ST. PETERSBURG – With smiles on their faces, some 160 students embarked on a new life full of opportunity as they graduated from Pinellas Technical College (PTC) last month.
“You all have made a milestone in a journey,” said Carolyn Kilpatrick, relations specialist for PTC, “and you’re going to be continuing further along.”
Excited students couldn’t wait to be called up to grab their certificate. Unlike universities, PTC students can choose from a myriad of specializations that will send them out in the world already ready to do the job they were trained for.
“You have job skills, you have employability skills,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Grego as he congratulated the graduates and shared that 2015 was a record-breaking year for higher education in Pinellas. “You are able to become employed, and that is critical for the well-being of this community.”
He asked the graduates to take the time to thank the people who supported them and the teachers who helped them along their path to success. Graduates were handed certificates for specializations such as practical nursing, childcare center operations and network support services.
“Don’t stop where you are today, because there’s more things out there for you,” encouraged St. Petersburg Chief of Police Anthony Holloway who was invited to give the commencement speech. Chief Holloway is a graduate of PTC himself.
“I wasn’t ready for college so I started exactly where you started,” he said. Now I have over 750 people working for me, I’m responsible for over 250,000 citizens; my budget is about 95 million dollars.”
He told the crowd to be prepared for the next step in their lives and that a person who doesn’t seek change will never become anything. Holloway was awarded a plaque in appreciation for his support and inspiration.
One graduate who is taking the chief’s advice to heart is Toshia Maffey who earned her certificate in the practical nursing program. Maffey, who is described by PTC Assistant Director Anne-Marie Clarke as determined, already has her next step mapped out. She currently holds a certified nursing assistant license, an associate of arts degree and an associate of science degree. She plans to attend Pasco Hernando State College this fall. There she plans to pursue her bachelors of science in nursing with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse.
Quoting Malcolm X, Maffey knows the future belongs to those who plan for it today. She touted the benefit of the smaller classes that PTC has to offer and the ability to get to know teachers and staff more closely. She also pointed out the value of those close-knit relationships that give back twofold with more opportunities to advance their careers and gain valuable praise for the workforce through teacher recommendations.
“The hands on skills we get to experience in our classroom can provide you with higher pay in your career and more chance of advancement,” said Maffey as she encouraged her fellow graduates to look at how far they have come and start their plans for the future today.
When thinking of the next step in their lives, many people think about attending a state university or even a community college. A technical college is rarely their first choice out of the gate. But a technical education provides its students with immediate skills employers look for without the need to train or retrain, and that’s the advantage over a four-year traditional university.
We have made great strides to be the neighborhood college that will work with relevant businesses to help employ our students,” said “Boe Norwood, director of the St. Pete campus.
As the evening came to a close and the graduates and their families began to exit the building that stands at 901 34th St. S., many were undoubtedly forming fond memories.
Perhaps it was the mature sounds of LaShay Gary, a rising junior at Gibbs High School, singing the National Anthem, or perhaps the inspirational words of wisdom imparted on every graduate in the room to look for a brighter future. Whatever it was, you can bet their certificates are already hanging on many of the graduate’s walls reminding them that they can do whatever it is they put their minds to.