Tampa Bay’s Best: The Florida Aquarium

Florida Aquarium employee Eric Hovland and guest Angela Moody share a passion for marine life and the environment in which they live.

Hovland has seen The Florida Aquarium blossom into the popular Tampa attraction that it is today.

“I’ve worked here at The Florida Aquarium for going on 22 years in May and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hovland said. “Seeing the facility grow over the years and being able to work with all of the diverse species of marine life on a daily basis has been a dream come true for me.”

Located in downtown Tampa, right next to Port Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium offers its patrons a unique experience that is unlike any other aquarium in the United States.

“I had no idea until I got here that you could dive with sharks at this aquarium,” Moody said. “I’ve never heard of anything like that at any other aquarium I’ve ever been to.”

The Florida Aquarium was the first aquarium in the nation to offer an uncaged dive with sharks experience.

“We have the sand tiger sharks and all of our diverse fish that you can get to know,” Hovland said. “Learning about sharks can really accelerate when you can see sharks being sharks.”

People from all over the world travel to Tampa, which in turn brings many diverse people and cultures to The Florida Aquarium.

“Whether they’re getting off a cruise ship and stopping in for a visit, we really do get a diversity of the world’s culture,” Hovland said. “It’s nice to see our impact reaches much further than just the Tampa Bay area.”

For more information, please visit flaquarium.org

Organic Farm Supported by Community

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is a local farm funded by the community to bring fresh organic produce to the city. They are located at 6942 West Comanche Ave., in the heart of Tampa.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm started a CSA to raise money for the farm so that they can grow fresh vegetables for families that are interested in eating healthy.

“CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. That frankly means that the community is supporting this farm to grow food for them,” Travis Hansen said.

Hansen has been the farm manager now for two seasons and wants to continue his work at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm. He is very passionate about what he does.

“If you’re not present with love then you’re not going to fully connect with these plants. You’re not going to fully connect with your food that you are bringing to your table,” Hansen said.

That is what Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is all about. They want to educate the community to live a better life style by eating healthy food.

“We are really reaching out to the food desert community that we have around us. So in a 1.5-mile radius it’s considered a food desert, where people do not have access to clean healthy organic food. So we offer a much healthier alternative with organic produce,” Christine Wallace said.

Sunday local vendors set-up booths at the farm to sell their products and farm grown vegetables. Sweetwater Organic Community Farm also offers farm tours every third Sunday of the month as well as educational workshops for adults and children. You can check out their upcoming events on their website at http://sweetwater-organic.org

Bulls for Kids Pumpkin Day Benefiting John Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital

 

The University of South Florida organization Bulls For Kids has begun their fundraising efforts in order to benefit John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital by hosting seasonal events on campus.

Appropriately named after the 1966 Charlie Brown televised special, The Great Pumpkin Day invited students to purchase a pumpkin, promising that one hundred percent of all the proceeds will go directly to the hospital.

“John Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital is local, and it feels good knowing that you are helping out an organization that is really close by.” said USF student Jayla Pugh.

Bulls for Kids is part of USF’s Dance Marathon, a movement  of student-run philanthropies benefiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals around the country. Bulls for Kids is the largest student run philanthropy on campus.

The Bulls for Kids Promotions Director, Clarisse Fres, provided activities that students could participate in with their pumpkin.

“You can decorate them with paint and these other art supplies. Or you can take it home and do whatever you want to do with the pumpkin,” Fres said.

With waivers signed and safety goggles worn, students were also given the option to smash their pumpkins by raising it above their heads, and launching it towards the ground. Pumpkin smashing was offered as a way for students to relieve stress.

All these smaller events are leading to the main Bulls for Kids event in the spring: the 12-hour Dance Marathon, which is where most of the donations come in.

According to leadandserve.usf.edu, Bulls for Kids broke its long-standing record at USF last year by raising $130,011.29 more than any other year before and an 82% increase from the 2015 marathon.

“It’s a year-long process,” Fres said. “Now that this year is around, we’re going to try and raise $200,000.”

Bulls For Kids has no doubt that they will reach this goal, especially with registration for the Dance Marathon already accepting teams and donations.

The Dance Marathon officially begins on Feb. 25, 2017. Registration ends Dec. 11, and donations are being accepted until 9 p.m. at the event.

