Chasco Fiesta brings New Port Richey citizens together

Born in 1922, Chasco Fiesta has been a staple of Pasco County over the past hundred years. Citizens looked for a way to bring more families into the community while also raising money for the local library. New Port Richey’s first postmaster, Gerben DeVries, inspired by his love for the Indian tribes, created a fictional dance pageant. The event takes place right on the Pithlachascotee River in downtown New Port Rickey.

Chasco Fiesta features memorabilia from past events. They feature information on how it started, who started it, and what types of events were held in each fiesta.

The Chasco Fiesta today has a host of events during its 9-day annual calendar. Starting off with a street parade and ethnic dance with native counterparts and leads off with a carnival in downtown New Port Richey, giving families the opportunity to bring their kids down for some enjoyment.

Chasco Fiesta has many rides for families to come and enjoy. One of those rides includes the Sea Ray Orbiter ride.

Many large country talents have made their way through Chasco along their path to stardom. One in particular being country superstar Blake Shelton, who once performed at Chasco over a decade ago. Cami Austin, chairman of the steering committee, says, “We  pride ourselves on finding talent out there no one has heard of yet; it is what makes Chasco unique.”

Chasco Fiesta features live performances from country singers who are not yet well known. These performances are considered to be the thing to make Chasco unique.

Resident Tyler Letts describes Chasco as an event where all aspects of Pasco are brought into one place. “Holiday, New Port Richey and Trinity are all kind of broken up, so an event like this is really good to bring everyone in the community together”. When we talk about the community, Chasco does a great benefit for many local charitable organizations.

Chasco Fiesta celebrates all of the well known people in New Port Richey’s history; one of those well known people includes Dr. Edwin C. Brookman, one of New Port Richey’s first physicians in 1950. 

Austin describes Chasco as a “guardian angel” for some organizations because they rely on the funds they receive from Chasco to last them for their year-round operating expenses. She added, “We plan on making Chasco bigger and better every year, it’s our responsibility as long as I am head of the committee to make sure that happens.”

Chasco Fiesta features pictures and memorabilia of well known people from the past.

Florida Focus 04-23-2015

In this Florida Focus Education Brief: Bay Area schools want guidelines for social media communication; the Kindness Corner bench is helping fulfill children’s emotional needs; a Florida bill would let students attend any school in the state.



Photo gallery: Florida Lottery, Florida Aquarium team up to promote new ticket for education

On March 12, the Florida Aquarium and the Florida Lottery teamed up to promote the Lottery’s $10,000,000 FLORIDA CASH Scratch-Off game and their shared commitment to education.

Three University of South Florida students were also given the opportunity to see how a press release worked and received behind the scenes feedback from both companies.

Both companies were able to express their support of education through the launch of the new ticket.

The Florida Lottery has helped send over 700,000 students to college through its Bright Futures Scholarship programs.

Photo gallery: Beach Arts Center brings 5th annual Bluegrass Festival to Indian Rocks Beach

This gallery covers the Bluegrass Festival at Indian Rocks Beach on March 14, 2015. It shows what events went on during the day of the festival. The festival consisted of local bluegrass bands and food vendors. The event was put on by the city’s Beach Arts Center.

The  Beach Arts Center hosted the Bluegrass Festival to Kolb Park in Indian Rocks Beach on March 14.  The festival brought in bluegrass bands and food vendors.

Photo gallery: Floridians travel to St. Louis to see Twin Shadow

This gallery shows the destination of three fans, Devon Salmon, Jeremy Metellus and Alyssa McCalla, who traveled from Florida to see a Twin Shadow performance in St. Louis. The fans stopped only for the show, bathroom breaks and much needed three-hour naps in parking lots.

In ambitious exhibit, Tampa Museum of Art showcases works by USF’s Graphicstudio

Todd Smith is changing the face of art exhibits in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Museum of Art executive director has put together countless art exhibits for the museum since he started his position in 2008.

Smith has partnered with the University of South Florida to hold an exhibition in the Tampa Museum of Art titled “Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practice at USF.

