CLEARWATER — It's not that female students of St. Petersburg College were not worthy to attend a seminar in Clearwater Friday on how to succeed in school and in life.
It's that male students seem to be struggling more to achieve success. That's why only male students were invited to attend the seminar, "Keys to Manhood," on the SPC-Clearwater campus.
"It is designed to help give the male students a lift,'' said Kevin Gordon, provost of the downtown and Midtown campuses of SPC and organizer of the event.
By 10:30 a.m. Friday, 300 students had settled into classrooms for sessions with titles that included "How to get an A in Class," "Overcoming Legal Obstacles," and "What Career Is Right for Me?"
Speakers included Bryan Davis, director of All Pro Dad, the nonprofit organization founded by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy; Circuit Court Judge Michael Andrews, a recipient of the Pinellas Schools Unsung Hero Award; and state Rep. Darryl Rouson D-St. Petersburg, who said he wants men to rise up against life's challenges because "there are so many other young men who are counting on you, and you haven't even met them yet.''
The seminar was designed to help men succeed in school, at home and in life. During a session called, "Mo Money,'' presenter Tony Sasso, membership banking officer at Fifth Third Bank, discussed the nuts and bolts of personal finances. He stressed that even more important than earning money is "how you manage the money you have.''
"Take a look at professional athletes,'' he said. "Seventy-eight percent of NFL players file bankruptcy within two years of retirement. They understand the basics of football, but they don't understand the basics of money.''
Sasso also used a PowerPoint presentation to show attendees how to protect themselves from identity theft at places like the gas pump, the bank ATM, and Redbox movie machines — all areas where thieves can install hidden cameras to scan personal information.
Todd Smith, the director of financial assistance services at St. Petersburg College, led a session called "Juggling Everyday Life," offering tips on "how to man-up when life happens.''
About 50 students listened to Smith as he focused "on three key letters, S, P and D — Standards, Priorities and Discipline.''
"Above everything, discipline is one of the hardest things in life, if not the hardest,'' Smith said. "It is so tough to be disciplined, but know that if you master your habits, you've achieved greatness.''
Rouson, who traveled from Tallahassee to be the keynote speaker at the seminar, said it is key for male students to "rely on relationships you make with other men."
"You're not alone. There are other men who want you to make it. I want you to make it,'' he said.
After his speech, Rouson described why he felt it was important to hold a males-only seminar.
"A day like this allows an honest look,'' he said. "For example, at FAMU (Florida A&M University), the ratio is 14 women to one man. We could be losing a generation of young men and this is one way to try to capture them before extinction.''
Wilberto Rosario, a second-year SPC student, is seeking a degree in organizational leadership. He said the seminar gave him some valuable insight. There are times, he said, when he feels overwhelmed trying to balance family, job and school.
"Women do seem to find success easier," he said. "Maybe it has to do with them being natural multitaskers, while men seem to have to focus on one thing at a time. This program has helped me think about all that."
Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.