Left, SPC Board Trustee Katherine Cole, SPC Board Chair Thomas Kidwell, SPC Board Trustee Deveron Gibbons, SPC Board Trustee Nathan Stonecipher, Speer Foundation Brett Vickers, SPC Foundation Executive Director Jesse Turtle, Speer Foundation Lisa Vickers, SPC Foundation Board Chair Steven Shepard, SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams and SPC VP for Workforce Development and Corporate Partnerships Dr. Jackie Skryd
CLEARWATER — Late entrepreneur and philanthropist Roy Speer always believed in education and made a habit of quietly helping students in need stay in school to pursue their dreams. His legacy of giving and support was on full display last Tuesday morning at the St. Petersburg College EpiCenter, with a ceremonial $125,000 check presentation from the Speer Foundation to launch SPC’s new First Step Scholarship.
The generous gift made to the SPC Foundation – in the name of the man who founded the iconic Home Shopping Network – will assist residents in the South St. Petersburg area who want to take the first step in starting a new career in viable workforce industries. These much-needed funds pave the way to crucial training, allowing awardees to earn certificates that will lead to higher-paying and more rewarding job opportunities.
First Step recipients will receive a scholarship for full tuition, books, and materials related to the selected training of their choice in the following areas:
- Specialized manufacturing
- Financial services
- Data analytics
- Creative arts and design
“Imagine living in a situation where you don’t have the resources that you need to be successful,” said SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams at the presentation. “Imagine not having the time for a two-year college degree but needing to really up-skill, re-skill, build your tools, and move your life forward. Imagine that there are no financial aid funds to help you do that. Well, the Speer Foundation has been designed to help individuals who look forward to short-term credentials to ensure that they change their families from a poverty situation to a prosperity situation.”
Williams then addressed the Speer Foundation’s Brett and Lisa Vickers, who is Speer’s daughter. “We could not do this without you,” she said. “We are so thankful and so grateful and wait until you see those smiling faces walk across the stage because of what your investment has done. It is life-changing for them. It is life-changing for us. And it is life-changing for you.”
Lisa Vickers spoke of her father’s generous spirit that led him to want to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate individuals. “He worked with many people and gave to many behind the scenes,” she said. “At his funeral, one of the things I said is that he had many rewards in heaven because he did so much in private here.
“He would meet someone and find out they were having a hard time, and he would offer to pay for their education or their child care or something else. But he would say the only thing you have to do is stay in school, and you have to show me your grades. And his last statement was, ‘If you tell anybody, I’m done.’”
Though the first scholarship has yet to be awarded, a graduate from the SPC Workforce, Community and Corporate Partnership program, Elaine Chambliss Dugan, served as an example of the kind of student who will benefit from the First Step Scholarship.
“I graduated from the entrepreneurship program from SPC, and before that time, I only had a vision,” she said. “I kept delaying it and putting it off. And thank goodness I got an email telling me about the program. I was able to sign up. I wasn’t sure I was able to complete it, but because people supported me and took some of the pressure off of me, I did. And since then, it has opened many doors and given me opportunities and confidence to move forward.”
Added Jesse Turtle, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of the SPC Foundation: “I’m extremely grateful to both Lisa and Greg and the Speer Foundation for (recognizing) that this is a worthwhile endeavor to support. And I know the impact that will be felt immediately and in the long term.”
To apply for the scholarship, visit stpe.co/firststepscholarship. For more information, contact SPC Director of Workforce Education Eric McClendon at 727-341-3508 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.