“We’ve brought all of our staffs together to collaborate and put together this show, which is the largest ever to look at the history of graphic studio,” Smith said.

The exhibit, one of the largest that the Tampa Museum of Art has seen, has been a success.

“There was a huge turnout for both artists and appreciators of art,” Smith said.

One was USF College of Visual Arts alumni Lindsey Batz.

“Being in Tampa is great opportunity,  having the Tampa Museum of Art so close,” Batz said. “It will kind of bring you back to what you have going on in school as far as, you know, having your professor’s work, having your peer’s work. Everything you see kind of brings out a new little piece.”

Increase in gun-related crime around Tampa makes USF sophomore wary

University of South Florida sophomore Emily Stencil never imagined she would feel unsafe around her own home.

Stencil, who has lived in apartments off campus during both of her years at USF, takes her dog Roxie for a walk every day she comes home from school. She then rides her bike if the sun is shining, and occasionally makes the 5-minute walk to campus.

Now, however, Stencil is beginning to rethink her routine, because of fear for her safety.

“I’ve never been afraid of leaving my doors unlocked or walking my neighborhood alone,” Stencil said. “Now, I’m afraid to leave my house past 8 o’clock.”


According to Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, there have been 235 gun-related crimes this year, up from 164 during this time last year.

The increase in crimes also includes 15 homicides — more than double the amount of this time last year.

Gun theft also has drastically increased since last year. According to TPD, 117 guns were stolen this year. That’s 65 more than this time last year.

Most eye-opening of all is that in the 10 days prior to March 23, 10 teenagers died from shootings.

One case involved a 14-year-old male who was shot and killed at a birthday party on March 21. Police estimate that dozens witnessed the crime, but none have come forward with information.

In another case March 14, Tampa teen Ikeim Bowell was killed in what was ruled an accidental shooting by the department.

According to the Tampa Tribune, a group of Bowell’s friends found a gun in a relative’s house they assumed was unloaded. But shortly after they started playing with it, the gun went off and shot Bowell in the neck.

“In the majority of the cases, witnesses and even victims are reluctant to cooperate with detectives,” Castor said in a statement. “The Tampa Police Department is urging citizens to get involved to stop the violence.”

Castor used a March 16 news conference to encourage members of the public to speak up if they have any information.


While gun-related crimes have risen in the city, major crimes on USF’s Tampa campus have dropped in the past four years.

According to the USF Police Department, in 2010 the crime rate dropped more than 19 percent from the previous year.

The USF Police Department reports that crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary have dropped 45 percent, but arrests have increased 52 percent.

USF Police lieutenant Marty King credited the improved efforts of officers for the drop in on-campus crime.

According to a release, more DUI checkpoints were added to areas surrounding campus. Officers also underwent extensive training, and a stronger traffic enforcement has led to the decrease in crimes.

The clearance rate, which is the number of reported cases successfully solved, has increased every year.

“Most importantly is the partnership we have with our community,” King said. “This partnership allows our campus community many options to report suspicious activity or crimes in progress. These efforts, coupled with the crime prevention initiatives we provide, can all play a factor in reducing crime.”

Still, Stencil is worried.

If the crime rate continues to increase, Stencil said she will consider moving on-campus to a dormitory, where she hopes she will be safer.

“It’s not something I want to do,” Stencil said. “But if it can save my life, I’m going to do it.”

Organizations Bring Change 2 Mind, Active Minds at USF fight mental-health stigma

If you met Margaret DeBellotte-Torres — an ambassador for Bring Change 2 Mind, a nonprofit organization working to reduce mental health stigma — you probably wouldn’t realize she was once a victim of it.

A few years ago, life was moving too quickly, and DeBellotte-Torres was miserable. A divorce.  A child moving out. A lost job.

“I didn’t recognize what was really happening until it got to the point of crisis,” she said of being diagnosed with clinical depression.

Working through her difficulties resulted in financial problems, and she asked a family member to let her move in.

“You better make sure you take those pills,” the relative said. “Because I don’t want you coming here going crazy on us.”

