Policy changes for Title IX on college campuses?

Election year means new changes from the new person in office, and new policies replacing the old ones.

One thing that this election year has decided to change is former President Barack Obama’s Title IX guidance for colleges.

Title IX makes sure educational institutions do not discriminate against genders. Members of any gender may not be excluded from participation or be denied benefits in educational programs.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans on changing Obama’s Title IX and replacing it with a new policy she is working on. The new guidance is shorter and quick to the point compared to the old policy. It is in the form of a question-and-answer document and allows schools to decide how to handle cases of sexual misconduct on their campus.

“The tone of the new guidance is much more permissive than that of the Obama-era directives,” said Peter F. Lake, who leads the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Trump’s administration also rescinded documents from Obama’s Title IX guidance, including a 2011 Dear Colleague letter and a 2014 question-and-answer document.

Many colleges have announced that they will not be changing their current sexual misconduct policies. Colleges take sexual assault seriously and are not planning on changing their policies until more details are talked about.

In a background call with reporters, a senior department official said the government had left open the option of what schools do in this interim period but had no expectation about whether colleges would adopt a higher standard.

Crystal C. Coombes, senior deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of South Florida, spoke with the Chronicle of Higher Education and said her institution will stick with the preponderance standard for now.

“We believe it works well for us,” said Coombes.

DeVos did give credit to the Obama administration by bringing this issue to light and creating a policy to help, but she thinks the policy should be updated and changed.

“The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” said DeVos. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”

DeVos believes that changing the policy would be good and help all of those who are involved in sexual violence cases, including the people  accused of sexual violence and the victims.

“All students deserve protection. All students,” DeVos said in a news conference in July. “There has been a lack of clarity in this area. I heard from both groups in ensuring that the process is fair to both parties, and they’ve acknowledged that it isn’t today.”

Most people are not behind DeVos policy plan change and some fear that this will not help the victims at all, but only those accused of sexual violence. They think things will go back to how they use to be and victims won’t have their voices heard.

Title IX may have new policy changes. Some people may think the change is a good idea, while others may argue that there shouldn’t be any change. The government is taking careful consideration of both groups when creating the new policy.

Tampa Police Museum educates its community

TAMPA- There’s no doubt that police officers have a risky job. Saving the lives of others and making sure citizens are safe on a daily basis is an officer’s duty and mission. You can imagine the constant fear that their loved ones may have while they’re out patrolling our streets.

Mother and volunteer, Kathy Belmonte, knows about feeling anxiety as her identical twin sons work for the Tampa Police Department (TPD).  In order to keep her mind off the potential safety concerns Belmonte volunteers at the Tampa Police Museum.

“First of all they’re shocked that it’s free,” said Belmonte, who has been volunteering at the museum on Saturdays for a year. “That’s always a big shock.”

Organized in 1995, the museum holds the history of TPD from as early as the late 1800s. The museum is located on Franklin Street next to the police station in downtown Tampa.

The museum was originally an old courtroom on Tampa Street that contained memorabilia. Lieutenants Robert Pennington and Roberto Batista decided to turn the room into what it is today. There’s much to discover as one walks through the museum for the first time. Visitors can expect to see both an artificial helicopter and a police car. According to Belmonte, kids love taking pictures with both artifacts.

Artifacts are not the only main attraction one can experience. Visitors will be able to “time-capsule” their way and gain insight of TPD, which was formed in 1886.

“What they should expect is to see how police work has evolved throughout the years,” said Paul Mumford, a volunteer and retired TPD officer. “From communications with a telephone, to communications with walkie-talkies and cell phones, and how the generation has gone from the old way of doing police work.”

One of Belmonte’s favorite parts of the museum is the “Andy Wade Memorial.” During his adult years, Wade traveled all over the Midwest to collect original police records of the world’s most notorious criminals. Some of the criminal records you will see include George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife Kathryn, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Harry Pierpont and George “Baby Face” Nelson.

According to the biography attached to his memorial, Wade died in a car crash. His family donated the records he collected to the museum. Some may not know that back in the early 1940s and 1950s, Tampa itself was known to be filled with local gangsters and members of different mafias.

“I love looking at all these old mug shots of famous people,” said Belmonte. “I’m impressed. I feel like every time I’m here, I find something new that I didn’t really notice before.”

Mumford has been volunteering at the museum for two years. The majority of the museum’s volunteers are retired TPD officers. There are parts within the museum where officers donated items to be showcased. Although Mumford has not donated items, you can still see him donating his time every Monday.

“There’s a lot of displays that are from officers,”said Mumford. “There’s a display of badges and patches – those were all police officers that had collections that donated them to the museum so they could be displayed to the people.”

Even though the tour includes many fun facts, the museum is also filled with somber memories of officers who lost their lives on duty. One can sense the love and purpose to serve the community that the fallen officers had for their city. Even though the museum has been open for over 20 years, the goal is to inform and educate more people about the wonderful history of the great men and women who protect us every day.

The Tampa Police Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

‘Who’s going to believe you?’ Victim of sexual violence speaks out

TAMPA – “Who’s going to believe you?” is a statement that victims hear often from their assailant; enough for a victim to change their mind on speaking up and instead remain silent about the sexual violence.

