SPC marks 125th commencement

More than 300 graduates of St. Petersburg College crossed the stage during the 125th Commencement Ceremony at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks Saturday, July 26.

A total of 1,121 students earned 1,257 degrees from SPC this term, just more than 9 percent earning multiple credentials. Graduates ranged in age from 17 to 72, with 14 graduates over the age of 60.

Bter0BHCAAE_ya9With this graduating class, the college has awarded 141,875 degrees since the college was founded in 1927, said President Bill Law.

“We thank our faculty, who are committed to teach, nurture and guide our students on a daily basis,” Law said. “They also contribute to the national reputation this college enjoys, so thank you to the faculty for investing in our students, for taking the time to lift them up and help ensure their success.”

To the graduates, Law said, “I hope you consider the role that SPC can have in your lives. I think it has been made clear today that SPC can put your dreams within reach. You have received the knowledge from some of the finest faculty. Now your challenge is to apply your wisdom, and with that, you will be a success.”

Graduate Crystal Hampton, who spoke for the four-year programs and earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration, implored her fellow graduates to “remember your past but live for the future.

“Think back to the challenges, the barriers and the adversity you have faced to get to this place. At the time they seemed insurmountable, but we learned something valuable along the way – Setbacks are just set ups for step ups,” said Hampton, becoming the first college graduate in her family.

Hampton, a nuclear medicine technologist at the Bay Pines VA, pursued a career in the health care field to honor her father, a veteran who died at the age of 53. Her respect for the military led her to the VA, where she hopes her degree will allow her to advance her career and continue helping others.

“We did not arrive here today by ourselves. We must remember the ones who supported us and helped us get here. I would not be standing here today without the support of my loving husband, my family, my friends and the faculty here at SPC,” Hampton said.

“Because of the love and support we have received, we also must remember to lend others a helping hand, to listen, and to support them, just like we have been supported.”

Btevge1CYAAwGFTTait Sorenson, who earned his associate of arts degree and spoke for the lower division programs, repeated the mantra that propelled him through school and other adventures, “Why not… Why not me?”

After working roughly 85 jobs in five states, and feeling rejected in all of them, Sorenson began asking himself why not.

“Things weren’t adding up, but deep down I continued to search for that missing something. I began to realize that I was limited, but as Michael Jordan said in his Hall-of-Fame induction speech, ‘limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.’”

Sorenson began with one class at SPC and soon found himself enrolling in Honors classes, joining student government, studying aboard in Costa Rica, becoming an officer in Phi Theta Kappa and interning at NASA.

“In the next two weeks I will have completed my NASA internship and will be making the transition to the University of Central Florida for Aerospace Engineering where I plan to work towards a Masters in Space Systems Design. And to think all of this because I had a chip on my shoulder and asked ‘why not me’?”

“I want to convey the very real implications of hard work and a genuine willingness to become involved in student group activities. No matter what direction you are headed, there will always be a plethora of ways to get plugged in. To me, this is the key value of networking and collaborating. Always remember that in order to get comfortable you must get uncomfortable. When an individual reaches out of their comfort zone is when new exciting doors of opportunity become visible and attainable. Looking back at my time at SPC, there is no way I could have envisioned my success without learning from others and always keeping an open-mind.”

See tweets about graduation at #SPCGrad, photos on the college’s Facebook page or watch the ceremony on the college’s YouTube channel.


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St. Petersburg College will mark its 125th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. About 350 of the 1,121 graduates are expected to participate.

“We congratulate the students – and their families – who have persevered to this graduation milestone. They always inspire us with their determination,” said President Bill Law.

SPC dates back to 1927 when it became Florida’s first two-year institution of higher learning. There were 48 members of the first graduating class in 1929.

Saturday’s ceremony is expected to last about an hour. Featured speakers include Crystal Hampton, representing four-year programs, and Tait Sorenson, representing lower division programs.

“I’m 35, but (my mom) still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker,” said Hampton, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration. Read her story here.

“The faculty and the advisors at SPC really encouraged me in finding the roadmap that would get me where I wanted to be,” said Sorenson, who will earn his A.A. degree from SPC and pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida in the fall. Read his story here.

Graduates and guests can check our instructions page for the big day. You can also follow social media posts and catch a live stream of the ceremony on our page dedicated to the ceremony.

Here are our summer graduates by the numbers:

Summer-2014-graduation-infographic[1]


Tait Sorenson at his NASA internship

Tait Sorenson at his NASA internship

Waiting tables and bartending in St. Petersburg wasn’t cutting it for Tait Sorenson.

After graduating from high school in Montana, Sorenson made his way to Florida in 2008. What he found during the recession, however, was a very unstable living and future.

“During the recession, it was so hard to keep a job or get enough hours to live on,” said Sorenson, who will graduate from St. Petersburg College Saturday with his A.A. degree and will speak at commencement.

