A second home at the Y

Carrollwood, FL- For some people, YMCA is a classic party song and dance, for many others, it’s a place called home.

Officially referred to as, “the Y” now, this nonprofit organization is still a place of comfort. Whether it be an after school program or a late night gym session after a long day at work, it’s a second home for some.

The Y defines themselves as a nonprofit organization like no other, with locations in 10,000 neighborhoods across the country.

In Carrollwood, the Bob Sierra Family YMCA underwent major renovations using money donated entirely by the public and parents of the children who spend their days there.

Through these generous donations, the Top Flight Gymnastics portion of the Y was built.

Inside these four big walls, children ages 2-17 spend time escaping the real world and its problems by entering a safe place with their friends.

Destiny Garcia is one of the many gymnasts at Top Flight. She uses her time there to escape from anything going on outside the gym.

“It means a lot to me because its very encouraging and it helps a lot of us get through many problems that we have,” Garcia said.

With their friends, these future gymnasts work hard. This place is more than a place to go when school lets out, it’s a second home.

“I’m here 24/7 from 3:30 to, I would have to 7 or 8:30, everyday, Monday through Friday including today, it’s a lot of work, it’s like either you commit or you don’t commit,” gymnast Emma Barton said.

The YMCA is committed to making sure kids like Emma will always have a place to call home.

To learn more about the Y, visit: www.ymca.net.

More Than Meets the Eye At Office of Orientation

The University of South Florida’s Office of Orientation has a reputation around campus for being peppy tour guides.

While this isn’t a bad reputation to have, it also isn’t what they truly stand for.

If you visit this office on campus you’ll find that the students who work there care a lot more about the university and its students than you think.

Office of Orientation office staff member and former Orientation Team Leader, Brooke Aronow, loves the feeling of giving back.

“I love orientation because it gives me the opportunity to talk to students and make them feel comfortable about coming to USF. I love being able to be an input and give them guidance on this transition.”

The office has been around for about 20 years now and each year, they are working to improve their programs. Right now, their office consists of office staff workers, orientation leaders, family leaders and transition mentors, each playing a key role in the orientation process.

In previous years, the school handled orientation differently but since this office came to be, students have been able to feel better prepared for the next four years of their lives.

The two programs that are now offered through the office are First Year programs and Transfer programs, each catering to a different student population.

Each year, the senior staff works to develop more innovative programs and ways to keep the students engaged.

It is safe to say that this office is the first point of contact for many students, and without them, the USF experience might be very different.

 

Share-A-Bull shares their success

With more than 320 buildings on campus, covering about 1700 acres, the University of South Florida is what some might call a huge campus.

Students have the task of trekking across campus to get to their classes on time. Some choose to drive, some choose to walk and some choose a slightly more interesting option.

The Campus Recreation Center rang in the new school year by introducing Share-A-Bull bikes, a program which they define as an “enjoyable, safe and emissions-free way to travel while increasing physical activity”.

Morgan Francis, the Assistant Director of Outdoor Recreation, is pleased with the program’s participants.

“We average 25 rides per bike. There are 16 other programs like this; same company, same manufacturer, and they average five rides per bike. So we’re doing five times more than any other program in the world”.

The numbers are keeping Francis happy, but there are a few things he hopes students stop doing with these bikes.

“It’s free and so students treat it like they do anything else that’s free. We actually have video of people riding them downstairs, so we’ve had to take some of them off service and do some repairs”.

Even with a few students mistreating the bikes, the program has been a great addition to the campus.

The best part is not that it’s free to students, but that it’s easy.  All you have to do is download the app and register. Then, you can find a bike, punch in your code and you’re free to roam.

To learn more, visit: https://usf.socialbicycles.com

To download the app, search: Social Bicycles

 

From the fields to the classroom

From the fields to the classroom, Marcos Gonzalez is an inspiration to his family and fellow USF students.

Growing up, Gonzalez was raised by migrant farmers who moved from city to city looking for work.

With each change of season, the Gonzalez family would be on their way to a new environment. They had no choice but to follow the crops in order to keep their family fed.

Gonzalez had to play the role of both son and student, which proved to be difficult.

“I did dual enrollment to ensure that college was an option,” Gonzalez said. “I would drive an hour to school and then an hour back, play baseball so that I had extracurriculars under my belt, then go work in the fields with my father.”

With dreams of his future constantly on his mind, Gonzalez worked diligently to apply to schools and scholarships. Sometimes, his migrant lifestyle got in the way of his college plans.

“I was actually a finalist for the Gates Millennium Scholarship for a quarter of a million dollars. Due to my migrant lifestyle, my GPA suffered and I didn’t meet the requirements.”

Even with these setbacks, he persevered. A member of the business community at USF, Gonzalez is also an ambassador and a world traveler. But he still believes that his family is what is most important.

“I have studied abroad in China and Italy yet I still work in the fields with my dad every summer. I guess some things will never change.”