Sexual violence can be difficult for many people to discuss. Sometimes, people try to avoid the subject and do their best to go back to the person they were before the incident.

Sexual violence is not something new that occurs on college campuses. It has been going on for years. One victim was brave enough to share her story.

The victim explained that on March 25 2012, someone who worked at the college she attended sexually assaulted her at a party held off campus. The victim explained that her assailant was liked and well-known on campus. The victim felt as though there was nothing she could do.

The assailant told the victim if she told anyone what happened it would be her words against his. The victim never went to the police about the situation.

“I went home, skipped classes and laid in bed the whole day,” the victim said. “I went up to him and he acted like nothing happened.”

The victim said when she brought up telling someone about the assault, the assailant would tell her nobody would believe her due to his reputation on campus.

The victim explained that she began participating in self-harm until a friend noticed her behavior and put a stop to things.

“It felt pointless at the point,” the victim said. “I felt so disgusted with myself, I went down a pretty dark path and if it wasn’t for my best friend I don’t know how I would have gotten out of it.”

When asked what advice the victim had for anyone who has been sexually assaulted she said, “Never think it is your fault. You have a voice whether you use it verbally or in a physical manner, you have a voice. No one should ever silence you.”

Stop sexual assault, speak up and get justice. (Courtesy of google images)

The victim continued on with more advice. “If you can, talk to someone close to you, that you know you can trust and do what I didn’t do. Go to the police and get justice because no one deserves to have that happen.”

“If you can, talk to someone close to you, that you know you can trust and do what I didn’t do,” she said. “Go to the police and get justice because no one deserves to have that happen.”

 

Below is the audio link to the interview.

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the victim.

 

Wake and Bacon food truck to open

 

 

Gettin Klucky photo via Facebook

A local restaurant lifer is finally ready to break off on his own path and try his hand in the food truck game as early as January 2018.

Chris Daneker has spent half of his life working in the restaurent industry and always dreamed of running the show himself. That dream may be coming true after nearly a year of planning and team building. With the help of friends and business partners, Jason Harp and Chelsey Macko, Wake and Bacon is ready to roll.

“We chose to do a food truck because it’s cheaper,” Daneker said. “We’re broke with no capital to use as collateral for a larger loan.”

Daneker needed a plan to make his food truck and future restaurant a reality.

“Food trucks are mobile marketing for our eventual brick-and-mortar restaurant,” Daneker said.

Daneker and his partners have been planning for 10 months. Those plans and the subsequent business model came from his sister, an accounting major, in a project that earned her one of the highest grades in her class.

The planning includes extensive research in Bay Area counties. Wake and Bacon used this information to determine where they would plan on setting up shop on a given day.

“We plan to operate throughout the Tampa Bay area with daily stops in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties,” Daneker said. “Both counties are on the upswing as far as growth in population and economy.”

A lot of that population growth can be attributed to a younger crowd. Daneker said their target demographic is ages 21-45, so this area may be perfect.

Wake and Bacon’s business model is tied to the versatility of its ingredients. Candied bacon, Cuban bread and chicken breast are used in a multitude of ways. This maximizes profit while still allowing each entrée to be completely different.

How does Candied Heaven sound? It is a breakfast sandwich with candied bacon, Havarti cheese and two runny over-easy eggs between butter-toasted Cuban bread.

The Tummy Stix are waffle sticks served infused with candied bacon with fried chicken tenders and homemade syrup.

The menu also features the Gettin’ Klucky sandwich with fried chicken with shredded lettuce and homemade ranch pressed between Cuban bread.

Daneker may be excited to finally get started but he still understands it is an ongoing process even once you are open for business.  He wants to reach higher.

Daneker said that his long-term plan is to convert the food truck into a stationary restaurant and use the truck for catering and deliveries.

Tampa Fire Museum gives back

On March 1, 1908, Tampa experienced the largest fire in its history. Cottages, factories and stores were burned down to ashes and two thousand people were left homeless.

The fire was discovered inside a boarding house in Ybor City. Before the volunteer firefighters came, many homes and businesses were already destroyed. The flames were extremely difficult to control.

“Everything was built out of wood,” said Joy Bunch, employee for the Tampa Fire Museum. “Back then trying to get it contained, they just couldn’t get ahead of it. When it was all said and done, it burned 55 acres and 17 city blocks.”

According to Bunch, city officials decided to rebuild everything destroyed by importing brick. This decision was also the reason why the Tampa Fire Museum is made out of brick.

Built in 1911, the museum was originally the headquarters for the Tampa Fire Department (TFD) until 1974.  Now the museum holds all the history of TFD and the Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR). Everyday visitors come in not only to learn about the history of both departments, but also to learn more about safety education and fire prevention. The museum is free of charge but donations are accepted and appreciated.

“We have an area for kids to play in,” said Scott Mays, a local firefighter. “We also have a couple of trucks and things like that for people to see. We also have a store where we sell memorabilia and other firefighter stuff and museum items as well.”

One part of the museum contains fire truck exhibits. One truck, nicknamed the “Little Mack” can still be used in a fire today if need be, but it’s mostly used for personal events such as parades and funerals. The truck was sold to TFD in 1949 for $13,884. It was last served in Firehouse Station Three.

