efficient. He is an engine!”

Like many of the students in SPC’s Public Policy program, Murga is passionate about making a difference in the world.

“Public Policy at St. Petersburg College is unlike any educational program I have ever seen,” said Murga. “The degree is structured so that students can realize that the only thing standing between them and positive change in the world they live in is the drive to go out and do it.”

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Bernedette Mead

Bernedette Mead

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School senior Bernadette Mead has been selected as a 2015 Bank of America Student Leader® based on her commendable commitment and service to her community. Bernadette is the only recipient from Pinellas County and one of only five students selected from the Tampa Bay Area. Bernadette will graduate with her high school diploma and Associate in Arts degree from St. Petersburg College in May.

As part of the Student Leaders program, Bank of America will facilitate Bernadette’s participation in an eight-week paid internship at the Boys and Girls Club of America this summer. In addition, Bank of America will fully sponsor Bernadette’s trip to the Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., July 12-17 where she will gain valuable tools to continue to serve her community, inspire others, and lead positive change.

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SPC student Erik Durneika has been selected as a 2015 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Bronze Scholar. Durneika’s selection was based on his scores in the All-USA Community College Academic Team competition, for which more than 1,700 applications were received this year. This program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and is administered by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

To be selected for the scholarships, Durneika had to make it on the Phi Theta Kappa All-Florida Academic Team. Phi Theta Kappa is an international honor society for two-year colleges. Members of PTK must demonstrate honor and service to others and maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher.

The New Century Scholars program honors the top scoring Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team nominee from each of the 50 states in the U.S. Since 1989, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has awarded $60 million in scholarships to more than 5,400 outstanding students.

Phi Theta Kappa will recognize the 2015 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Scholars at the Celebration of Scholars Networking Social on Saturday, April 18 held during the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention (NerdNation).

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The Florida College System has announced the 2015 All-Florida Academic Team. Eleven St. Petersburg College students were among those named:

  • Amy Bhatt
  • Kimberly Connor
  • Erik Durneika
  • Samantha Engelhardt
  • Jonathan Jacques
  • Savanna Kegel-Praesto
  • Cassandra Kroncke
  • John Loreth
  • Kane Magnuson
  • Linh Phien Nguyen
  • Emily Smith

The All-Florida Academic Team recognizes outstanding students for their academic achievement, leadership and service to their communities. Students are nominated by their respective colleges to the All-USA Academic Team competition sponsored by USA Today and the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

The students will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Tallahassee on Thursday, April 9.

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Laura Carreras, treasurer for the Student Government Association at the St. Petersburg College Gibbs Campus, has been named the February FCSSGA Student of the Month. FCSSGA is the Florida College System Student Government Association. See the Facebook post.

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