Manatee Viewing Center Expects Bigger Crowds In 30th Year

 

Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center employee’s Jamie Woodlee and Bob Rast both share a common passion for the protection of Florida manatees.

Woodlee has worked for TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center for more than 30 years and has seen the facility grow into what it is today.

“I’ve actually been with Tampa Electric for 30 years, and started right away in their environmental department,” Woodlee said. “It’s just been an amazing experience being able to see how far we’ve come since I first started here.”

Located off of Dickman Road in Apollo Beach Florida, the TECO Manatee Viewing Center offers guests an up close and personal view of manatees in their natural habitat. According to tampaelectric.com, Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivered reliable electricity to the community for 16 years before the commercial operation of Big Bend Unit 4 in 1986. It was that year where people first took notice of manatees arriving in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal.

“We get visitors from all over the world,” Woodlee said. “We get anywhere from 150,000 to over 300,000 visitors in over five-in-a half months.”

The Manatee Viewing Center’s mission is to educate the public about the Florida manatee and its habitat. The center is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary, which has interactive exhibits and staff members educating visitors of all ages about the life cycle of the manatee and the challenges it faces.

Rast said when the waters of Tampa Bay reaches 68 degrees or colder, the manatees would seek refuge in the Apollo Beach area.

“They are a unique creature,” Rast said. “When the weather gets chilly and the manatees get cold stressed, they come here to get warm and recharge their batteries so to speak.”

Rast has worked for the TECO Manatee Viewing Center for over 16 years and has extensive expertise on manatees in the area.

With tourists and locals flocking in from November 1 until April 15, the Manatee Viewing Center is ready for another year of big crowds.

“We are this quiet little gem of a place that is really starting to get out there,” Woodlee said.

Non-profit organization helps children succeed

According to the website, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay uses hands-on experiences to help young people understand the economics of life. In partnership with business and educators, Junior Achievement brings the real world to students, opening their minds to their potential.

Fifth grade student Sonja Assidy is the CEO of Bright House. She works hard to make sure her business runs smoothly.

“I take checks to Kane’s Furniture, I go get the checks from Kane’s Furniture, bring it here, make sure my CFO signs it and then put it where it needs to go,” Assidy said.

Sally Eidge is the Director of Junior Achievement and sees over a hundred students daily. She wants every student to learn a valuable lesson.

“They need to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you actually have to earn it and then spend it wisely,” Eidge said.

Before visiting JA BizTown, students complete a pre-visit curriculum program where they learn basic economic principles such as how to manage their personal bank account.

Kelly Thorne is a fifth grade language arts teacher at Deer Park Elementary and prepared her students for 12 weeks prior to coming to JA Biztown.

“We spend a lot of time on how to write checks, how to deposit checks, that whole process and how to budget their money,” Thorne said. “How when they get a paycheck, they have to make sure they save some money for their lunch, and then they have some spending money.”

Local Photography Studio Captures Memories

Senior year of high school is best described as bittersweet: happy times mixed with sad. Mojo Studios is a professional photography business owned by Patrick Myers, which specializes in capturing the happy memories through a lens.

“We really focus on our customers and make each photo shoot unique to every individual,” Myers said. “That is what really sets us apart from every other photography business.”

Located in Wesley Chapel, Mojo Studios is family-owned and has proudly supported customers all over the Tampa Bay area over the last eight years.

He compares their likeness to that of the restaurant business, saying they’re similar to a steakhouse, suggesting that their higher prices come with a higher quality.

Wharton High School senior, Katy Kipp is beyond happy with making the decision to get her picture taken by Myers.

“I would highly recommend Mojo Studios because it’s just like you’re own personal photo experience that you wouldn’t get with any other photographer.”

The school year is just getting under way, but Kipp wanted to get her pictures done before the school year comes to an end. She said she first heard about Mojo Studios through social media.

“I got super jealous of all the pictures on Instagram and told my mom I wanted to schedule an appointment.”

For more information, visit their company website at www.mojo-studios.com, or call (813)-774-9444.

 

 

Girls on the Run Empowering, Educating Life Skills

In its criss-cross through the nation, the Flavor Run 5K has left its mark through Girls on the Run in Tampa Bay.

Founded on a drive to create an affordable, fun and family-friendly event, The Flavor Run has transformed into a means of supporting local charities and businesses across the country.

