In this episode of Florida Focus: An American Airlines pilot was sentenced and charged with possession of child porn; a twelve year old Palmetto boy bought illegal drugs to his middle school; prices at the pumps hit a four year nation wide low; a broken water main in Tampa; “Pink heals” tour at Moffit cancer center.
Peggie Sherry is a face of courage.
A Tampa resident and two-time breast cancer survivor, she decided to make a difference. She wanted to create a fun, fulfilling environment for women, men, and children affected by cancer and blood diseases.
In 2004, she took her inheritance money and invested it into creating Faces of Courage, a nonprofit organization offering free camps to children and families. The camps now have over 5,400 attendees and all programs are provided at no cost to the participants.
It all started when a female camp attendee kept bugging Sherry about getting a mammogram.
“I told her, as soon as camp is over, I will make the phone call. I had the appointment, I went in and had my mammogram and they found the cancer. It was the type of cancer that never would have formed into a lump. She saved my life,” Sherry said.
Throughout her recovery, Sherry made a vow to make caring for cancer survivors her life’s pursuit. Although Sherry says she is unaware of the scope of impact her camps have had, it is clear that she has made a difference in the Tampa area.
Ada Munoz is the parent of a Faces of Courage camp attendee. Her daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. She says Faces of Courage has undoubtedly made an impact in their lives.
“We’ve met so many friends throughout the years. We keep in contact with them even after she comes out of camp. They are awesome friends. They’re family,” Munoz said.
For more information on Sherry’s story and Faces of Courage, please visit facesofcourage.org.
Dirt clouds rose from the ground as a group of young men battled on the lawn, their swords hitting the bodies of one another with dull thwacking sounds. While most participants wore street clothes, one combatant looked like a knight straight from medieval times in a belted gray tunic with black pants and boots. He deflected attacks with his shield as he jumped and jabbed at enemies with his sword.
Bystanders watched the unusual scene with looks of amusement and wonder. But for the modern-day knight, Glen Greenberg, it was just another day doing what he loves.
Greenberg, 20, began the unofficial USF Foam Fighting Club in 2013 when he decided to bring his adolescent obsession to campus.
He claimed it all started about six years ago with a show on the Discovery Channel.
“In half an hour, my jaw was on the floor,” Greenberg said. “As my parents put it, it was the only thing I ever put initiative into, so they supported it in full, 100 percent.”
The name of the game is Dagorhir. Founded in 1977, the live-action combat game based on medieval themes and J.R.R. Tolkien lore involves players fighting one another with light-weight foam weapons, or boffers. Attacks on an opponent must be made with sufficient force, and all players are held to an honor system to acknowledge good, solid hits. When a player has “lost” two limbs, they are considered “dead,” and therefore out of the game.
Greenberg had led a group of Dagorhir fighters in his hometown of Boca Raton, but found himself with only his swords and shield for company when he came to USF. So he decided to go out and find people to fight with in a rather unconventional way.
Chase Brown, 19, a business administration major and club member, recalled seeing Greenberg outside of Castor Hall on campus last year.
“He literally stood up on the table and said, ‘Come fight me!’” Brown said.
Greenberg’s efforts weren’t in vain.
“Slowly, one by one, people actually went up to this crazy guy yelling up on the bench, and said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a shot.’” Greenberg said.
Since then, the group has grown to nearly 20 members. The club practices at Castor Lawn on Wednesday and Friday afternoons and never fails to draw a small crowd of spectators.
Brown said they are always open for new members, and encourage bystanders to join the fights.
“A lot of people come up to us and are like, ‘I saw the movie Role Models! Is this kind of like that?’” he said. “And we say, yes, definitely, but less magic, more fighting.”
In reference to live-action role play, the group emphasizes that Dagorhir is more live-action than role play. While Dagorhir players can wear costumes, or garb, and create characters and backstories for themselves, it doesn’t affect the way they fight or how the game is played.
The group hopes to be approved by the university as the official USF Foam Fighting Club, so they can use facilities on campus and receive funding to create or buy extra weapons for walk-on players. They would also like to do demonstrations at Bull Market, particularly around midterms and finals week, to help students release stress and to get the club’s name out around campus.
