All posts by Tara Newsom

Calling all Citizen Superheros!

A picture of Superman in front of an American Flag with his face cut out to say "Insert your face here"

Join the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, the Institute for Policy Solutions and the League of Women Voters for “Democracy 101”. This workshop will remind participants of the foundations of U.S. government and engage in thoughtful dialouge about contemporary political issues and become Citizen Superheros!

Former Congressman David Jolly and Chairwoman & County Commissioner Janet Long will help participants understand the different approaches to contemporary political issues from the local and federal levels.

Learn how to practice your citizenship skills and engage on the local, state and federal level!

Event Information: Monday, August 28th Downtown Campus, American Stage 6-8pm

For more information, please contact Tara Newsom at

Gadgets for Good initiative receives Mobile Technology Incubator!

Gadget for Good group photo

This past January, SPC’s Chad Mairn championed the Gadgets for Good electronic recycling initiative in partnership with Tony Selvaggio, founder and CEO of eSmart Recycling, and Tara Newsom, Director of SPC’s Center for Civic Learning. The initiative’s goal was to collect and recycle used electronics to develop a mobile technology incubator, which will deliver equitable access to technology and provide learning opportunities to those in need in our community. Close to 2,000 pounds of electronics were donated to various SPC campuses and picked up by eSmart Recycling to inventory, destroy all data, and to prepare the electronics for recycling. This week, SPC will receive their first installment of 10 laptops as part of a mobile technology lab. This is great timing, as we celebrate Open Access Education Week!

The drive to ensure equitable access to technology started in 2001 when Mairn received a $20,000 grant from the Friends of the Gulfport Public Library to create a mobile laptop lab to teach computer literacy to the elderly, so he has years of relevant experience. Mairn will collaborate with the Center for Civic Learning to develop learning opportunities within the College and will embed the use of this incubator in coursework across disciplines.

“Creating comfortable and open access to learning is what we do at SPC,” Mairn points out. “Accepting these computers will help SPC fulfill one of our goals, which is to bring equitable access to technology so people in need will gain essential technological skills that they can use in their professional as well as their personal lives.”

The first batch of laptops will be used in the community and Mairn and Newsom will work as mentors to “train the trainer” within various disciplines to help expand this effort and increase computer literacy across SPC’s service area.

Esmart Recycling is a collaborative partner with SPC whose mission is to improve core literacy and re-enforce the importance of pre-workforce readiness through access to technology. It is in this context that eSmart Recycling passionately believes creating an agile, 21st Century international economy is vital for the next generation to achieve their full potential. The eSmart Initiatives™ team embraced this idea from a standing start in 2014 while expanding internationally with tech incubators in Venezuela and Peru. Setting a global benchmark in the crusade to end the cycle of poverty by 2030 remains the deep routed commitment of Tony Selvaggio, today’s E-Revolutionary.

Valentine’s Day: Sharing Our Hearts

Valentine's Day Sharing Our Hearts

This Valentine’s Day, St. Petersburg College wants to celebrate its commitment to caring for our community.

As Tom Shadyac said, ” . . . True Success is Intrinsic. It’s Love. It’s Kindness. It’s Community.”

SPC believes in nurturing the strengths of our students, faculty and partners. The Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement continues to reach into the community and partner with individuals and organizations to build pathways to success with everyone we meet.

Valentine's Day Sharing Our Hearts - Florida Dream Center Martin Luther King Jr. Day underway SPC students
SPC students participate in the Florida Dream Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day projects.

The college believes the best way to show our love for our community is by supporting our neighbors.  For example, SPC students work regularly, shoulder-to-shoulder, with our partners at the Florida Dream Center, focusing on Adopt-A-Block efforts to clean and restore homes near SPC Midtown.

It’s all about lending extra hands and hearts to help others.

SPC students also serve as mentors at Pinellas County Schools, helping with literacy efforts, reading to students in Seminole, and continually contributing to  the educational ecosystem of our area.  SPC also hosts speakers and events that generate collaboration and unity.

Other projects the SPC community has participated in include:

  • Exploring strategies for engagement in American society through a peacemaking event at the Clearwater Campus
  • Partnering with eSmart Recycling for Gadgets for Good, a collection effort to gather donated gadgets to support children in the local community without access to technology
  • Taking part in the Recycled Tunes donation drive, collecting musical instruments that are refurbished and donated to Pinellas County Schools’ music programs

This Valentine’s Day, the SPC family is committed to the success of our students and our community. We love to share our hearts.


Peacemaking on the Clearwater Campus!

David J. Smith a peacebuilding trainer and educational consultant, engaged the Clearwater campus community in exploring strategies for engagement at a time when differences characterize American society.

He shared strategies with students, faculty and staff that can be used in engaging those who hold different political, social, and world views in order to reach commonality and find shared opportunities. Smith works extensively with community colleges on conflict related issues and is the editor of Peacebuilding in Community.

