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.”

That Extra Step

Located in St. Petersburg, this school goes above and beyond when it comes to the concept of inclusion within learning environments.

Midtown Academy stands out because most schools do not use the inclusionary system, but rather separate students with disabilities. In every class, Midtown Academy includes students with disabilities in the same classes with other students in their grade.

“We have an inclusionary model in which all of our students who are special ed[ucation] [are] just in regular classrooms depending on their IEP, or Individualized Education Program,” says Portia Slaughter, Principal of Midtown Academy.

Teachers agree with Slaughter when it comes to the way education is taught at Midtown Academy, like Daniel Doolin, a teacher at this school.

“This school really showcases inclusion,” Doolin says. “When you put students together and you hold them all to a common standard, the low ones will rise to the high ones, and the high ones will pull them up.”

Speaking from experience, Doolin says the most important thing is getting to know your students personally.

“It is important that you have met their parents, that you know where they live, that you know what they do for fun, that you know their brothers’ names and sisters’ names,” Doolin says. “Because you will find throughout the day that you’re going to need that information to pull them back in.”

Slaughter grew up in the St. Petersburg community and is glad to give back. She finds that teachers are easily accommodating to children and their specific needs without separation.

Midtown is preparing many of their students for the real world, where they will not be separated because of their disability.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership Day Held at Fox Chapel Middle School

Students and parents filled the halls of Fox Chapel Middle School on Wednesday to take part in Leadership Day.

Arianna Carter, a seventh-grader and member of student government, spent the day playing in the band and working behind the scenes to make the day run smoothly.

“Leadership Day is a day that we show Hernando County what the seven habits are and how we use them to help the community,” said Carter.

The Leader in Me is a school transformation model, developed in partnership with educators, that empowers students with the leadership and life skills they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Magen Schlechter, a teacher at Fox Chapel, said this program allows students to learn what it means to be a leader and how little changes in their personal life can help them persevere.

“Each habit represents certain character features that we should work on and improve on day-to-day to help us be the most effective leaders we can be,” Schlechter said.

Over 25 projects took part in Fox Chapel’s third-annual Leadership Day. The school’s Beta Club will be nationally recognized by the Leader in Me program for completing over 350 hours of community service.

Carter, a member of the Beta Club, is inspired to continue being a leader outside the classroom.

“We really just help around the community,” Carter said. “I heard that high schools have beta clubs too and I’d like to help more.” 

For Schlechter, watching her students embrace this program is one of many things she’s happy about.

“I’m really proud that the kids have found something to be proud of,” said Schlechter. “You see kids in a new light and they become completely different people and it’s an awesome thing.”

 

Nielsen Visits USF, Seeking Passionate Students For Employment Opportunities

 

 

Nielsen is a widely known company, one that is constantly looking for new candidates to represent them. Nielsen studies consumer habits in more than 100 countries.

Jennifer Hurst is a manager with Nielsen, as well as a leader in the business-improving organization.

“Nielsen is a market research company,” said Hurst. “We are the science behind what’s next, so we measure what people watch and what people buy.”

Nielsen visits USF and surrounding communities every year, according to Hurst. The USF campus is one of the communities Nielsen enjoys visiting because of the type of candidates they receive.

The candidates chosen to work with Nielsen all have three key things in common: leadership skills, community service and passion.

Steve Filus, majoring in computer science at USF, cites the work environment at Nielsen as a major draw for him. Many potential candidates, like Filus, are excited to have the opportunity to get one-on-one time with a company of their dreams.

“So the work-life balance that they have there is the biggest piece for me,” said Filus. “They also are involved in the community. That’s one of the most important things for me for a place of work.”

The closest Nielsen in the Tampa Bay Area is in Oldsmar, Florida. However, the distance does not prevent the candidates and Nielsen from connecting.

Both parties know exactly what they want to gain from the other.

Nielsen is currently accepting applications on its website at www.nielsen.com/careers

Misleading Labels on Healthy Snacks in Vending Machines

When choosing a snack from the vending machine you may only pay attention to labels on the front of the package; make sure to not let certain labels fool you into thinking you’re eating healthy.