The group is quick to mention that its unofficial club status hasn’t affected on-campus activities.
“Campus security, teachers, administration, everyone loves us,” said Roman Guinazzo, 19, a business administration major and long-time friend of Greenberg.
Members have never gotten into trouble for fighting on-campus, or while toting their weapons to and from practices.
“We actually have campus security and the university police come out and watch us on their off time,” Greenberg said.
In the end, the group insists that fighting Dagorhir is all about having fun with others. Whether someone wants to fight, help make weapons or garb, or just hang out and watch, members encourage them to get involved.
“We try to incorporate everyone and make it a very diverse populace, because that’s what it is. It’s meant to bring the community together,” Brown said.
Guinazzo agreed: “It’s a really close-knit community. Once you’re in, you’ve got friends for life.”
After his night at the Grammys in January, USF professor of jazz studies Charles “Chuck” Owen is back with a project he says will top his nominations because it’s one he has never tackled.
Soon after the award show, Owen was contacted by email by Lars Møller, artistic director of the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra, to be a part of a performance in February 2015.
“I’ve been commissioned by an orchestra in Denmark…,” Owen said. “It’s going to be about half of new music that I’ve written specifically for this project. Some of the tunes from ‘Comet’s Tail‘ they’re going to take…, and I’m going to go over in February and conduct, so we’ll rehearse for about a week and then we’ll do four or five performances of this music. So, that’s the biggie right now.”
Owen was nominated for two categories at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards for his album “River Runs: A Concerto for Jazz Guitar, Saxophone & Orchestra.” Not having his name called as a winner was a bit of a disappointment for Owen, but he hasn’t let that bring him down.
“When I do a project, I don’t do a project with the idea of trying to get a Grammy nomination or anything like that,” he said. “And so if it does [get recognized], great. And if it doesn’t, I’m still delighted to have had this kind of honor.”
The contact was made after the Grammy Awards, so Owen believes getting the opportunity to work with the orchestra could have been influenced a little bit by his nominations.
“It’s just like this wave that kind of builds and builds and builds and builds and builds from thousands of miles out,” he said. “So it’s kind of hard to know: was it this big gust of wind or was it that? I mean, you don’t really know what… Absolutely the Grammys kind of help out,”
In preparation for the performance, Owen has already written some pieces, one of which has been played at various jazz festivals in Europe.
“They wanted to kind of hype the February thing, so they asked me to have one track for them that they could do that, so that was fun,” Owen said. “I haven’t heard it, but they said it went well.”
Even with this performance occupying his time, Owen has other projects already in mind. With the 20th anniversary of his first album, “Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge,” coming around, Owen and his band have started bouncing ideas on what they should do for the big celebration.
“We have been talking about what we would do there, and the idea of doing an album in conjunction with that, possibly even a live album, which we’ve never done, is a little intriguing, so we’re thinking,” he said.
Along with the anniversary, Owen will be traveling around the United States on a lecture tour doing workshops and performances, as well as beginning to think about his next album.
“I’ve intended to come out with albums about every four years, and given all of my duties here [at the university], that’s about as much as I can get out, so that would mean that I probably need to get pretty serious about getting something together soon,” he said.
With the two Grammy nominations under his belt, Owen doesn’t feel the pressure of trying to gain another recognition. The pressure to grow comes from him wanting to write music that excites him and his listeners.
“I’m pretty good at pressuring myself. I always want to do good projects, and I want to make the project just as intriguing and as creative and as strong an effort as I possibly can,” he said.
In an unpredictable business, Owen never knows where his music will lead him. One thing he is certain on is conducting for the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra will be a gig he won’t soon forget.
“I’m thrilled to death to be getting a chance to write for them and go over and conduct, and kind of hang out with them,” he said. “Denmark in February, that’ll be fun.”
“He was my dad, my brother and my best friend,” said Mark Lombardi-Nelson as he remembered his father who died last November.
Lombardi-Nelson’s father, Mark Nelson, had been injured in a work-related accident seven years ago. A simple injury would turn into tragedy as a step on a rusty nail led to MRSA, osteoporosis, COPD and a loss of income for Nelson’s young children.