Dr. Suzanne Preston, Professor in SPC’s Social & Behavioral Science Department, organized and lead the event. Dr. Preston has championed civic literacy and community engagement through her coursework, her advisory role for campus clubs and her Student Ambassador Citizenship Project that couples Student Ambassadors with individuals seeking U.S .Citizenship to prepare them for the U.S. Citizenship test.

SPC 2nd Annual MLK Day of Service!

2017-mlk-day-posterJoin the SPC family as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr through a variety of service projects across Pinellas County. Students, faculty, staff and community partners will be rolling up their sleeves to make a difference and carry forward the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s commitment to service.

Please take a look at the variety of volunteer opportunities below and click here to sign up:

Clearwater Campus:  Bridging Differences in a Time of Change: Exploring Approaches to Dialogue, Community Building, and Peacebuilding – January 17 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm  – ES 104.  Contact; Suzanne Preston at

Clearwater Campus:  City of Clearwater volunteer opportunities.  Contact Natalie Lamb, 727-562-4803 or

  • Monday, January 16 –  Cleaning Moccasin Lake Nature Park (up to 100 people needed)
  • Monday, January 16 – Cleveland Street Planting Project (60 people needed or six groups of 10 people)
  • Tuesday, January 24 – Beach Cleanup, Plant removal    (30 people needed)
  • Thursday, January 26 – Beach  Beautification, New plants potted  (30 people needed)
  • Week of 23rd-27th – Eddie C. Moore Ball Field (10-20 people needed)

Downtown/St. Pete Gibbs campuses: Adopt-A-Block – January 13, 9am to 12 noon -Unito Street in St. Petersburg.  Contact Tara Newsom at

Midtown/St. Pete Gibbs/Clearwater/Tarpon Springs Campuses: SPC Float & Parading at Tampa MLK Parade – January 16.  Contact Evelyn Madera at

Midtown-Keene campus: PB&J for Tampa Bay – TBD.  Contact Niki Wright at


Donating Gadgets for Good


St. Petersburg College is partnering with eSmart Recycling in donating gadgets in January 2017 to support children in the local community who don’t have access to technology.

donating gadgetsThrough the community outreach program Gadgets for Good, old laptops, computers, electronics, and tablets, regardless of their condition, can be donated from Jan. 1 – 30 at SPC locations.

This collegewide initiative is aimed at addressing a deep-rooted social problem. It also is a testament to how private and public sectors can work together for the sustainable benefit of the community.

Materials accepted

The following items will be accepted as donations:

  • Computers
  • Keyboards
  • Mice
  • Circuit Boards
  • Monitors
  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • Copiers
  • Fax Machines
  • VHS Players
  • CD Players
  • Stereos
  • Telephones & Cell Phones
  • Component Parts
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Servers
  • UPS Units and Batteries
  • Switches and Routers
  • Mixed wires
  • Peripherals
  • Audio/Video equipment

Drop-off locations for donating gadgets

The SPC drop-off locations include:

  • SPC Clearwater Campus, 2465 Drew St. (Campus map)
  • ST Building Entrance
  • Monday – Thursday, 9 am – 4 pm
  • Friday, 9 am – 1 pm
  • SPC Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N (Campus map)
  • Student Center (UP 192)
  • Monday – Thursday, 9 am – 7 pm
  • Friday, 9 am – 2 pm
  • SPC St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, 6605 5th Ave. N. (Campus map)
  • Student Life (SS 111)
  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 7 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – Noon
  • SPC Downtown Campus, 244 2nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg (Campus map)
  • Student Life (DC 225)
  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – Noon
  • SPC Midtown Campus, 1300 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33712 (Campus map)
  • Jameson Center (Room #339)
  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 7 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – Noon
  • SPC Allstate Center, 3200 34th St. S., St. Petersburg (Campus map)
  • Student Activities Office (Room #200)
  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 7 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – Noon
  • SPC Tarpon Springs Campus, 600 Klosterman Rd. (Campus map)
  • AGORA Building (AG-104)
  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – Noon
  • SPC Health Education Center, 7200 66th St. N. Pinellas Park. (Campus map)
  • HE 205D
  • Monday – Thursday, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
  • Friday, 8:30 am – Noon

Disclaimer regarding data destruction

Please write your email address on a sticker and place it on your donated gadget[s], so that you can get a Certificate of Data Destruction from eSmart Recycling emailed to you once your personal drives are destroyed. Stickers will be provided at each drop off location.

If you want 100% verification that your personal data is destroyed, then you can bring your donated gadget[s] directly to eSmart Recycling and they will physically shred it in front of you for free as part of the Gadgets for Good program. They are located at 7826 Causeway Blvd C, Tampa, FL 33619 and their phone number is (813) 501-7768. It is a good idea to call them first to schedule a time to drop off your donation. If you don’t want to drive to ESmart Recycling then you can remove your personal drives and dispose of them however you see fit. Please do not hesitate to contact Chad Mairn at (727) 394-6917 with questions/concerns.