Close by the fire trucks, one will see how the firefighters’ uniforms have changed over the years. During the 1920s and 1960s, firefighters wore less gear than the one’s today. You will see that in earlier decades, they wore a helmet, bunker pants, boots, quick-close fasteners and held a pick-headed axe. Now they’ve replaced the axe with a hose and added reflective strips, gloves, goggles, a face piece and more. According to the museum, the total amount of gear a firefighter wears adds another 75 pounds to their weight.

TFD originally consisted of volunteer firemen. The first volunteer company was created in 1885 and 10 years later the department became a paid company.

“The city budget was $18,000,” said Bunch. Bunch has been working for the museum ever since her son, Matt Bunch, passed away due to a rare cancer. He was a firefighter that was stationed across the street from the museum. He served the community for nearly 6 years.

“Tampa Fire Rescue supported him and our family,” she said. “While it was a very short battle, they were just tremendous to our family and still are. I started volunteering here and then they offered me a position.”

There is a room where visitors can pay their respects to the local firefighters that have passed away. Near the memorial room there is also an exhibit in honor of the firefighters that passed away saving lives on 9/11.

The museum also welcomes guests to host special events such as birthday parties, retirement functions and weddings.

“We do all types of events here at the museum,” said Mays. Before becoming a firefighter, Mays worked for the museum and stopped by occasionally to help out when needed. “We also do community things when we just have folks come in from the street for tours.”

Educating the community on fire safety is one of the goals of the museum. They wish to educate as many people as they can, especially children. This is one of the reasons why there is no charge to enter.

“We try to give fire prevention, what to do in a fire, things like that…where we don’t want to charge people for that information,” said Mays. “We want people to be able to get that information without having to pay for it because we feel that it is necessary and extremely important that people understand what to do during a fire.”

The museum has been designated a “local historical landmark” by the City of Tampa Architectural Review Historic Designation Division. You can visit on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“Besides the stop, drop and roll…get out and stay out,” said Mays. He says that is the best tip he can give to people who may not know what else to do in case of a fire. “If there is something left in there, let the firefighters know.”

For more information visit www.tampafirefightersmuseum.org

USF student waits 8 days to hear from father in Puerto Rico

Tampa – Hurricane Maria didn’t hit Tampa Bay but the devastation she wreaked on Puerto Rico hits home for many in the community with family who endured the storm.

Carina Galarza Minondo, a 20-year-old junior at the University of South Florida, spent over a week trying to get in touch with her father in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Minondo spoke with her father the Monday before Hurricane Maria hit and didn’t hear from him for days, wondering if not only her father, but her grandparents and cousins, had survived the storm.

“I was under so much stress,” Minondo said. “I couldn’t sleep, eat or focus on anything. I was having panic attacks at work.”

The days grew longer and longer for Minondo as she worried about her grandmother in Puerto Rico with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I didn’t know whether she had been at home or if she was with my uncle,” Minondo said. “My step grandmother’s house is a wooden house, so I was worried about that too. It was the most horrible week of my life.”

A rush of relief overcame Minondo when she finally received a phone call from her father eight days after the storm had passed. Hearing his voice was all it took for her to break down in tears.

“They were all fine,” Minondo said. “Of course, no power, no water, but at least they’re all healthy and there was no damage to their homes. It was suddenly the best day ever.”

Minondo’s family will not be coming back to the United States while Puerto Rico rebuilds from the storm. She said her family members are stubborn and would rather stay to help the island get back on its feet.

When asked what her family is doing to get by while they recover, Minondo said they’re all going to bed early these days.

“The notion of time has pretty much disappeared for them,” Minondo said. “My dad started work again, but without electricity everything is old school paperwork being done.”

“Banks are only giving $100 per person since the only goods available are food and it can only be paid for with cash,” Minondo said. “My family is scared to even have $100 in their pockets because they could easily be robbed.”

The food, water and cash shortage in Puerto Rico continues to be an issue. Those receiving payments from family members in the states are out of luck while they are still out of power. Even though there are supplies being brought in, it’s not reaching every part of it.

“It’s like only the metropolitan area is receiving help while the rest of the island just suffers,” Minondo said. “It truly hurts to see such a beautiful island, and islands in the Antilles in so much pain and destruction.”

Collecting supplies for Puerto Rico has not been an issue, in fact there are 100 tons in one warehouse, but securing a plane to get the supplies there has been the biggest hurdle.

For those interested in making donations to Puerto Rico, Course of Action PR is still accepting donations at Homeland Intelligence Technologies. Located at 4916 S Lois Ave., Tampa, FL 33611. The drop of location is open Monday thru Saturday, from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The drop off location also has three shifts open to any volunteers who are at least 18 years old. The facility asks that you show up only at any of these specific times: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. or 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Visit the Course of Action PR page on Facebook for an updated list of donation items.

Retail- Is It The End Of The Line?

Retail continues its downward spiral, leaving many of us wondering how much longer brick-and-mortar stores will last.

2017 has experienced nine retail bankruptcies resulting in the closing of many of our favorite department stores. J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Macy’s, and Sears have each closed more than 100 stores in the past year.  

If these numbers have shown us anything it’s that retail is a very fickle business and no brand is safe. In the span of a few months a company can go from high to low, which is the case with Swedish, mega-retailer H&M.

