Student Returns to Classroom for Early Childhood Education degree

An apple sitting on top of books.

Not every college student chooses a traditional route for their education. Some opt to enjoy a gap year working or traveling after high school, while others return to the classroom well after they have established careers or families.

Debbie Orifici is one such student. She adopted a “better late than never” attitude when it came to chasing her childhood dream of becoming a teacher, leaving behind 22 years as a flight attendant, and started working as a preschool teacher.

Despite her love of teaching, Debbie soon realized that there was a lot more to teaching young children than she initially thought. She began exploring her educational opportunities and discovered the Early Childhood Education program at St. Petersburg College. SPC offers an Associate in Science Degree in Early Childhood Education as well as three different short-term certificates as part of the program.

Of course, after more than 30 years away from the classroom (at least one where she wasn’t teaching), Debbie was slightly intimidated by the thought of trying to balance college and her job as a preschool teacher, but she persevered.

Debbie credits her husband of more than 28 years for supporting her on her way to academic success, and the encouraging community of faculty, staff and classmates she found at the college.

“Any doubts I had of getting my degree dissolved when I walked through the doors of St. Petersburg College in the fall of 2016. Throughout my journey, I have received endless support and encouragement from everyone at SPC,” Debbie said.

Her journey at SPC will soon be coming to an end, as Debbie is projected to complete her degree during the upcoming Summer 2020 semester. She’s excited for the future, a future that St. Petersburg College helped prepare her for.

“The Early Childhood Education courses I’ve taken have given me the tools I need to guide and nurture young children using Developmentally Appropriate Practices through intentional teaching,” Debbie said. “I see every day the positive impact I am making in the lives of these young children—one that will last them a lifetime.”

Debbie was highlighted for this student profile as part of Career & Technical Education (CTE) Month at St. Petersburg College. To learn more about the different CTE degrees and certificates that SPC offers, please visit If you would like to read additional student profiles for CTE Month, be sure to check out the other SPC blogs at as well as the SPC Facebook page and Twitter account.

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