PTC grads encouraged to ‘set it off’

Pinellas Technical College graduated close to 200 students last Thursday, July 11 at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks.

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

LARGO – Pinellas Technical College (PTC) sent close to 200 graduates out into the world fully equipped with knowledge and ready to start their careers last Thursday. Family, friends and support systems filled First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks to watch students from both the Clearwater and St. Pete campuses switch their tassels from right to left.

St. Pete campus Director Boe Norwood took on the role of master of ceremony, introducing a host of speakers all with insightful messages to offer. Pinellas County School Board Chairperson Rene Flowers wasted no time hitting students with passionate words of inspiration.

“Education is more than a piece of paper,” said Flowers, who believes a technical background has international and global implications. “It’s a piece of the new currency that will open doors for you.”

But Flowers wants graduates to stay local, hoping they will start businesses, inspire friendly competition and breathe life into the local economy. Whether in the medical field as a nurse practitioners or pharmacy technicians, or building infrastructure in public works or on the roadways, PTC certifications create opportunities for students to follow their dreams.

“Your earning potential has escalated, and it’s only the first step,” Dr. William Corbett said. As deputy superintendent with Pinellas County Schools, he knows firsthand the power of education and hopes staff, students and the community will spread the word.

Something Jatalia Smith, a Practical Nursing program graduate, has no problem doing. She praised PTC for the onslaught of support and encouragement offered throughout her time there and feels that even though juggling classes, a job and family obligations was difficult, the program was quick and the knowledge she received is immeasurable.

“We are the helping hands for the people of our community,” she averred.

Smith credits PTC for allowing her the opportunity to form close bonds with staff and fellow students, and with finding her passion and compassion in helping others.

“We are making a difference one patient, one customer, one client at a time.”

Evidence of what drive, determination and education can do for a career strutted onstage to the beat of “Living My Best Life.” Dr. Cynthia Johnson, senior manager for Pinellas County Economic Development and Center for the Florida Small Business Development Center is a PTC alumnus.

She knows all about making the hard decision to sacrifice. Having missed out on family vacations, milestones in the lives of her children and spending time with friends, Johnson shows what a plan for the future can do for those willing to put in the effort.

“I know what you’re feeling because I’ve been there,” Johnson said, urging all graduates to remember the extensive work they put into this one defining moment in their life. “Don’t let somebody else dictate your future; you earned it. It’s your journey, so it’s up to you where it leads you. ”

Firmly committed to the idea that everyone is the master of their destiny, she spoke on the “mirror moments” when you have to look in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk. Those times when family, friends or a new job become difficult or don’t quite come through, and you must find a way to encourage yourself.

“There will be times when someone questions whether you have the skill or the ability or the smarts or the tools to actually get the job done,” she explained. “That’s one of those opportunities when you really sit down and encourage yourself…believe in taking pride in whatever it is you aim to do in life.”

Johnson described what she feels are the four different types of people encountered daily. From “knockoff folks” (those who look good on the outside, walk and talk a good game, but upon further inspection have a few loose threads) to “put off folks” (those quick to criticize) to “show-offs” (those who must be seen and heard).

Johnson hopes graduates embrace the more socially accepted “set it off” attitude that changes the world for the better.

“You’re going to set it off for this community,” she said. “You are focused, innovative, determined. You are quality; you are awesome.”

The evening marked the end of months of training for so many, but graduates left the ceremony joyful of what the future holds and knowing they are the key to their success.

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