Just three months ago they were reporting a surge in their sales, surprising everyone with a 10 percent boost in profits. But it seems that that was the calm before the storm. The fast-fashion retailer reported its third-quarter earnings on Thursday and they left more to be desired. The company’s last period saw a 20 percent dip in their net profit. They attributed the decrease to  “reduced footfall in stores in their established markets”.

Seeing as more and more consumers are shopping online, the lack of foot traffic comes as no surprise. They certainly aren’t the only store suffering. They may however be one of few stores to clear out all of its end-of-season inventory. Unfortunately that didn’t bring in the expected profits.  CEO, Karl-Johan Persson explained the lack of revenue in a recent press release.

“ Sales in the quarter were affected by a significantly larger summer sale this year than in the corresponding quarter last year- both in terms of the number of items and the average discount per piece – which had a dampening effect on revenue growth. This contributed to the autumn collections getting off to a good start, although sales slowed somewhat towards the end of september.”

In an attempt to stay afloat H&M’s online store is planning on opening two new markets in the Philippines and Cyprus in addition to the six online markets it currently has.

Other companies, like H&M, realize that consumers are focusing on online shopping and rather than give up hope they are doing what they can to push through. Companies like Nordstrom.

Nordstrom, one of the country’s largest department stores is doing all that it can to incorporate online shopping into their employees selling strategies. Allowing their customers to call, email and even text employees the items that they want. Customers can find the items that they want online, make a wishlist and send it to any Nordstrom employee, leaving them to find and ship the items straight to their home.

The company is also expanding their online selection. They have recently green-lighted a collaboration with Everlane. Everlane is known for its high-quality and ethically made basics. Nordstrom will launch an Everlane themed pop-up shop in-store and online. The shop will be in line with the brand’s minimalist style of clean lines and warm tones. The deal is Everlane’s first ever in-store retail partnership.

Hopefully the pop-up shop will help  increase foot-traffic while also expanding online sales.

If things continue on as they are currently, we can expect to see more and more stores enter the red zone.  

But if more companies attempt to embrace the change in consumer trends and use this as an opportunity to grow their online presence, then maybe, just maybe their could be a light at the end of a seemingly bleak tunnel. Perhaps online shopping, the be-all and end-all of retail could also be its saving grace.

How much longer do we have until we have to say goodbye to our favorite stores? Hopefully we won’t have to.

 

Epcot celebrates 35 years by highlighting cast members

On Sunday, Oct. 1, Epcot invited guests to celebrate its 35th anniversary with an array of special events and exclusive merchandise, while also recognizing the hard work of the park’s cast members.

Epcot, originally known as EPCOT Center, opened on Oct. 1, 1982, as the second park within Walt Disney World, following Magic Kingdom. The theme park focuses heavily on innovations in technology and various cultures from around the world. Epcot is also known for employing representatives from each country represented in World Showcase, a major section of the park.

“Walt had it right when he said, ‘It takes people to make the dream a reality,'” said Epcot Vice President, Melissa Valiquette. “From the time you arrive at Epcot, until the time you leave, it is our invaluable cast members who deliver a rich and unique experience to each and every one of our guests. Our cast members take great pride in bringing the wonders of Epcot to life each day.”

Employees from any of the various Disney resorts around the world are referred to as cast members. In particular, Epcot’s cast members were mentioned upward of 10 times during the Fountain View stage celebration that was held at 10:01 a.m. on Sunday.

“We know that these last 35 years at Epcot would not have been possible without the amazing help of our cast members,” said Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador, Brandon Peters.

The ceremony included presentations by two Epcot performance groups, Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty, a cast member processional, speeches by Valiquette, Peters and Walt Disney World Resort President, George A. Kalogridis.

“As a child, I’d been glued to the TV watching Walt Disney, with his message of a fascinating future and a belief in the goodness of people worldwide,” said Kalogridis. “Now, we stand at a park that embodies those ideals. This is a place for family, a place for fun and a place for faith in our vision as a people.”

For the 35th anniversary, guests were able to purchase exclusive “I Was There” merchandise that would only be available until park closure. Retro-inspired merchandise commemorating the anniversary was also sold during the event and will continue to be available.

A 35th anniversary guide map and pin were handed to guests upon entering the park. Specialty cupcakes themed after the Norway pavilion in World Showcase, The Land pavilion and the center attraction, Spaceship Earth, were also sold throughout various locations in Epcot.

Aside from acknowledging the role of cast members, the ceremony’s speakers continuously noted that 35 years was only the beginning for Epcot, referring to upcoming attractions and restaurants.

“It has been a great 35 years, and let me tell you, we have some wonderful additions on the horizon,” said Kalogridis.”I was thrilled that we were able to announce what amounts to nothing less than an ‘Epcot renaissance’ last July at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. As our chairman Bob Chapek said, ‘This work here will be centered around a few guiding principles: We want to keep true to the original vision of Epcot, while making it more Disney, more timeless, more relevant and more family.'”

Kalogridis continued on to mention new attractions based on the movies “Ratatouille” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” that will be added to the France pavilion in World Showcase and to Future World, respectively.

The 35th anniversary of Epcot falls on the same day as the 46th anniversary of Magic Kingdom, another park within the Walt Disney World Resort.

