Archive for the ‘veterans’ Category


Picture attached: From left are Mrs. Colleen Trout, Florida ESGR Committee representative, Brad Clark, Alisha Vitale, and LTC Roger Trout (USAR-Ret).

Alisha Vitale, Director of Pre-Admissions at St. Petersburg College, has been awarded the Department of Defense Patriot Award by Florida Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense program.

James Dicks, Chairman of Florida Committee for Employer Support, awarded Vitale for her “exceptional support of the members of the Guard and Reserve that are employed by the organization.”

United States Air Force Reserve Master Sergeant Brad Clark nominated Vitale for the award.

“St Petersburg College is continually recognized as a veteran-friendly school. It was ranked in the top 30 this year nationwide. It has been a pleasure to work with my Pre-Admissions Team, led by Alisha Vitale,” Clark said in the nomination.

“They have picked up the slack in my absence and they make every homecoming from orders – no matter how short – a happy and effortless experience. My co-workers must do extra work in my absence, and Alisha has to coordinate additional employee documentation on my behalf, but they are always supportive and understanding,” Clark said.

The award was presented to Ms. Vitale on behalf of the DOD by LTC Roger Trout (USAR-Ret) and Mrs. Colleen Trout of the Florida ESGR Committee.

“I am proud to work for an organization that actively supports service member employees,” Vitale said. “I accepted the award for my team, each of whom has a healthy respect for Brad as a wonderful person, coworker, and service member. We can’t be thankful enough for what Mr. Clark and others like him do for us. The team and I are very happy to show our due support and admiration for Mr. Clark and are honored with this recognition.”

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is a Department of Defense program established in 1972. The mission of ESGR is to gain and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law, and resolving conflict through mediation. ESGR volunteers provide free education, consultation, and if necessary mediation for employers of Guard and Reserve employees. As the 35 thousand members of the National Guard and Reserve in Florida and Nationally 1.3 million members continue to perform an increasing number of unique missions that require extraordinary actions on the part of everyday citizens, ESGR will continue to be the informational agency for the employers of citizen warriors. More information about ESGR Employer Outreach Programs and volunteer opportunities is available at Floridaesgr.com, or by calling Roger Trout of the Florida ESGR Committee, at (571)275-8980

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Dr-T-Williams-Patriot-Award[1]Last fall when Capt. Dr. Eric Carver, a decorated Air Force veteran, found out he needed to attend an 11-day training for his service in the Air Force Reserve, he knew it might be a problem, as he was serving as the interim provost at St. Petersburg College’s Caruth Health Education Center. He went to his supervisor, Senior Vice President of Student Services Dr. Tonjua Williams, for approval. She didn’t bat an eye and assured him that she would make sure that his post at the center would be taken care of in his absence.

This inspired Carver to nominate her for the Patriot Award, which is presented by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense affiliate.

“She was supportive, caring and genuine – all the attributes of an effective executive leader,” Carver said.

On Feb. 29, Williams was surprised and honored to be presented the award during an event on the HEC campus.


Tonjua Williams

“I was just floored,” she said. “It was a total surprise. As a college, SPC is very supportive of its employees. And I believe in what military personnel do, and I appreciate their sacrifice. I feel it is my duty to help them fulfill theirs.”

Carver said Williams deserves the award because she does a lot to serve veterans.

“She oversees Veterans Services for the college, and she supports my training as an Air Force Reserve officer. She sees my training as an asset to the college, because the more I learn, the more I can share.”

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Ride 2 Recovery members and officials open their newest training facility on SPC's Clearwater Campus Friday, Feb. 12.

Ride 2 Recovery members and officials open their newest bicycling training facility on SPC’s Clearwater Campus Friday, Feb. 12.

On Friday, Feb. 12, officials from Ride 2 Recovery, a national physical and psychological rehabilitation and recovery program for veterans, opened an indoor bicycling training facility at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus.

The center, called Project HERO (Healing, Exercise, Rehabilitation, Opportunity) Central Florida, strives to enhance the lives of area service members and veterans through adaptive cycling. According to Ride 2 Recovery, the mental and physical challenges of cycling have proven an aid in the recovery process of veterans, who train in an environment of support and camaraderie among like-minded riders.

At the center, veterans receive tailored fitness regimens and dietary and lifestyle counseling as they progress through individual cycling programs.

“We want to thank St. Petersburg College and the Student Veterans Association for hosting our program,” said John Wordin, President and CEO of Ride 2 Recovery. “It’s an extremely important project, and I think that over the weeks, months and year ahead, it will become a source of pride for the campus. There is no other program like this that combines the hard work and the reward of completing a goal you set for yourself that you were not sure you could accomplish.”

Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe noted that nearly 7 percent, or 500 of the 7,300 students that call the Clearwater Campus home are veterans.

“The classroom experience is enriched and enhanced by the presence of our veterans,” Vittetoe said. “They provide a model of leadership, organization and self-discipline that you just don’t often see. The entire campus is better with them here … and they support each other. We are looking forward to having the students and community members participate in Ride 2 Recovery.”

The new facility opened the day before Ride 2 Recovery’s Honor Ride Florida at Tropicana Stadium in St Petersburg, where more than 500 cyclists supported injured veterans from across the state. Project HERO Central Florida is the fifth such center in the nation opened by Ride 2 Recovery.

See more photos on the college’s Facebook page.

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2016_BFV_COLLEGESSt. Petersburg College is once again among the top 20 four-year colleges in the United States for serving veterans. According to the Military Times’ Best for Vets: Colleges 2016, SPC was ranked 19 and joins the University of South Florida as the only other Florida school in the top 20.