Vending machines have made an effort to partake in the healthy transformation of food offered on college campuses. Snacks that are below 250 calories are now labeled with a green sticker.

There are also “2bu” vending machines, which are advertised as only being filled with healthy snacks.

Many people may think they are eating healthy if they choose a snack that is labeled organic, gluten free, natural or fat free.

Registered Dietitian Dr. Theresa Crocker said “labeling as a whole often misleads consumers.”

“Just because something is labeled organic or natural, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. But if instead, you set standards that all of the components in a vending machine meet XYZ standards then it’s guaranteed that people have access to healthier foods,” said Dr. Crocker.

James Thach, a student at the University of South Florida, has fallen victim of the misleading labels.

“If I saw something that was organic, I would assume that it would be a lot healthier than something that wasn’t,” said Thach.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The “2bu” vending machine offers a selection of organic options, including organic jellybeans. One package of these jellybeans has 58 grams of sugar. That is double the amount of sugar than a Twix candy bar, which has 28 grams of sugar per bar.

Although these snacks may not be mislabeled, the labels can be misleading. The nutrition facts will reveal more about what you’re eating than the labels on the front of the package.

Institute on Black Life Celebrates 30th Year

The University of South Florida’s Institute on Black Life celebrated their 30th Anniversary Symposium on Feb. 9 at the Alumni Center.

Highlighting research and promoting knowledge of Africa and the diaspora, or removal from ones homeland, is their main purpose. They believe this research will provide students with a larger perspective on the world.

Cheryl Rodriguez, director of the USF Institute on Black Life said African culture is everywhere in the world today.

“One of the things that we really need to try to understand in terms of Africa, is that through the transatlantic slave trade, people of African descent were spread all over the world.” Rodriguez said. “Even today, we have people who come from the African continent and go to different parts of the world like Europe, Asia and Latin America. Those travels, that spreading, leads to many different remarkable outcomes.”

African folk dancers  were in attendance to help the community experience African traditions and culture.

“My grandparents came to the United States in the early part of the 20th century from Cuba, so I am a third generation American.” Rodriguez said. “I think that our stories of making a life in America are very very important.”

Uwezo E. Sudan is a griot, which is a human repository of oral knowledge and West African history.Sudan said having a craze for making a change is all you need to become involved with their cause.

“How can people become involved? I think the first thing you need to do is probably begin to have a passion for justice,” Sudan said. “And begin to understand that you can make a difference no matter where you are.”

 

USF Students Gather at Annual Winter Wonderland

Over 400 students gathered at the University of South Florida for an evening of Winter Wonderland.

Winter Wonderland is a holiday tradition put on by USF’s Center for Student Involvement and Fraternity and Sorority Life. This year’s event was called “Winter Wonkaland.”

With finals quickly approaching, students were able to relax for a night before the studying begins.

One of the organizations within the Center for Student Involvement is the Campus Activities Board. Christa Haran, Executive Director for the CAB made this event possible.

“It’s basically winter themed, just to bring winter back to Florida because we don’t really have that here. This year is Willy Wonka themed,” Haran said.

Winter Wonkaland included lots of bright lights, colors, and of course, candy. In addition to Wonkaland, winter activities were set up around the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.

Those activities included ice-skating made out of synthetic ice, wood painting and stuff-a-plush, which is like Build-A-Bear. Winter Wonkaland wouldn’t be complete without snow, a cappuccino cart and munchies to snack on.

Asahi Hossain is a junior at USF and this was her second year attending Winter Wonderland.

“It’s like finals week. It’s a nice way to wind down. It’s good weather out and I’ve heard a lot about this,” Hossain said.

Hossian arrived at Winter Wonkaland thirty minutes after it began and said that all of the stuff-a-plush bears were gone, as well as wood circles to paint on and candy. There were no short lines either for the cappuccino cart or food table.

Despite running out of supplies and long lines, Hossain said, “It’s still nice to be out here with friends.”

Veteran Garden Opening

https://youtu.be/tgq3kTbPWhg

The Sustainable Living Project is getting veterans back into society through the construction of their Veteran Garden, set to open Feb. 16.

