People diving for Epiphany cross

Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg College students played big parts in the 114th annual Tarpon Springs Epiphany celebration, which was held on Monday, January 6. Both the dove bearer and the cross diver who retrieved the white wooden cross from the icy waters of spring Bayou are studying at SPC.

This year brought the largest crowd ever to the celebration, with 25,000 people in attendance. There were also dignitaries present, including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, who presides over the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

This year, SPC Education Student Cynthia Tsaoussis served as the dove bearer, who carries the dove, which represents the Holy Spirit, from the church and releases it before the dive as a blessing. Tsaoussis told News Channel 8 that she was excited to serve in this role in a very special year.

Hunter and Family“I’ve been excited all week,” she told them. “This is the 100th anniversary of the dove bearer role, because in the first 14 years, the role belonged to a young gentleman. Also, the Prime Minister of Greece and the Arch Bishop will be joining us on this glorious day for the start of 2020, the Epiphany celebration.”

Hunter Sakadales was one of 57 boys, ages 16-18, who took the plunge in hopes of being the one who finds the cross, which is said to bring a year of blessings. Sakadales grabbed the cross within seconds after it was tossed into the water, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The 18-year-old is an Early College student in his second year at SPC’s Tarpon Springs Campus. He will earn his Associate in Arts degree in May, and hopes to go on to study psychology. Sakadales said that it was his third and final year to be able to dive, and he didn’t expect to be the one to get the cross.

“When I got out, I felt like I should be congratulating someone else,” he said. “But all my friends and family were there, and everyone was smiling and it felt more like a blessing than anything I’ve ever experienced. It was truly beautiful.”

St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) Student Government Associations are excited to announce the second annual Good Vibes Only: Art and Music Festival.

Last year was the first time ever that SPC and USFSP Student Government Associations collaborated and brought the festival to life. Several months of planning and preparation has led to this spirited multi-school event filled with students, families, locals and young rising talent.

Livia Rosales, USFSP Student and Good Vibes Only 2020 USFSP co-chair, said the collaboration is very rewarding.

“It was so great to stand back and see the impact of our two schools colliding student talent and the support of the community.”

Without giving too much away, the two SGA’s are working hard to prepare for the 2020 event, which will be held on April 25, 2020 from 3 – 7 p.m. At this time, we are looking to showcase some of our very talented SPC and USFSP student bands, performers and artists.

Good Vibes Only highlights talented students from both institution and brings the College and University together as one. For this event, selected student bands and musicians perform and student artists line Williams Park in Downtown St. Petersburg. Last year’s student participants were honored and excited to be able to participate, as they had a unique opportunity to showcase their talent and skills to their peers, family members, friends, and the community, as well as provide fun family activities for those who attended.

Tiffany Albritton, SPC Student and Good Vibes Only 2020 SPC co-chair, said this year’s Good Vibes Only Festival is going to be even better than the last.

“There will be lots of art and music for everyone to enjoy,” she said.

To learn more about this event or to apply to participate as a band or artist, please visit: www.spc.edu/vibes or visit our Facebook page.

We are looking forward to showing St. Pete our amazing and talented students, who are the next generation of innovation.

Check out the event details from last year here!

The Last MileSt. Petersburg College is removing financial barriers for their students who are close to achieving their academic goals. Through SPC’s Last Mile Scholarship, students who left college with 12 or fewer credit hours remaining to complete their first associate or baccalaureate degrees could receive a scholarship to help them finish strong.

The SPC Last Mile Scholarship is a collaborative initiative to support Governor Desantis’ (R-FL) recent launch of the Last Mile Program at the 28 Florida Colleges and the Florida Department of Education. The program accelerates the pathway for returning students to earn their degree and strengthens the talent pipeline for Florida’s workforce.

“The Last Mile Scholarship is an excellent opportunity for SPC students,” said SPC Associate VP of Financial Assistance Services Michael J. Bennett. “Maybe life got in the way or finances got tight, but now they’re ready to finish up their degree. We’ve set aside funding specifically to help students who only have 12 credit hours remaining in their degree program.”

