Explore Tampa’s waterways with Riverwalk Boating Company


Jason Olewinski has lived in Tampa for nearly thirty years. A few years ago, he wanted to explore Tampa’s waterways, and what originated as a personal motorized kayak quickly became Jason’s reality and an affordable opportunity for both tourists and locals to enjoy Tampa’s canals.

“For the past few years our entertainment options have been limited,” Olewinski said. “So I went ahead and just bought a few and threw them down here and so far people have been loving it.”

Along the Tampa Riverwalk, next to the Convention Center, you will spot 6 green mini- powerboats floating in the water. Established in 2014, the Riverwalk Boating Company provides a thrill and unique water experience for all. Whether you have prior boating experience or not, you can be the captain of your own two- person mini- powerboat, minus the hassle of maintenance and repairs of owning a boat.

The mini boat can take you through the Tampa waterways. The winding Hillsborough River will take you north around the city and south along Bayshore to Davis Island.

Chris and Chantal are vacationing for the week and just happened to walk by the boats while exploring the city. The two decided to take out a boat for the afternoon and travel along Bayshore Boulevard.

“I loved it! It was so much fun. They go decently fast,” Chantal said. “The waves… that was fun, feeling it go all crazy for a second.”

Riverwalk Boating Company is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. until sundown. It is an enjoyable option for anyone 18 years or older with a driver’s license and a credit card, and dogs are also welcome onboard. The prices start at $35 for 30 minutes or $50 for one hour, and there are special rates if you rent out more than one boat.

To reserve your boat, visit riverwalkboating.com.


O’Shea Brings Poetry to Life at USF


Daniel O’Shea is fueling the fire for his campus organization, the Poets. Glimpses of a promising future leave many with hope.

Every Thursday night at the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, Daniel O’Shea performs a new masterpiece. Since arriving on campus, O’Shea has maneuvered his way into being the center of attention.

O’Shea’s unique style has separated him from the competitors into a dimension where only few poets amount.

According to O’Shea, “Poetry is a spoken expression of what you feel in your heart.”

Older poets have trouble reaching the younger generation of poets. However, O’Shea hopes he can be the one to bridge that gap.

“We live in the Google generation, so people don’t have to spend time thinking about things like they did in the past.” O’Shea said. “Therefore, the youth of the era would much rather for poets to simplify their craft and use less symbolism during performance.”

Students know Dan, as he is called by his group, as an easy going individual who can discuss any relevant topic during a performance.

“Dan’s Poetry, you know it is not like anybody else’s poetry I do not think,” Justin Uberg said. “He does not simply write nonsense about his cereal bowls, but sometimes he writes political and things like that. Even when there is a tone of seriousness to it, I like Dan’s poetry because it comes out in a really silly and Dan fashion.”

The Poets hope to venture off campus and into the inner city, where people desperately need words of hope that will change their lives.

Freedom High School student commits to Tennessee Tech

A student at Freedom High School in New Tampa is living out a dream that started four years ago.

“Before coming to Freedom I wasn’t even sure I was going to make the team,” Megan Clark said.

Clark, who graduates in May, recently verbally committed to play basketball starting next Fall at Tennessee Technical University. She will sign her National Letter of Intent next month.

“Her talent is not what got her to where she is but rather her dedication, intelligence and desire,” said Joeyn Dearsmen, Clark’s assistant coach.

“Megan is the type of kid that goes above and beyond, and when something is asked of her she gets it done, no questions asked,” said Dearsmen. “She’s not your typical high school kid, works out most days before the sun is up.”

The Freedom High girls’ basketball team has a history of sending girls to play at the collegiate level, something Clark is so proud to now be a part of.

“It means the world to me to be able to follow in the footsteps of players like Taylor Emery (Tulane University) and Faith Woodard (Georgetown),” Clark said.

Sad that she has one season left, but excited for what the future holds, Clark is ready for this season to start and get her team to the FHSAA State tournament in March before heading to Cookeville, Tennessee to continue her student athlete career.

