USF students rally in support of DACA

TAMPA – Dozens of students showed up at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza Thursday in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, commonly known as DACA.

Jose Flores (left), Stephanie Garza (center) and Michelle Joseph (right) hold signs made for the DACA rally at USF while attendees talk in the background.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order that prevented deportation of children under the age of 16 who immigrated to the United States illegally. While DACA is not a permanent solution for those who are eligible to apply, it gives them more time to work or receive an education in the United States. According to Pew Research Center, an estimated 790,000 unauthorized immigrants have been protected under DACA.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced that the administration will end the program in six months. As of now, no new DACA applications will be considered.

Trump’s presidential campaign focused on decreasing the number of immigrants to the United States, along with deporting those who are not here legally. Almost immediately after being sworn in, Trump began to follow through on his promise to be tough on undocumented immigrants.

Since the DACA announcement, congressional Democrats have been scrambling to make a deal in order to protect DACA immigrants from deportation.

Sign made for the DACA rally at USF.

Many DACA recipients are now in college, and they fear that they may be deported before being able to finish their education. Stephanie Garza, one of the organizers for the on campus DACA rally, explains why Session’s announcement is personal for some USF students.

“We know that here at USF, the estimate is between 70-100 DACA students are part of the USF community,” said Garza.

Several organizations helped plan and support the event, including College Democrats, Mi Familia Vota, For Our Future and UndocUnited. Students like Jose Flores who participated in the event wanted to show the Trump administration that college campuses support DACA students.

For Our Future was one of the many organizations that supported the DACA rally at USF.

“We wanted to show that the community will organize and protect their own, and you know, just basically show that USF opposes the decision,” said Flores. “We hope that if other people follow in our footsteps, or, you know, we all come together, if other universities have their rallies too, together we’ll, you know, amplify our voices and we’ll be heard.”

The issue of immigration hits close to home with many people who attended the event.

“Personally, I know a lot of people who are immigrants, documented, undocumented, and you know, I see how their lives could change if something was passed, and how their lives are different than other people’s because sometimes they don’t have the same opportunities as those people,” said Michelle Joseph, who is with the organization Mi Familia Vota. “So, we’re here to support the passing of the DREAM Act, and that would mean that people would get to live normal lives kind of thing, not worry about whether they’re going to be kicked out of the country kind of thing.”

Different people spoke during the event, some of whom will be directly affected by the elimination of DACA.

“My favorite part was that some people felt empowered enough to go up and speak, even though they were not listed to speak, you know, they were motivated enough to come out and say a few words,” said Flores. “Each person that comes up and speaks up only adds to the slew of voices that are coming up, that are speaking out against this kind of you know, behavior, actions from the administration.”

Students were not afraid to show their disdain for President Trump with their rally signs.

DACA recipients will be in limbo until Congress decides if it is going to instate a new program to help young unauthorized immigrants. Some are trying to renew their DACA before the Oct 5. deadline set by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applying for a renewal, however, does not ensure that they will be able to stay in the United States for the remainder of their DACA eligibility if Congress fails to create a new program.

For many, this is frustrating and alarming.

“If you’re not upset, if you’re not enraged, then you’re not paying attention,” said Flores.

A look behind the scenes of the ASRC committee

Mixed in with every student’s list of fees and tuition that get paid with mild griping is “Flat Fee A&S Tampa.” The Activity and Service (A&S) fee – which equates to more than $17.8 million this year — falls under Student Government’s jurisdiction. The funs are allocated to student organizations and offices on campus.

The A&S fee is paid by students each semester. The fee includes a flat fee of $7 per semester and $12.08 per credit hour each semester. If a student takes 15 credit hours in a semester, they pay $188.20 in A&S fees.

The A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) is fully equipped with 12 voting members. This includes six voting senators and two alternate members if one of the six isn’t able to attend a meeting.

Collectively, this committee goes over budget requests to fund parts of campus such as new equipment for Campus Recreation, furniture in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) and events for student organizations.

“The goal of ASRC would be to receive budget requests from things that are asking for A&S funding, to determine how they provide activities and services to students and to fund them for those activities and services,” Sen. Aladdin Hiba, who is starting his fourth term on the committee, said. “With the overall goal of making things better for our USF students, adding activities, adding services.”

