ST. PETERSBURG — A one-story house planned for St. Petersburg College's Gibbs Campus is the first of its kind — a dorm and study center for female students of exceptional intellectual prowess but limited financial means to complete their degrees.
Upon completion, the Helen K. Leslie House will be home to 16 full-time students pursuing a range of careers.
The students will vary in both age and backgrounds. At a time when the cost of attending college is rising, they will live rent free.
The only cost would be a $350 semester fee to cover food, utilities and maintenance. In addition, each student will receive a bicycle to get around town.
At an upcoming fundraiser for the "scholarship house" set for the Don Cesar Beach Resort next month, Helen K. Leslie, a board member of the St. Petersburg College Foundation who was instrumental in developing the first such residence in Florida, hopes to explain why students will be much likelier to succeed as residents of the house.
"It's a home away from home" for students who otherwise would not be able to attain a degree, said Christine Weigle, a board member of the Education Foundation, a charity of the Florida Foundation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.
The foundation and the business group have formed a partnership to establish the dorm, which would be the first student housing in the history of St. Petersburg College.
Leslie is a past national president of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.
Thus far, $200,000 has been raised, but more than twice that is being sought to pay for the $700,000 home.
Last fall, Envision Architects, based in New York, began conceiving a design. And a contractor, Tampa-based A.D. Morgan Corp., has begun planning for a groundbreaking.
The scholarship house follows a tradition that began in 1965, when Leslie helped create the first house at Florida State University. Since then, the Education Foundation has built two other scholarship houses at the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University.
Weigle said past graduates of the program include a physician in Orlando, an attorney living in Washington state and a current MBA student at the University of Georgia.
Though associates degrees are the highest level of study at the Gibbs campus, future residents will be allowed to stay to pursue higher degrees within the college system, Weigle said.
The fundraiser, a black-tie dinner and dance, will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. March 28 at the Don Cesar Beach Resort, 3400 Gulf Blvd., in St. Pete Beach.
Sponsorships are available. Individual tickets, including a cocktail hour, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, and music and vocals by Suzette Jennings & MoodSwingz, are $150.
A table for eight may be reserved for $1,200.
For more information, visit online at educationfoundation bpwfl.org.
Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or Lperez@sptimes.com.