“We thought if we did something here that would welcome veterans, they may enjoy coming to see where their food is coming from and engaging in fellowship with other veterans here,” Will Carey, the project’s operations manager, said.

Located at 918 W Sligh Ave., The Sustainable Living Project works to grow food and to teach sustainable living techniques.

“I’ve done a couple of little grow boxes at my house and from what I see here, I can change a lot of things to make it a lot better,” Kenneth Jackson, a volunteer, said.

Carey, who’s worked 20 years in the field of hunger related issues, wanted to do something for veterans. All food is being donated to those in need.

“Everything else we’ve been doing here is going to folks that needed healthier alternatives injected into their diet,” Carey said. “We deal with a lot of homelessness, and veterans make up a good portion of that.”

Carey, who sees this as a stepping stone to other gardens, says these types of programs will only get bigger and become more accessible to everyone.

The Sustainable Living Project opened on Earth Day in 2013.

Student Loans Make Students Reconsider Major

Surrounded by dozens of students clicking away on their laptops and flipping through textbooks, Emmanuel Vasquez sits at a booth on the second floor of the USF Library and googles high-paying majors.

“At this point, I’m feeling desperate,” Vasquez said. “Anything that pays off the loans.”

Forty-nine percent of college graduates consider themselves either unemployed or earn low salaries and about half report they are not offered learning experiences that can help advance their potential careers. The number of student loan borrowers as of 2015 has amounted to 43 million, according to Student Loan Hero.

“After resubmitting my FAFSA earlier last week, I realized how financially destructive my degree could be for my future,” Vasquez said. “It’s actually been bugging me for months.”

A common struggle students face during their first years at college is deciding which major to pursue. Most are obligated by the age of 17 to choose a career field and pay thousands of dollars to work towards that degree for four years. The STEM majors — a curriculum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — are what many students are leaning towards pursuing in order to make up for their student debt.

Vasquez is a USF sophomore and humanities major, a subject he has had a passion for since a young age. However, he is considering changing his major to business before the spring semester.

“The issue stems from this idea that students believe they won’t be successful unless they work towards high demanding jobs,” Dr. Sean Lyons, doctor of management, said.

Dr. Lyons is a professor and researcher at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada who studies career development and expectations of young workers.

“We receive more students who have the potential to be great at subjects they excel at, who then feel they should settle for STEM majors, because they are told that those soft majors they love won’t grant them the income they need,” Dr. Lyons said.

63 percent of college graduates were encouraged to pursue a STEM degree in 2015, according to the Accenture Strategy 2015 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study.

Pablo Alava, a social studies teacher at Guinta Middle School in Brandon, said that the problem is created during early education.

“Things like standardized testing and mandatory grade requirements damage the ability for kids to be creative in things that aren’t generic subjects,” Alava said. “You have a kid who isn’t great at math but is a skill-born musician, and then he gets held back a year and is told that he is incompetent.”

Alava, who has been teaching since 2011 and has a master’s degree in education, has almost finished paying off his student debt.

“I graduated with flying colors and I still needed to depend on the money my parents helped me with as well, as connections I thankfully had from people I knew,” Alava said. “That is how you really make it after college. It’s all about the connections.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York states that 62 percent of recent college graduates are working in jobs that require a degree, yet only 27 percent are working in a job that relates to their major.

JoEllen Tharp, a mass communications student adviser for USF, considers the college experience to be a fair game. Most students are required to build connections within their college experiences, as well as complete internships and extracurricular activities.

“You have to maintain that balance of doing what you love, and also being realistic with what your outlook is and what your degree can offer, and make sure that you’re bringing in things to your resume to balance that out,” Tharp said. “Students need to make sure that they are ready to work in multiple fields until they reach the point that their passion and profession can sustain them.”

When it comes to their current jobs, about 53 percent of all employed college graduates in their mid-20s and early 30s say they are “very satisfied” at work, according to a recent study done by the Pew Research Center.

“It’s conflicting, choosing between being happy because I love my job, or being happy because I’m at peace with the money I make,” Vasquez said. “I just want all the money spent and work done to be worth it in the end.”