The ASRC committee met Friday to vote on a chair – who is responsible for calling all further meetings – and a vice chair.

During the remainder of the fall semester, committee members go over practice budget requests in order to learn the rules and the process. Additionally, members are assigned to different departments and student organizations on campus that request funding to serve as a liaison between that group and the committee.

The larger budget requests, such as the MSC and Campus Recreation, are due in December for the committee to start reviewing when winter break ends.

“We want them to have them to us early on, at least relatively,” Hiba said. “Well before this deadline happens, we’ll be meeting with the departments. We’ll have people communicating with the departments to see ‘this is what the department wants,’ ‘these are things the department thinks maybe could be cut,’ ‘these are the directions the department wants to go in.’ We get a gist of that.”

The 2017-18 budget allocated $11.9 million toward these larger departments for activities and renovations that the committee felt would be beneficial to the student body. This is compared to the $10.8 million that went toward these departments in last year’s budget.

According to Sen. Saeed Sinan, who is also starting his fourth term on the ASRC committee, departments are coming up with more new initiatives to request funding for and it’s part of the committee’s job to determine which of those are worth funding.

“We don’t want to overspend and overallocate things,” he said. “Basically, we look to see if the impact was the best for the student body. Should we decrease that? Should we reallocate funds to a different entity or a different program within the department?”

Hiba said one of the hardest parts of dealing with the budgets is having the conversations about what areas or programs need to be cut.

“If we’re spending say $50,000 on something that 200 people go to,” he said. “Well, $50,000 is enough to fund 50 student organizations for a year. We have to make these judgments, these decisions. This is too expensive, it’s not impacting enough people.”

In comparison to the deadline for departments, student organizations have to submit budget requests by Jan. 26 for consideration by the committee. In last year’s budget, student organizations as a whole received $1.1 million compared to $1 million the year prior.

“There’s around 300 to 400 to 500 student orgs that submit budget requests, and then the chair assigns a set amount of orgs per ASRC member,” Sinan said. “Then we meet with them based on the standards we decide in the fall semester. Then we go on to review each budget request separately.”

The committee allows student organizations to request funding for up to eight events per year and allocate $4 a head for food and event-related material such as tablecloths and decorations. This process was developed this past year. Prior organizations could get funded $2 a head per event and would have to request additional funding for other materials.

In an attempt to make the per-head funding system more accurate, SG purchased a card swipe system that can be rented out to student organizations. This allows for those in attendance to swipe their student ID to mark attendance and gives the organization as well as ASRC a better idea of how many students are attending events.

While most student organizations submit requests on their own, the ASRC committee has created counsels that group similar organizations – that each have a representative on the counsel – together to allow for better funding. Rather than funding each individual organization requesting money from ASRC, those that would fall into a counsel would request money from the counsel – that requested money from ASRC.

“We have a few dozen who use money completely differently from the way most organizations use it,” Hiba said. “Sports clubs are an excellent example because they don’t have events, they don’t need food, they don’t need money for the types of things we usually spend on organizations.

“What we’ve done is we’ve established the Sports Club Counsel whose entire funding paradigm is geared toward sports clubs. So, they can’t fund food and they can’t fund events in the standard sense. Instead what they fund for is primarily for team equipment that would belong to the team and for travel.”

According to Sinan, if a counsel does fund something that the ASRC committee normally would fund – such as an event – it can’t be funded differently than ASRC would. If the Engineering Counsel were to fund an event, it would still be required to fund $4 per head the way ASRC would.

A member of the committee is assigned to each organization to help work as a liaison between the organization and ASRC. What member of the committee represents what student organization is as random as it can be. Along with that right, ASRC provides a number of other rights to organizations.

“We give student organizations certain rights throughout the process,” Hiba said. “We give them the right to meet with an ASRC member, we give them the right to have their budget heard if they submit it on time, and we give them the right to appeal it to a different person if the person they met with the first time didn’t do a good job of representing them to ASRC.”

Committee members are expected to disclose any organizations they may have a bias toward or against to promote fairness. According to Sinan, all student organizations are viewed the same and go through the same process to help ensure fairness when allocating funds.