Get more information about donating gadgets 

For more information, please contact Tara Newsom at 727-512-9550 or Chad Mairn at 727-394-6917.

“Experience Learning” … Sounds catchy, Right?

“Experience Learning” … Sounds catchy, Right?

Well… it caught on.

At this point you might be wondering what experience learning is. Well it’s pretty straight forward as mentioned in the title. Any student participating gets the opportunity to do what is generally expected of all human beings; to learn from an experience. However, in this case, that experience is everything but random.

Usually, by the time people decide to go to college, they have some idea of what they want to do with their lives. And if they don’t, at some point in their college experience, they’ll start to figure it out. No literally, at some point in their College Experience Class at SPC, they will begin to figure it out.

The class is mandatory for all freshmen and is actually quite informative, covering an array of topics from how to write an APA paper to stress and health management. Another significant portion of the course is the Experience Learning program, which just happens to be a requirement for all students to pass… thought you could get out huh…wait! You’ll want to keep reading.
How does the program work? So… you pick a place that has do with your career path and volunteer there for six hours. Really, that’s it. “What if I don’t know what I want to be?”

Take a breather and don’t worry.

A freshman, Robert Vines, who is still unsure of his career goals said that even he has found some enjoyment doing this. He simply volunteered at the library because he didn’t know what else to do. When asked how this could’ve possibly have helped him, he paused before speaking.

“I think it’s to hel you get use to helping the community…” He went on to express how just being at the library emphasized his passion for people. He now knows that he will indefinitely want to find a career helping people.
For those who might already have some sort of direction with their career path, this could provide a firsthand experience.
“It has definitely solidified my career choice and I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as far as not focusing on the financial aspect of getting there…” Amanda Peach. Venturing into primary education, teaching fourth grade, Amanda has gained excitement

for her career choice through mentoring at Saxton Elementary School. Expressing that she’s always loved children, now she knows, even more so, that this is the path for her.
Both students agreed that the program is indeed a bonus to the curriculum. And though it only solidified their prospective on their passions and therefore careers, it could end up doing much more and even changing perspectives for you.

Tara Newsom, an Associate professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and said that she “learned that helping students find their interest and showing them a pathway to serve others using that passion, not only helped the community but professionally developed the student and increased academic success.” Thus, the program was born.

Well if this was just her idea, how did everyone else fee about it? “SPC’s Administration has had an unwavering support of service based learning.” This she stated saying that service is nothing new here at SPC’s campuses. She said that formally institutionalizing it into the syllabus in mere progression in that arena. “The hope is that every student at SPC will take a service based learning class before they graduate.”

Now with all this information what am I supposed to do? See an advisor of coarse! Oh, wait… I did that for you.

Career Outreach Specialist, Dee Mortellaro, offered that this experience could provide more exposure to one’s career and provide an opportunity for the student to ask questions, on the job, that they might not otherwise get to ask. In addition to this, the student gets to network, professionally, in the field that he/she has selected.

She said that this is also a two-way street of opportunity for both the students and the organizations where they volunteer. This, as the relationship between the corporate world and the college is developed, the students are exposed to on the job observation and the various organizations supporting this program remain updated with what the students learn. They therefore can make sure that the students learn what they need to know in order to survive in the field.
See we all benefit here!

Ms. Mortellaro also stated that most students have expressed that they find that they actually get more out of this experience than they thought. “I think the part of it that everyone really walks away with the most is just that great feeling that they did something to help someone else.” She went on to say that she believes it’s a contagious thing.

But don’t you worry, it’s a good thing! When you help others, you help yourself!

“Experience Learning” Catchy, right?

Seminole Campus Student Leaders Usher in the next generation of SPC Students

kids visit seminole campus


From left: Students Enrique and Jennah, Career Outreach Specialist, Sandy DeCarlo, Students Brenda and Shivam

Seminole Students help give tours to Seminole Middle Schoolers. Here is what they said about the day!

Jennah – We volunteered here at Seminole campus for a fifth-grade field trip.  The fifth graders came to see what college life was like.  Most of them have never been to a college campus or have any idea what college is like.  The fifth graders first went into the digitorium and listened to a speaker speak motivationally to them. Then they came out to the habitat park which is where we volunteered, the students watched Mrs. Dee do a science experiment on PH values.  She changed the PH value in the liquids and the students watched in amazement.  Afterwards she engaged the students and picked three students and had them blow on the liquid and change the color from blue to green.   After they did the science experiment we took them out to the nature boardwalk where they did a scavenger hunt.  We guided some students who needed extra help on the scavenger hunt and helped the find answers while talking and forming bonds.



