A first-generation Asian-American who grew up in the St. Petersburg area, 21-year-old Vichetca Keth is now the first University of South Florida student to graduate from the Pinellas Access to Higher Education (PATHe) program. On August 6, she will receive a bachelor's degree in Global Business during the Summer 2022 Commencement ceremony.
PATHe is a partnership between St. Petersburg College (SPC) and the USF St. Petersburg campus that seeks to provide attainable access for Pinellas County students interested in obtaining education beyond high school through guidance and resources.
After graduating from Osceola Fundamental High School in Seminole, Keth wasn't sure what she would do next. She took college-level courses her senior year but wasn't ready to attend a 4-year university like USF. She was among the first group of students to enter the PATHe program in 2018.
"I think it was important to enroll in the PATHe program because I've always been shy and in my shell. This program made me comfortable speaking to other students and working with campus staff. It pushed me out of my comfort zone," Keth said.
PATHe counselors work with USF Office of Admissions to refer students from Pinellas County who do not yet meet admissions requirements, and help them get started at SPC with the goal of transferring to the USF St. Petersburg campus.
"We recognize that planning for college can be daunting, but the PATHe program is available to help students and families navigate this unique time," said Carolina Nutt, Director of the COMPASS Student Experience at the USF St. Petersburg campus. "The program offers students and families the opportunity to meet one-on-one to discuss their goals and aspirations and help them determine how to plan for college."
Keth eventually got her associate's degree at SPC and transferred to USF in the Fall of 2020. It was a challenging time for students as they had to adapt to remote learning.
"It was during COVID, and everything was pretty much online, so I felt like my first semester of college, I didn't get that college experience I wanted," Keth said. "But it got better, especially last year when I went to the Tampa and St. Petersburg campus. It was really interesting to me because I got to see the lifestyle at both campuses."
Since then, Keth has felt more confident in herself as an Asian-American woman who often felt unable to connect with other students in high school and college.
"I joined the Vietnamese Student Association. I'm Cambodian, and I wanted to connect with the Asian community more. I was in a predominantly white high school, and I felt like I never fit in, so it was nice to be in an environment where I could connect with people like me. We had similar experiences growing up, so I really liked that," she explained.
Keth is currently working at Target, where she was recently promoted to style manager. With a now attained college degree, her goal is to continue learning about business and marketing and someday work in real estate.