Election Day Voters

 

With only hours before the end of election season, voters are showing up to the polls to show support for their candidate. The Florida vote is one of the most important ones for both candidates.

“The ideology behind having the right to vote; I think it’s a privilege to be able to exercise that right,” Avery Thompson said.

With 29 electoral votes, Florida is a necessity for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. However, neither of them had an easy run. Both campaigns were plagued with scandals. In fact, Trump announced his candidacy with a sound bite that haunted him on his run to the White House.

The most shocking political revelations came from the democratic side. Hillary Clinton spent most of her candidacy under FBI investigation. Aside from this, her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails were exposed in 35 separated batches released by WikiLeaks.

Though Clinton fought to steer the attention away from her scandals, voters like Donna Kuntz remember.

“I’m sick and tired of the corruption in Washington,” said Kuntz, “No government and no one person should be above the law.”

For others it’s more about the candidate’s record, like Thompson.

“I just think [Clinton] is a more respectful, qualified candidate,” Thompson said.

Regardless of who is pronounced as the winner, it is important to remember that it’s up to us, as citizens, to work together to make this nation great. It’s not in the hands of Washington politicians to bring us together. We must, as a community, continue to move forward for the next four years.

 

The Office of Veteran Success Lends a Helping Hand

The University of South Florida was just named the best 4-year college in the nation for veterans.

USF’s Office of Veteran Success serves over 1500 student vets. Some of the programs that they offer are vet-to-vet tutoring, mentoring, success classes, VA work-studies and community networking events. The purpose of each program is to provide veterans with the necessary skills to succeed.

The office also works with USF staff members to help veterans transition back into school. Staff members can attend the “Got Your Six” workshop, which teaches them how to become better resources for student veterans.

Daniel McNeill is the office manager for the Office of Veterans Success. He says that the program is an overview of common stereotypes, strengths, weaknesses and ways to help veterans adapt back into academia.

“We created this presentation to educate USF faculty and staff to allow our veterans to transition more easily,” said McNeill.

McNeill also said that one thing he hopes that staff members take away from “Got Your Six” is that the transition phase isn’t something to take lightly. Student veterans are making drastic life changes, and they need support from faculty during this time.

Dr. Laura Anderson, a chemistry professor at USF, attended “Got Your Six” because she wanted to learn different ways to help student veterans in her classes.

Student veteran, Victor Perez, served in the Navy and is transitioning back into school. He says that the office has really helped him get back into the school mindset.

“The office of Veteran Success has taught me about all of the benefits that I could be eligible for… especially vet-to-vet tutoring [and] mentoring,” said Perez.

Non-profit organization helps children succeed

According to the website, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay uses hands-on experiences to help young people understand the economics of life. In partnership with business and educators, Junior Achievement brings the real world to students, opening their minds to their potential.

Fifth grade student Sonja Assidy is the CEO of Bright House. She works hard to make sure her business runs smoothly.

“I take checks to Kane’s Furniture, I go get the checks from Kane’s Furniture, bring it here, make sure my CFO signs it and then put it where it needs to go,” Assidy said.

Sally Eidge is the Director of Junior Achievement and sees over a hundred students daily. She wants every student to learn a valuable lesson.

“They need to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you actually have to earn it and then spend it wisely,” Eidge said.

Before visiting JA BizTown, students complete a pre-visit curriculum program where they learn basic economic principles such as how to manage their personal bank account.

Kelly Thorne is a fifth grade language arts teacher at Deer Park Elementary and prepared her students for 12 weeks prior to coming to JA Biztown.

“We spend a lot of time on how to write checks, how to deposit checks, that whole process and how to budget their money,” Thorne said. “How when they get a paycheck, they have to make sure they save some money for their lunch, and then they have some spending money.”

Tropicana Field Stingrays Find New Winter Home

 

The stingrays from Tropicana Field are making the Manatee Viewing Center their winter home.

Tampa Electric built a stingray touch tank at the Manatee Viewing Center, which is open from Nov. 1 through April 15. The stingrays will be in the Manatee Viewing Center for about four months. After winter, half of them will return to the Tropicana Field, while the others will stay in the center.

Steven Clemmer, who has worked at The Florida Aquarium for five years, emphasized the importance of kids playing and enjoy nature in a natural environment.

