On May 12, President Tonjua Williams welcomed guests to St. Petersburg College’s 136th Commencement Ceremony at Tropicana Field. With this graduating class, St. Petersburg College has awarded 169,426 degrees since the college – Florida’s first community college – was founded in 1927.
Alumni Association president Ken Burke presented awards to honor two graduates who demonstrate exemplary leadership, academic achievement and community service. Associate Degree graduate Joey Bower, received the 2018 Apollo Award, and Baccalaureate Degree graduate Amanda Hunt, received the Alumni Achievement Award. In her commencement address, Ms. Hunt left the audience with some words of advice, “No matter what career or job you are employed in, you can change the world through small but meaningful acts of kindness. Sometimes one minute is all it takes to brighten someone’s day, give them a hand, or even save their life. My message to you today is to always remember to slow down a little and take that one minute.”
After hundreds of graduating students had walked across the stage, President Williams asked families and friends to be recognized for their support of the graduates. With the ceremony held the day before Mother’s Day, she gave a special thank you to mothers. “I know there have been times when you felt that none of your hard work and support of these graduates was appreciated or even noticed. But here you are – and here they are – and these graduates did appreciate you and they did notice you.” Williams told them. “The college appreciates you.”
“I am humbled to have been asked to be a part of this exceptional gathering of people paying tribute and honoring the living legacy, the professional continuing journey of Dr. Tonjua Williams. By this Investiture, the community pauses and notates the record of local history with exclamation,” said Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson. Senator Rouson joined an esteemed group of honored guests, SPC students, faculty and staff to celebrate the Presidential Investiture of Dr. Tonjua Williams on April 6 at the Palladium Theater.
An investiture is a traditional ceremony that marks the transference of authority in a high office and is typically held within the first year of service in office. Speakers included The Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega; Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael A. Grego; Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson; St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman; Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson; USF Board Chair Brian Lamb; and Palm Beach State College President Ava L. Parker. President Williams’ sister Lyn Parker shared a moving introduction as she reflected fondly on their shared experiences as children growing up in St. Petersburg.
President Williams took the stage to thank her predecessors, the SPC Board of Trustees, her family as well as the Pinellas County community for investing in the success of SPC students. “To our St. Pete College family, my people, thank you, thank you, thank you! Because of the work that you do, the passion you have, the commitment you have made our students are succeeding,” said President Williams. In her comments, Dr. Williams described the profound influence that education has on individuals and an entire community. “I strongly believe in the power of education and the work we do here at SPC because it transforms lives, it fulfills dreams and it improves families”, said President Williams.
The ceremony concluded with the singing of the St. Petersburg College Alma Mater, a benediction from Dr. Glen Money of the
First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg and a recessional of faculty, staff and honored guests.
Donors and Students Inspire each other at Annual Luncheon
SPC Foundation donors, partners, students and college leadership celebrated the awarding of more than $1.8 million in scholarships to over 2,400 students during the 2016-17 academic year at the St. Petersburg College Foundation’s 19th Annual Scholarship Luncheon on March 21.
More than 200 guests attended the event, sponsored by RBC Wealth Management and Emceed by Bay News 9’s Veronica Cintron. SPC students Chelsea Echols and Malique Ferrette moved and inspired the audience with their stories of triumph and success. Malique Ferrette, said, “Words prove insufficient in expressing my gratitude for what you as donors have done for my life and for the lives of so many others. Yet still, I say on behalf of all SPC students…. thank you!”
Offering a donor’s perspective, Mike Brewster, Chief Production Officer at Monin, spoke about his company’s partnership with SPC and the impact scholarships have in developing our local workforce.
SPC President Tonjua Williams closed out the program and thanked the donors who support our students, saying “If it were not for you, we would have many students who would give up on their dreams.” Williams said donors’ generosity affects more than just our students. It impacts generations. “You’ve changed the lives of their children and the children to come,” she said.
Students Find Success in Cell Phone Repair Program
Two years ago, the last thing on Quincy Youngs’ mind was pursuing an education. Quincy was living in a homeless shelter in St. Petersburg and struggling to find work due to a past criminal record. Luckily, Quincy was encouraged to enroll in SPC’s PITCH (Persistence Incorporated into College, Hired) program, a course designed to help at-risk African American men gain work readiness skills, obtain workplace certifications and enroll in postsecondary education.
The PITCH program provides cell phone and tablet repair instruction and is funded in part through the Silverberg Family Academic Excellence Grant. SPC Instructor Dwayne Johnson is enthusiastic about the program’s success. He said, “All the students in the course have given 110 percent to the program. Each day I see them putting in the hard-work needed to be a success in the field. It has been my honor help these young men get the real-world experience they need.”
Quincy’s impressive commitment to the PITCH coursework led to a position as an Instructor Assistant where he will mentor other students. His confidence has soared; upon completing the PITCH program he enrolled in SPC’s Cybersecurity program and has his sights set on a career with Apple.
Every morning Juanita looks at a photo of herself meeting two police officers as a child. For as long as she can remember, Juanita wanted to be a cop. In 2014, Juanita started her career as a dispatcher for the Tarpon Springs Police Department; however tragedy struck during her very first shift. Juanita was the dispatcher for Officer Charles Kondek the night he was fatally shot while on duty. “I learned so much that night, I realized how quickly things can change,” said Juanita.
In mourning with the entire Tampa Bay Law Enforcement community, Juanita learned what it meant to be part of the “Thin Blue Line” and felt support all around her. This experience prompted her to follow her dreams and enroll in SPC’s Police Academy. Juanita was awarded the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association Law Enforcement Scholarship through the SPC Foundation which paid for the full cost of her Police Academy training. “It was really humbling to be chosen as a scholarship recipient. It helped me keep everything under control financially but also has allowed me to be part of something larger than myself,” said Juanita. Through this scholarship Juanita has been able to network with Tampa Bay Police Chiefs and has found a new job as a Patrol Officer for the Temple Terrace Police Department. She is proud to be serving the Tampa Bay area and is excited to put her training and experience to work in the field.