“We have about 1,800 participants, and I’d say there are approximately 30 percent of first time runners,” said John McMahan, the event director and founder of the Flavor Run. “We focus on family, quality, and we also focus on partnering with local charities.”

Girls on the Run is a personal enrichment program for young girls that help to teach young girls life skills through a physical activity-based curriculum.  The program was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has since grown to over 200 councils in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Laura Moore serves as the director of Girls on the Run Greater Tampa Bay.  She said for the volunteers and runners of the 5K that designates Girls on the Run as their group during registration, a donation will be made to the program.

“For every volunteer that we bring, they can raise money for charity,” Moore said. “And for every runner that is in our team, they can donate a certain amount. There was about $2,000 that was donated last year, and all of those funds goes directly to our scholarship program, so that every young girl can be part of Girls on the Run.”

Over the course of a few years, the Flavor Run has become a vital piece in allowing Girls on the Run the opportunity to offer scholarships to members.

“We were a small part three years ago and then last year we were the exclusive charity partner, and we’re back again as the exclusive charity partner.  Moore said.  “We love the Flavor Run.”

The goal for Girls on the Run is to empower young girls in developing a strong sense of character, and feel confident in who they are and make connections with their peers.

McMahan said what motivates him in his role at the Flavor Run is being involved in a family-friendly atmosphere.

“It has to be the people that I surround myself with,” McMahan said. “The organizations that we work with, Laura, including Girls on the Run in Tampa Bay, it has been unbelievable.”

Rays Seek Attendance Boost with Student Rush deal

The Tampa Bay Rays are hoping to give their college-aged fans more bang for their buck.

For the first time, the Rays are offering Student Rush tickets to fans 18 or older with a high school or college ID.  Students can get lower level seats every Friday night for just $15.

Rays vice president of communications Rick Vaughn said the team is targeting a different type of fan each day.

“On Monday, we hand out free tickets for military veterans on Military Monday,” Vaughn said. “For all Tuesday home games, kids 14 and under can get in for $2, and Wednesday we sell two dollar hot dogs. For Thursday, all seniors 60 years of age or older will receive a discounted ticket, and of course Friday is Student Rush.”

Vaughn said the Rays are in the upper third of major league baseball television ratings.

As for actual game attendance? Not so much. In 2015, Tampa Bay ranked last in the league, averaging just over 15,000 fans per game in a stadium that can fit up to 42,000.

Though the Rays are uncertain of how many students will attend the Friday games, they expect to average 2,000 to 3,000 students each week. Vaughn said if fans make the trip and show support of the deal, they will see there is more to do than just watch the game.

“We have the Ted Williams Baseball Museum,” Vaughn said. “It’s free with the purchase of a game ticket. We also have the ray tank in centerfield where we are supported by the Florida Aquarium.”

As for the students? They said the discount is something that should not be overlooked.

“For a student, this is a good opportunity to get out and do things around the Tampa Bay area without having to break your wallet,” said Aaron, a student from the University of Tampa.

Vaughn and the Rays hope promotions like Student Rush will help provide a much-needed boost in attendance.

For Bay area college students, this is one deal that is sure to be a home run.

“It’s great,” said Spencer, a student from the University of South Florida. “Since I work and I’m saving money, $15 for a Rays game is my kind of deal.”

 

Student Rush brings Lightning tickets to students for a fair price

Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Student Rush ticket program has gained popularity.

The program gives students with a valid high school or college ID the chance to purchase the best available tickets shortly before game time at a fair price.

“We think it’s a great program for both sides,” said Patrick Abts, the Lightning’s Digital Marketing Manager who oversees Student Rush. “It allows us to fill some of the last remaining seats with some of our best fans.”

Students are allowed to line up for Student Rush tickets as early as 7 a.m. on game days, and remain in line until two hours prior to game time to be given a wristband with their number in line.

Thirty minutes before game time, the students are led to the box office where they can purchase the best available tickets at a discounted rate. For the playoffs, any remaining lower level seats will be sold for $50, which normally ranges between $100 and $300. Standing room and upper level tickets will be sold for $25.

“Student Rush is amazing,” said Kristen Thomas, who arrived at 9 a.m. for tickets. “We do this all the time. It gives us a chance to root on the Bolts when we normally wouldn’t be able to afford playoff tickets. “

Organizers believe that if the Lightning continues through the playoffs, the demand will continue to grow and ultimately exceed the supply.