To qualify for the scholarship, a returning student must:

  • Be a Florida resident
  • Have attended SPC within the last eight years
  • Be meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • Be within 12 credit hours of completing their first associate or bachelor’s degree
  • Completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and complete Verification, if selected
  • Have demonstrated need OR have a 3.0 Program GPA
  • Meet all financial aid eligibility requirements
  • Be enrolled in the courses listed on the form

Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on how to apply, please visit www.spcollege.edu/lastmile.

State and local legislators shared stories about their successes and struggles with St. Petersburg College’s graduates at the Indian Rocks Baptist Church on Saturday, Dec. 14.

More than 1,800 students graduated this semester with:

  • 868 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 396 Associate in Science degrees
  • 263 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 245 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 228 Certifications

Photo of SPC graduate at Fall 2019 Commencement

The college held three ceremonies, divided up by program, during the day.

The 9 a.m. ceremony was for graduates in the Health Sciences and Veterinary Technology and Public Safety, Public Policy and Legal Studies programs, also known as Career and Academic communities. After a welcome from SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams, the guest speaker was State Rep. Chris Latvala, who reminded the graduates that they are in good company with notable SPC grads, including Douglas Jamerson who was the first African American to be elected to the Florida Legislature, astronaut Nicole Stott and U.S. House of Representatives member Gus Bilirakis. He also urged them to keep learning and be active in their community.

“Let me be the first of many to say to you today that I am proud of you,” he said. “Enjoy this day, but don’t stop here. Continue to set goals. Consider how you can use your education and knowledge to make an impact in your community.”

Next, Ashley Corral-Harrel addressed her fellow graduates. Corral-Harrel, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing completely online, thanked her family, friends and the nursing faculty and staff before speaking about the hurdles she faced in order to earn her diploma.

“Social media tells a story everyone wants you to see, but there are unfiltered realities. I know it wasn’t always Instagramworthy – I had to give up family time and sleep to write a perfect APA style paper by 11:59:59 p.m.,” she said to a commiserative audience. “I’m not a textbook example of how life is supposed to happen,” she said. “Life gets rough, but you have to make a choice between what you want now and what you want for your family later.”

The noon ceremony celebrated Technology, Education and Business students, with Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters addressing the crowd. Peters, who earned her associate degree from SPC, was the first in her family to graduate from college.

“When I walked down this aisle,” she recalled, “I was so proud. I’m in awe of all of you, and I applaud you for your hard work. It’s a really big deal.”

Peters encouraged them to never stop learning.

“You’re graduating, but your journey of education is just beginning,” she said. “As things evolve, you’ll have to adapt to stay viable in your field. I challenge you to think about what you’re going to learn tomorrow.”

Photo of graduate at SPC Fall 2019 commencementSylvia Cardenas, who earned her Associate in Arts in Marketing, addressed her fellow graduates, recalling her story of moving to the United States and starting high school without knowing any English.

“I didn’t give up,” she said. “I practiced every day.”

Cardenas graduated from high school and entered the Summer of Success program at SPC.

“The Summer of Success program faculty were willing to help new students, and I was supported and guided and put on the right track,” she said. “SPC has become like a second home. It’s a place to grow and develop qualities I didn’t even know I had. SPC wants students to succeed. That makes all the difference.”

The final ceremony at 3 p.m. honored students graduating from Arts, Humanities and Design; Communications; Science and Mathematics; Engineering, Manufacturing, and Building Arts; Social and Behavioral Sciences and Human Services; and general Associate in Arts programs.

State Senator Darryl Rouson spoke to the graduates of overcoming homelessness and his personal achievements, then wished then success in their own lives.

“Remember, the only person you are destined to become is the person you desire to be,” he said. “It is my dream today that each of you find your passion and walk in your destiny.”

SPC vocal students Scott Bender, Noah Rosenberg and Priscilla McLain, along with accompanist Joshua Cessna, performed music for the ceremony.

Williams closed out each ceremony with congratulations and an invitation to stay connected to SPC.