Brenda – A group of us took part helping on campus by touring 5th graders around the SPC Seminole campus. We had the opportunity to answer questions to better inform the students about college life. We discussed the differences between A.A and A.S degrees. Also, we educated them about the 10 different SPC campuses and the programs they provide.  Students were thrilled to know that in college, they can pick their own schedule and were quite interested in getting involved in extracurricular activities the college offers.  It was a neat experience working with these students to inspire them to reach for a higher-level education.


Enrique – During the service learning day with Bauder Elementary, I was responsible for guiding the kids towards the auditorium and capturing moments. Now, the speaker was giving his presentation I took the time to snap a couple of pictures. As a float, I rotated to several different stations to observe activities happening. My favorite activity was outside the campus where Mrs. Dee performed a chemistry experiment for the Bauder kids to interact and learn the changes of chemical reactions. After the experiment was accomplished Mrs. Dee instructed the kids to a scavenger hunt where she gave clues to solve a mystery word. In no time the kids zoomed to each checkpoint to figure out clues given to solve the mystery word. As a reward Mrs. Dee thanked every kid with M&M treats. Finally, I made my way towards the last station which occurred on the second floor of the UPC building, digital media was the topic. During the session, the kids learned about the differences of cameras, lighting, and film. My experience with this service learning was amazing.


Shivam – I would like to start off by stating that this was a very honorable moment for me to volunteer for Bauder Elementary school here at SPC, Seminole. Me and my partner started out by welcoming the students at 9 am in the morning at the front entrance gate. Then we took them to the digitorium where we asked them to line up as there was a little presentation which we had arranged for the kids which talked about how is it like to be in college. After this we headed outside to the field where we had arranged some fun activities for the kids such as science game and scavenger hunt. The kids loved both activities and we spent roughly 45 minutes each for the completion of both the activities. There were three groups each which comprised about 20 kids in, so we had to volunteer for each group to make sure that they enjoyed and completed the activities. Then we got the kids some refreshments and gave them whole tour of the campus. After spending some time by giving them the tour of the campus, we then had Q/A session with the kids where they asked us different questions about our campus life such as what all activities, clubs and entertainment we have on campus. After answering all those questions, we all talked briefly to the kids about the fact that why it is so important to go to college after the completion of High School. College is something which honestly in my opinion shapes you and broadens your horizons. College degrees makes a lot of difference in our society today, I feel that the learning process never stops but completing college and obtaining your bachelor degree just makes you a brighter individual.



As a group, we helped mentor young students and show them what it’s like to be a college student. We set an example for these kids.  They could ask us questions about what it’s like to be a college student.  Their questions varied from is there free food on campus, to what kind of degrees you can get, how to become a vet, are there dorms, if there is homework, and if you are allowed to bring your pet to school.  Most of them were clueless about what college is like.  It was great to be able to be there and help them learn about college and encourage them to start thinking about what they want to do and if they want to go to college. We all were happy to be a part of this experience.  For some of these kids they will probably remember this trip for the rest of their life!




Empty Bowls fills hearts for over 16 years….

Bowls for Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls began in 1990 in Bloomfield Hills, MI by John Hartom, a high school teacher, his wife Lisa and his students as a way to support a local food drive. One year later Empty Bowls developed into a project to support food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations fighting hunger. John and Lisa formed the Imagine/Render group as a nonprofit organization to promote Empty Bowls and over the next 20 plus years, Empty Bowls has spread across the United States and other parts of the world.

St. Petersburg College Ceramics faculty and students, along with local business partner Highwater Clays, are putting on an Empty Bowls luncheon on November 12, from 11 AM to 2 PM, to benefit RCS Pinellas. The luncheon will feature soup served handmade bowls, made by SPC students, faculty and local artists. Attendees will choose a bowl and enjoy a meal of soup, bread and dessert. The bowl is your s to take home as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.
Through this event we are helping our students to see that they can make positive change through their art making, and make a big impact in their local community.
This event is to raise funds for RCS, which provides food to 60,000 residents of Clearwater, 17,000 of whom are children.

We invite you to attend this fundraiser event, Tickets are available at the door or in advance at
The event will take place on Saturday, November 12, 2016.
11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
St. Petersburg College
Clearwater Campus
Room ES 104

2465 Drew Street, Clearwater, FL 33765.
If you have any questions or would like to help, please contact Jonathan Barnes, at

“Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond”

Over 12 days this summer, with cameras and notebooks in hand, the student journalists explored the Midtown neighborhood in St. Petersburg through a series of field trips. Students documented everything from a drum line at a neighborhood church to a mansion being built in the heart of the neighborhood. Through this exhibit of 100 photos, you’ll truly see Midtown through their eyes.

This is photography project of Melrose Elementary and John Hopkins Middle School Students.

SPC students mentor at both of these schools.unknown-4