The Freedom High Patriots kick off their season Wednesday November 16 against the Alonso Falcons. For the rest of the Patriots’ season, you can head to http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/freedom-patriots-(tampa,fl)/girls-basketball/home.htm.


Online News Association Holds Annual Meeting In Denver

Members of the Online News Association (ONA) travel from all over the country once a year to gather and discuss digital media. ONA is a nonprofit membership organization for digital journalists. It connects journalism, technology and innovation. This year, the ONA16 conference was held in Denver, Colorado.

“There are people here that I’ve seen that I follow on Twitter and… whose work I’ve admired that I have run into here,” Charlie Smart, a student from the University of Connecticut, said. “It’s been really cool just to meet all of these people and sort of have this shared interest of online news.”

Not only is the conference a great opportunity for students to learn, but also for professionals in the online news business. It teaches about the latest technologies like chat bots, analytics, Facebook live and 360 virtual reality.

Michelle Baruchman, a student from the University of Georgia, believes that ONA is simply innovative.

“From what it began in 1999, they were talking about like just having a website, and now, it’s evolved into 360 and virtual reality and cloning and you know just crazy stuff,” Baruchman said.

The association has over 2,000 members from around the world. People can check its website to find out if there is a local chapter near them. Joining ONA gives a person the opportunity to network and share insights with other students and professionals.

“ONA provides grants for research projects and fellowships for students to come,” Baruchman said. “They help foster your community within local areas and regional areas and then just mentorships.”

Is There a New Way to Test Batteries?

According to a recent Buzzfeed article, there is a new method to test the strength of batteries. By observing the bounce of batteries, you may be able to tell how much life is left in them.

“If you want to test that theory, you need to, you know one try will not do it,” physics professor University of South Florida’s Dr. Sarath Witanachchi said. “You’ve got to try maybe twenty times and see is there a pattern.”

USF engineering student Alex Tremper believes that such an experiment has already taken place and conclusions have already drawn.

“Princeton researchers have demonstrated that this can only tell you whether batteries are fresh, not whether they are charged enough to allow a device to function,” said Tremper.

Knowing whether or not batteries are fresh, can be useful in preparation for storms with potential, to cause power outages, like Hurricane Hermine. Battery-powered appliances can alleviate some of the inconveniences power outages bring.

“We had lots of flashlights, we actually had a battery-powered TV, radios, hand-held video games, things like that,” Tampa Bay Area resident Spencer Adkinson said.

Tremper and Dr. Witanachchi claim that a more reliable way to test a battery is with a voltmeter, which measures the voltage across the terminals of the battery. If the voltage drops below the amount the device requires, then the device will not function.

“This decrease typically happens slowly throughout the life of the battery with a dramatic decrease towards the end of the battery’s life,” Tremper stated.


OneBlood seeks donations after Hurricane Matthew

Blood donation centers on Florida’s East Coast resumed operations after the threat of Hurricane Matthew forced them to close their doors and halt donations.

As residents in the region prepared for the impact of the storm, hospitals and blood banks also prepared by ensuring that blood provisions were available.

“On a daily basis, blood is used in so many different ways to save lives,” said Dan Ebert, donor and community director at OneBlood.

While blood banks on the East Coast were closed, residents of the West Coast of Florida were encouraged to go out and donate in order to boost the blood supply. However, that would not be enough.

For the four days that donation centers were closed, thousands of possible blood donations from the East Coast were lost. Additionally, not enough people in the unaffected areas stepped up to give.

After the storm passed, the supply of blood, plasma, and platelets was critically low. Organizations like OneBlood have again asked people to go out and donate.

Frequent donors like Angeline Diamond understand the importance of donating blood.

“I’ve had plenty of family that been in car accidents and need blood. So I donate whenever I can just to help the community,” says Diamond.

For others, donating is a matter of their own health.

“When you donate you receive a wellness checkup,” explains Ebert.

The free wellness checkup includes a blood pressure test and cholesterol screening, which are valuable in accessing a donor’s health.

OneBlood and the Red Cross will be conducting blood drives all week long in order to replenish the blood supply.