“As graduates, you are alumni of the greatest college in Florida,” she said. I encourage you to join our Alumni Association and stay in touch.”

In her speech, Cardenas advised her fellow classmates to dream big.

“Keep dreaming and never forget that anything is possible,” she advised. “Imagination is imperative for success.”

Some fun facts about our graduates:

  • The college’s youngest graduate is 17 years old; the oldest is 71 years old
  • With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 178,680 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.
  • 112 graduates are over 50 years old

Photo of graduate, family and President Tonjua Williams at SPC Fall 2019 graduation ceremonies


St. Petersburg College will hold its 140th commencement ceremonies at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14 at Indian Rocks Baptist Church, 12685 Ulmerton Rd., Largo. The guest speakers will include State Rep. Chris Latvala at 9 a.m., Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters at noon and State Sen. Darryl Rouson at 3 p.m.

The college’s youngest graduate is 17 years old, the oldest is 71 years old and 15 graduates are over the age of 60.

With this graduating class, SPC will have awarded 178,680 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.

SPC will award:

  • 868 Associate in Arts degrees
  • 396 Associate in Science degrees
  • 263 Bachelor of Applied Science degrees
  • 245 Bachelor of Science degrees
  • 228 Certifications

Ashley M. Rodriguez Corral-Harrell, Sylvia Cardenas and Tammie Ryan will address fellow graduates and guests. Harrell will earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Cardenas will earn an Associate in Arts in Marketing, and Ryan will earn an Associate in Science in Human Services.

Despite the challenges of being a single mother to three young men, SPC student Iesha Spradley is forging ahead to transform her family’s life by earning a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Management and Organizational Leadership. In 2018, the 41-year-old became homeless but still had a desire to finish what she started about a decade ago – her college degree. She enrolled at St. Petersburg College, where she received support through the SPC Foundation for her tuition, books and supplies.

“SPC is not just a college offering degrees – they’re a family,” Spradley said. “I had to take a leap of faith and not be ashamed of what I’ve been through. It’s made me who I am today and now I can inspire and motivate other people.”

Spradley is one of many SPC students whose life has been impacted through the generous support of the donors to SPC. To continue these efforts, take part in the largest global giving day of the year – Giving Tuesday! Your gift to the SPC Titan Fund has the power to transform the lives of our students, helping them to realize and achieve academic success and economic mobility.

“When you give to St. Petersburg College, you’re supporting more than just scholarships,” SPC VP of Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of The Foundation Jesse Turtle said. “Your generous donation helps champion the dreams of SPC students as they strive to achieve academic greatness and economic mobility.”

The SPC Titan Fund is a way of giving that illustrates the powerful impact of the collective generosity of alumni, faculty and staff, friends and community partners in areas where the college needs it most—year after year. Your gift to the SPC Titan Fund helps to sustain academic programs, scholarships, innovative programming, student support services and every other aspect of the college. To donate to the fund, visit here.

Brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability among all forms of child abuse and neglect, according to The Tampa Bay Times. This staggering static is one of the driving forces for Jordan’s Law, which mandates training in head trauma and brain injury for all child welfare professionals.

In collaboration with St. Petersburg College’s Phi Theta Kappa(PTK), Clinical Neuropsychologist with FL Children’s Medical Services Dr. Jim Lewis will host A Message of Hope and Healing from 6:30 – 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 at the SPC Midtown Center, Community Meeting Room, 1300 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg. This forum will inform parents and community leaders about family-caused concussions in young children and head injuries in women in abusive relationships.

“Jordan’s Law is valuable because it gives children an extra hand at a fighting chance for survival,” said SPC PTK student Alyssa Hardy. “It is the responsibility of every adult involved in a child’s life to ensure that the child is living in a safe environment. Jordan’s Law will help make that the case.”

“We must begin providing the same brain injury education to the community that we present at professional conferences,” Lewis said. “Only parents and the community can prevent child abuse and neglect, and once it has occurred; only the parents and community can truly stop recurrences.”

The forum is open to the public and is free. For more information, contact Bonnie Kesler at kesler.bonnie@spcollege.edu.