Fall 2018 SPC GraduationSt. Petersburg College placed sixth among Florida public and private colleges that participated in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges study. SPC ranked #17 as a top public school in the southern colleges region. These are the highest-ranked public colleges and universities within its ranking category among 12 states in the regional south.

SPC also ranked #45 as a top performer on social mobility out of 84 schools in the southern region. This ranking highlights the college’s effort to advance economically disadvantaged students who are less likely than others to finish college. The SPC Community of Care initiative strategically supports our students beyond their academic pursuits by providing assists through food banks, clothing closets and more. Through community partnerships, SPC is able to meet the needs of the most vulnerable students to ensure they’re achieving academic success.

For ethnic diversity, SPC scored a 57 percent among public and private colleges in the southern region.

“We are proud to be recognized for the work we’re doing to help our students thrive and find pathways to a brighter future,” said Dr. Tonjua Williams, SPC President. “These rankings reflect the dedication, passion and talent of our faculty and staff, who put our students and their success first.”


More than 1,100 Pinellas County School (PCS) High School juniors and seniors were awarded 2,754 free college credits from St. Petersburg College during the 2018-19 school year. Through the career connections programs, a partnership between SPC and PCS, high school students can earn free college-credit, if they complete specific classes with a grade of B or higher.

Those classes will articulate to college credits at SPC, as well as neighboring state colleges and may be transferable to other universities in Florida and nationwide.

During the 2017-18 school year, 291 students were awarded 454 college credits. SPC and PCS wanted to increase the opportunity by expanding their career connections programs in health, education, engineering, building arts/manufacturing and technology. As a result, the number of high school students accessing credits has increased by nearly 300%.

“Through this partnership, Pinellas County high school students have the opportunity to accelerate their academic journey toward a college degree at no cost,” SPC President Tonjua Williams said. “This creates a seamless transition for students to achieve collegiate success.”

“This is a wonderful partnership and valuable opportunity for our students,” said Dr. Michael Grego, Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools.  “The program not only allows our students to begin their college careers with credits already earned, but it also saves students and families hundreds of dollars in tuition costs.”

This collaboration is eliminating barriers in education and allowing students the ability to fast-track completion of their college degrees, saving time and money. The total tuition savings for students is $249,000, which is an average of $276 per student.

Not only are high school students taking advantage of the partnership but Pinellas Technical College (PTC) is leveraging the opportunities through career and technical education (CTE) programs. For example, PTC students in the Medical Coder and Biller program can articulate 26 credits into the Health Information Technology Associate in Science degree at SPC.

For more information about SPC and PTC partnership programs, visit www.spcollege.edu/PCSpartners.


The highly sought-after St. Petersburg Collegiate High School (SPCHS) has opened a second location at the St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs Campus. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be hosted from noon-1:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30 at the Bilirakis Building at the college campus.

Now St. Petersburg Collegiate High Schools, SPCHS offers students in grades 10-12 the opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate in Arts degree. This immersive program allows students to flourish and mature in the college culture, which provides a unique, nurturing and powerful experience.

“The faculty, staff and I are extremely excited to bring this high school model to residents in North Pinellas,” SPCHS Tarpon Springs Principal Ian Call said. “Our students are enjoying the Tarpon Springs Campus and are looking forward to taking advantage of all the educational opportunities offered by St. Petersburg College.”

This location will serve more than 150 students in the inaugural class and is expected to expand to 240 student by 2020-2021. Families in North Pinellas County will now have the convenience to access the accelerated program.

“Our campus is very fortunate and excited to embark on this new journey,” SPC Tarpon Springs Provost Rod Davis said. “We feel that the Collegiate High School will serve our community well and believe it will be another great opportunity for our North County students and parents.”

The original Collegiate High School at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, which opened in 2004 and serves 233 students, has consistently been recognized as a high-performing, national ranked school. It has earned an “A” rating from the State of Florida since opening. Niche recently ranked the school as #1 in the 2020 Best Public High Schools in Tampa Area list.

“I am excited that Pinellas County Schools and SPC have partnered to provide this distinctive educational choice to the students of North Pinellas,” Associate VP of Collegiate High Schools Starla Metz said. “The rigorous curriculum, leadership development and campus activities will provide students with a strong academic foundation and the skills needed to reach for their dreams.”

In 2017, the school received the honorary National Blue Ribbon as an Exemplary High Performing School by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Newsweek named them the 55th best high school in America in 2016. Only one of 10 in Florida to make the list, SPCHS held the second ranking in the state.

In an effort to expand the number of high quality charter schools in Florida, SPC was awarded a two-year $550,000 grant from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice (OIEPC) to assist with opening the second location.