“The philosophy of ASRC is basically ‘We do not fund to better the organization or department’ because we are the custodians of the A&S fee,” Sinan said. “So, we are here to serve the students and better their experience here at USF because they paid it so we are trying to empower them.”

Advanced technology takes education research into the future

USF professor Sanghoon Park partnered with the USF Advanced Visualization Center to 3-D print cubes to interact with an educational app for his research. Photo by Abby Rinaldi

At first glance, USF assistant professor of instructional technology Sanghoon Park’s five 3-D printed cubes with their angular designs on each side and vivid, contrasting colors may seem simple. But pair them with a tablet app, and these cubes take a new form.

Each cube is dedicated to a different renewable energy resource: solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass. Each side corresponds to a different type of content: text, images, videos and 3-D models. Open the app, take a cube and point one side of it at the tablet and the app opens different types of content for the user to explore. Guiding users through the content is an animated bee.

The app and cubes are the work of Park and the USF Advanced Visualization Center (AVC). The full project, called ARPA, is a combination of augmented reality (AR) and a pedagogical agent (PA). The bee is the pedagogical agent.

As advanced technologies emerge, academics and researchers attempt to integrate them into the field of education, Park said. One such tool is AR, which he feels surpasses multimedia teaching tools such as informational websites. AR, he said, offers new ways of exploring educational content that couldn’t be done before, such as exploring a blood cell, or in his case, exploring renewable energy resources.

“They can actually make impossible things possible,” he said.

However, Park felt the tools on the market for AR were missing something.

“The limitation was that none of them actually considered using the pedagogical agent in augmented reality environments, which was to me problematic because AR, augmented reality, by definition is an enhanced digital component on top of the real physical object,” he said.

Park’s research focused on putting the learner into the educational environment through AR, but with the addition of the pedagogical agent to guide users through the layers of content, the responsibility of deciphering the 3-D models and other aspects of the content does not fall solely on the learner.

“We help them,” Park said. “We provide more information and guidance or supporting information to learners so when they look at the 3-D model and augmented reality 3-D models and the pedagogical agent, they can actually understand what the 3-D model is about, which will help them to make a connection with the 3-D model and the learned knowledge and skills that they acquired from the classroom already.”

The cubes respond to an app where a pedagogical agent, in this case an animated bee, guides the user through the content. Photo courtesy of Sanghoon Park

To bring his idea of an educational AR experience to life, Park sought help from the AVC. Park said they went through many trials trying to get the cubes to work with the app and to select which AR tools to use. The cubes needed simpler designs with more angles printed in higher contrasting colors so the app could read them better. The AVC also guided Park through the development of the app, which was done in the Unity engine.

Howard Kaplan, senior technologist and visualization specialist for the AVC, said that while there were challenges, the resulting investigation is what research is all about.

“You get to answer technology questions for development of future applications like this, as well as, again, your direct question of does it improve student learning,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the integration of technology into academic research in any and all subject areas can enhance it, especially in fields where the technology isn’t normally present. On the other hand, he warns researchers that using advanced technology just for the sake of using it won’t get them far.

“It’s not only just I want to develop an app, it’s how do I develop an app that will allow me to change the app, to make it grow according to how my research grows and my research findings,” Kaplan said. “So there’s a whole back-end development process that has to be accounted for in terms of how I do that.”

Park plans to take ARPA into the classroom to research its effects on student learning at Turner/Bartels K-8 School in Hillsborough County, where his son attends. He plans to continue improving the cubes and expanding the content that they can deliver by adding downloadable content for the cubes. He said ARPA doesn’t have to be used only to teach science concepts but can be adapted to mathematics and language learning as well. This, however, is far in the future.

“We have to achieve those things one by one, step-by-step,” he said.

As Park sees it, there is a promising future for advanced and emerging technologies in education and education research, but it will be important to keep the students and teachers in mind during this process.

Advanced technologies in education research aren’t just for enhancing the student experience, as Park discovered last summer when he served as a visiting scholar at Chonnam National University in South Korea. While there, he was involved with research on creating a virtual environment for teachers to train in. Pre-service teachers interacted with virtual students, each with distinct personalities, in a variety of situations as practice for classroom management.