“Epcot has always been and will always be an optimistic celebration of the real world brought to life through the magic of Disney,” said Kalogridis. “I promise you, the exciting plans we have on the horizon, will honor Epcot’s rich legacy of creativity, innovation, while continuing to exceed the expectations of our guests for decades to come.”

Apple Launches New IPhones

It is official, the iPhone 8, 8 PLUS, and X are on their way to a store near you. Apple has recently announced the release dates for its newest and most coveted iPhones. The iphone 8, 8 plus, and X are slated to be “a huge step forward in iPhone history” according to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

While the 8 and 8 PLUS have been long awaited the real star, the biggest and baddest iPhone, is the much-hyped iPhone X. Fully equipped with a full-screen display, new all-glass design, and Face ID, it is expected to be the king of the smartphones.

It has a Super Retina Display and measures 5.8 inches with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels. Brightness and color accuracy problems that plagued iphone users in the past have been rectified. Apple has added Dolby Vision and HDR10 support to provide crystal clear video playback.

The phone is designed to be intuitive and user friendly. To unlock the home screen without a home button Apple developed Face ID, a facial recognition system that learns the shape and contours of your face in real time. The screen illuminates with one look and will even work in the dark.

Many iPhone users are concerned about the software, worrying that their future phones won’t be able to recognize them if they decide to change their appearance. But Apple has claimed that Face ID will not be confused by hairstyles, hats, or even facial hair.

There is no doubt that Apple likes to push the limits and reinvent technology in new and innovative ways, but with the rise of technology and the power that accompanies it comes great responsibility. Facial recognition is not a new concept. Samsung and Microsoft both offer it as a feature on their phones. However the launch of the iPhone X will likely catapult the software into the mainstream media, shining a light on it like never before.

Face ID has been praised for it’s convenience but has raised red flags in other areas. Other than consumers worrying about being recognized, there is the matter that a third party, namely law enforcement or thieves, will be able to unlock a user’s phone through force just by pointing the screen at their face. And even more worrisome is the question of whether or not Face ID will be able to give Apple and it’s partners an easy way to catalog their users. Creating a massive database without the touch of a single button.

Technology has created a breach in privacy and a real fear of information leaks and information manipulation. The fear is that the face id software will be used for surveillance and marketing. As of right now Apple has been able to soothe the public’s concerns  noting that Face ID is entirely self-contained within the phone. The facial image, created with a special camera on the phone, is stored only on the iPhone and never shipped back to Apple. Which means that while consumers’ photos and other content are regularly transferred to Apple’s iCloud storage service, this won’t be the case with their facial recognition data.

The privacy features built into Face ID are intended to limit the misuse of the software but with the increased popularity that the iphone will bring there is no way to be sure that other companies will not exploit it. Only time will tell.

Apple has announced that the iphone X will be available for pre-order on October 27. The iPhone 8 and 8 PLUS will be released on September 15.

 

Plant City’s Best Bartender 2017

This year, for the first time, FOCUS Magazine’s Plant City Edition included a Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Bartender” in Plant City. 

While Reader’s Choice Awards have existed for “Best Server,” “Best Soup” and “Best BBQ,” as well as many others, this year there was a new addition to the competition and Chris Stovall, 37, became the first recipient of the “Best Bartender” award. 

Stovall was born in California, but has lived in Plant City, Florida since he was seven months old, graduating from Plant City High School in 1999. He began serving at Ruby Tuesdays at the age of 18 and soon after was promoted to bartender. 

“We had a horrible bartender and I kept making jokes that I could do it better than him,” Stovall said. “One day I came to work and he said ‘Remember how you said [you could do a better job]? Well you’re bartending.’ So, I was kind of thrown to wolves. I didn’t go to school for it.” 

Stovall always wanted to work for the people, initially planning a career in radio. As a bartender, however, he found that he was able to connect with people “face-to-face” on a regular basis and thrived on the feelings that came with making other people smile. 

“I can pretty much connect with anybody,” Stovall said. “When people go out to any kind of bar they go for the atmosphere. They go for someone to talk to. Sometimes it’s a good talk. Sometimes it’s a bad talk. Sometimes it’s very hitting people on a personal level and helping them out with something you didn’t know you were going to and sometimes it’s football and taking a knee.” 

Stovall has worked in many bars across the state of Florida and he currently works as a bartender and manager at 1916 Irish Pub in Plant City and at Duke’s Brewhouse in Lakeland. His coworkers describe him as hardworking and funny. 

“I think he was chosen [best bartender] because he is not only well-known, but also well liked,” said Stovall’s longtime friend and current coworker, Chelsea Noriega. “He’s good at what he does, whatever he does.” 

Stovall’s coworkers also say that it’s easy to get into a good rhythm when working with him. 

“Normally we have a good flow,” coworker Devon Blackburn said. “Once customers start coming in we get in a good rhythm working together. He is attentive to your needs and always remembers, even if it takes a minute.” 

Noriega discussed how she can see that Stovall cares for people and how she hoped people realize how much Stovall cares about his customers as individuals. 

“He has the biggest heart,” Noriega said. “He’s definitely nosy, but he is really caring. He is kind of an open book.” 

On top of his work, Stovall is also a father of two. He says that his kids are one of his biggest hobbies. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his children, Jaxon, 5, and Sophia, 5. 

