Grow Smarter’s core goals include building connections between sectors, advancing conversations around equitable economic development, and sparking action in St. Pete. We aim to recognize whenever partners are doing amazing work to “spark action” around inclusive prosperity – and we are excited to announce our Sparking Action series, which allows us to showcase these community members who are working to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives in our city.
St. Petersburg College Foundation is an organization that truly embodies that mission. As a part of our COVID response, we partnered with the SPC Foundation to establish a scholarship and endowment to assist those who find themselves impacted by the coronavirus and create new opportunities for education and training.
We had the pleasure to (virtually) sit down with Jesse Turtle, Executive Director of the SPC Foundation, to discuss how the Foundation is helping current and prospective students, details about the Grow Smarter scholarship, and some of the lessons the Foundation has learned along the way.
The Grow Smarter Scholarship
Our Steering Committee convened in early April to identify areas of need in the community. Supporting St. Pete residents who have lost jobs or income due to COVID jumped right to the top – a need that aligns with Grow Smarter’s Education & Training and Job Creation focus groups. In our conversation with Jesse, we both agreed that having an immediate opportunity for assistance to students was paramount. Grow Smarter and the SPC Foundation worked quickly to establish the Grow Smarter scholarship, which is geared towards helping those impacted by COVID. He went on to point out that the scholarship won’t be one and done, but with the endowment, it’s a program with longevity. The scholarship will create opportunities for education beyond the COVID pandemic.
One facet of the SPC Foundation’s mission is community engagement because, unlike a lot of other colleges, St. Petersburg College grads stay here in St. Pete. They actively maintain and distribute 300 scholarships for students based on both need and merit.
As a part of their COVID response, SPC began raising money and pivoted part of their established “emergency scholarships” to start awarding upwards of $500 to students in order to help them stay afloat and continue their studies. More than half of the donors to this fund were faculty and staff. At the time of our conversation, the SPC Foundation had awarded over $130,000 to 400 students.
If you’d like to contribute to assisting SPC students, you can donate to the Grow Smarter endowment. Along with monetary donations, you can donate food and clothing to the pantries that SPC maintains on their campuses. And once they are able to reopen, you can support the college by attending performances and events at the theater, planetarium, and other campus activities.
Thanks again to Jesse for taking the time to talk and for the work of the SPC Foundation to make the Grow Smarter scholarship happen. For more information on the scholarship and link to apply, go here. Applications close on July 24, 2020.