“(Advanced technologies) are changing the landscape of the education in the classroom and online as well,” Park said. “However, we have to always think about the learners at the center and how we are going to support teachers as well. So those are the two important factors that will ensure the successful integration of emerging technology in education.”

The USF Advanced Visualization Center offers technical expertise to students, faculty and staff at USF so they can use advanced technologies in their research and projects. The center also features a lecture hall, pictured above. Photo by Abby Rinaldi

Storm Debris Collection Underway for Tampa Residents

Tampa – Two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa Bay, residents are still waiting for storm debris to be picked up.

Tampa residents were quick to clean up the aftermath of Irma. Branches and palm fronds were piled up on the curb. Fallen trees were cut into manageable pieces and piled on the side of the road for pickup.

The company contracted by the City of Tampa to assist with storm debris collection, Ceres Environment, had planned to rent about 30 trucks to add to the five they currently have in use in Tampa. However, those trucks are now headed for South Florida instead.

“The subcontractor received a higher-price offer from another entity in South Florida and did not provide the trucks to Ceres for use in Tampa,” Stanley Bloodworth, the company’s project manager for Tampa, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “Ceres is actively seeking additional resources from other subcontractors to fulfill the needs of the city of Tampa.”

The demand for trucks is higher than the supply, and the suppliers are going to whoever is paying the most. Tampa is paying $9.77 per cubic yard to get rid of 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris and South Florida is offering more.

Greg Meyer, a resident in the Palmetto Beach community of Tampa, had a large tree fall on his property and spent four hours cutting it up and moving it to the curb. A week and a half later and the debris is still sitting on his front lawn.

“I know they’re trying their hardest, but I’d like to let my kids play out front again soon,” Meyer said. “It’s just too risky letting them play near a four and half foot pile of debris.”

While the city is reviewing contracts to make sure contractors haven’t violated the law, parks and recreation and sanitation workers are now collecting storm debris. Because of this, parks will take longer to clean up.

Ceres is still working to collect storm debris with the trucks they have in use now, and residents can expect the collection process to take continue well into October.

While residential and commercial garbage collection resumed fairly quickly, recycle and yard waste collection will not resume until Monday, Sept. 25. The city’s Solid Waste Enhanced Environmental Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is suspended until further notice.

Even though regular yard waste collection resumes this week, the excess debris which cannot be bagged will be collected under the storm debris removal program. This program asks residents to follow specific guidelines for putting their debris out for collection.

Residents are being asked to separate their debris by material type: white goods, construction material, vegetative debris and electronics. Vegetative storm debris should not be bagged or placed in containers. Storm debris contractors will be using special machinery to collect debris piles. For these to be collected, they must be placed on the curb.

Citywide storm debris collection service will be taking place seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Those who would like to get rid of debris sooner can take it to one of Hillsborough County’s three yard waste collection sites. These sites are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Falkenburg Road – 346 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa 33619
  • Northwest County – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton 33534

To discard nonvegetative waste or debris, residents may drop off at any of the following Community Collection Centers listed below.

  • Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility – 9402 County Road 39, Plant City, FL 33567
  • Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility – 6209 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584
  • Northwest County Solid Waste Facility – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County Solid Waste Facility – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton, FL 33534

McKay Bay Disposal Facility is also accepting storm debris, located at 112 South 34th St., Tampa 33605.

The facilities listed above require a photo ID to dispose of waste, and McKay Bay requires proof of a city utility customer account as well.

Plant City’s Best Bartender 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USF communications during Irma cause mixed reactions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infographic by Kylie Buklad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Food, Music, Living

 

The inaugural seafood and music festival took place on March 25 and March 26, mimicking those held in the surrounding areas of Sarasota as well as Siesta Beach.

The committee that dedicated months to plan this event while using those events in Sarasota and Siesta Beach as inspiration, is called St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. The executive director of the Arts Alliance in St. Petersburg is John Collins.

“We are the umbrella organization for all of the arts in St Petersburg,” Collins said. “So that covers fine arts, performing arts, like music, and of course today fusion arts, if you will, the culinary arts.”

Collins helped bring the event to St. Petersburg and has hope that it will become an annual tradition.