Almost a year ago, for his 21st birthday, Lombardi-Nelson put together a plan to raise funds to support his family. He started an Indiegogo campaign.
The online campaign was not his first effort to assist his father and siblings. He worked multiple jobs, sold his car and provided support in any way possible. He accomplished all these feats while still completing his undergraduate degree and becoming the student body president at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Although Nelson lost his life to his illnesses, he was able to live long enough to see his family’s struggle eased by the generous donations of friends and strangers. With the initial thought of raising $1,000, the family was shocked by the community response-contributions totaled at $4,274.
“He only got to see the first half of it, and we were so taken aback by everyone,” Lombardi-Nelson said. “Dad felt OK to go, because we were OK.”
What Lombardi-Nelson had described as a snowball of unfortunate events seemed to turn around in the months that followed his online campaign and his father’s death.
He graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship in May 2014, won a free car from ABC Action News and Precision Mazda in June, spoke at TEDxTampaRiverwalk and has plans to start his own business. However, the closer the months draw to November, the harder things get.
“I can’t describe how difficult it was to lose him,” Lombardi-Nelson said. “For my younger siblings, not having a dad is really hard.”
Lombardi-Nelson has no plans to stop being there for his siblings, and says that his role really hasn’t changed. He still provides what he can for them and has stepped in as a father figure.
Despite the hardships and heartbreaks, he has kept his positive attitude and belief that everyone deserves love and help. He is excited to report that his younger siblings are all getting great grades and doing well, despite the loss of their father.
“You look at them all and they’re just kids, but they grew up fast,” he said. “I’m so lucky to be with them. I’m so happy and I can’t wait to make their lives better.”
A former MMA fighter turned coach, Dunn has been involved with mixed martial arts for almost 20 years. He opened up a gym in the mid-1990s when his old coach left for Brazil. From there, Dunn never looked back.
“When he graduated and returned to Brazil, I then took over the training at the academy, and the academy essentially became mine,” Dunn said.
Not only did Dunn open up an academy locally for fighters to train, his gym, SPMF was the first mixed martial arts gym in the entire Pinellas County area. It also became the first MMA gym in the state of Florida to participate in MMA tournaments.
AJ Comparetto, assistant coach to Dunn since he started the gym, believes the gyms continuing success is due to the way Dunn teaches his fighters.
“Shane as an instructor has a unique ability to go ahead and break down complex moves into simple, almost picture instructions,” Comparetto said. “So, by making very complex things simple, it’s allowed someone like me who doesn’t have all the athletic ability that many people have, to pick up very complex moves.”
SPMF will continue to be successful as long as new talent continues to pour in and Dunn hasn’t had a problem with that in the past.
With the gym’s historically noted longevity in the sport, it wouldn’t be surprising that they continue competing against top gyms around the country.
Ethan Morency was another unsure college graduate until he decided to open the Violin Shop Tampa in 2013 combining his business degree with his passion.
“I graduated in spring of 2013,” Morency said. “I was out there applying for a lot of jobs, got a lot of interviews, but nothing that really piqued my interest and I wanted to fix that.”
The shop specializes in the sale and repair of violins, cellos and bass instruments. Since its opening, the business has doubled in size.
This venture came in partnership with Dereck Coons, who worked as Morency’s manager at a music shop in Melbourne, Florida.
“[Ethan’s] created a really warm, inviting atmosphere here for people to come in and hangout and purchase violins and get repairs done,” Coons said.
Music has been a part of Morency’s life for almost 15 years now. When he’s not working with violins, he’s the lead singer of his band, Anew.
“I always think music has to be a part of my life,” Morency said. “It’s who I am.”
Morency’s advice for recent graduates: absolutely follow your dreams.
“Focus on what you enjoy doing and something will fall into place,” Morency said. “You have to pursue it, you have to work hard, but it will happen.”
Violin Shop Tampa is located at 4009 Henderson Blvd., Tampa, Florida.
In this episode of Florida Focus:
- Nike pays homage to the success of Plant High School’s football team through a special Plant Panther shoe.
- A St. Pete man is in critical condition after his girlfriend allegedly set him on fire. The girlfriend will be charged on aggravated battery.
- South Florida wants to become the 51st state.