For more information, visit spchs.spcollege.edu.

With games, activities and panel discussions, a special group of Pinellas County students began their path toward an advanced degree during a kick-off event at St. Petersburg College (SPC).

The students are participants in the Pinellas Access to Higher Education, or PATHe, program. The initiative is a partnership between SPC and University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) and is designed to help Pinellas County students and parents find pathways to higher education in the region.

There are currently 48 students enrolled in PATHe. As participants, they will start their studies at SPC and transition to USFSP to complete their degree. More than 25 members of the first cohort were at the orientation event on Aug. 13 at SPC’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus to learn more about the program, make friends and start the academic year on the right foot.

“You all are trailblazers,” said Ann Sherman-White, a PATHe counselor. “You’re setting a course that we hope others will follow.”

Sherman is one of four PATHe counselors, two based at SPC and two at USFSP. The counselors not only help raise awareness about the different options for advanced education in Pinellas County, they also serve as guides for students throughout the program.

Savannah Pitts, 18, a graduate of Northeast High School, said she was grateful for the help she received from her PATHe counselor because she had been feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of going to college.

“Some things were a little confusing,” said Bradley, who plans to study Graphic Design at SPC’s Clearwater campus. “I’ve never done this before, and the counselors have already been super helpful.”

Quinn Malcolm, 18, who graduated from Seminole High School, agreed. He met PATHe counselor Derrick Bullard at a college event at his school and said Bullard and the other counselors immediately made him feel at ease.

“They were really encouraging,” said Malcolm, who hopes to earn a degree in Marine Biology. “They told us exactly what was going on. I really liked that – you didn’t have to do everything on your own.”

During the kick-off event, the students played ice-breaker games and heard from administrators and students from SPC. PATHe counselors also shared information about available scholarships and offered tips for academic success.

PATHe counselor Dineca Walker urged the students to join a club and participate in activities.

“Students who get involved do better,” she said. “You need to get connected to other students, to people who are going through the same thing with you. They will be your support system.”

PATHe was formed in 2018 with support from the Florida Legislature to expand educational access and assist Pinellas County students who want to earn a college degree. More than 60 percent of jobs in Florida will require a degree or credential by 2025. Currently, more than two million Floridians have some college credits but no degree. In Pinellas County, there are 109,000.

Eva Christensen, Director of Admissions and Records at SPC, said the goal of the orientation session was to give the participants a better understanding of PATHe and to connect them with the resources that will help them succeed as an undergraduate.

“My hope is that not only will the students bond but that they come away with an understanding that this is a partnership that is committed to their success and to helping them get where they intend to go,” she said.

The orientation session represents a lot of hard work by team members at both SPC and USFSP to get the PATHe program launched, said Carolina Nutt, director of COMPASS student experience at USF St. Petersburg.  Now, as awareness of the program starts to spread, she believes the program will continue to grow.

“These students will be able to share with others what we have to offer,” said Nutt. “That creates the opportunity for other people to understand what our mission is within Pinellas County.”

At SPC, a large part of our mission is to be a Community of Care, which means that we want to make sure that the entire SPC family: students and employees as well as the surrounding communities, have what they need to lead healthy and productive lives. One of the many ways we are able to accomplish this is through a new partnership with RCS Pinellas and the opening of the RCS Express Center at the SPC Midtown Center.

On Aug. 8, SPC President Tonjua Williams, RCS CEO and President Kick Smith and community leaders hosted a press conference to announce the partnership. Williams expressed excitement to be partnering with RCS Pinellas to bring these important and much needed services to our students and community.

“We know that nationally, more than 50 percent of community college students are dealing with food insecurity and 14 percent have experienced homelessness in the last 12 months,” Williams noted.

RCS Pinellas has provided help and hope to people in need for 50 years. Their mission is to feed the hungry, help families facing homelessness return to self-sufficiency and empower survivors of domestic violence. Over 130,000 Pinellas County individuals are served annually with dignity to accomplish this mission at the RCS Food Bank, the RCS Grace House, The Haven of RCS, RCS Affordable Housing, RCS Energy Assistance Program and RCS thrift store partnerships.

“Through this amazing partnership with SPC, we can create wins each day,” Smith said. “We can provide immediate support services to students and the local community quickly. We can put out the ‘fires’ and help rebuild lives in short-order; in an express kind of way.”

The center will provide prompt services such as small meal ingredients, immediate turn-around referrals, and direct support related to homelessness, domestic violence, and energy assistance. Residents of Pinellas County and SPC students can receive services on Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

“This partnership will address the basic needs that often threaten the well-being of students and will support their ability to stay in school and graduate, helping them start on the path to economic prosperity for themselves and their families,” Williams said.

