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State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater announced Wednesday at a press conference at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater Campus that he will sponsor a bill in the Florida Senate that would clear the way for the children of undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition in Florida.

State Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater joined Latvala in support.

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Latvala said he “decided in good conscience that there’s no reason the parents’ immigration status should be the determining factor of the tuition that our young people pay. Taxpayers in Florida get a reduced tuition rate….In this particular case, these children are the children of taxpayers in Florida who pay our sales tax, who pay our gas taxes, in many cases pay other taxes.

“I just think this is a disparity and a discriminatory issue that needs to go away,” he said.

The bill also includes language that would allow honorably discharged veterans to pay in-state tuition.

The legislators were joined for the announcement by SPC President Bill Law; Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe; Sandra Lyth, CEO of the InterCultural Advocacy Institute (Hispanic Outreach Center); Maria Edmonds, chairwoman of the Juvenile Welfare Board; and three SPC students.

Celeste Pioquinto, 17, who is an Early College student at the college, said she was born and raised in Clearwater, has attended Pinellas schools all her life and has always been on the honor roll.

“Ever since elementary school, I have dreamed about college or university. Now instead of dreaming it, I am preparing for it. I have applied to universities. I have applied for scholarships, but there is a barrier. I am not eligible for in-state tuition despite being documented because my parents are both undocumented,” she said. “This bill not only affects me, but affects many of my close relations.”

See more: Watch the video on the college’s YouTube channel.

See more: View photos from the conference on SPC’s Facebook page.

Read more: Coverage in the Tampa Tribune

Read more: Coverage in the Tampa Bay Times

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tonjua williams2St. Petersburg College’s Dr. Tonjua Williams, senior vice president of Student Services, was honored by Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg on Tuesday as one of 2014′s Five Fabulous Females. The award honors successful women who make extraordinary contributions to the Tampa Bay community.

Other honorees were:

  • Philanthropist Carol Morsani
  • Jana Jones, vice president of Times Publishing Co.
  • Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic
  • Mindy Grossman, CEO of Home Shopping Network

Dr. Williams has spent her 26-year career at SPC and is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and student development consultant. In her current role, she oversees the college’s student success efforts.

Her other recognitions include Jr. Achievement Educator of the Year (2011), finalist for the Tampa Bay Executive Woman of the Year and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Iconic Woman of the Year (2013).

Read more about this event in the Tampa Bay Times.

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The Tampa Bay Times is partnering with Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College to broadcast a live debate in the general election race to succeed the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

In a special edition of the show Political Connections, the Feb. 3 debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates will be hosted on the SPC Seminole Campus by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. It is sponsored by AARP.

“We believe this debate will not only inform the voters of District 13 but will air issues of great importance to the people of the entire Tampa Bay region,” said Times Editor Neil Brown. “A congressional seat has high stakes for all of us.”

The special election is March 11.

The debate, called a “Conversation with the Candidates,” will feature the winner of the Republican primary in January and Democrat Alex Sink. Republican candidates are Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters.

About 37 percent of the more than 455,000 voters in the district covering much of Pinellas County are Republican, 35 percent Democrat and about 28 percent independent or other party.

The event will be moderated by Political Editor Adam C. Smith and Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel.

“AARP has been equipping voters with information straight from the candidates on issues that matter for decades,” said Jeff Johnson, state director of AARP Florida. “We are excited to partner with the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9 on this debate to help our community find out where the candidates stand on issues like the economy, financial security, and the future of retirement security programs such as Social Security and Medicare.”

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC also has experience in staging candidate debates, said Dr. James Olliver, campus provost, adding “our facility is second to none in the area.”

“Holding this event on campus gives us the benefit of providing our students, especially those studying public policy, with a front seat for a discussion of the major issues facing our nation today.”

The Times has produced debates for local, state and national offices for two decades, including races for Florida governor, Tampa and St. Petersburg mayors, the U.S. Senate and the 1996 national Vice Presidential Debate.

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It’s not a starring role but St. Petersburg College is in the movies.

The Tampa Bay Times reported on a film from St. Petersburg filmmaker Curtis Graham called “The Investigator,” written by a former New York policeman whose faith was shaken and later steadied by a classroom exercise involving a mock trial of Jesus. SPC’s mockup for criminal justice students serves as the backdrop for scenes set in an NYPD precinct, according to the article.

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The League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area and the Broadwater Civic Association will host a forum at St. Petersburg College’s Allstate Center where residents can meet the mayoral and council candidates, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The event takes place on Sept. 11 starting at 7 p.m.

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The Tampa Bay Times provided an update on progress in the training partnership between St. Petersburg College and LumaStream that will also see high-tech manufacturing jobs offered in St. Petersburg’s Midtown area.

The LED lighting manufacturer will provide hands-on training for SPC students who will be certified and possibly hired by the end of the program, according to the article. The training starts this month and will be completed in three to six months.

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St. Petersburg College’s Allstate Center is part of discussion looking at redevelopment along a section of one of the major arteries leading to the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

Business owners, leaders from surrounding neighborhoods and others have met to launch an effort to revitalize a 1.5-mile stretch of 34th Street between 30th and 54th avenues S, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The Allstate Center has been listed as one of the area’s assets, according to the article.

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St. Petersburg College has been highlighted in a variety of reports about the nation’s health care overhaul.

A recent Forbes report that says the changes are turning the country into “a part-time nation” noted that the college is reducing the hours of 250 faculty members because it cannot afford to provide them with health insurance. The Tampa Bay Times also ran an editorial saying that the college should revisit the issue of providing health benefits to these faculty members.

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Enrollment at SPC declined this fall, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The college saw a 2.2 percent drop with 31,650 students enrolled in 272,903 semester hours. SPC President Bill Law said enrollment tends to drop when the economy rebounds and more adult students return to work.

“But Law said SPC had also been ‘complicit’ in the enrollment drop,” according to the article. “Last spring, for the first time, SPC sent out 2,000 probation letters to students who were not completing courses they’d signed up for. Typically, students were put on probation only for low grade-point averages, not based on course completion.”

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The college honored nine professors emeriti at its fall faculty event on Aug. 15, the Tampa Bay Times reported. “We are the inheritors of a lot of community goodwill, a strong reputation and professional respect, and it comes from the people we are thanking here,” President Bill Law said in his keynote address, the article reported.

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