The food at the festival ranged from different types of cooked fish, crab cakes, shrimp, lobster, Paella, crawfish, french fries and seafood jambalaya. The festival also included vendors that sold natural juices and even different types of art.

One individual that is working very closely with a vendor was very excited about the festival’s first time appearance. Bruno Baldrati, a Brazilian native, believes the food his tent is selling is very closely aligned with food from his home due to seasoning and the way the food is cooked.

“It’s good because we meet a lot of new people, a lot of families come here with their kids,to eat [at] the seafood festival and its good because I acquire some experiences from that,” Baldrati said.

The festival will be returning the following year in 2018. The next seafood and music festival will be held in Siesta Beach Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.

 

Local shelter provides safe place for Tampa’s homeless

It’s a homeless shelter run by homeless people. Located on Florida Avenue in Hillsborough County, Homeless Helping Homeless houses dozens of people.

“We are 100 percent donation based, so that limits the amount people we can help,” said marketing and social media coordinator Kristen Ellis. “We’re limited in the things we can do.”

The organization is looking to expand their outreach to at least 36 more beds within the year. Currently, they have room for 18 beds in the main office, and rooms for more people in need at their women’s facility right down the street.

“We don’t take grants because we serve a niche of people that don’t qualify for those grants,” Ellis said.

If they take federal assistance, they would have to drug test their clients and make them meet certain rules. Ellis wants people to know that is not Homeless Helping Homeless’s calling.

“These people have their own journey, though it may be why they’re in this situation. We believe everyone has the right to a safe place to sleep,” Ellis said.

Current client and former heroin addict Celeste Dogmi is a testament to this. Dogmi has been sober for over a year and says it’s because of the homeless shelter.

“I was thrown out of rehab with no place to go,” Dogmi said. “It’s helping me with sober living, food, shelter and stability.”

The organization’s intention is not to change an addict’s lifestyle, but to help in whatever way a client wants them to. But if their help leads to someone getting clean, they consider that a win.

Taste of Spain captivates Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Students work with service organization to give back to community

 

Many students from all over Tampa Bay have joined SALT (Serve and Love Together) and meet every Monday at St. James Church in Tampa to give back to those in need.

Mina Hanna and Maggie Attia are two of the volunteers at the organization, and SALT teaches them about how they can improve the city they live in one week at a time.

“Well this is a wonderful organization as you see it gives back to the community,” Hanna said. “It gives back to the community and we see our fruits produce more fruit.”

Everything is donated from people in the community who are willing to help out.

“We also teamed up with another organization that hands out blankets and toiletries and socks,” Attia said.

SALT partnered with Blanket Tampa Bay and they have access to many necessities to share with those in need throughout the Bay Area.

People like Hanna and Attia truly see the difference that the organization makes on people’s lives every day by talking to people about God and giving them hope. SALT is affiliated with a Coptic youth group in the area.

“There used to be a guy on drugs, and his whole life was messed up, and I cannot tell you how much this organization influenced him. And now this guy is the most spiritual guy you’ll ever meet,” Hanna said.

SALT does a small gesture once a week, but it leaves a lifelong impact on some of these people that they get the pleasure of serving.

To learn more about this organization, please contact Mina Hanna at (727) 333-5318

Clearwater Celebrates Its Sugar Sand “FantaSea”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeding Tampa Bay, Home to Those Who Want to Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about this organization, visit feedingtampabay.org

 

 

New multicultural health clinic breaks language barrier for patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local basketball team takes season by storm

BRANDON, FL–Red Storm Elite is an AAU basketball team whose focus is on developing its players.

Assistant Coach Inniss Goden Jr. knows the importance of his team maturing in basketball fundamentals.

“We want to see growth, maturity and an increase in basketball IQ,” Goden said. “We don’t want them to be robots, we want to see them be instinctive when they are running the plays and we just want them to grow every time.”

The team is entering its second season as a program and has 10th-grade players from various high schools in Hillsborough County. Big man Maurice Pickett believes playing for the Red Storm is preparing him for varsity basketball at Lennard high school.

“My coaches prepare me on that next level when the season comes up for varsity,” Pickett said. “I know that every day we practice, every day we play just gets me better.”

