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Trump’s administration also rescinded documents from Obama’s Title IX guidance, including a 2011 Dear Colleague letter and a 2014 question-and-answer document.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

 

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

Melting of permafrost awakens fears of ancient diseases

As the Earth’s temperature begins to rise, not only are the ice caps melting, but the permafrost is melting as well. As this thick, usually frozen layer of soil begins to melt, rumors start to surface regarding ancient and, in some cases, unknown diseases resurfacing and posing potential threats to mankind. However, many of these rumors are false.

As Jasmine Fox-Skelly reports in BBC Earth, “scientists have discovered fragments of RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska’s tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia.” They suspect that black plague and smallpox DNA fragments are also frozen in the permafrost. These disease fragments have been discovered in buried, frozen bodies of humans and animals alike.

In addition to these fragments, NASA scientists discovered and revived Carnobacterium pleistocene, a lactic acid bacteria, frozen since the era of woolly mammoths over 32,000 years ago.

While scientists are not too concerned, the possibility that dormant plague and small pox viruses could reawaken and spread across the globe has caught their attention.

“Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark,” Jean-Michel Claverie, microbiologist at the Aix-Marseille University in France said, per Jasmin Fox-Skelly at BBC. Yes, these viruses are concerning, but with modern medicine, including penicillin, they can be easily eradicated.

According to an article by Stephanie Pappas on Live Science, strains of the Zika virus — which has been of recent concern due to mosquitoes — have been discovered in the melting ponds and permafrost. Pappas also reviewed a 2014 study from the American Geophysical Union, which stated warmer climates could also cause outbreaks of Cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease, more so in areas with poor sanitation than others. Additionally, The Indiana Times suggests diseases like malaria and dengue fever will become more common with warmer climates; although, it is not made clear if these specific diseases are coming from the melting permafrost.

Business Insider adds to the list with the discovery of Mollivirus sibericum, from the Siberian permafrost. While it is unclear exactly how this virus affects humans, it is a massive virus, containing 500 genes, causing it to be placed in a category known as Megaviridae, according to Ancient Origins website. The website further reports the discovery of Pithovirus sibericum and Pandoravirus (more large, ancient viruses discovered in 2003), also from Siberia’s permafrost. Erin Brodwin and Lydia Ramsey of Business Insider report a 2005 discovery of Mimivirus in the melting Russian permafrost, which is a virus with 1,200 genes that is twice the length of the viruses infecting the population today. Fox-Skelly notes that tetnaus and pathogens that cause botulism can survive in the frozen ground as well.

These viruses seem intimidating and will require further studying to determine their threat to humans and animals, but they are not the main concern. A reindeer with anthrax died over 75 years ago, became frozen under the soil, and released the disease in 2016 when it thawed and infected about 20 people and killed a young boy in the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle. Bacteria and viruses are normally not able to survive away from a host for too long; however, the dark, frozen, oxygen deprived permafrost creates the perfect environment for these bacteria to survive.

As the ice continues to thaw, it is possible for more ancient viruses and bacteria to be rediscovered; scientists fear that this will only be the beginning. It is entirely possible for many ancient diseases to “rise from the dead” and infect the living.

ISES Emphasizes The Impact Of Solar Panels During Solar Fair At USF

The International Solar Energy Society (ISES) hosted their third annual solar fair at the University of South Florida on March 21 in hopes to educate the community on solar energy. 

The event included free food, informational seminars about solar panels and tours of the on campus Flex house and solar panel field for the community.

Rick Garrity, an environmental scientist, estimates the payback on the amount of money owed by individuals for solar panels lies around eight years.

“Between 0 years and 8 years the payments are paying off the system but you are getting the electricity, so your energy bills from the Tampa electric company have gone down by a significant amount,” Garrity said.

USF student and vice president of ISES, Kahveh Saramout, plans on including more activities in the future for the solar fair.

“We think the solar fair went very well but we definitely have higher ambitions for next year,” Saramout said. “We want to have a tour that encompasses a larger part of Tampa, hopefully with busses that shuttle us around to different TECO power plants.”

ISES member Nicholas Hall felt that one of the most memorable moments of the solar fair included guest speaker and USF professor Dr. Goswami.

“He introduced the solar energy fair by himself he was one of the most revered speakers. Many of the vendors that showed up actually knew him and are very proud of the work that he has done in the community,” Hall said.

Keep an eye out for next year’s solar fair with even more activities and fun for the entire family.

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.

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.”