1. Education

With a college fair geared to black students, Shorecrest Prep reaches for more diversity

The 2017 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) College Fair at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg drew about 400 students. Organizers say they expect as many as 600 at the second annual event Sunday. [Courtesy Jack and Jill of America]
Published Sep. 12, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Janiece Simmons wasn't expecting much when she arrived at Shorecrest Preparatory School last year for its inaugural fair for historically black colleges and universities.

She wandered through the 20-some tables, taking a pamphlet here and there. A junior at Gulfport's Boca Ciega High School, she had to prove to her mom that she at least tried, she said.

But when Simmons passed the table for Tennessee State University — adorned with a big, royal blue banner — something clicked. She lingered there, listening to recruiters' pitches about what the school had to offer, and her post-high school dream started taking shape.

"I came home and showed everything to my mom and said, 'This is the school that I want to go to,'" said Simmons, now 17 and a senior at Lakewood High School. "Ever since I left the fair, I have known I want to go to that school."

On Sunday, hundreds of college hopefuls like Simmons are expected to visit Shorecrest for its second annual fair, put on in conjunction with the local chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., a national organization working to improve quality of life for African-American children.

Organizers say the fair is part of Shorecrest's effort to better connect with the diverse community of St. Petersburg, where it opened in 1923. Roderick Fludd, the school's director of diversity and inclusion, hopes it boosts the school's minority enrollment, too.

In the past, Shorecrest "has been considered the rich, white school," said Fludd, who was hired in 2017. "At one point it may have been that there were not a lot of students of color here … when it was not a school aspiring to be as diverse as it is."

Today, about 80 percent of the school's students are white, according to Shorecrest spokesperson Rachel Barrett. Of the 20 percent that aren't, 3 percent are African-American.

"Our student body is becoming more and more diverse," she said, pointing to the school's strategic plan.

One of the five priorities listed in the plan is to "demonstrate and deepen a community-wide commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion." Actions steps toward that goal are to recruit minority candidates for jobs, offer professional development about diversity for students and families, and expand international and cultural studies.

"We are making sure that people in St. Petersburg are aware that we are here and aware that this is not a closed campus," Fludd said. "Providing opportunities like the HBCU fair, so African-American students can come on our campus, is a step toward that."

More than 30 colleges are registered for Sunday's event, Jack and Jill representative Crystal Pruitt said. As co-chair of the fair, she said she hopes the more than 600 students signed up to attend find possibilities that haven't even crossed their minds. About 400 students attended last year's event.

"Sometimes, for financial reasons, students can't travel to these schools," she said. "The fact that we're bringing them here so they can meet with recruiters face-to-face makes a big difference."

Before attending the fair last year, Simmons planned to go to the University of Central Florida in Orlando. But the human connection she made with recruiters from Tennessee State won her over, so she applied.

"They have sent me a letter saying that so far, my application looks good," she said. "It's still my dream school."

Contact Megan Reeves at Follow @mareevs.



  1. Adjunct faculty at St. Petersburg College voted to unionize Tuesday, joining thousands of other adjuncts across Florida who are fighting for better working conditions and pay. [Times]
    The employees are the seventh group in Florida to join Service Employees International Union in recent yeas as it pushes for investment in the state’s higher education institutions.
  2. A pauper's cemetery was established at the northeast corner of property now occupied by King High School in Tampa, location of the school gymnasium (tall building at top left) and the main parking lot. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Conflicting versions emerge of where Ridgewood Cemetery was located. One thing is certain: It was ignored or forgotten.
  3. The University of South Florida ranked ahead of UCF, FIU and FAU in the U.S. News & World Report's Global University Rankings. [USF handout]
    The University of Florida finished 105th, while USF came in at 310. Harvard led the world.
  4. Workers begin construction in 2010 on what would become Winding Waters K-8. That was the last new public school built in Hernando County, which faces capacity strains as officials ask for impact fee increases to keep up with growth. HERNANDO TODAY PHOTO BY HAYLEY M  |  Hernando Today
    The district first would add classrooms at three existing schools, but could need four new schools by 2039.
  5. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  6. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  7. First-year Cox Elementary School teacher Kevin Knibbs, 33, of Dade City, answers questions about the components of time: hours, minutes, seconds, to his third-grade class on Monday, September 30, 2019, at the school in Date City. From left are students Angel Young, 8, Arlene Luna, 8, and Jahkia Gray, 8. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Special Olympics athlete Lucas Yingling, 7, is cheered on by Pasco-Hernando State College basketball player Hayden Greene during a conditioning clinic held at Wendell Krinn Technical High in New Port Richey. Michele Miller
    Team members help Special Olympians hone their skills.
  9. First-year Cox Elementary School teacher Kevin Knibbs, 33, of Dade City, walks with students Angel Young, 8, left, and Kaivion Williams, 9, right, while en route to his third-grade class on Sept. 30 at the school in Date City. Knibbs decided to become an educator after working as a school custodian. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Kevin Knibbs never thought about working with students — until he started interacting with them.
  10. Bayonet Point Middle School teacher Cynthia Thompson wants to become Pasco County schools superintendent. Courtesy of Cynthia Thompson
    Cynthia Thompson is a graduation enhancement instructor at Bayonet Point Middle School.