- The Humane Society of Tampa Bay offers a pumpkin patch promotion to raise money to help support the animals at the shelter.
Ready for a quest, his shield and sword are in hand. The chiseled gladiator stands with a determined face, framed by tousled brown hair and budding goatee. His journey is with a hodgepodge band, OP-Pirate Alliance. It is a pirate’s quest open to all.
Chibi Gladiator is on his first journey. He is also a graphic character online, created by Lydia Alejandro-Heather, a senior USF English major. Her eyes brightened and voice quickened as she spoke about her passion: creating characters and embarking in online role playing games with other global players. Her work is admired by many on DeviantArt, a leading website where users can store graphics and participate in forums and RPGs. Positive comments flood her gallery of artwork. Requests from other gamers to create their character are a high compliment to the self-taught artist.
“As a kid, I kind of liked doing silly doodles,” said Alejandro-Heather. “I didn’t take it as seriously until freshman year in high school.”
Alejandro-Heather loves developing the back stories of her characters as much as she enjoys creating them. Their identities and previous experiences determine the decisions of the characters, and new decisions continue to develop the character during game play. She, along with other players, writes the story as the game unfolds. It begins with a prompt, a quest created by an administrator.
Role playing has spilled into other avenues of life. She has participated in cosplay events. Cosplay is dressing up as characters from comic books, movies, cartoons, anime, and the likes. No game playing is involved. Alejandro-Heather created some costumes for the fun of it. She entered into a few contests, taking first prize at a small anime convention for one of her costume creations.
“Her Monkey D. Luffy cosplay was pretty outlandish,” said Laura F. Alejandro-Heather, Lydia Alejandro-Heather’s sister.
Monkey D. Luffy, a character from the anime and manga series One Piece, sports an unbuttoned, red sleeveless shirt exposing his lanky figure. His light blue pants are rolled up to his knees, with a yellow sash tied around his waist. Luffy’s straight black hair juts outward from a straw hat which emphasizes his devious smile and eyes that insinuate trouble. One Piece, featuring Luffy as its main character, first premiered in a Japanese anime magazine, Weekly Shōnen Jump, in 1997.
Since the days of Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970s, RPGs have changed. The format has grown in popularity and formats, and more people are connecting in fantasy worlds, embarking on quests and creating new friendships. Dungeons and Dragons-style tabletop RPGs still exist, but now gamers have access to role playing on computers, gaming consoles, tablet devices and mobile phones.
Video games promote positive motivation, cognitive thinking, emotional and social skills, according to an article published in the American Psychology journal, January 2014 edition. The same article claims that 91 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 17 have played video games.
Some professionals theorize that role playing creates a safe environment for people to act out deviant behavior. They can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without real world consequences, according to snippets of a book review from the journal, Transformative Works.
No data is available on how many people participate in role playing games. A quick search on the Internet shows a plethora of gaming communities, RPGs and numerous choices in genres such as historical, horror, science fiction, and superhero.
For Alejandro-Heather, the community is a perk – the real appeal is more about the creative opportunities.
“Role playing very much involves art and writing, and those are two things I love so much,” said Alejandro-Heather. “Both of those combined into this little fun activity I can do. It’s heaven.”
Amid adversity, a suburban mom-turned-environmentalist in Tampa is following her dream at the age of 45.
Sarah Rogers had been out of school for 25 years–until now. After raising two sons and five stepsons with her husband, Rogers added saving the earth to her list of things to do, despite the challenge of going back to school.
“The first time I dropped my son off to his university, I felt so excited for his future,” Rogers said. “But then I realized I wanted to feel that way about mine.”
Rogers is an environmental science and policy student at the University of South Florida. She represents the non-traditional student demographic that is nationally increasing, as college education becomes a more prominent job requirement. According to the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, more than 30 percent of all undergraduate students in the United States were over the age of 25 in 2008.
A typical day in the life of Rogers is incredibly busy. During the day, she spends her time at work or at her internship with Pinellas County Environmental Services. Then she heads to class, and arrives home late after picking up her step-granddaughter from daycare. The day is almost over by the time she begins her homework. However, it is a life that Rogers wanted to pursue.