“Many children are afraid of touching the stingrays at the beginning,” Clemmer said. “However after they see us touching them, they feel more comfortable. It is kids’ natural curiosity to want to learn and try new things, even more so in a friendly environment.”

They are expecting over 5 million nature lovers this year, many of them children. The Florida Aquarium staff members are in charge of teaching about these animals.

“We have a lot of school groups that come here and it’s a cool thing because most of them don’t know this is here,” Clemmer said. “So, it is a good surprise whenever school groups do come because they get that hands on experience touching the rays. All our volunteers and staff members are qualified and knowledgeable.”

For more information visit tampaelectric.com/company/mvc 

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.”

USF Library Serves as Study Sanctuary

The library at the University of South Florida is one of the coolest places on campus. It wouldn’t be a library if there weren’t books available for students to check out; however, some students don’t know that the library has so much more to offer.

“This is certainly not your grandmother’s library,” USF librarian Susan Ariew said in reference to the fact that the library has evolved a great deal with respect to keeping up with technology.

The library has many free resources available to help students be successful in their classes.

“We have laptops that you can check out at the library and we have iPads that you can check out,” said USF librarian Maryellen Allen. “We have the Digital Media Commons that have multimedia equipment and resources.”

In order to encourage students to use the library for any type of assignment- whether it’s a research paper or multimedia project- the library has something for everyone. One of the prominent features that students find convenient is the library schedule.

The building is normally open 24 hours Sunday through Thursday. It closes at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, making it accessible for students regardless of their schedule outside of the classroom.

With hundreds of computers and several floors of study space, the library is the main attraction on campus. Considering that final exams are next week, the 24-hour schedule will be extended to Friday and Saturday, giving even more students a place to focus and properly prepare for their big tests.

You can find out what’s new at the USF library by visiting http://www.lib.usf.edu/ .

 

 

Affordability of education abroad

 

Once the haze of being accepted into the USF in Florence summer abroad program wore off, reality kicked in and showed up asking for payments.

Louise Cardenas, 19, didn’t expect to be in such a financial bind. Finances had never been an issue since she had been receiving aid since her first semester at USF. With no coverage being offered for her trip over the summer months, Cardenas was at a crossroads.

“I don’t think that abroad programs are affordable for the average student  trying to minimize unnecessary spending,” Cardenas said. “The only way to realistically study abroad is by paying out of pocket because you can’t count on scholarships or financial aid.”

The USF Education Abroad office has well-established programs in over 25 countries giving students a variety of choices, but many shy away from the thought of even applying because studying abroad is associated with being unaffordable.

Students are encouraged to seize the opportunity to take anywhere from a semester to a year abroad. While the motivation for studying abroad for each student is different, the most common reason is for the experience and introduction of a new culture.

Students already hold the financial responsibilities of paying up to $6,410 for tuition alone not including housing, books or miscellaneous expenses. Any additional financial expenses could be difficult to fund.

Each program cost varies on the location and the amount of time spent on the program. Most semester programs are estimated on the higher end of about $5,000 for tuition and housing. When adding on airfare, passport fees, books and travel money, the price dramatically increases. Students must consider whether the experience is worth the stress it could bring financially.

Jim Pulos, the associate director of Education Abroad, has encountered many students who believe that abroad programs are cost prohibitive.

“It’s a common misconception,” said Pulos. “We have designed our programs to be within the range of  most students’ finances.”

In some cases the costs of a program can result in being around the same price or cheaper than a normal semester. Pulos recommended that all students seek financial assistance.

The office holds regular funding sessions inviting presenters from other on-campus scholarship offices. Students are also eligible for grants, loans and scholarships open exclusively to students studying internationally. In the past, as much as $34,550 have been given away in scholarships.

Programs like USF in Florence are prime examples of the scholarship exclusivity offered. The Florence School of Record scholarship is a $1,000 award available to 35 of the programs committed students.

USF abroad offices are dedicated to making the programs affordable, but each student’s eligibility varies. Many students don’t qualify for grants or miss scholarships due to limited awards. One students experience could be entirely out of pocket while another may never know the stress of the financial side of spectrum.