For more information regarding donations, visit OneBlood online.

Wimauma Woman Offers Affordable, Comfortable Way to Get in Shape


After losing nearly fifty pounds, Rosie Velasquez is giving back to the community of Wimauma by hosting Rosie’s Boot Camp. The women-only boot camp helps females of all ages come together in a judgement-free environment for a common goal: to get in shape.

“Most of these women, they don’t go to the gym,” Rosie Velasquez said.  “They rather do a workout here in my boot camp because they’re, you know, shy to go to the gym.”

The women in her boot camp echo Rosie’s sentiment about favoring group fitness rather than the typical gym experience. Janet Huerta says that in addition to the group fitness environment she also likes the support she receives at the boot camp.

“I like the whole group fitness camp,” Huerta said. “I used to go to the gym but the whole group and the motivation that I get here is better than the gym for me.”

Velasquez also offers additional services for women who prefer one-on-one sessions.

“Well, I have some people…that are more shy,” said Rosie. “They don’t like to work out in front of people so they like to do…personal training.”

Rosie’s Boot Camp is offered Monday and Wednesday for five dollars.

Local Shoe Drive Helps Refugees in Need

National Welcoming Week is an event that encourages members of the community to promote unity by celebrating contributions from immigrants and refugees from all over the world with dance and performances. The University of South Florida hosted the event this year.

This year’s theme was centered on shoes for refugees with the theme being, “Small shoes, Big Journey.” Rachel Ackey, a 10-year-old volunteer, came up with the idea of a shoe drive to donate shoes to refugee children.

“I wanted to do something for them ’cause they have to run away from their homes ’cause of a war,” said Ackey.  “They probably just have the pair of shoes on their feet. So I wanna give them different shoes so they could feel welcomed and they could have new shoes for the school year.”

Volunteers hope to relay the message of unity to encourage the community to be welcoming to those transitioning from places where war, persecution or natural disasters are abundant.

In an effort to celebrate refugees and their backgrounds, event organizers hosted a fashion show where refugees got to participate in showcasing garments from around the world.

Over 100 pairs of shoes for kids were collected during the Week of Welcome, thanks to contributions and efforts from the community.

Experience St. Pete Through Dance

St. Pete Festival helps to build the city’s reputation as a harbor for the arts and celebrates local artists and their creations with 57 dedicated events ever weekend through September

On Sept. 17 a series of curated dance performances took the streets of downtown St. Petersburg. It was part of Our Town: A Moving Dance Tour of St. Pete, an original art installation directed by USF assistant professor of dance Andee Scott. Scott has wanted to create a piece of moving public art for some time now.

“I think it’s just fun to think of the audience as part of the performance,” said Scott.

The project received an overwhelming amount of support by all those who joined the tour and even those who chose to stay on the sidelines. Dozens of members of the community attended the event to discover something new about their city. Scott, together with the St. Pete Dance Alliance and Dance Linkages, are already in the process of putting together an even bigger art installation.

The audience traveled through the streets of downtown from one performance to the next and experienced historic sites in a new way. Dancers and performers from around the Bay Area were invited to participate in the event. Alex Jones, a choreographer from Collective Dance Soles Company, directed one of the seven performances of the evening.

“It was really nice to be asked to be a part of something so awesome,” said Jones.


USF Riverfront Park Offers Relaxing Escape For Students

Bonnie Buchanan, a student employee at USF Riverfront Park, and Olivia Parrillo, a Riverfront Park visitor and fellow USF student, both love the outdoors.

The students frequently visit Riverfront Park either to work, relax or enjoy the outdoors when they have time off school.

“It’s good for people to come out here and get in touch with nature and not be staring at their phones the whole time,” Buchanan said. “It’s just a really good way for students to enjoy what Florida’s wildlife has to offer.”

Riverfront Park is located in Tampa, close to a mile from USF’s Tampa campus. The park offers canoeing and kayaking rentals, as well as many other outdoor activities.

