St. Petersburg College is bringing its collegiate high school program to a third location, this time enrolling ninth-graders with the hope of preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“Our goal is to increase their economic mobility and to prepare them to be very successful to enter the workforce or to continue their post-secondary education,” said Starla Metz, SPC’s associate vice president for the schools.
The charter school program, started in 2004, currently has locations on its main St. Petersburg campus and in Tarpon Springs, both focused on graduating students with a high school diploma and an associate in arts degree simultaneously. They enroll students in grades 10 through 12.
The new program, at SPC’s downtown St. Petersburg campus, will allow students to earn a diploma and an associate in science degree at the same time. They will receive training in computer information systems or data systems; have a chance to earn at least two industry certifications, including in business soft skills or Excel; and be offered opportunities for mentorships or internships.
Students can take extra courses to complete an associate in arts degree, Metz said.
For this fall’s incoming class, the school will admit 75 freshmen, 75 sophomores and 50 juniors. By the third year, the school projects enrollment to reach 320.
Students in their first year will focus on a normal high school curriculum with extra reading programs involved — an area students often struggle with in college, Metz said. The second year will feature computer applications courses, and by the third year students will be taking classes alongside other college students taught by college professors at the downtown campus.
“We feel students having that strong technology foundation will serve them well in any STEM career field,” Metz said.
The program also features weekly seminars for juniors and seniors and career counseling.
“The goal is that they’re going to have a career that plays to their strengths, that they’re passionate about and has the standard of living that they want,” Metz said. “And ultimately that they’re contributing to make the world a better place, because that brings joy and that brings fulfillment in life. We talk to them very honestly about that.”
The program is free and Metz said the school pays for all costs, including graphing calculators and scantrons.
“It helps students understand they can reach for the career of their dreams, even if they’re first generation in college, even if there’s not support around them at home.”