All posts by Donna Smith

Tarpon PTK members aid bird sanctuary

Five students stand on a beach holding clean-up buckets.
Seabird sanctuary entrance

In 2020, St. Petersburg College’s Tarpon Springs Phi Theta Kappa chapter gave their time to help sea birds at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Rocks Beach. St. Petersburg College Phi Theta Kappa members by working as animal rescue volunteers at the bird sanctuary.

The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is a rehabilitation facility for injured and sick wild birds. Though they concentrate on seabirds, they never turn down any bird in distress. They have helped thousands of birds return to the wild, and those unable to be released live at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives.

The enclosures are kept natural and are large enough to keep the birds comfortable. In addition, there is a bird hospital on-site for veterinary care of the residents and incoming injured birds. The sanctuary is nonprofit and relies on volunteers and donations to keep the facility running.

The SPC volunteers did work that involved animal handling and enclosure cleaning to keep the seabirds safe and healthy. Our work led us to gain compassion for the rescued birds and appreciate the amount of work needed to maintain a facility like this.

While at the sanctuary, we were educated on the care of the seabirds, the rescue and rehabilitation that is performed, and the educational programs offered to inform the public of their mission. Due to their significant loss of volunteers to their workforce, there was a lot of cleaning to be done. We mostly concentrated on the pelican enclosures, because those are the largest enclosures – and the messiest. It was strenuous work, and the smell of dead fish is not for those with weak stomachs!

After cleaning the enclosures, we participated in a beach cleanup in front of the sanctuary, which enabled us to collect several buckets of trash that can be harmful not only to the sea birds, but all marine life.

Overall, volunteering at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary gave our members nothing short of a rewarding feeling of accomplishment. It was great to be socially connected again since the pandemic and assist such an inspiring organization. We came away with a feeling of solidarity and empathy for the seabirds. In addition, we formed a relationship between Phi Theta Kappa and the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, which would welcome our engagement in future endeavors.

From this experience, we learned that this bird sanctuary is important to our community for its dedication to rescuing and rehabilitating Florida’s beautiful birds, and in the process, the education they provide to the public on why saving these birds is so necessary.

These birds are a crucial part of Florida’s ecosystem and other species rely on them, as well. These relationships impact the entire marine habitat. We should help these birds and do everything in our power to keep them thriving in Florida. Phi Theta Kappa is glad we could help and be part of such an important cause.

This piece was written by Alexis Roman, Vice President of Service for the Tarpon Springs Campus Phi Theta Kappa chapter.

SPC Counts!

2020 census

Every 10 years, the United States conducts a census, the results of which determine the number of congressional representatives, informs how congressional districts are drawn, and dictates how federal funds will be distributed within each state. The 2020 census opened on April 1.

Billions of dollars in federal funding will be determined by the census, and that money funds programs such as Medicaid, financial aid, school lunches and highway construction. SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams is encouraging all faculty and staff at St. Petersburg College to be counted.

“It’s a population count, but many important services and projects flow from it,” Williams said. “Our college’s funding depends on the number of people counted in the county, and an undercount can cause us to lose federal money that provides assistance and support to our students, faculty, staff and community.”

Though some are wary of being counted, the census is confidential and it would be illegal for anyone’s answers to be held against them. Director of SPC’s Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement Tara Newsom stressed the importance – and the civic requirement – of taking part in the census.

“This is an important and necessary commitment from every citizen,” Newsom said. “Some questions may seem personal, but the answers help the federal government plan policies that help us all. This is especially important for undercounted populations. SPC is committed to having everyone count!”

The census asks for basic information, including name, age, sex, race and ethnicity, but does not ask for any sensitive data such as social security numbers. It can be completed online, usually in less than 10 minutes.

Pinellas County – and St. Petersburg College – need you to help shape the future by taking a few moments to go online at and complete the census. On May 27, census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded in order to try to make sure everyone is counted.

The 2010 census missed an estimated 2 percent of the nation’s black population, 1.5 percent of the Latino population, and one million kids under the age of 5. Newsom says that besides being required by law, census reporting is an essential tool for democracy.

“So many people feel like they don’t count,” she said. “But here’s a chance for everyone to have representation.”

Offering a Helping Hand

Volunteering graphic

Kristy Mizzi is a full-time student finishing up her associate degree, and hopes to get into SPC’s Nursing program when she’s done and become a registered nurse, which would feed her love of helping people.

Community of Care logo

Mizzi began her relationship with community service while volunteering at a nursing home during her high school years. She later volunteered at a local elementary school, and when her American Government professor required students to complete four hours of community service, she enjoyed it so much that she still volunteers once a week.

Once a school aide for children with special needs, Mizzi now volunteers in a first-grade classroom, offering help to the teacher and one-on-one time with struggling students, teaching reading and writing skills. She has banked over 50 hours of volunteer work since September 2018.

“SPC made community service part of my education by teaching me the impact each individual can make on others by just offering a helping hand,” she said.   

SPC Names Community Engagement Designees

Community Engagement

St. Petersburg College seeks to support, facilitate, and promote collaboration, partnership, and engagement between the college and its many constituent groups. 

Many of our faculty members strive to nurture this set of values set forth by the college, and so SPC has designated ten instructors as great examples of civic and community engagement in their subject areas. These designees have demonstrated outstanding achievement in and commitment to community outreach and engagement. We are proud to honor our colleagues who are making significant contributions to their communities through their time, actions, talents, and dedication outside of the classroom.