“I definitely would recommend it, it’s worth every penny, especially when you are on a college budget,” Parrillo said. “It’s worth the $10 for either two people or three people in a canoe or kayak.”

Riverfront Park is also home to a vast array of Florida wildlife.

“A big variety of wildlife, we definitely see a lot of alligators in the river and on the bank,” Buchanan said. “Definitely a lot of bird watching, different kinds of egrets.”

Buchanan has been a Riverfront Park employee for six months and graduates in the spring of 2017.

“My favorite thing about working at Riverfront Park is teaching the ropes course and seeing people face their fear of heights,” Buchanan said. “It sure beats sitting behind a desk all day.”

Riverfront Park is open Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Vegan Food Catering Business Embraces Education, Wellness

Yourhighness Tafari has been a vegan and Puritarian since 1998, which was a decision that motivated him in helping people improve their quality of health in the consumption choices they make.  Tafari’s devotion to spiritual purity, and food education soon became his life’s work.

In 2014, Tafari and co-owner Erica Cobb started the delivery/catering business The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen in the Wesley Chapel/Tampa area. Over the past two years, the business has made a commitment to provide cleaner eating at an affordable rate while using precision in their vegan cuisines to benefit people mentally and spiritually.

Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen caters all local events, as well as appearances in all of the open air eateries in Hillsborough County.

The business concept arose when both Tafari and Negus traveled to New Orleans to do volunteer assistance with victims of Hurricane Katrina. Negus had already obtained a culinary degree from the University of Texas, and at that point, was not using it.

Tafari and Negus found the experience to be valuable and applicable to a business idea, which led to the creation of The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen.

These two business owners specialize in all organic, non-meat food preparation.  Both owners show a passion for the work that they do, as well as passing on their culinary expertise to their children and youth of the community.

Tikur Negus, a chef from the Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen, said making quality vegan food and teaching people the benefits of vegan meals is important when representing the business.

“Our focus is on health, vision, and wealth,” Negus said.  “So we educate the people on the better ways of living, while providing food for them to show that vegan food is good for everybody.”

Tafari has been a lifelong Tampa resident. He can be reached through Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen on Facebook, as well as the “SourceTalk Saturday” monthly community events at the Tampa Community Center on 22nd Ave and Fletcher Ave.

The kitchen can be found on social media, as well as a monthly appearance at the Tampa Community Center. They offer monthly trainings for kids under 10 years of age.

Jumping Into Fitness

If you’re looking for ways to change up your fitness routine, jumping on a trampoline can do just that. Skyfit is a fitness class at Sky Zone that combines trampoline use and aerobic exercise.

The class is a circuit course that focuses on high interval training. The various exercises include planks, squats, Russian twists, bicycle crunches, step-ups, wall pushups and, of course, jumping. All of the exercises are done on a trampoline.

Amanda Dominguez is the manager at Sky Zone and says that jumping uses every muscle because it takes the stomach, arms and legs to bounce.

“You always keep that cardio rate going and you’re jumping,” Dominguez said. “So whenever you’re technically not doing a fitness exercise, you’re always exercising by jumping.”

Morgan Spaulding attended Skyfit for the first time and can’t wait to take the class again.

“I do feel the burn as I’m jumping,” Spaulding said. “When I’m down doing the different exercises, I can feel the different parts of my body being worked out.”

Spaulding felt safe while jumping and wasn’t concerned about getting injured. She states that you can just as easily misstep on the treadmill and fall down. Jumping on the trampoline is easier on her body than other cardio exercises.

The instructor, Jay Alvarado, said he tries to keep his class safe for everyone and structures it around each participant’s needs and abilities.

“We focus on awesome, healthy fun,” Dominguez said. “And an hour on the trampoline burns over a thousand calories.”



Florida Focus News of the Day Oct. 20th, 2016

In this episode: the Florida Democratic Party wants to suspend the Provisional Ballot Law so that newly registered but unverified voters can participate in early voting, but a federal judge denied the request; presidential campaigns are spending top dollar in our state, according to Politico; the nay area leads in sales for single family homes; Hillsborough county fair offers wholesome family fun.