(left to right) RCS Board of Directors Chair Dave Siracusa, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, SPC President Dr. Williams and RCS President and CEO Kirk Smith

Dr. Heyward Mathews cutting the ribbon

In 2016, Long-time SPC Oceanography Professor Dr. Heyward Mathews had a vision to create an underwater memorial of 24 statues representing the branches of the military and the conflicts they have faced over the years. On Monday, Aug. 5, the vision came to life as veterans, active members of the military, their families and community leaders celebrated the ribbon cutting of Circle of Heroes.

“I began the Circle of Heroes project almost four years ago,” Mathews said. “There were three main objectives of the project; to honor our veterans in a different and unique way, to make Pinellas County a dive destination and to provide a place where veterans suffering from PTSD could visit and possibly find some relief.”

This underwater memorial on Veterans Reef is 10 miles off the coast of Pinellas County. The first set of 12, six-foot concrete statues were deployed in July from Tarpon Springs. The next set will be added within the next year, which will complete the 100 ft. circle that surrounds a center monument with five bronze emblems representing each of the U.S. Armed Forces. Circle of Heroes will serve as an international diving destination, as well as a therapeutic dive site for veterans who suffer from PTSD, trauma and depression.

Deep Sea Valkyries Director of Business Operation Neysa Grzywa

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Deep Sea Valkyries Director of Business Operation Neysa Grzywa, shared how those who experience the trials of war, when they return home, there are challenges, however, diving is a form of therapy.

“Diving is a unique sport that transcends beyond any injury; it’s a form of therapy,” Grzywa said. “When you descend below the waves you enter a world of peace and tranquility, the sounds of chaos are replaced with nothing but your own breath, reminding you that you’re alive and not to waste that miracle on the pain.”

St. Petersburg College Foundation sponsored five student veterans to take the Skin and Scuba Diving course, taught by Mathews, to help with the project. Some of the students assisted by placing small markers on the sea floor to guide the barge contractor placement of the statues.

Mathews has been teaching at SPC for more than 50 years and has certified hundreds of divers in the community. He’s no stranger to making an impact and believes this project is already making a difference.

“We’re already hearing how Circle of Heroes at Veterans Reef is accomplishing the objective once the statues were in place 10 miles out in the Gulf.”

To learn more about Circle of Heroes, visit here.


Several faculty and staff at St. Petersburg College have received the League for Innovation in the Community College (LICC) award in the Leadership and Organization category. The college was recognized for developing a leadership structure, which supports SPC’s Guided Pathways Initiative.

Guided Pathways is a concerted effort aimed at creating a unified student experience, taking the guesswork out of course selection, offering personalized support, delivering relevant and clear communication, and providing students with a concise road map to graduation and economic opportunity.

“It is an honor and privilege to work with this dedicated group of SPC team members, who are implementing innovative strategies collegewide to promote the success of SPC students – both in their classes and in their careers,” said SPC Career Connections Director Jason Krupp. “I’m excited the League for Innovation acknowledges the value of their efforts with this prestigious award.”

In 2016, utilizing the meta-major model – a collection of academic majors that have related courses, SPC created 10 Career and Academic communities. To facilitate collaboration and inclusion across the college, SPC adopted a triad leadership structure for each community, comprising a champion advisor, faculty member and learning support staff member.

The League for Innovation in the Community College is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate innovation in the community college environment. It serves as a catalyst for introducing and sustaining deep, transformational innovation within and across colleges and international borders to increase student success and institutional excellence.

Congratulations to the founding and current Triad teams for your innovation!

  • Rebecca Frank, Associate Director of Learning Resource
  • Kelliann Ganoo, B2B Alliance Project Manager
  • Sandra Gordon, Reference & Instruction Librarian
  • Jennifer Gregor, Associate Director of Learning Resources
  • Ethan Hart, Associate Director of Learning Resources
  • Ariel Hartman, Articulations Coordinator
  • Patrick Hernly, Humanities and Fine Arts Lead Instructor
  • Paula Knipp, Reference & Instruction Librarian
  • Nicholas Manias, Ethics Faculty
  • Sheryl Mundorff, Student Success Specialist
  • Jason Nicholson, Career & Academic Advisor
  • Douglas Rivero, Chair of Social and Behavioral Science
  • Lara Sharp, Program Director of Engineering Technology
  • Robin Wilber, College of Business Faculty
  • Paul Vermeren, Reference & Instruction Librarian