“As much as work is work, work is also my hobby,” Stovall said. “I work so that I can do cool things with my kids. It used to be so I could have a cool pair of shoes. Now I want my kids to have the cool pair of shoes, so it’s a little different.” 

Stovall’s coworkers see the dedication he gives his children as well. 

“I think people should know how good of a dad he is,” Blackburn said. “Dad’s don’t tend to get a lot of credit, and especially in his crazy situation, I think he gets written off a lot. From everything I see and hear, he is a great father and people should know that.” 

Stovall’s caring and desire to make people happy are major factors that led to him becoming the reader’s choice for “Best Bartender” in Plant City. Stovall says that his favorite thing about his job is the people. 

“I mean it’s the only reason that it’s fun,” Stovall said. “Sometimes it’s making fun, sometimes it’s having fun. There’s always something to talk about. I like making conversation. I have a magnetic personality and I can make people who don’t normally talk talk and feel comfortable.” 

Stovall said when he found out he won he felt surprised and that it threw him off. He said it made him feel like the time he spent in his town meant something. 

“Everything I’ve done was not lost,” Stovall said. “I haven’t sat here and sewed my roots and got to know everybody in this town and, you know how some people feel like they did something for nothing? I feel like there was a cause. There was a purpose. Nothing like recognition to make you want to do something better.”

USF communications during Irma cause mixed reactions

As Hurricane Irma threatened the state of Florida, there was a feeling of unease for some USF students and Tampa residents.

Tampa homeowners and businesses boarded up their windows and stood by while the storm made landfall in the Keys as a Category 4.

In the days before landfall, students on the USF class Facebook pages expressed concern and speculated about classes being canceled. USF Dean of Students Danielle McDonald first communicated to students the possible effects of the hurricane on Sept. 5, writing that decisions about campus closures would not be made until later in the week.

The following day, McDonald told students campus would be closed for the rest of the week and through the weekend. As days passed and Irma’s path shifted, more communications were provided. Florida Gov. Rick Scott mandated that state offices and schools close Sept. 8-11. USF canceled classes Sept. 7-13.

Dean of Students Danielle McDonald sent out a series of emails as Hurricane Irma approached to inform students of safety procedures and campus closures. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Dean of Students

Throughout this time, USF Tampa decided not to evacuate students living on campus.

“We are not in a flood zone and are further away from the coastal areas,” McDonald said in an email to students. ” … I hope to reassure you that the campus and our surrounding neighborhoods, where most of you live, is considered safer than other areas.”

In the time leading up to the storm, USF communicated with students to educate them on precautions to take and ways to prepare. McDonald included tips for hurricane preparation in an email to students. USF also has a page dedicated to emergency preparation.

Infographic by Kylie Buklad

However, as Irma approached, some students living on campus became nervous for their safety despite reassurance from the university.

Taira Zavala, a senior at USF, chose to go with her family to Texas to wait out the storm.

This is Zavala’s first year living in off-campus housing. She waited until Saturday night to finally evacuate. The days leading up to the storm took quite a toll on her, she said.

“I was incredibly stressed the week before the hurricane,” Zavala said. “I could not help but think that I should evacuate … My anxiety was just so terrible and I knew if I stayed it would only get worse. The storm was not as bad as I anticipated, but for my mental state it was the right move.”

Zavala questioned the timeline of campus communications and cancellations at USF.

“I definitely feel that they could have made the decisions in a timelier manner,” Zavala said. “I know many students that evacuated so I think it would have been the right move to close down the school for the remainder of that week.”

Zavala was not the only student to leave USF ahead of Hurricane Irma. Dillon Sunderland, a junior at USF, decided to evacuate the Wednesday before the hurricane hit Florida.

“This was the first time I have experienced a major threat on campus,” Sunderland said. “I felt unsafe in my [off campus] apartment because of the lack of storm windows, and the fact that I’m on the first floor, so flooding was a concern.”

Sunderland has been living in campus housing for over a year. He may have felt unsafe in his USF affiliated apartment, but Sunderland said he thinks that USF handled the emergency well.

“They closed school early enough to allow people to evacuate,” Sunderland said.

USF System President Judy Genshaft released a video about the impact of Irma on USF. She spoke of the efforts of USF faculty housing and feeding students that stayed on campus for the storm. She said almost 800 people were housed in the Sun Dome, which is a special needs shelter for Hillsborough County, during Irma. Genshaft said she was proud that USF could keep so many people housed and fed during the storm.

 

Despite His Autism, Tampa Athlete Exceeds In Cycling During Special Olympics

Mark Zac, a Tampa native who was diagnosed with a form of autism, has participated in special Olympic sports over the past few years ranging from a local level to the world level in the World Special Olympic Games.

Allen Zac, Mark’s father, trained with him for six months before the World Special Olympic Games. They lifted weights and cycled almost 10 miles a day to prepare Mark for the event.

“That year he went to San Diego on his own, on the plane with the team, did training for five days, and then went to Athens and was with the team for three weeks on his own. We never thought he could survive without us, somehow he did and he did awesome,” Allen Zak said. “He won a gold and a silver in cycling.”

Mark took home a gold and a silver medal and proudly wears them to this day. Although he plays many sports, cycling has always been his favorite choice.

Out of the wide range of awards he’s won, his gold medal is his favorite.

