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St. Pete High hosts college seminar for Elevating Excellence students

June 18, 2024

When Rachel Bryan graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 2017, she had no aspirations of going to college or pursuing any sort of higher education.

Now, she is not only a graduate of the University of South Florida, but she is also serving a year-long reign as Miss USF 2024 after winning the school’s leadership pageant.

“I want them to know that they can do it,” Bryan said of the group of high school students gathered at St. Petersburg High for the Elevating Excellence Road to College Summer Seminar on Wednesday. “It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of self-doubt. But just take it one step at a time, one application at a time.”

Alumni panel discussionAccording to Kanesha Howard, who oversees St. Pete High’s College and Career Center, the event was created to provide resources for 2025, 2026 and 2027 graduates who are college bound. The three-day seminar included creating a FAFSA ID, creating a Common Application account, scholarship and financial aid information, a mini-college fair and an alumni panel of recent Pinellas County Schools graduates.

“We like to provide the resources so that they have the opportunity to make informed decisions on their future plans,” Howard said.

Seminars also took place at Countryside and Largo high schools.

Brooke Freeman, a student at Richard O. Jacobsen Technical High School, said she came to the seminar to finalize her plan to attend the University of Florida.

“I’m definitely going to UF,” she said. “It will be tough, but I’ll get there.”

College Fair

Arnav Sobti, a St. Pete High senior, said he learned a lot from listening to the alumni recount their experiences.

“It’s definitely a good way to gain more knowledge about college and get certain tips you don’t always learn,” Sobti said.

Three alumni – Amanda Rose Nachman, a Dunedin graduate who attended Ringling School of Art and Design, Azarria Simmons, a Lakewood High graduate who is attending St. Petersburg College, and Bryan (mentioned above), a St. Pete High alum who graduated from USF – comprised the panel and detailed everything from dorm life to class size, attendance and food.

“It was important to get the alumni panel so students get the real (experience),” Howard said. “Attending college has changed a lot through the years. Our students need to know what they’ll be getting when they go out.”

In addition to the Road to College seminars, College and Career Readiness will host several other opportunities this summer, including an essay workshop, SAT prep, college tours and a parent master class on college preparation. For more information, visit or contact Ms. Jackson-Stuart at