Florida Focus News Brief 10-19-16

In this episode: a prisoner took a Bartow deputy hostage while the crew was out on lunch; two men and a woman who stole a wallet containing credit cards earlier this month are seen using the cards on Walmart surveillance video; healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony in Tampa as they unveil a brand new North American Global Services Center; Visit Tampa Bay held it’s 31st annual meeting today and says Tampa tourism is hitting record-breaking numbers; “Walkin’ the Beat,” a new Bradenton Police initiative that requires officers to get out of their cars and walk for one hour during each shift, hopes to ease tensions between law enforcement and residents.


Couple Starts Healthy Farm Business

Katy Sierra and Rosalyne Follman are the happy owners of a healthy, new business called Dirty Girl Farming. They grow microgreens and raise chickens on a farm in Wimauma, Florida.

“We both grew up in agriculture-based families—always outside—farm life, always doing something like that,” Sierra said. “So we that we wanted to head in that direction, so we came up with the idea for microgreens.”

The women have many tasks on the farm that range from finding the right balance of pH levels to sanitizing every individual seed before it’s planted.

“We only use pH balanced water so I have to find the right balance,” Sierra said. “Constantly moving things around during the day to get different parts of the sun, different times of the day where the sun hits it differently.”

They have dreams of expanding their business into a nationwide franchise.

“We definitely have plans of expanding,” Sierra said. “Not only here on this property, building more and more structures but we have plans to purchase neighboring properties as well but even beyond that I would love to see us in other states.”

Before they expand outside of Florida, they want to expand their own line of products and start offering home baked goods.

“I’m really excited about products that we have to come,” Sierra said. “We’re going to do baked goods and maybe skin care products and things like that.”

Their investor, Jessica Bellman, is fully supportive of their endeavors and points out the passion they have for the business.

“I think Dirty Girl Farming has not only a passion,” said Bellman. “But an interest in the education and putting healthy food on family tables.”

For more information or to purchase their products, you can visit their website at www.dirtygirlfarming.com.

Campus safety event with USFPD encourages awareness

The University of South Florida hosted a brand new event, National Campus Safety Day, on Sept. 28 that highlighted campus safety awareness.

Multiple organizations such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department and the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue came out. The idea of the event was to demonstrate awareness to the citizens of Hillsborough County.

“What we hope is that the police alone, the fire alone, the first responders can’t be always everywhere they need to be all the time,” said USF Police Chief, Chris Daniel. “By educating our community, that makes everybody part of the solution.”

The event lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and was full of students looking to participate. Demonstrations such as CPR with just your hands and how a police K-9 takes someone down were just a few on scene.

“This way there’s an incentive to listen to the information and to meet different people that you ordinarily would not meet,” Daniel said.

For more information regarding campus safety, visit USF’s annual security report and safety guide.

Local Junior College Begining to Make its Mark

Led by recruiting coordinator Antonio Nelson and starting quarterback Brandon Conner, the Gattaca Junior College football program, a local Tampa Bay junior college, is making a name for itself.

Entering only its third season of football, GJC is striving to not only win games on the field, but develop the character of its players off the field as well.

“How to treat people, uh, be respectable, yes sir no sir,” Nelson said. “Just become a better young man overall.”

Located in Tampa, GJC offers full-time college credit classes online as well as in person at Hillsborough Community College campuses.

“That’s not only on the field, its off the field,” Conner said. “it taught me a lot, honestly like, but being a man is number one you know it’s time to step into the real world.”

As the recruiting coordinator, Nelson has the responsibility of bringing talented young men to the program. One of the main recruiting tools that GJC uses to keep in touch with recruits is the use of social media.

“Right now our biggest hit is Facebook,” Nelson said. “We get a lot of kids from the Facebook page.”

Although being a Florida-based program, GJC still travels all over the east coast to play other junior college opponents.

“We travel all over,” Nelson said. “We travel to Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.”

Gattaca started its program in August 2013 and will travel to Kentucky this season for the first time in school history.