Mark Zac has proven to many people in his community and around the world that even with a disability, you can live out your dreams.

Taste of Spain captivates Tampa

TAMPA – On N. Tampa St., Toma Spain offers savory Mediterranean dishes and is host to live Flamenco shows, a culture which Fred Castro and his family helped bring to the community 37 years ago.

“We are one of the older Spanish restaurants here in Downtown Tampa,” Castro said. “We like to push the independence because if you spend your money in an independent restaurant, it stays within the community.”

Among the members of Flamenco shows are dancer and choreographer Carolina Esparza, who has known the Castro family for many years.

“They have similar experiences where they’ve always traveled to Spain because of their family,” Esparza said. “The food here is amazing, the entertainment that they get is amazing and yet it’s still a night out so to speak.”

The motivation for the workers of Toma Spain is simple: provide an atmosphere reminiscent of southern traditional Spanish culture.

The Flamenco show on March 25th was met with a grandiose round of applause due in large part to the performance of Flamenco guitarist Javier Hinojosa.

“Our musician [Hinojosa] is in my opinion one of the best Flamenco guitarists around,” Castro said. “We kind of traveled Spain ourselves and seen a lot of Flamenco shows and he compares with the best.”

The customers left the restaurant following the show with smiles and cheerful conversation amongst one another.

 

Clearwater Celebrates Its Sugar Sand “FantaSea”

Clearwater’s Sugar Sand Festival is celebrating its fifth annual exhibition.

This year the festival included new entertainment, several nights of fireworks, concerts, and movies, as well as private DJs and the Shepherds VIP Lounge Experience.

If you are a sand fan you can enjoy the Master Sand Sculpting Competition which takes place inside the 21,000 square foot tent. Seven master sculptors will create their own artistic piece in addition to the main sculptures. Barbara Sanchez is a local visitor that has been to the Sand Festival for the last 5 years.

“I love to just come and enjoy with my family,” Sanchez said. “It is a very unique experience for the family and especially for the kids. My grandchildren get so excited with all the games they have.”

Each year the festival has a new theme. This year is the Sugar Sand FantaSea, a Magical Adventure Above and Below the Sea. As the name describes, you can find  all types of sea-themed characters, like Spongebob Squarepants, mermaids, polar bears and pirates.

Lisa Chandler, the event coordinator, said they expected 38,000 people to see the show.

“We want people to come and enjoy. We have live music, food and games,” she said. “Sugar Sand is what makes Clearwater different. It’s not only the beautiful sunsets and the warm water, but it’s people and the events we try to organize that keep people coming back.”

The tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for kids 6 and older, and $8 for seniors, military, law enforcement, firefighters and teachers. For more information visit http://sugarsandfestival.com/.

Feeding Tampa Bay, Home to Those Who Want to Help

Volunteers from all throughout Tampa Bay come out to give back to their community at Feeding America Tampa Bay every week Monday through Saturday.

Volunteers from throughout Tampa Bay come out to give back to their community at Feeding Tampa Bay every week Monday through Saturday.

Feeding Tampa Bay works with smaller organizations such as Metropolitan Ministries and Trinity Café to help distribute food to those in need.

The organization makes it easy for anyone who is willing to help out in the bay area to join.

University of Tampa freshmen, Peter Peirce and Kaelin Willette both volunteer at Feeding Tampa Bay. They learned about the organization through their school and have been coming voluntarily ever since.

“Every time that I’ve come since has been voluntarily just because the first time I did it I enjoyed it so much that I figured I’d keep coming back and it’s always been good to me,” Peirce said.

Feeding Tampa Bay is an enjoyable volunteering environment for all who come.

“I love the energy here, I think everyone that comes here has such a positive energy and vibe and they make it a lot of fun,” Willette remarked.

Megan Carlson the organization’s community engagement manager  has been working for Feeding Tampa Bay for two years now and enjoys her working environment immensely.

“There’s something for everybody and we kind of satisfy every desire that people might have to give back to the community which is really cool,” Carlson said.

To learn more about this organization, visit feedingtampabay.org

 

 

New multicultural health clinic breaks language barrier for patients

Tampa has opened its first multicultural health care clinic, which aims to help the Hispanic community get health care in their own language.

CliniSanitas Medical Center originated in Colombia and currently has locations in several countries around the world. The medical center is focused on giving quality and personalized care to every patient.

The Tampa clinic, located at 3617 W. Hillsborough Ave. between N. Dale Mabry Highway and N. Himes Avenue, opened in December of 2016 and has had over 3,000 patients in less than three months since its inauguration.

The Medical Center Manager, Delilah Rosa-Gonzalez, says that the city’s Hispanic community has welcomed them.

“The community is loving it,” Rosa-Gonzalez said. “Patients that come here say ‘Spanish speaking doctors, please schedule me.’ We also have a fluent english speaking RA, and we have staff here that translate for her whenever she needs it. We help everybody, and people like that.”

CliniSanitas offers a variety of services such as primary care, specialty care, lab and diagnostics. The Clinic also has its own urgent care.

The RA in charge of the health program, Andrea Nunez Fisco, has been creating programs that will teach people healthy eating habits, exercise routines and the dangers of diabetes. She said the most important part of their work is education and prevention.

