Students are getting taken for a ‘free’ ride

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

CLEARWATER —Pinellas Technical College (PTC) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) announced a partnership that will bring free bus rides to students and staff members Mon., Jan 11 at the Clearwater campus of PTC.

The partnership allows for any PTC student or staff member to ride PSTA buses free by simply showing their ID.

“The students here at PTC will ride for free not just for going to school, but anytime seven days a week,” said Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA. “You can ride to the beach, to the movies, out at night or maybe to school if you want.”

With more than 3,000 students attending both the St. Petersburg and Clearwater campuses, this partnership strikes a blow at one of the biggest obstacles adult students face—transportation.

“You need to be in school to be able to achieve, said Mark Hunt, Executive Director  of Career Technical & Adult Education. “We’re so proud to be able to take the challenge of transportation off of the list of challenges.”

Boe Norwood, director of PTC’s St. Petersburg campus said that students who do not have transportation now have more options on courses available. “The good thing about this is that it gives you options. Lots of times students walk to the St. Pete campus and they look at the classes that are offered, well we might not have that class,” said Norwood, who explained that many students settle for courses at one campus or another because they have transportation challenges.

“They have options now. This gives them an opportunity to go and take a class they really want and not have to settle,” he said.

Norwood also thanked Arlene Corbin, director of PTC Clearwater, for getting the ball rolling on the process to partner with PSTA.

With this partnership, students such as Sarah Crofoot can get much needed help in achieving their career goals.  After almost losing her life in a car accident, she found herself in dire straits.

“I didn’t have a home; I didn’t have a job; I didn’t have a car. I had no way to get back to school and unfortunately I had to take time off,” said Crofoot.

When she was told by a counselor about the partnership PTC would soon form with PSTA, she knew she could enroll back in school and finish her degree. She plans to graduate in a couple of months.

PSTA’s new Universal Pass Program, also called U-Pass, allows agencies, major employers, schools and universities to pay PSTA an annual rate in exchange for unlimited public transit access for their employees or students. The Pinellas County School District will flip the bill for PTC’s students.

Northeast High School student AC Lindsey is also dually enrolled at PTC in the cosmetology program. His grandmother takes care of him and his two sisters all while having no vehicle.

“It’s very hard for her,” Lindsey said. By using the U-Pass, he now saves approximately $45 a month on getting back and forth to school.

Employees of PTC are also taking advantage of the U-Pass. A plant operator at the St. Petersburg Campus, Victor Kelty said, “I use to walk to work hot and sweaty, now I can ride the bus in style.”

Student Kathryn Lynn has more than just transportation problems, she’s homeless. She is enrolled in the jewelry-making class at the St. Pete campus and was spending more than $60 on bus fare.

“I love making jewelry,” said Lynn. “I never know where I will end up from one day to the next, but one thing that will always bring me comfort is my art.”

After having to choose between a bus pass or a meal on many occasions, Lynn can finally have both.

“PTC is invested in their students’ well-being and their life situations, and this U-Pass is a tremendous benefit,” she said.

Students, staff members, city officials and school board members present were all invited to the parking lot to check out the new hybrid turbo diesel bus. Riders will be cruising in style while reducing pollutants emitted into the air.

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