Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 10, 2016

In this episode: a student was arrested for loading a gun on a school bus, a shoplifter’s death is ruled a homicide, arrests are made in a string of car burglaries, a stolen car is crashed through a house, and the Medical Center of Trinity is lighting up red.

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Florida Focus Feb. 9, 2016

In this episode: Tampa Bay Crime Stoppers is working to deter gun violence; a Florida law firm is filing an energy drink lawsuit; medical marijuana legalization is resurfacing in the Florida House; Tampa Bay’s tourism industry is growing; the Tampa Bay Rays are releasing ticket promotions.

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Wild Days Light Up SeaWorld Orlando

ORLANDO – Growing up in Puerto Rico, Celivette Diaz always dreamed of visiting SeaWorld.

“All of my cousins would come to Florida and talk about SeaWorld,” Diaz said. “They would tell me how amazing it was and I was always so jealous.”

Luck seemed to be on her side, because a few months ago, her parents surprised her with a trip to Florida. It just so happened that her trip would fall during a time where SeaWorld hosted their annual Wild Days event.

According to SeaWorld’s website, “Wild Days connects guests to the wild and wonderful world we all share, with educational and interactive shows that give guests the opportunity to meet leaders in the world of animal rescue, rehabilitation and preservation.”

“I didn’t know anything about Wild Days,”  Diaz said. “I’m happy I managed to make it to the second weekend because I love penguins.”

This year, Wild Days takes place every Saturday and Sunday on the last three weekends of January. Each weekend has a different theme to it. Diaz visited on the second weekend, which was Penguin Lovers’ Weekend.

Only for this weekend, SeaWorld’s Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina hosts a special penguin focused event where you can meet a penguin.

“I’ve had a lot of fun today,” said Diaz’s sister, Valeria. “They give you a map with spaces to get stamps from different places in the park. Once you get them all you get a free key chain.”

Wild Days is not just a one-on-one with animal experts. People of all ages can take part in various interactive games, up-close experiences and interesting, learning sessions at the 14 zones scattered throughout the park. Once inside select zones, guests can collect one of six stamps that leads to a free key chain and a behind-the-scenes tour of SeaWorld’s rescue area.

One of Diaz’s favorite places in the theme park was the Dolphin Cove area. This part of the park is where SeaWorld houses their dolphins and has them available for underwater viewing.

Diaz was vey excited to be near the dolphins.
Diaz was vey excited to be near the dolphins.

“Dolphins have always been my favorite animal,” Diaz said. “I would always see them on the television, but to see them so close to you is wonderful.”

Wild Days always draws in the crowds at SeaWorld. Even though the high today was 56 degrees, park hours were extended by 30 minutes because of the popularity of the event.

“It’s crazy how busy the park is right now,”  Kendall Starke said, an employee at one of SeaWorld’s attractions. “Usually now we’re in the middle of post-Christmas time slump.”

SeaWorld aims to educate people on the ways to keep animals and the environment safe. They have a special show that aims to teach guests about the care that their orca’s receive on a daily basis.

Even though she has always been a huge SeaWorld fan, Diaz was a bit disappointed in the company back when the documentary “Blackfish” came out. She, like many, believed that SeaWorld was mistreating their orcas.

“I was angry at them for a long time after watching the movie,”Diaz said. “But being here today and seeing how much love and care they give their animals tells me everything I need to know.”

The last weekend of Wild Days will occur on Jan. 30 – 31.

USF St. Pete celebrates 50 years of learning

St. Petersburg, Fla – It’s a semicentennial celebration and the proud colors are green and gold.  USF St. Pete campus is celebrating its 50th year of operation in 2015.

The campus kicked off the year’s celebration in June with a ceremony and street renaming. Those who attended the event included USF President Judy Genshaft, Regional Chancellor of USFSP Sophia Wisniewska, Mayor Rick Kriseman, students and alumni.

“It marks 50 years of extraordinary students, brilliant faculty and dedicated staff.” said Sudsy Tschiderer,  USF St. Petersburg Alumna. “It’s about our students that are here now and up to 50 years ago.”

The school campus has a rich history that lies with the students and the buildings on campus. The campus features three main colleges. The College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences and the Kate Tiedemann College of Business, which is currently being built.

Student life has grown over the years of the university’s operation. When first opened in 1965, the school welcomed 260 students bused in from local cities. The student body population has expanded to an average of 6,000 students per semester. Even with the expansion, USF St. Petersburg has a vast size difference compared to the Tampa campus.

“I love that the class sizes are a little bit smaller so the teachers are into their students.” said Nicole Ward, a USFSP student. “It’s definitely a more intimate setting that I need in a class.”

Through the remainder of the year USFSP will host several events and seminars reflecting on the anniversary.

“Since I’ve been at this campus there are so many things that I love and I’m so glad I’m here to participate in this special year.” said Tschiderer.

For more information on upcoming anniversary events and celebrations visit USFSP.org/50years

 

 

Photo: Lunch at Trinity Cafe

Trinity Cafe is a free restaurant that provides hot meals to the homeless, hungry and working poor. However, Trinity Cafe is about more than providing a meal, It is about treating guests with compassion and respect they might not normally receive. Trinity Cafe’s lunch service takes place Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lunch service includes enthusiastic volunteers who will serve guests drinks, a meal and provide them with conversation. At Trinity Cafe, you will find kindhearted people and delicious food.

Davis shows perseverance pays

Andre Davis, former University of South Florida wide receiver (2011-14), currently holds 13 football program records, including career receptions, single game receptions and career receiving touchdowns.