The Best for Vets rankings, now in their sixth year, give service members, military veterans and their families a tool to assess whether a school or degree program will truly benefit them. For the past five years, St. Petersburg College has consistently ranked among the top 50 four-year schools in the nation for veterans, landing at number 15 in both 2013 and 2015.

In 2014-15, SPC served 2,329 active duty service members, veterans and their dependents, or just over 7 percent of SPC’s 33,000 students. During that time, 1,966 of those veteran students received certified GI Bill benefits.

Veterans Services at St Petersburg College has grown so much over the last five years because of our veteran-friendly nature and our terrific staff that we saw the need to develop a GI Bill Centralized Certification and Processing system,” said Jeff Cavanagh, director of SPC’s Veterans Services. The new system earned the school a nearly perfect federal audit and was hailed as a model for other schools in the state.

“That system, coupled with recruiting, and our military student resource manual that we’ve developed, has really caught the attention of individuals and organizations like the Military Times who seem keen on keeping us among the top 20 military friendly four-year schools in the United States,” Cavanagh said.

To create the rankings, Military Times used schools’ survey responses “based on what veterans have told us is more important to them, as well as on our own editorial judgment,” according to the editors. The publication also used data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, and three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

Schools were evaluated in five board categories:

  • academic outcomes/quality
  • university culture
  • student support
  • academic policies
  • cost and financial aid

The highest value was placed on academic outcomes/quality and university culture.

According to the report, SPC scored high in staff and academic support as well as exrtacurriculuars offered to veterans, such as the number and activity level of student veteran groups, initiatives that support military spouses and families, and nonacademic school events, like service projects and Veterans Day programs. SPC has an active Student Veterans Association.

This year, more than 600 schools responded to the survey that requires them to document services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to military and veteran students and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. That number is up from 400 schools last year.

Beyond the second-ranked USF, other four-year Florida schools that made the rankings include Florida State University at 24, Florida Atlantic University at 96 and Pensacola State College at 109. No two-year or non-traditional Florida schools made the rankings.

The rankings are published in full in the issues of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times on newsstands the week of Nov. 9; and online at MilitaryTimes.com, as well as ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com.

“It’s been amazing to witness how colleges all across higher education have embraced service members and their families,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Military Times’ Best for Vets rankings and special editions. “Over the past six years of our surveys, we’ve seen so many schools first begin to foster – through new policies, services and dedicated facilities – and then nurture these wonderful communities.”

This is the second honor for the college’s veterans-related efforts this month. Just last week, SPC was selected as a 2016 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media.

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Military Friendly SchoolSt. Petersburg College has again been named a 2016 Military Friendly School by Victory Media, Inc.

The Military Friendly® Schools designation is awarded to the top colleges, universities, community colleges and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students, and to dedicate resources to ensure their success both in the classroom and after graduation.

Victory Media is a veteran-owned business that surveys thousands of institutions and compiles lists that capture best practices in recruitment and retention of military personnel and civilian employees, students and franchisees.

Its lists of Military Friendly Employers, Schools, Franchises and Cities are published annually in G.I. Jobs, Military Spouse and Vetrepreneur magazines.

View all participating institutions on the 2016 list of Military Friendly Schools.

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From left: Jane Strong, Jeffrey Schultz; SVA member at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus; Jeffrey Thomas, vice president of SVA Gibbs; Christopher Clarke, president of SVA Gibbs; and Tina March, academic advisor for SVA Gibbs.

A group of student veterans from the Student Veterans Association at the St. Petersburg College participated in the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Stand Down for Homeless event at the C. W. Bill Young VA Medical Center April 11.

The event provided access to a wide range of services – medical care, free meals, toiletries, hot showers, clothing items, benefits and housing information, and employee assistance – available to homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.

The student veterans from the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, Christopher Clarke, Jeffrey Thomas and Jeffrey Schultz, provided endless energy and information to the Bay Pines veterans about programs at SPC.

“Our SPC veterans informed these veterans of the camaraderie that could be found on the various campuses throughout the college,” said Tina March, Academic Advisor for the SVA at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “Many of the veterans expressed an interest in pursuing a career and a degree.”

Some of these veterans at the VA already have college degrees and some college experience. They just need additional information, names, and networking to proceed.

“The team from SPC met the needs of these veterans as they provided information about the services and assistance from the Homeless Education Waiver,” said March.

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March, Rafael Rivera, Mohammed Shaker, Chris Clark.

Pictured above are: Brenton David, Karen Donovan, Jacob Lurvey, David Creighton, Jeffrey Schultz,Jason Hoven, Madeline Rondo,Kristina Phillips, Jeff Thomas, Representative David Jolly, Bill Fleming, Earnest Gant, David Weatherspoon, Tina March, Rafael Rivera, Mohammed Shaker, Chris Clark.

When the new Pinellas Bayway Bridge opened Oct. 17, members of St. Petersburg College’s Student Veterans Association (SVA) and Males Achieving Excellence (MAX) were on hand as volunteers. Festivities included a 5K run, a paddle board flotilla, a pool party, a beach party and a ceremonial lighting of the bridge.

The SVA and MAX volunteers helped set up the beach bash, provided water at the aid stations for the runners, helped with traffic flow, distributed safety lights to the spectators and moved the equipment from the starting line to the finish line before and after race. The race was so successful that plans are already in the works to do it again next year.

The activities were captured by volunteer photographer Charlie Harris, an SVA member from the Clearwater Campus. Check out all the photos in the SVA Facebook gallery.

Fees from the race topped $15,000 and were donated to the Associated Marine Institute Kids, a program that supports troubled children, and to Tampa BayWatch Marine, an organization that protects and restores the Tampa Bay estuaries.

Article courtesy of Rafael Rivera Nieves, CPO, USCG, (ret.)

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