Irene John, 20, was one of the fortunate students who had her expenses covered by the George W. Jenkins Scholarship. John traveled to Costa Rica last spring and has made plans to apply for another program.

“If I didn’t have my scholarship, I would still choose to study abroad,” John said. “The money is nothing in comparison to the experience you get to have.”

The response from students who have participated in abroad programs is conclusive in the money being worth the experience.

Cardenas happens to be one of the 35 students in her program who have received the scholarship award. Although it doesn’t calm her worries about the financial expenses she’s still dealing with, she is at ease knowing that the abroad offices do indeed offer assistance as advertised.

“Money plays a huge part, but it isn’t everything,” Cardenas said . “I would encourage everyone to apply regardless of their funds because like they say this is once in a lifetime.”

Plant High School’s Mary Radigan wins Teacher of the Year

Students at Henry B. Plant High School are united by special needs instructor, Mary Radigan.

Radigan leads several programs for her students that teach more than academics. They learn work and social skills that are critical for life after graduation.

“The staff and the student body embrace this population and there’s so much acceptance to diversity,” Radigan said. “The whole world is inclusion.”

She was recognized as Hillsborough County’s Teacher of the Year in March for her work. Plant High Principal Robert Nelson is grateful to have her on his staff.

“She takes it to the next level,” Nelson said. “The patience she has for her kids, the kindness, and the way she advocates for them set her apart.”

Students learn basic work skills at a coffee shop on campus. They brew, sell, and deliver coffee right outside of their classroom.

They also built and now maintain an organic garden on campus. Soil and plants grown are studied by AP Environmental Studies students. The fruits and vegetables are used in the school cafeteria.

“I like it because of the exposure,” Radigan said. “They’re out there working and it promotes inclusion with the students walking by.”

Additionally, Radigan is a coach of the Unified Special Olympics teams. Plant High Special Olympics teams for flag football and basketball competed at the state level this year.

“To be a successful school you want to give them those extracurricular activities,” Nelson said. “You want to create that culture where kids are excited to come to school.”

 

 

How a nationwide nonprofit organization is helping Tampa

Proclaiming that they are the “first name in second chances,” Eckerd is a nationwide nonprofit organization that focuses on providing solutions that help struggling families and young adults thrive.

At the Eckerd Achievement Academy office in downtown Tampa, teachers Stephen Zambito and Tamara Johnson are just some of the staff that has been hired to teach some at-risk teens in the Tampa Bay community. Through this program their goal is to obtain their high school or GED diploma when traditional schooling options are no longer an option.

Johnson and Zambito create a safe place for these students who often come from broken homes and were children of the foster care system. Many of the students love it at Eckerd and consider it a family type atmosphere.

Every job comes with its ups and downs. Johnson said the hardest part of this particular job is getting attached to the students. “These kids are like my own and it’s really hard when one day they are here and the next day they are gone.” She also said that when they lack motivation it is hard to steer them in the right direction.

Zambito expressed the same sentiment saying, “Over the ten years I have done this I have definitely learned patience.”

Eckerd not only provides high school and GED diploma services, but also juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health services for those in need. For more information about Eckerd please visit Eckerd.org or call 800-554-HELP.

 

 

 

 

USF’s Solar Energy Fair

On Saturday Mar. 26, the Solar Energy Society at USF held their annual Solar Energy Fair. It is an event created to help teach the Tampa community about the latest innovations and technologies offered around the city. At this year’s event, there were Question and Answer panels with University professors and specialists; however, the true heart of the event lies with the students who make it all possible.

This year, two USF graduates presented their research to the public in order to share their new ideas. “I have always been a solar enthusiast,” said Arun Kumar. “I hope that these technologies and my research can be used in Third World countries to help other people.”

New breakthroughs are also coming from female students, such as Francesca Moloney who said: “From an early age I knew I wanted to focus my career on something in the environment.”

Both of these students hope to take their research and implement them at the university and across the Tampa Bay area. If their research and innovations succeed, they hope to apply them around the world. They aspire to build awareness in the community about the research being conducted, so that people can make wiser choices in their everyday lives.