2019 Designees

SPC Students Renovate Raptor Enclosures

Penelope the bald eagle was just a fledgling when she suffered a shoulder injury that caused a wing droop that rendered her unable to live in the wild. She was found and treated, and today she’s five years old and living at the Moccasin Lake Nature Center in Clearwater. A group of SPC students and staff from multiple campuses spent a lovely Friday morning participating in a Volunteer Day on Friday, February 9 at Moccasin Lake, where they helped the Audubon Society renovate five raptor enclosures.

In addition to Penelope, Moccasin Lake is home to several raptors, including red-tailed hawks, screech owls, a barn owl, great horned owls, a bald eagle, black vultures and others. After leveling the dirt on the bottom of the enclosures, volunteers brought in pea gravel to place on top of the dirt. Barb Walker, an Audubon Society volunteer, said the group’s efforts will increase the comfort and well being of the raptors.

“The gravel keeps the people and all the birds healthier,” Walker said. “Their feet are nice and clean, not dirty.  When they drop food, sand is not stuck to it and fewer bugs and mites live in pea gravel. The enclosures are also easier to maintain and more visually appealing.”

After each enclosure was finished, the bird was placed back inside their renovated home.  Natural Science Faculty Member Kellie Stickrath said it was a fun day for all, and also very rewarding to help these injured birds of prey, who can never be released back into the wild due to the nature of their injuries.

“The birds seemed to love their new enclosures,” Stickrath said. “For me, it was a magical experience because I was not only able to work with great people side-by-side to help these beautiful birds, but also to get so close to such an amazing animal like the eagle was worth all of the hard work.”

SPC Sends Hurricane Relief

Titans for Texas Graphic

Living on the shores of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico is not without its cost. The gorgeous waters that offer beach days, boating, fishing and adventure also harbor potential destruction. Every year from June to November, especially from August to November, coastal citizens check our weather forecast with fingers crossed that the next storm track does not include us. On Friday, Aug. 25, the citizens of South Texas braced for their turn. Harvey came ashore southwest of Houston a category 4 hurricane, bringing with it -in one weekend- more than 50 inches of rain, which is more than the usual amount of rainfall for the entire year.

St. Petersburg College’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement is leading the way for the SPC family to send hurricane relief to our distressed neighbors in Texas. Everyone is invited to drop off donations of bottled water, non-perishable food items, toiletries, clothes, bedding and other necessities to any SPC Student Life and Leadership Office through 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. All donations will be turned over to the Red Cross for their disaster relief efforts in Texas. Cash donations are also helpful, and can be made at the Red Cross or The Salvation Army.

In letter to all of SPC, College President Tonjua Williams said the weather event being experienced in Texas is very relatable to people in our coastal community.

Titans for Texas“As Floridians, we know all too well the pain and anxiety that can occur during and after severe weather events like the one happening to our neighbors across the Gulf of Mexico,” she wrote. “We also understand how important it is to reach out and lend our assistance to others in their time of need.”

The storm knocked out power for more than 100,000 people, and officials predict that around 30,000 people will take refuge in public shelters, and some 450,000 will seek disaster assistance. So, the needs of this community are enormous. Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement Director Tara Newsom says they are encouraging everyone to donate – no matter how big or small.

“The amount of loss in Texas is painful, and directly impacts many of our SPC staff, faculty and students,” Newsom said. “Helen Keller said it best: ‘Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.'”



Call to Artists

SPC's The Art of Politics

The Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement is proud to announce their fall art exhibits, titled Propaganda, Protest and Satire. The exhibits, which will be displayed at the St. Petersburg College Downtown Campus art walkway and Allstate Campus art hallway August 17 – November 16, will display aspects of political and civic thought including patriotism, community involvement, dissonance and propaganda. Artists are encouraged to interpret the art of politics to include issues of social justice, the community, and the individual’s place within.

These exhibits are the first of a series of events during the Fall semester called The Art of Politics: The Art of the Possible, which is designed to illustrate the diverse threads of civic thought and expression often represented through art, whether it be politically motivated art or meaningful civic dialogue.

Other events this fall include:

  • SPC Art of PoliticsCivic Public Mural Art: Murals will be on display from Sept-Oct. at the Seminole, Gibbs and Downtown Campuses
  • The Art of Civic Dialogue Workshops: In partnership with USF, students will explore the role of art in positive civic dialogue and produce pieces to share with the Mayor and the community at large. Oct. 14 and 21 at USF campus; Oct. 27 at St. Petersburg City Hall steps
  • A Silent Message in a Tweeting World:  A panel discussion led by local author Peter Kageyama addressing the issues of political art in all its forms, including the role of art in the 2016 political arena, which is saturated with terse, ephemeral electronic messages. Nov. 1, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
Art exhibition instructions

Artists interested in having their work displayed in the Propaganda, Protest and Satire exhibits can note the following specifications:

Work Media: All welcome
Work Size: Up to 5′ x 5′; weight limit is 50 pounds/hanging cable. Please advise if modifications or accommodations for art are necessary.
Art drop off:  August 17, 1 – 3 p.m. or by appointment as needed

Submission review: Artists can submit 1 – 3 works for review online by clicking here.Please submit .jpeg images that clearly depict the works. You will be prompted to include title card information (Name, Title, Medium, Size, Price) with your submission, indicate any special needs for the piece and choose which campus you prefer. Faculty and administration have the right to refusal. Subjects should not depict nudity and should be appropriate for public viewing. Artists will receive emailed letters of acceptance, along with artist contracts and additional instructions.

Delivery: Art should be delivered to the St. Petersburg College Downtown campus, located at 244 2nd Avenue North. Artists will be allowed to park in the parking garage for art delivery. Directions and campus map are located here: The art space is located on the second floor of the parking garage. Artists will need to sign forms.

For more information, please contact Tara Newsom at