“A perfect storm of things influenced me,” Rogers said. “I wanted to show how important school was to my kids even 25 years later. But most of all, I wanted a meaningful job, something that mattered.”
Rogers is pursuing a degree in the environmental sciences because she believed it was the best way to help the earth. As an avid environmentalist, she believes that taking better care of the planet now will result in a better world and healthier living for both her kids and future generations. She is confident she has a better chance of making a positive impact by being involved with the ecosystem. In turn, she hopes that experience will provide her with fulfillment—something that is clearly lacking from her day job at an insurance company.
“Making a difference in the way we treat the environment means it’ll be there longer,” Rogers said. “That starts with caring.”
Rogers hopes to work with environmental agencies that measure the impact of modern society on nature and educate individuals on decreasing their carbon footprints.
Although Rogers is able to work, take care of her family and earn excellent grades, her journey is not without challenges. The biggest obstacles she faces include scheduling and commuting. Her packed schedule takes careful planning and commitment. As a commuting student, she also feels like she misses many opportunities with school clubs and events.
“You can’t be afraid; you have to go for it. Whether you’re 18 or 40, believing in yourself is the key.”
Her husband, Roger Rogers, says he is both proud and envious of his wife’s accomplishments. As someone who tried to go back to school but experienced a difficult time doing so, he understands just how much determination his wife has. Her son, Pascal Marriott shares similar beliefs.
“It’s an amazing feat of discipline and dedication to her family and her future,” said Marriott Rogers, the youngest son who is enrolled at a state college. “She inspires us.”
Rogers will be graduating with her undergraduate degree in May of 2015 and is planning to pursue a career with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Students returned to the remodeled library this fall semester with rather mixed feelings.
Over the summer, the library’s first floor underwent major changes in structure and appearance. The renovations were mostly directed toward reducing long lines for printers and computers and expanding the study area. A more efficient use of the first floor’s space was supposed to provide more room for additional printers, computers and more seating.
Brianna Sluder, a psychology and gerontology double major, thought the $2 million spent on remodeling the library should have been used otherwise.
“The library looks great,” she said. “But USF has their priorities mixed up. They should have used that money for better printers, grants, and better doctors and health care professionals at the Student Health Services.”
Five weeks into the fall semester, students are still struggling with insufficient seating in the first floor’s study area.
“It looks spacious and more open now,” said Jacob Smith, a junior majoring in English education. “But it is usually full on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”
Smith comes to the library twice a week to meet up with his Japanese study group. Due to limited study space on the first floor, they usually get a room on another floor.
“We usually have to wait like 20 minutes to get a study room,” Smith said.
Vince Damian, a physics major, works at the library’s front desk. He also comes to the library five times a week to study in between classes. He usually looks for seats on one of the upper floors to do his homework.
“It seems like [conditions] have improved,” he said. “But I am more likely to find a seat up there because there is more seating available.”
Before the library’s renovations, students had to circle around in the computer area to find an available workstation. Additional computers have made improvements regarding this issue.
“I usually get on a computer pretty quick,” said Jackie Collier, an international studies major.
She comes to the library every day, mainly to use the computers or to study Japanese with Smith. Neither student has had problems finding an available computer.
But Sluder is not too optimistic about the new computer area, which is set up with computers grouped together in several circular formations.
“The library was fine the way it was,” she said. “I actually liked the computer setup better before.”
Sluder comes to the library three or four times a week to use the computers and printers. Students can now find five printers on a little island in the computer area. Despite additional printers and a new setup, Sluder has not noticed any improvements.
“The lines are actually longer now,” she said. “Two days in a row, I went to print something and waited in line for almost half an hour since the printers are not all working.”
For Yang Geng, a secondary education graduate student, the lines for the printers always vary depending on the time of the day.
“Sometimes it’s faster, sometimes it’s slower,” she said.
New lighting, carpeting and furniture were also installed for a friendlier learning environment. The first floor now features brighter lights and different shades of green on its walls and carpets, which gives the library a more modern look. Old seats were replaced by cushioned chairs.
“The chairs are pretty comfy,” Collier said.
The fall semester’s midterms will be the first major test for the library’s recent renovations and its targeted problem areas when larger crowds of students come to the library to study.