Social stigma, like the relative’s comment, refers to prejudice and discrimination toward people with mental illness. But sufferers can also experience  “perceived stigma,” according to “Mental Health and Stigma,” an article by Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D.

Self-stigma is when the sufferer internalizes perceptions of discrimination.

Stigma leads sufferers to feel ashamed and can hurt their chances for recovery. DeBellotte-Torres said the stigma caused her to be silent about her illness, which made it worse.

“I felt like I was on an island by myself,” she said.

Finally, she started reading stories of other people, mostly celebrities, who had mental health problems, which helped her see she wasn’t the only person struggling and that it was possible to recover her health.

“They advertise how to get rid of, you know, acid reflux on television, and how to get rid of erectile dysfunction, but they don’t really emphasize how to go get help for depression,”DeBellotte-Torres said.

However, there is controversy over how to combat mental-illness stigma. Some tactics use “symbolic violence,” according to Kate Holland’s article in the June 2012 issue of Social Semiotics.

In symbolic violence, a group promotes its agenda so much it comes across as labeling others as ignorant. This results in a gentle, but invisible, violence that can turn people away from even worthy causes because people do not like the accusatory tone of the campaigns, some advocates claim.

Furthermore, some feel anti-stigma campaigns that promote words such as “crazy,” “lunatic,” and “bipolar” are offensive.  Holland said these words are so integrated into every day conversation that shaming these words is problematic. Instead of decreasing stigma, she argues it might increase discrimination because the word-shaming could be viewed as overly hostile.

At USF, the Action Minds Club is taking the approach of empowering students to speak openly about mental health.

The club plans to use social media andthe hashtag #fightagainststigma to encourage followers to post images or quotes of accurate representations or misrepresentations of mental health and replace negative posts with a positive response.

Active Minds will host workshops in the fall to educate people about mental illnesses. More information can be found on the Active Minds USF Facebook page.

Like DeBellotte-Torres, Active Minds’ president, Nevedha White, a psychology and social work junior, believes in combating ignorance.

“Because it’s so common, it only makes sense that we learn more about it so that we can treat each other with the respect that we deserve,” White said.

Construction industry launches marketing campaign to lure more young people to field

Imagine waking up for work and building something you can look back fondly on and be proud of. This feeling can be attributed to many things: being in a lab, a classroom, an office or even on a construction site.

It is often drilled into young people that their only option is formal education. While this is an excellent path to take, viewing it as the only option may keep young people from excelling. Education is vital to shaping young people into what they become. However, instead of a classroom, some people may be more suited for a hands-on approach.

One solution for this issue has been young people going into a construction career. Career opportunities ranging from carpenter, ironworker or project manager are available and provide young people with opportunities they may not have considered.

Mira Carrozza, a USF junior majoring in biomedical sciences, says, “I’m happy in my major, but I know so many people that aren’t. So many of my friends have changed their majors at least three times.”

The National Center for Construction, Education and Research, a construction training company, launched a campaign focused on recruiting youth into the industry called the “Build Your Future” initiative. NCCER’s initiative has events and competitions nationwide to educate young people about the opportunities for education and growth in the industry.

Jennifer Wilkerson, Director of Marketing at NCCER, says, “We have seen so much growth in the construction industry, and we expect to continue to see the same trend, but the key to this happening is recruiting young people into the industry.”

The biggest issue the industry faces are stereotypes about lack of opportunities for growth or jobs suitable for women. Yet, industry officials say, there is a wide selection of career paths and infinite opportunities for growth and promotion.

Wilkerson explained that the Build Your Future initiative focuses on recruiting young people who have ambitions to grow within the industry. She calls these young people craft professionals.

The idea that women do not “belong” in the construction industry is a misconception the industry is working hard to change. The first week of March was declared “Women in Construction Week” by The National Association of Women in Construction.

The goal in presenting opportunities in the construction industry is not to discourage young people from pursuing formal education, but to consider all options.

MOSI manager uses musical talent, science knowledge to teach kids as a STEAMpunk

Daniel Lattimore uses his degrees in biomedical science and psychology to stay in tune with the people he works with every day at the Museum of Science and Industry.