Red Storm Elite hopes to continue the success gained in its first season. The team placed in the top three in five out of eight tournaments.

“We can see that with each tournament that they’re getting better, trusting each other and we see ball movement,” Goden said. “We actually see them running the plays now instead of us yelling the plays out to them, gradually with each tournament they are getting better from tournament to tournament.”

The team is confident that their hard work and focus on development will benefit them against opponents in the upcoming season.

“Oh, this team, I don’t know what other teams are because this the only team I know that’s coming out with that trophy,” Pickett said.

To find a schedule of the AAU tournaments that Red Storm Elite will be participating in, visit their Facebook page.

 

The Tampa Museum Features Who Shot Sports

The Tampa Museum of Art holds a special exhibition each moth that is dedicated to a unique topic. This month it’s Sports.

Who Shot Sports is a nine-section exhibition that contains over 200 sports photography. Each photograph included in the exhibition is accompanied by the history of the photographer behind the lens. Joanna Robotham, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, says that Who Shot Sports pays homage to the creative memories captured through the photo lens.

“It looks at not just the famous moments in art history but looks at who the photographers are beyond the screen. The whole premise behind Who Shot Sports is to give the photographers recognition and identity. Many people know the famous photographs but they don’t know who took it,” said Robotham.

The Tampa Bay area is a city that encompasses many sports teams and media outlets. Robotham and the Tampa Museum of Art decided to include Lens of Tampa Bay Sports, in order to showcase the sports versatility that the city holds.

“We worked with eight different photographers and pulled about fifty photographs of local sports teams and included that in a smaller show. So, it’s a nice companion to the larger show,”said Robotham.

The overall functionality of photography allows for individuals to emerge creativity with reality. Tatyannah George, a student photographer, says that her passion is driven by the ability to capture the beauty of the moment.

“As a student photography I would say that being able to capture everyday lives for people outside of events or things of that nature is a beautiful thing because you are able to give that moment or experience outside of actually being there,” said George.

Who Shot Sports can be viewed until April 30th.

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.”

USF Events Featured in Social Media Campaign

Unation will soon be showcasing events that are happening around the USF campus.

Unation is a free mobile app for Android and iOS that discovers events near you. The app has featured the best attractions each day in big cities like Miami, Key West and Tampa.

The company wanted to further their outreach towards college students to help their brand awareness as well as to provide the opportunity for college students to become more social in their communities.

“I feel that when students come to a different college, such as me—I was an international student—you come into college without really knowing what’s happening,” said Augusto Vidales Martelo, a marketing manager at Unation.

This app differs from other social media with events, such as Facebook, because it strictly shows events in the area and who is attending them. You can see who is attending certain events by adding friends on the app.

“I usually just go to class and go home but it would be really cool to know what’s going on,” said Vanessa Londono, a student at USF.

 

 

Ice Bulls Make it To Nationals

 

The USF Ice Bulls make nationals for the first time in program history.

The University of South Florida Ice Bulls had a rough season, ending 10-18 before entering regionals. USF capitalized on two major games during the regular season, beating two top seeded teams.

Thanks to freshman goalie, Sam Coleman, who 60 minutes into the game blocked all incoming shots, the Bulls knocked out the University of South Carolina Gamecocks 1-0 in overtime in the first round of regionals at Florida Center Ice in Wesley Chapel.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Earning their place at nationals the Bulls had one more hurdle to overcome. In an attempt to cover the costs of the trip they started a GoFundMe page and asked fans for support.  They did not disappoint, the Ice Bulls fans raised over $11,000.

The following night, the Bulls earned a nationals spot defeating the Liberty University Flames 6-3. Weston Moon scored the first goal early in the first period, followed by goals from Logan Sheehan in the middle of the second, Kenny Weightman late in the second, Huw Baveystock early in the third, Lukas Medo late in the third, and Michael Budd in the last minute of regulation.

Nationals will be held at Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team will travel to Columbus, Ohio to fight for the title of  the American Collegiate Hockey Association division 3 national champions.

The Bulls will take on the number one seeded Calvin College Knights on March 14 to start their postseason.

To find out more on how you can support your USF hockey team on their road to nationals, visit www.gofundme.com/USFHockey.