Library administration could not be reached for comment.
by Julius Bzozowski
Oct. 17, 2014
“I’m so impressed with the last four years with the kids at USF because, to be honest, I was afraid I was going to have trouble with kids,” Gibson said. “I can be real frank and blunt. I can be real insistent, and I haven’t had a bit of a problem.”
A Texas native, Gibson moved to Tampa and graduated from King High School. In 1979, he graduated from USF.
Gibson went on to having success playing the mini-tours around the country for 20 years. He won multiple times and qualified for a U.S. Open sectional in 2006.
Co-workers and students often cite Gibson’s passion for simply playing the game.
“He’s a great guy,” said USF senior golf student Marcus Ellis.
Perhaps most important, Gibson is happy with his golf journey. Gibson has two children, who both went on playing Division I golf. His daughter is expecting a baby.
“I believe that if you work hard, you’ll end up in a good place,” Gibson said. “And I believe that I have.”
For more information, visit the Gibson Golf Academy website.
Story and photographs by: Emma Sims and Alyssa Perry
The men from USF’s Sigma Nu fraternity had a powdery layer of sawdust on their glasses. It was nearing midnight Wednesday. The clouds of fine dust battled for space in the already anxious air that filled the fraternity house backyard.
There were two days until the USF Homecoming parade, and the team of two Greek chapters, Sigma Nu and Delta Delta Delta, had just started building their float. They were behind schedule and running out of time. And to add more spice to the Crock-Pot of confusion, they did not have a theme for their float.
The team planed on decorating their trailer with a “Peter Pan” theme – at first.
“We have a problem. Gamma Phi Beta is already doing “Peter Pan” as their theme,” Delta’s activities director Nicole Harris said. “We can’t do it now, it’ll look like we copied them.”
“Maybe they copied us,” Sigma’s activity director John Lemmer said.
“We need a new theme, like now. Does anyone have an idea?” Harris asked the crew of six.
“What about “The Little Mermaid?’” Jill Bowen said.
The three Sigma Nu brothers were not impressed. Their childhood movie repertoire likely did not include the singing redheaded mermaid. The men wanted to stick with “Peter Pan,” but the women had already started singing Ariel’s ballad, “A Part of Your World.” The battle was lost as soon as it began.
“I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty, I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got 20. But who cares? No big deal. I want more,” the group of Deltas belted to their confused audience.
“OK stop. This isn’t “High School Musical,’” Jordan Moore said.
“We don’t have any more time to talk about it,” Lemmer said.
And so, “The Little Mermaid” it was.
USF’s 2014 homecoming theme was “Once Upon a Homecoming.” The campus celebrations culminated with the Running with the Bulls Night Parade Friday night, comprised of floats and participants from various organizations, including Greek teams. Floats were judged for first, second and third place. There were four categories in the judging criteria: originality and creativity, theme, design and construction and, of course, green and gold spirit. The deadline for float construction was 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.
The Running with the Bulls Night Parade took place at 7 p.m. Friday. Professional and homemade floats participated in the contest. The winner would be announced later that night at the Homecoming After-Party.
Fraternities and sororities at USF paired up for the homecoming week events. Each Greek team had a committee of 20 participants, with 10 from each fraternal organization. The participating few were expected to take part in the homecoming responsibilities, which included building the float.
Float construction was not limited to the homecoming committee. Any of the organization’s members could help, but finding available students proved to be a project in itself.
“It’s really hard to find people who will help. It’s a really ridiculous time commitment for the week,” Harris said. “That’s hard when people have class at night and jobs.”
Wednesday night’s float crew included only six workers – three sorority sisters and three fraternity brothers. The Sigma men were working until 1 a.m. Thursday, building a pirate ship on their trailer.
“Girls can’t exactly handle power tools,” Harris said.
Once the float construction was assembled, the women joined the men to help improve the aesthetics. Friday afternoon was spent working collaboratively to meet the float competition’s criteria.
Harris was trying to round up the focus of her workers. She needed to make a trip to the Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store for some last minute supplies.
They had three hours left.
“OK, so we need spray paint, plastic swords, candy, bubbles, fabric and hats. What else?” Harris said.