“Being here at MOSI, I’ve noticed that the world is ever advancing,” Lattimore said. “As a STEAMpunk — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math  —we are kind of able to provide the stepping  stones to guiding into advancing … our jobs as STEAMpunks is to connect people to that technology.”

More often than not, you hear Lattimore before you see him. He plays a 3-D printed fiddle and always draws a crowd. Lattimore goes by the name Dr. Tempo while wearing a lab coat covered in musical symbols.

“It does help that my background was in violin for about 6-7 years,” he said. “So, that was something I was happy to bring to the table.”

Lattimore appears quiet and unassuming, yet possesses confidence that is immediately noticeable. In his role as manager, he takes care of any problem or situation promptly. Fellow STEAMpunk “Dr. Why” admires him.

“Boss or not, he’s a great friend and a great guy,” he said.

Lattimore enjoys his role as Dr. Tempo as much as overseeing a group of mad scientists throughout the museum. He takes both jobs seriously and knows how to do each of them well.

“Over time, I kind of saw a vision between wanting to be this bridge between our management and our STEAMpunks,” Lattimore said.

He’s a musician, boss, scientist and friend. Good show, Daniel, good show.


USF Japanese Club welcomes spring with Haru Matsuri Festival

Spring is a big deal in Japan.  The cherry blossom represents the changing of the season to the people, and Haru Matsuri is the festival that ushers in the warmer weather.

The Japanese Club at USF puts on its own version of Haru Matsuri to educate students more about the culture.

Lisa Ton is one of the senior members.

“Here, we celebrate spring by presenting our own spring festival,” Ton said. “We have Japanese food, games and performances, and we just try to bring a slice of Japanese spring to USF.”

The club features organizations such as the USF Judo and Aikido clubs at the festival. They also provide experts to talk about traditional and new art forms, dances, cuisines and practices that are emerging in Japan.

One of these experts is Seth Cole, a collector of Japanese War memorabilia from World War II.

“I love sharing history of people,” Cole said. “I believe when you can touch history hands-on, it reinforces the stories of our grandfathers. It makes it a little more real.”

Even as a non-Japanese member of the club, Cole has felt more than welcome every time he presents his collection or attends a meeting.

“I’ve been welcomed with open arms and have made some truly incredible friendships,” he said.

Japanese Club festivals like Haru Matsuri build a bridge for students to learn about a culture that may be very far and foreign for them.  It also provides a forum for Japanese students to interact with and relate to students of different cultures.

04-16-2015 Florida Focus

In this Florida Focus Episode: A Ruskin mail man causes a commotion in D.C.; A woman robbed a Circle K in Pinellas Park; A Pasco County break-in leads to a shooting. The Tampa city council is deciding on the Hillsborough River sea wall graffiti; The playoffs start tonight in Tampa for the Lightning.


Florida Focus 04-14-2015

In this Florida Focus episode: A Walmart in Brandon closes due to plumbing issues; apartment prices in Tampa begin to rise; a St. Petersburg pedestrian is struck and killed by a car; a Tampa man is charged for bringing a Missouri teen home with him; local retailers offer specials and freebies for tax day.


Man finds hope after 10 years of battling Parkinson’s disease, depression

John Proios was a healthy man who used to sell insurance. He had a well-paid job and a vibrant life until he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 55.

“First thing I sense is that when I was typing on the keyboard,  my left pinky would not type,” Proios said.

At the time he didn’t take it seriously. However, Proios  told his friend, a neurologist, and he recommended that Proios see a local medical specialist.

Going to the doctor, he did not know his life would change forever. Proios was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and for him the diagnostic was surreal.

“I was upset and I was scared,” Proios said.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic movement disorder with an unknown cause and no cure. Nearly 1 million Americans live with the chronic disease.

Since his diagnosis, Proios has dealt with depression for 10 years.

“Depression just stops you from living. You don’t want to,” said Proios. “You think in your brain you should want to do this — I should get up, get up, I should go out, I should ride my bike and I should exercise. Well, I don’t want to.”

