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    Graduates close one door, look to the next

    Thousands of students graduated Saturday from Stetson, USF and SPC.

    By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 15, 2002


    TAMPA -- Five years ago, Tallie Gainer III dropped out of college. He was about to become a father. Priorities had to change.

    But he knew he wouldn't get where he wanted without that degree.

    He re-enrolled. And on Saturday, he finished.

    Gainer, 24, joined nearly 3,000 other people in becoming new graduates of the University of South Florida.

    "I want my children to know daddy pressed on," said Gainer, a youth adviser in Tampa and the father of three.

    More than 3,500 people cheered proudly and snapped photographs in the Sun Dome as about 800 graduates got their degrees in person.

    "Now he can start getting into the real world -- pay taxes, pay his own way," said Theresa Mays, whose son, Jason Mays, 22, earned his bachelor's degree in medical technology.

    Mays said she and husband, Donald, helped pay Jason's expenses while he was in school.

    "I feel I'm getting a raise," Donald Mays joked.

    Many graduates said they wouldn't have time for a breather. The next step: a job or more school.

    Tashawnda Givens, 23, and Remona Singleton, 20, said they would pursue master's degrees in psychology.

    "More money, more money, more money," Givens said, when asked why.

    Andrea Lux, 22, of St. Petersburg, wasn't sure what would come next.

    She majored in communications, she said, because she knew it would be a breeze. Law school might be next. Then again, "I'm in no rush. I have the rest of my life."

    Lux was more decisive about her footwear: High heels, glossy pink.

    "So my family could see me better," she said.

    Before they walked, the new grads got advice.

    "Stop as you climb that ladder," said Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Raymond Gross. "Reach down and offer a hand to those behind you."

    USF president Judy Genshaft said the world is "a more serious place than when you arrived." But "human progress has always been led by scholars."

    Now that he has a degree in interdisciplinary natural sciences, Gainer said he's gunning for a master's in business administration.

    His ultimate goal: Setting up health clinics in the inner city.

    Saturday, he said, was simply "step one, phase one."

    -- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com

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