“Girls, who wants to be the Rose to my Jack?” Moore asked.
Harris rolled her eyes.
“This isn’t “Titanic”, Jordan. It’s “The Little Mermaid,” Harris said.
On the house’s back deck, Jack, Bowen’s four-month-old Golden Retriever, yelped and whined. Perhaps his distress stemmed from the cone of shame around his perky head (a result of his recent neutering procedure), or perhaps he was warning the students that they were running out of time.
Jack was politely ignored. The team was busy bantering about what to buy at the craft store.
“What about confetti poppers?” Lemmer asked.
“No,” Harris said. “We’re not doing that.”
“I’m the king of the world!” Medlin shouted from the pirate ship’s platform as he gripped the ship’s wheel.
It was going to be a long afternoon.
Homecoming week was packed with events.
Every day, except Wednesday, had a game in which the Greek teams were expected to compete. Various other events accompanied the games, including a weeklong blood drive, a soda can tab donation and the construction of a USF Spirit sculpture. These events were ongoing, and teams were given sign-in points for each event in which a member participated.
“It’s just kind of a lot,” Harris said.
Although the homecoming week consists largely of competitions, teams remain friendly with one another.
“It’s nothing dramatic,” elementary education major and Gamma Phi Beta sorority member Amanda Carlton said. “You get to bond with someone you wouldn’t normally work with.”
At the end of homecoming week, points were tallied and winners were announced. The categories included overall placement and individual competition placements.
“Sigma Nu is really good at intramurals,” finance major and Gamma Phi sister, Shelby Fouts-Harley said.
Lemmer said their team, The Fuzzy Wombats, spent around $450 on their “Little Mermaid” float, which was entirely homemade. Essential materials included large particleboards, gallons of green paint and fabric for decorations and costumes.
“We put a lot of work into it, so at this point we want to win,” Harris said. “It’d be awesome if we did, but it’s not the end of the world.”
The staging area on Holly Drive was buzzing with school spirit.
The gold dresses of the Sun Dolls sparkled in the setting sun as the Herd of Thunder band tapped on their snares. Professional floats boasted bright paint jobs, permanent props and loud music. The homemade floats were waiting next to their manufactured competitors. Everyone was gearing up to go.
The parade was in an hour.
The Wombat’s float was hooked up to the trailer-hitch on Bowen’s white Chevrolet truck. A Sigma Nu flag flapped proudly from a pipe on the ship’s bow. There were two fishnets draped on the sides of the 10-foot-tall trailer construction, named “The S.S. Fuzzy Wombats.”
The team’s creation met all the required competition criteria: it was original, it fit USF’s fairy tale theme, the construction was sturdy and it was decked out in all green and gold paint. There was only one component missing from the team’s float – the members of the Fuzzy Wombats. No one accompanied the float.
There was 15 minutes to show time.
The sidewalks on Holly and Maple Drive were peppered with an audience of students, alumni and everyone in-between.
The parade was rolling along the road covered in Laffy Taffy and cheap strings of beads. Children leapt for their lives to catch the flying treats.
The party music and cheers of “Go Bulls” filled the air with school spirit.
It was 8 p.m. and the parade was almost over.
Then, around the corner cruised “The Little Mermaid” crew. The Delta women and Sigma men were cheering and grinning.
“The S.S. Fuzzy Wombats” made it after all. Their float was not the best looking one, but it was there. And for that, they were proud.
Bianca Echtler is not your typical college student. She’s made a ton of friends and has excellent grades, but what sets her apart is her drive to be her best and help out her community.
Born in Munich, Germany , she moved to America at a young age. Echtler learned early on that you had to work hard to achieve your goals.
“My parents have always inspired me to follow my dream,” said Echtler. “They’ve always had a hard work ethic and a great attitude, and it’s helped make me the person I am today.”
Always striving to be the best that she can be, Echtler immersed herself into the USF community immediately. She is Phi Eta Sigma’s president, Sigma Delta Tau’s treasurer, in business honor society, a member of the honors college, and she won the prestigious award of 25 Under 25.
“I earned 25 Under 25, which is an award given to the top 25 business students under the age of 25,” said Echtler. “That really helped boost my confidence.”
