Elementary school bench helps build friendships

Lacoochee Elementary School received a new bench this past March, but its purpose is much deeper than providing a place to sit. It’s being used to spread kindness and friendship to the students.

“What it is, it’s a friendship bench, but the name we gave it is called the ‘Kindness Corner’,” said Nancy Montoya, guidance counselor at Lacoochee Elementary.

The granite bench sits on the border of the elementary school, displaying school’s eagle mascot as well as the Kiwanis logo.
The granite bench sits on the border of the elementary school, displaying school’s eagle mascot as well as the Kiwanis logo.

The bench is a place for students to help others and make friends in the process. If a student is sad, lonely or needs a friend, they can sit on the bench. Students who see someone on the bench are encouraged to go up to him or her and strike up a conversation. They are to ask what is wrong, what they can do to make it better and be a friend in their time of need.

“It is a way for a student to be an up-stander and help someone else rather than ignore someone when they are in pain,” Montoya said.

Montoya got the idea for the bench from an article geared toward anti-bullying. She felt the students at Lacoochee could use it as a tool to gain social skills and build relationships. She contacted the Kiwanis Club of Dade City and they loved the idea.

“When Nancy contacted me at Kiwanis about having us possibly fund the bench, I couldn’t say no,” said Keith Williams, president of the Kiwanis Club of Dade City. “Friends are such a vital part of childhood, and the Kindness Corner is going to be a place for friendships to flourish.”

Lacoochee Elementary School is located in an area that struggles economically. Surrounding the school are three government housing developments. The school’s graduation enhancement teacher, Daniel Vazquez, says the majority of the students live in those developments.

“About 96 to 97 percent of them are on free or reduced lunch, which means they are living at or below the poverty level,” Vazquez said.

When Kiwanis donated the bench to the school, there was a large dedication to show the students the purpose of the bench and how to utilize it. The student response was overwhelming.

“The next day students were running up to me saying they see someone on the bench and they’re going to find out what’s wrong and make a friend,” Montoya said.

Many students believe the Kindness Corner is a great addition to Lacoochee.

“It’s a good idea because, if you don’t have a friend, then wait on the bench and then a friend might come to you,” said Nathaniel Vento, first grader at Lacoochee.

With the success of “Kindness Corner”, the faculty at the school believes the bench is going to be building friendships for years to come.

 

Bulls Radio program “Talk Di Tings” connects with USF’s Caribbean student culture

 

TAMPA— Students from the Caribbean have a significant presence at USF, from Club Creole to the Dominican American Student Association. Now, thanks to a group of Jamaican international students, there is even a Caribbean radio show.

“We named the show Talk Di Tings,” said Sunil Collins, co-creator and co-host of the show. “That’s kind of a Caribbean dialect for ‘talk the things.’ The things being things that are happening. Whatever is happening right now, we’re gonna tell you how we view it from a Caribbean perspective.”

Collins and co-creator Daniel Perry got the idea for the show in the summer of 2014. Their goal was to have a show filled with music and conversation a Caribbean audience could relate to.

“In coming to USF, a lot of international students, including myself, feel homesick,” said Perry. “We are in a foreign country with a foreign culture. In creating a show that can relate to the upbringing and culture of my Caribbean people, I hope listening gives them a piece of home here.”

Staying connected with their listeners is a priority for the Talk Di Tings crew. They use Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to engage listeners, posting videos, questions and snippets of the show. Talk Di Tings teamed up with the Caribbean Culture Exchange and hosted a party to promote the show and show the listeners a good time.

“We always dance and have fun in the studio, and we want to bring that vibe to our listeners,” Collins said. “We want them to feel like they are in the studio with us each time they tune in.”

Talk Di Tings airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on WUSF-89.7 in Tampa and can be streamed worldwide at BullsRadio.org.

 

USF jump roper doesn’t let injury hinder competitive spirit

TAMPA — From playgrounds to gyms, people of all ages jump rope for fun and fitness. Graduate student Kaylee Couvillion, however, combines both aspects as a competitive jump roper.

Couvillion, a graduate assistant in the University of South Florida’s Exercise Science Program, has been jumping rope for over 15 years. Having competed all over the U.S. and abroad, Couvillion’s jump roping career was halted when she was injured during a complex trick in November.

“I was on the very bottom level of this big multilayered trick that was happening,” she said. “The ropes missed, and then the next thing I know, the back foot got landed on by the guy on the top of the trick.”

Couvillion tore her plantar fascia and injured her big toe, leaving her unable to jump rope for two months. In addition to not being able to jump, she feared what her injury would mean for her as a graduate assistant teaching Boot Camp Fitness.

One of Couvillion’s students, Norma Cacho, was nervous when she saw her instructor in a boot on the first day of class.

“I was a bit skeptical of her at first,” Cacho said. “I mean, how much could she really teach us with a boot on her foot? Kaylee definitely proved me wrong. She would do pushups, lunges, and a bunch of workouts better than any of us — and we weren’t injured.”

Almost three months after her injury, Couvillion is slowly jumping back into the game. She even has her eyes on a jump rope competition in Orlando this July.

“I want to compete at least one more time,” Couvillion said. “Maybe more after that. It just depends on how my body holds up.”

Florida mulls new texting and driving legislation

Staying connected is always crucial on campus, but it comes at a cost. A texting and driving law exists in Florida, but the House and Senate are trying to make that law easier to enforce.

Chris Daniel, assistant chief  of the USF Police Department, has experienced the difficulty of enforcing the law.

“I’ve pulled up to students at red lights and have had roll-down window conversations because I saw them texting and driving,” Daniel said. “Although I can see they were blatantly texting, I can’t stop them because they aren’t doing anything else for me to stop them.”

Daniel is talking about the current Florida statute that allows texting drivers to receive a ticket only as a secondary offense, not a primary offense. This means drivers can be ticketed for texting and driving only if they are stopped for another offense and the officer then sees they were using the phone.

USF has over 40,000 students generating both foot traffic and car traffic on campus. Texting and driving here is a bad combination.

“We have a small community with a lot of people in it. A pedestrian can walk out in front of you, a bicyclist can ride out in front of you in seconds,” Daniel said.

The law may need to be updated to include other social media platforms. People are now using applications like SnapChat while they drive.

“I definitely see a lot of SnapChatting while driving on campus,” said Carlos Garcia, a USF senior. “I think texting and driving becoming a primary stop would be ideal. It’s about safety.”

States like Delaware and New York have made it illegal to use a phone while driving. Florida may be next.