“I feel like I play a nice little part in USF history, being that I came in to USF and broke a few records.” he said.

As arguably the best receiver in USF program history, the “Freakshow” says it’s “a blessing” to hold these top spots, but more importantly to be a part of USF’s legacy.

“Just being able for players from the future to be able to come in and see my face on plaques is something that you dream of.” he said.

Though the former team captain has graduated and moved on from playing for the Bulls, he’s still active with the current team. He frequently attends practices, attends home games on the sidelines  and mentors current players, hoping to positively impact “future USF history makers.”

“I look at all the players and the younger guys up under me as little brothers. I tell them to be leaders and that even though there may be hard times, you have to fight through them.” he said.

Specifically, Davis mentors current USF safety Nate Godwin, as both classify themselves “Bay Made, Bay Stayed” after growing up in Tampa Bay and staying in the area for college.

“Me and Dre are very close. He just shows me how to handle success and be humble.” Godwin said. “He leads by example. He’s a legend in my books, and he’s a legend in their books. He’s one of the guys I know they’re definitely going to remember.” Godwin said.

When asked about the legacy he left as a Bull, Davis didn’t talk about his records, game-winning touchdowns, or making it in the USF history books.

“It’s more than that.” Davis said. “The legacy that I left here at USF is definitely being a leader, a hard worker, and a guy that persevered through a lot of things. That’s it.”

Since his days as a Bull, Davis had a short stint with the Buffalo Bills, and is currently a NFL free agent.

Chasco Fiesta was a success for New Port Richey

For decades, the Chasco Fiesta has been a mainstay in the New Port Richey community. The Fiesta is a weeklong celebration of the local Chasco culture, while mixing in various fair-like activities.

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Craig McCart, one of the chief organizers of the Chasco Fiesta, has been involved with the celebration for more years than he can remember.

“I’ve been involved since back in 1974,” McCart said. “But, I’ve been on the steering committee since 1998.”

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McCart explained there are nearly 30 non-profit organizations that have come out this year to take part in the Chasco Fiesta. One of those organizations, West Pasco Sertoma, is headed up by Michael Tyler.

“We support the All Children’s Sertoma Speech and Hearing Center,” Tyler said. “We come out to the Chasco Fiesta and cook for two weekends in a row. We cook so kids can hear.”

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Tyler is just one of many that come out to the Fiesta for a noble cause. Tara Londergan is part of a women’s motorcycle group called the Diva Angels. The Diva Angels are a non-profit organization that come out and donate their time for a good cause. This year, they were working with Tyler and West Pasco Sertoma to raise funds.

“We have poker runs, last year we had a spaghetti dinner for the homeless vets,” Londergan explained. “We hang out and raise funds for other charities.”

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With all the fun and festivities, there can be times where things get a little out of hand. That’s where Officer Greg Williams of the New Port Richey Police Department comes in.

“The only issue we have sometimes is the excess alcohol use,” Williams said. “But, for the most part, it’s a good event. All different classes of people come out.”

Like Officer Williams, mostly everyone seems to agree that the Chasco Fiesta is a positive event for the community and the surrounding areas.

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“Oh, it’s awesome,” Londergan said. “It’s great for the downtown, it keeps it alive.”

The Chasco Fiesta comes to Sims Park in March of every year. It includes a big parade on the first Saturday, along with concerts throughout the week in the Sims Park Amphitheater and finishes up with a boat parade on the final weekend.

Ms. USF, Phyllis P. Marshall

Tampa, Fla. – Phyllis P. Marshall is the backbone of the University of South Florida. She was there from the very beginning in 1960.

Marshall lived in the first student union called the University Center. She was essentially the first resident assistant on campus. The girls’ dorms were on the fourth floor of the building.

President John Allen wanted the focus of the school to be on academics and merits, not any social aspects.

“He and the other deans and the other students did not want beauty contests, popularity contests  and they didn’t want Greek organizations either,” Andrew Huse, associate librarian at USF said.

Huse said Marshall was an advocate for students. “If she didn’t go to the event, they might not have been able to have the event.”

Marshall is known as “Ms. USF” for her involvement with students. Among many ideas, she helped advocate for students to bank at the credit union. In her mind, it was not fair for students that did not have transportation.

“I think she was an advocate for integrating students with the university.” Huse said.

The University Center was later named the Marshall Student Center in 1994 to coincide with Marshall’s retirement.

USF implements reading days to help relieve stress of finals 

 

TAMPA, Fla.- The University of South Florida’s academic calendar has some changes that will help students during the most stressful time of the year, finals week.

When USF students were asked if they knew what reading days are, most were unaware of the calendar change.

“I do not know what reading days are,” said Erica Exalien.

“Kind of, I’ve heard about it but I’m not totally sure,” said Cole Nixon.

The spring 2016 semester will accommodate for two reading days on Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29. There will be no assignments due, tests given or even class on these days.

“Reading days are a period between the semester and the beginning of finals… so traditionally it’s used for students to prepare for finals,” said Student Body President Andy Rodriguez. “The amount of time varies depending on the school so some schools do one day, some schools do two days, some schools do three days, and there’s also schools that do an entire week off from school to prepare for finals.”

Other Florida universities have also implemented these reading days for spring 2016. This includes the University of Central Florida with one day, the University of Florida with two and the University of North Florida with three. Positive feedback is being heard around the state.

“It will give students an opportunity to be a little less stressed out when trying to prepare for one of the most stressful times of the year,” Rodriguez said. “Finals is when you will see students not eating, not sleeping or their hygiene is lacking because they need to get ready for what a bulk of their grade is going to be.”