After winning 25 Under 25, Bianca gained the courage to apply for a highly competitive internship in New York City with Goldman Sachs.
“I had no expectation going into the interview, said Echtler. “I reached out to former Goldman Sachs employees and asked about their experience and asked them what they thought would be in the interview. I really prepared the week before and on the flight to New York. I prepared myself with interview questions and made sure I was comfortable talking about it.”
It certainly paid off. Echtler was offered the internship and spent her summer in New York.
When Echtler actually has time to relax, she likes to spend her time playing volleyball and tennis, both of which she played for her high school.
The store displays women’s clothing designed by Negoshian and her team. The men’s section is an assortment of popular brands, including Southern Tide.
Although she may be focused on fashion now, it hasn’t always been that way. Negoshian was a USF student and marketing graduate before she became a fashion designer.
“I didn’t have the inspiration until after I finished college and moved to Palm Beach and was really surrounded by fashion, then the idea came up that we were missing something in the market, affordable but designer quality apparel,” Negoshian said.
The brand is influenced by the Florida lifestyle. It is recognized for bright colors and unique patterns. Negoshian finds inspiration for her designs from living in Florida.
“Whether it’s the inspiration from the waters, or the shells found in the sand, or just walking around downtown St. Petersburg with the umbrellas and rod iron, inspiration is found everywhere,” Negoshian said.
Negoshian is looking forward to adding activewear to her collections, which will soon be available online and at the signature store.
To shop Tracy Negoshian online, visit tracynegoshian.com
In today’s episode of Florida Focus: A quadruple homicide suspect pleads not guilty in a Pasco County court room; an overnight fight in a McDonald’s parking lot led to a smashed car and gunshots in St. Petersburg; a 20 ton tree removal crane toppled over yesterday in Largo; a man died after losing control of his vehicle in Port Richey; good news continues at the pumps as gas prices are the lowest we’ve seen since 2010.
Friday night of Homecoming week is probably the most hectic. There is so much going on all at once: the carnival is up and running, crowds line the streets to watch the parade and then file across Palm Drive to watch a concert. There is a line of cars trying to make it to the various parking lots and people are crossing the streets from all directions. From a by-stander’s point of view, it’s a recipe for disaster.
To handle this much chaos, the USF Police Department start preparing months ahead.
“We collaborate with various entities on campus in preparation for it,” Assistant Chief Chris Daniel said. “As the week approaches we start looking at staffing. We require all officers to be available.”
There are 52 officers on staff at USF, but during large events, such as Homecoming, the Temple Terrace Police Department steps in to offer additional resources.
While students, alumni and faculty are relaxing and enjoying the various events, some USF Police officers are riding around on bikes patrolling the campus grounds making sure attendants are staying safe.
The biggest issue of Homecoming is the concert. Because the concert is open to the public, people not affiliated with the university attend and this has caused some problems in the past.
“We don’t have control of access,” Daniel said. “There’s no checkpoints around the event. We just have to deal with what occurs instead of trying to prevent.”
And this year would be no different from past Homecomings. The university police had to remove a few people from the concert for disorderly conduct and there was one arrest.
“A student who took a fire extinguisher and discharged it throughout the crowd and then ran from police when we tried to catch him.” Daniel said
The university police have also had issues concerning the people who attend the parade. They run out in front of the floats to cross the street or to pick up the goodies that have been thrown.
“Often times the person driving the float can’t see that well and there’s always a risk of somebody getting hurt,” Daniel said.
To help with this problem the USF Police Department has officers riding on bikes alongside the floats, and officers, dressed in safety-green vests, standing in the intersection of Bull Run Drive and Alumni Drive directing cars, people and floats, making sure all get across the intersection safely.
University police officer Frank Wassenberg, who was riding a bike patrolling the campus Friday night, said so far everything has gone smoothly.
For many USF students Homecoming week is an exciting time. A time to relax and enjoy the array of festivities. But for USF’s Police Department it’s a time of working long hours and making sure all in attendance stay safe.
“Homecoming is a great event,” Daniel said. “It’s taxing on our resources, but it’s only one week out of the year that we’re in this position, so it’s very manageable.”