Date ArticleType
4/12/2018 Member News

St. Petersburg College joins LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network

This is a press release from St. Petersburg College. For more information, contact Rita Farlow, Assistant Director, Marketing and Strategic Communications, 727-302-6526 or Marilyn Shaw, Public Relations Specialist, 727-341-4712.

St. Petersburg College joins LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network

St. Petersburg College joins LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, previously known as the LEAP Hillsborough College Access Network. This organization is a cross-sector network of regional partners who work together to promote their community-wide commitment to college access and attainment in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, with the goal of ensuring that Tampa Bay has a globally competitive workforce.

LEAP was founded by a collaboration of 12 Hillsborough County organizations. The network has expanded to Pinellas County, which now includes St. Petersburg College, Pinellas County government, Pinellas Education Foundation, Pinellas County Schools and the University of South Florida - St. Petersburg.

“LEAP is the pathway for Pinellas and Hillsborough residents to prosperity,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams. “This collaborative initiative equips the region to be a thriving workforce and to move the economy forward.”

LEAP leadership uses a collective impact model of collaboration to guide coordinated strategies by partners, all geared at increasing attainment of high-quality college degrees and credentials. LEAP’s overall vision aligns with the state’s “Rise to 55” goal for all of Florida, and the national “GOAL 2025” movement, which seeks to have 60 percent of working-age adults holding such credentials and degrees by 2025.

“Our region’s economy is not exclusive to one county, and we have to address major issues like building a talent pipeline to meet our workforce needs on a regional basis,” said Marlene Spalten, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the network’s backbone partner. “Increasing college attainment is vital to this cause, so growing the college access network to include Pinellas County was a natural evolution for LEAP.”

Since launching two years ago, LEAP has made significant strides in breaking down a major barrier to college attainment: financial aid.

Last year, LEAP supported Hillsborough County Public Schools in conquering the Florida FAFSA Challenge, an initiative which strives to boost the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by at least five percent over the last school year. The increase in FAFSA completion meant an estimated $3 million more in Pell grants was available in Hillsborough County compared to the prior year.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay also announced last year the commitment of up to $2.5 million by Helios Education Foundation and USAmeriBank Foundation to establish a scholarship fund for the FUSE program, one of LEAP’s four strategic pillars. FUSE provides students a guaranteed pathway to a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida as they earn their associate degrees.