“We’re guaranteeing 100 tickets per game for the playoffs,” Abts said. “We don’t know until game time whether they are lower, upper, or standing room, but we’re guaranteeing 100 per game and may have more depending on the game.”

Abts and his colleagues agree that the best way students can guarantee themselves a Student Rush ticket is to arrive as close to 7 a.m. as possible.

Water sports fun and competition for the family

The Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team hosts weekly shows on Saturday nights from April to October at its home location in Oldsmar in Tower Lake.

The team has been around since the 1960’s. It focuses on both the entertainment and competitive side of water skiing.

“Most of the families that join us, join us because they want to get their kids involved in something,” said Steve Sacone, the team president. “They’re not looking to get involved in typical youth sports, they’re looking for something a little bit different.”

Veteran skier and University of South Florida professor Dr. Larry Dunleavy is focusing on the upcoming Southern Regional Championship in Sarasota June 18-19.

“We’ve won a bunch of times, but the competition is getting better all the time,” Dr. Dunleavy said. “We’re always looking for fresh faces to help improve the team.”

The team is always looking for new members and there is never a limit on how many people can participate. Anyone looking to join can find more information on the the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team website or go to one of its many practices during the week.

Gumbo Boogie Band Brings Swamp Sound to Town

The Gumbo Boogie Band has been bringing the sound of the swamp to audiences nationwide since 1995, and this Sunday they bring their instruments to Ace’s Lounge in Bradenton.

Their sound is reflective of the band’s name, combining zydeco influences with modern rock to create melodies that pay homage to both the past and the present. Most importantly, they maintain a catalog of original work and covers that are sure to satisfy audiences who prefer these two genres.

It is not often that Bradenton plays host to musical acts with national renown. The Gumbo Boogie Band has performed with established acts such as Buckwheat Zydeco, one of the foremost musicians within the zydeco genre.

The quartet is headed by Ryan Langley, who handles vocals while also playing the piano and accordion. The other three members are drummer Chaz Trippy, saxophonist Ken Smith, and bassist/vocalist Steve Wigginton.

Despite performing together for over 20 years, the band remains in touch with its roots, as they have not reached a level of stardom that precludes them from the less glorious aspects of life as a musical act. This includes hauling their own equipment from gig to gig.

“We all bring our own equipment to each gig, and the degree of help provided varies from venue to venue,” said Ryan Langley. “In the case of Ace’s, owner Renee is who we contacted to sort out the details of when to arrive and what to expect.”

When it comes to performing at Ace’s, the band plans to arrive roughly an hour before their 5 p.m. performance time for a number of reasons.

“Typically we go through our set, testing our gear and going through a brief warm-up to make sure our sound is where we want it to be,” said bassist Steve Wigginton.

However, music is not the only thing that is typically discussed as the band passes the time leading up to a performance. They simply spend too much time together for the minutiae of life not to come up.

“Most of the time we find ourselves talking about what is going on in our lives, family and all of that,” said Smith. “Other times we discuss possible venues that we could play in the future.”

The pre-performance set up and discussions are all part of the group’s shared musical passion. Their existence as a band allows them to collectively follow their individual ambitions as musicians.

The Gumbo Boogie Band’s next stop: Ace’s Lounge located at 4343 Palma Sola Blvd. in Bradenton.

Admission is free and music begins at 5 p.m. Sunday.

How a nationwide nonprofit organization is helping Tampa

Proclaiming that they are the “first name in second chances,” Eckerd is a nationwide nonprofit organization that focuses on providing solutions that help struggling families and young adults thrive.

At the Eckerd Achievement Academy office in downtown Tampa, teachers Stephen Zambito and Tamara Johnson are just some of the staff that has been hired to teach some at-risk teens in the Tampa Bay community. Through this program their goal is to obtain their high school or GED diploma when traditional schooling options are no longer an option.

Johnson and Zambito create a safe place for these students who often come from broken homes and were children of the foster care system. Many of the students love it at Eckerd and consider it a family type atmosphere.

Every job comes with its ups and downs. Johnson said the hardest part of this particular job is getting attached to the students. “These kids are like my own and it’s really hard when one day they are here and the next day they are gone.” She also said that when they lack motivation it is hard to steer them in the right direction.

Zambito expressed the same sentiment saying, “Over the ten years I have done this I have definitely learned patience.”