Sorenson took a cue from friends who were attending SPC and from his father and brother, both in engineering. This fall, Sorenson will pursue his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida.

“I figure it’s a little easier to stay employed as an engineer in a recession rather than sales or something. It’s a little more stable.”

In two weeks, Sorenson will complete a summer internship at NASA, where he has been assisting with the website. He plans to eventually pursue a master’s degree in Space Systems Design.

Sorenson started with only a couple classes at SPC in the fall of 2011 but soon found himself immersed in college life. While taking an Honors class, he was encouraged to become an officer for his Student Government Association. At an SGA event at the Downtown Campus, he signed up for a Study Aboard trip to Costa Rica, where he met some students in Phi Theta Kappa who encouraged him to join them.

“I learned from other students how to be successful, how to study and get good grades,” said Sorenson, who was named to the 2014 All-Florida Academic Team for his academic achievement, leadership and service to the community. “I encourage every student to get plugged in, to network and collaborate with others. A lot of students just came and go to class, and they never know what else is there for them.”

Sorenson also credits SPC’s faculty and advisors for getting him on the right path.

“They really guided and encouraged me in the whole process,” Sorenson said. “The advisors sat me down and really helped map out what it would take for me to receive a bachelor’s in aerospace. SPC really helped mold that roadmap for me.”


Crystal Hampton

Crystal Hampton

When Crystal Hampton crosses the stage during SPC’s summer graduation on Saturday, it will be an achievement not just for her but also for her family.

With a bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration in hand, Hampton will become the first college graduate in her family.

“I know they’re all very proud of me,” said the native of London, Ky. “My mom talks about being proud of me all the time. I’m 35, but she still treats me like her baby girl, saying how proud she is of my accomplishments and being selected as the commencement speaker.”

Prior to pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she completed an associate degree in nuclear medicine from Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, Ky., and worked for two years at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Hampton pursued a health care career because of her late father, Carl Cupp, a veteran who died of heart disease at age 53.

“Nuclear medicine is a field that involves cardiac imaging, among other things,” she said. “I thought maybe I could help keep another daughter from losing their father by working in this field.”

Hampton’s deep respect for the military and sacrifices made by U.S. military servicemen led her to pursue a career at the VA.

“My father was a veteran, but I also have the utmost respect and appreciation for all veterans,” Hampton said. “It’s nice to be able to give back and help serve those that so bravely served us.”

In addition to being a full-time student, Hampton also works full-time as the Lead Nuclear Medicine Technologist for the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

“Working full-time and going to school full-time was challenging, especially while trying to maintain my 4.0. GPA,” said Hampton, who has leaned upon the steadfast support of her husband, Troy Hampton, and the advice and guidance of her SPC advisor and professor, Floyd Butz. To fit in classes around her busy work schedule, she mainly took classes online.

She is considering going on to pursue a master’s degree in health care administration. Her ultimate goal is to continue working at the VA and to move up as a health care administrator or manager in radiology and to continue help saving lives and serving our nation’s heroes.


The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College will host a judicial candidates forum for those vying for seats on the Sixth Judicial Circuit bench. The forum will be from 6 to 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 6, in the Ethics and Social Science Building on the Clearwater Campus of SPC, 2465 Drew Street, Clearwater. Advance registration is requested at the institute’s website.

Eleven candidates are seeking one of five open contested seats on the Sixth Judicial Circuit bench, which serves Pinellas and Pasco counties. One is incumbent Judge Bruce Boyer. Fourteen other of the circuit’s incumbent judges whose terms expire this year are unopposed and thus automatically re-elected.

Circuit judges serve six-year terms and have no limit on how many terms they may serve. To qualify, candidates must be a member of the Florida Bar and have lived in the state for at least five years.

Judicial races may seem obscure to voters since they are, by law,  non-partisan to prevent politics from tainting the impartiality of the courts. Therefore, candidates bear no party labels and are limited by the Judicial Canon in what they may say in their campaigns. They are forbidden to make predictions or promises about issues that could arise once they are on the bench.

Three local experts with extensive knowledge of the court system will question the candidates, within the limitations cited above. They are:

  • The Hon. Irene Sullivan, retired Circuit Court judge and adjunct professor of juvenile law at Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport
  • Curtis Krueger, courts reporter for the Tampa Bay Times
  • Dr. Susan Demers, Dean of the College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies at SPC

The forum will be split into two parts: Groups 1 and 2 comprised of five candidates will be questioned from 6 to 7:10 p.m., and Groups 16, 21 and 35 comprised of six candidates from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m.

The public is encouraged to attend to learn more about the background and qualifications of those seeking to sit on the bench. The forum is being co-sponsored by Tampa Bay Times and the Clearwater Bar Association.