Local elementary school opens food pantry to help support students

Clair-Mel Elementary School in Tampa has opened a new food pantry to combat child hunger among students.

Because 98 percent of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch, school principal Rick Grayes and school social worker, Delora Campbell, saw a need for the pantry.

“I had a lot of kids coming to me saying they didn’t have food in the refrigerator,” Campbell said. “A lot of parents coming to me saying ‘I have to make a decision on whether I can afford to pay my rent or feed my children.’”

One of those children was third-grader Heaven-Leigh Gillisford.

“When I didn’t have food in my refrigerator, it was butterflies in my stomach,” Heaven-Leigh said.

Clair-Mel partnered with the Just Full Service Center, a Tampa food distributor for the needy, and received a $2,000 grant to open the pantry.

The pantry is available for all students and families. Grayes and Campbell want the parents to know that they are there for support.

“We are very excited,” Grayes said. “This is the way that we are trying to provide a layer of support, and ultimately this is going to help students be successful in life.”

Clair-Mel has partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay and has applied for grants from Walmart. Their hope is to continue to receive donations in order to make sure the pantry stays open to help feed the students.

A Young Florida High Girls Basketball Team Heads to Lakeland

A Young Florida High Girls Basketball Team Heads to Lakeland 

After defeating their opponent during overtime to win the regional final, Tallahassee’s Florida High is ready for the state finals in Lakeland.

Last year, the Florida High Lady Noles had an unsuccessful season. They lost in the first round of the district championships. According to head coach Darryl Marshall, this year has been different.

“The season has been great. The girls came out mentally focused, ready for the season and ready for this run that we are on now since day one,” Marshall said.

The Lady Noles are now on the verge of making history as the youngest ever to win a 5A State Championship. Two of three team leaders are in eighth and ninth grade. Freshman Kendall Thomas and eighth grader Jordan Rosier have led this team to the state semi-finals.

“I’m the point guard, I am the leader of this team,” Thomas said. “I just go out and play my own game.”

“I had a lot more responsibility this year, I had to put on a big pair of shoes this year and step up,” Rosier said.

These young players must carry triumphant athleticism in their blood because 10 years ago it was their older sisters, Chelsea Rosier and Autumn Thomas that led the Lady Noles to win the state championship.

“Growing up it was always me and her and now it’s so funny to see Jordan and Kendall,” Chelsea Rosier said. “It’s like déjà vu.”

This young duo is only a small part of this dynamic team. The Lady Noles will play Fort Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons on Wednesday, Feb. 22, as they strive to win the state championship and continue to make history.