But Proios said these days are the best he’s ever had after 10 years of Parkinson’s disease and depression.

“Depression is very common in Parkinson’s disease,”said Robert Hauser, a USF Health doctor who specializes in Parkinson’s. “It affects about 50 percent of the patients sometime in the course of the disease. And it is taught that a lot of that has to do with chemical changes in the brain.”

Active mom, wife doesn’t let spina bifida slow her down

As a reporter, news anchor and movie set teacher, Kristine Schroeder has been in the spotlight for much of her life. She has an outgoing personality and is incredibly independent — but she also has a major physical disability.  Born with spina bifida, she has used crutches and a scooter her whole life to get around.

Schroeder majored in elementary education with a minor in mass communications in college, then worked as a television news reporter and anchor in several markets around the country.

She has also worked on the sets of “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2” as a tutor for Nathan Gamble, the child actor who starred in the movie, when they were filming on location in Clearwater.

“It was really, really a lot of fun,” she said. “It was a great experience.”

Adding to her list of feats, she has also completed six half-marathons for charity on her hand cycle. She credits her parents for giving her the confidence to achieve her dreams.

“My mom and dad are really the reason I have the drive and the ambition that I have, because they never told me I couldn’t do something, they never said no,” Schroeder said.

Kristine has been married for 25 years, and she and her husband, Adam, have a 15-year-old son, Michael.

Her husband says: “She’s very positive and determined and still really active despite a lot of challenges, and still stays really positive.  What attracted me to her 25 years ago, still does today.”

Pi Delta Psi student balances USF Asian community with work as DJ, photographer

Casper Yen is a communications student at USF, but there is more to him than meets the eye.

Yen gets involved in the USF Asian community by joining clubs like the Taiwanese Student Association, the Chinese Culture and Language Club and the Asian interest fraternity Pi Delta Psi.

“Coming into college, I didn’t expect to get into Greek life,” Yen said. “If you saw me before college, I didn’t look like the kind of person that would join a fraternity.”

Yen has been a brother of Pi Delta Psi since spring 2013, when he rushed with the rest of his Kappa Class brothers. One of his brothers, Timothy Garcia, says he’s seen growth in Yen since they met.

“He’s definitely a character,” Garcia said. “But seeing him now, he’s changed a lot. He’s become more of a leader and takes more initiative.”

Now Yen isn’t just involved with the Asian community at USF, he’s also the head professional disc jockey for Bulls Radio.

“I officially became a hired DJ for Bulls Radio last summer,” Yen said. “So after two years as a freshman and sophomore, I’m finally doing this as a job.”

Yen works many events for Bulls Radio, such as the Bull Market every Wednesday and the USF student tailgate for every home football game.

Yen also takes photographs professionally.

“I did a lot for the Oracle in my freshman year,” Yen said. “But up until now, I mostly do a lot of freelance, whether it is for weddings, photoshoots, grad photos and things like that.”

If you want to see some of Yen’s photographs, check out his Facebook page and Flickr profile.

Tarpon Springs hair stylist perseveres despite health woes, car crashing into salon

After having a car crash through the wall of her salon, a Tarpon Springs woman has been able to keep her business afloat.

In July 2009, two teenagers were evading police after refusing a routine traffic stop, authorities said.

After they sped off, the car slid and crashed through the walls of CK & Company Hair Designs, authorities said.

The teens then fled the scene but were apprehended by police at 2 that morning, authorities said.

Catherine Koursiotis, a stylist for over 30, had to deal with a 10-foot hole in the wall of her salon in the wake of a cardiac catheterization gone wrong earlier that year.

“It was an interesting year, but I’m a survivor. I just keep plugging on, baby,” Koursiotis said.

She improvised, walled up the hole with plywood and was ready to cut hair the next morning.

Koursiotis continues to cut hair and plans to open an advanced beauty education center to teach the next generation of stylists and to help them with their careers.

“(Koursiotis is) not a teacher, (she is) a mentor,” said Pedro Rodriguez, a barber working in her salon. “(She is) someone who’s going to help you and guide you through whatever you’re going through and teach you about ups and downs.”