Foundation hosts annual Donors and Scholars Luncheon


donors and scholars gathered to listen to a speaker at a podium

The annual Donors and Scholars Luncheon, hosted by the St. Petersburg College Foundation, is an opportunity for those who give to the SPC Foundation to sit down for lunch with SPC students who have benefited from Foundation scholarships. On Tuesday, March 28, donors and scholars joined the Foundation at the Hilton St. Petersburg at Carillon Park for music, food and some moving talks from SPC scholars and supporters.

The event was emceed for the eighth year in a row by Veronica Cintron, former Bay News 9 anchor and current Vice President of Communications at Tampa International Airport. After a welcome from SPC’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Jesse Turtle, Cintron welcomed the crowd, and SPC Board Member Nathan Stonecipher offered the invocation before guests began their lunch. Musical entertainment was provided by SPC students Rebecca Pearl Salomon, vocalist, and Liam Edwards, guitarist.

Cintron took the stage again after lunch and informed the donors in the audience of the magnitude of their generosity.

“This year, the Foundation will award scholarships to more than 3,000 students, representing more than $2.6 million in awards,” she said. “College programs also benefited from your generosity, with over $2 million in private support.”

Dr. Rebecca Smith, President and CEO of A.D. Morgan Corporation was the first speaker, recounting her journey of making her dream of owning her own company come true – which she did by age 29.

“You have to listen to your soul, because your goal is to align your mind with your passion,” Smith advised.

Anthony Walker, recipient of a Helios Education Foundation FAAME Scholarship, spoke on his mantra, “Failure Is Not an Option.” Recounting a troubled childhood, he inspired with his story of tenacity in the face of poverty and abuse, graduating high school with myriad awards for academics and sportsmanship.

“I knew that I had to succeed academically to change the trajectory of my life,” Walker said.

Walker, the Vice President of the Clearwater Campus Student Government Association, is studying to become a teacher. He credited his time at SPC as one of personal growth and accomplishment.

“Each day, I get one step closer to my goals, and I owe it all to this college,” Walker said. “I thank the Helios Foundation for the opportunity to attend SPC, the best institution this side of eternity.”

Christopher Silva, recipient of several Foundation Scholarships, gave a moving account of how his young son’s battle with brain cancer and ultimate passing motivated Silva to, after years as a military aircraft mechanic, pursue a degree in pediatric nursing. There weren’t many dry eyes in the house, and even SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams was moved to join him on stage to offer support as he struggled for words through his emotional speech.

“When I talked to my son about his future, I assured him he would not be forgotten, and that I would become a pediatric nurse and help others out of the darkness we had faced,” Silva said.

Silva noted the challenges of nursing school, both academic and financial, and how, with the help of donors, students can focus their time and energy on their courses rather than worrying about how they’re going to pay their tuition and bills.

“Thank you for helping me keep my promise to my son,” Silva said. “I can’t wait to walk across that stage, knowing I’ve done this in his honor.”

Before Cintron closed out the program, Williams took the stage to offer thanks to the students for their candor and the donors making all that SPC does possible.

“By building up our students and elevating them,” Williams told donors, “You elevate their families. By elevating their families, you elevate the community. Thank you for all you’re doing to change our communities, improve lives and take people from poverty to prosperity.”

Interested in becoming an SPC Foundation donor? Check out their web page for information on ways to give.

Dr. Williams and a donor at the podium
speaker at the donors and scholars luncheon