“We get the patients right here, we have the opportunity to educate them, to teach them everything and have that preventing part,” Fisco said. “That is extremely needed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Dog Trainers Give Back to Veterans

K-9 Partners for Patriots is not the typical dog training class—veterans are pairing up with pets to help them enter back into civilian life.

Mary Peter, who has over 30 years of experience as a master dog trainer, founded the program a few years ago to help veterans struggling with PTSD and other brain related injuries.

“People would come for obedience training and I started noticing more and more veterans coming back from combat with a dog trying to get into an obedience class,” said Peter.

Before taking the class, veteran Aurthur Moore found it difficult to complete day-to-day activities.

“I would lay in bed all day, said Moore. “I would stay in the house.”

Having gone through the training program, Moore is inspired to help others by studying to become a dog trainer for veterans.

“I want to help other veterans like they’ve helped me,” said Moore. “It makes me feel good helping other people, it helps me feel good inside.”

166 veterans are in or have gone through the program. Similarly, 55 dogs have been rescued and found a new home.

“90 percent of our funding goes directly to our veterans,” Peter said. “We try to save two—a dog and veteran together.”

For Peter, helping veterans is a gift she feels honored to be a part of.

“To see and honor those who have suffered so much in service to our country—it means everything to me,” said Peter. It’s not a job to me, it’s my passion. I love each and every one of these men and women and it’s an honor to serve them and help them.”

Clearwater Beach Spring Break Parking

Spring break is coming up and Clearwater Beach is offering something that will make visiting the beach less of a hassle.

The beach opened Pelican Walk Parking Garage on Poinsettia Avenue at the end of January. The goal was to help with parking problems that occur on the beach.

Jason Beisel, the Public Communications Coordinator of Clearwater expects the garage to improve the flow of traffic.

“Especially this time of year with spring break… we have an influx of visitors,” said Beisel. “But what we built it for is so people have a place to park.”

The location used to be a single level parking lot, but the new garage offers 702 spaces. It also helps beach employees who had trouble finding parking for a reasonable price. Parking in the garage costs $2 an hour or $20 a day.

“Some lots around here, you can pay up to $50 a day to park,” Beisel said. “So, we have contracted with some businesses where they pay a flat fee and they’re able to park here and it helps alleviate some of the parking problems for employees.”

The garage cost over $11 million to build. Most of the money came from parking fees collected on the beach and tourism dollars. A smaller portion came from taxpayer dollars.

“It just helps the whole beach and the economy to bring people out here so they can enjoy themselves and spend money at all the different shops,” Clearwater resident Tim Lavelle said. “It’s just good for everybody.”

 

Veteran Art Exhibit on Display at Tampa’s Riverwalk

 

Saori Murphy and Larry Busby had their work chosen for display outside the Straz Center as part of the Veterans Art Exhibit: Reintegration and Resilience.

“Being around the Straz and having people see that – there is a little bit of vulnerability that you kind of feel vulnerable that people see parts of yourselves,” said Murphy. “But at the same time I’m feeling really honored and respected in a way that people had come up and approached me along with other veterans.” 

Murphy’s favorite piece of artwork currently on display is called A Choice. It began as a black and white exhibit that, over time, was filled with beautiful colors which represented her emotional transformation.

“What was my inspiration for making art? Suicide. I am a suicide survivor,” said Busby. “I started getting the help I need because I was suffering from severe depression and alcoholism. That started my journey.”

After seeking help for his depression, it was suggested that Busby choose a hobby. So, he picked up his camera 30 years after being a former Navy photographer’s aid.

“I’m in a zen-like state,” said. Busby. “I’m focused on what I’m doing and the rest of the world just disappears. It just melts away and I kind of like that. It’s meditation. It’s therapy. It’s cool.”

Both Busby and Murphy see the importance in seeking help and want others to do the same. Their artwork is on display for free at the Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa until March 15th.

 

Local Café Offers Food For Some, Hope For Others

 

Inside the Box Café and Catering is a social enterprise of the Metropolitan Ministries, providing both vocational training and opportunities for work experience to the less fortunate.

Chef Cliff Barsi founded the culinary school program to help individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty learn their trade. The kitchen at Metropolitan Ministries is their classroom, and Inside the Box Café is their training ground.

“The reason we started Inside the Box Café is because I wanted a real life restaurant for them to work in,” Barsi said. “They go out to the cafés, they work on the line with the cooks there so they get that skill of urgency-something that you just don’t learn in a normal culinary school. Then, they go back to the kitchen and they do some practical cooking classes with our chef.”

The 16-week program is funded by JP Morgan Chase Bank. All students that are accepted into the program receive a full scholarship.

Eliu DeLeon is one of those students, preparing to graduate. DeLeon hopes to become a chef at a fine dining restaurant upon leaving Inside the Box.

“A lot of my peers that have already graduated have ended up in a lot of fine dining companies,” DeLeon said.

Chely Figueroa is the catering coordinator at Inside the Box. Before that, though, she had become homeless in 2009.

“I found myself walking 18 miles to this place here, Metropolitan Ministries, to find a safe haven,” Figueroa said.

Barsi called her one day, asking her to run the downtown storefront.

All proceeds from Inside the Box Café and Catering go directly back to Metropolitan Ministries to help others in need.