Eckerd not only provides high school and GED diploma services, but also juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health services for those in need. For more information about Eckerd please visit Eckerd.org or call 800-554-HELP.

 

 

 

 

Author James Morrow gives lecture at USF

On Monday, March 21, 2016 renowned science fiction author, James Morrow, will be visiting USF to discuss his new novel, “Galapagos Regained”.

Morrow will be giving a lecture on the fourth floor of USF’s library at 6:00 p.m. where he will discuss issues of science, religion, and pop culture. Joining Morrow will be fellow science fiction author and USF professor, Rick Wilbur.

“I’ve been in the science fiction community for a long time,” said Wilbur. “Getting Morrow to do this lecture was as easy as some scheduling and making phone calls to a comrade.”

After a small amount of aligning schedules between Wilbur, the university, and Morrow, the author is set to discuss his latest novel as a part of USF’s humanities institute’s lecture series.

“I urge all students who can make it to attend Morrow’s lecture,” said Wilbur. “He’s an incredible author and this is a great opportunity to discuss contemporary issues with a knowledgeable professional.”

Morrow, a self-proclaimed scientific humanist, is an author famous for his unconventional historical novels, which often examine the intertwining concepts of religion and science. His latest novel, “Galapagos Regained” plot centers on a Victorian adventurer who decides to repeat the voyages of Charles Darwin.

Anyone, whether a student, faculty or community member, will be able to attend both Morrow’s lecture and the event’s reception and book signing free of cost.

USF alumni eats like a caveman

 A young entrepreneur has taken her passion for eating healthy and combined it with her passion for cookies to create her own company Base Culture. This company is not like any other sweets retailer that sales brownies and banana bread; all of the products are paleo friendly, meaning they follow the popular Paleo Diet.

“The Paleo Diet is nicknamed the caveman diet for a reason” says Base Culture founder Jordann Windschauer, “If you were to follow the Paleo Diet, you eat meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit.” Windschauer praises the diet and even goes on to say that she felt “more alive than ever and had more energy than she had had in years.”

While the Paleo Diet did have its ups it also had its downs. Windschauer enjoyed the new found energy boost, but she also missed all the sweets she used to eat.

“You know it got really hard not being able to just grab banana bread on the way to work in the morning. I looked for products that could satisfy my sweet tooth but would also satisfy paleo requirements but there were none” said Windschauer. It was that same day she took matters into her own hand and stated creating “sweets” that were made solely from seeds, nuts, and fruits.

She then took her paleo friendly sweets she baked to her local gym to share with her friends and they became an instant hit. People soon began offering compensation for her products, and overnight the company Base Culture was created.

Many customers have claimed to not even taste the difference between paleo friendly brownies and regular brownies. “I just tasted it and it’s actually really good and it’s awesome that it’s really healthy” said satisfied customer Lexi Ashby.

The idea of paleo friendly products has taken the market by force. Since the company’s beginning in 2013, Base Culture products are now available in over 50 stores nationwide and will soon be available in Walmart.

 

 

 

 

Tampa park undergoes artistic renovation

Since 1979, Perry Harvey Sr. Park has been a staple in the Tampa Bay community. Named after the Bay’s first African-American councilman, the park has been a landmark for civil rights.

April 2 marked the grand opening of the park’s renovation. Various forms of artwork depicting civil rights leaders will be displayed throughout the park.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Monday, March 21, Lara Alexander helps put the final touches on the art gallery at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, commemorating civil rights leaders.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Michael Parker, the artist responsible for the renovation, labors under the sun. The commemoration took Parker a year to construct.

 

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Parker constructed a stone portrait of one of Tampa’s African-American pioneers, Georgette Gardner. Gardner was a principal of several African-American schools in the Bay area.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Among other pieces of Parker’s work is this portrait of entertainer, Henry Joyner. Joyner established and owned the Tampa night club, Cotton Club.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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A portrait of Tampa’s Meacham School founder, Christina Meacham. For 40 years Meacham devoted her life to teaching children in Florida.

 

 

 

Life experiences help to heal the grief

If Alexis Mootoo, 49, a doctorate student in government and adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, could give her younger self some wisdom or advice, she would tell her 20-year-old self one thing: people love you.

One fleeting glance in her spacious office reveals a lot about the woman behind the instructor. Colors of gold and brown adorn the various ornaments in the room. On the top part of the wall facing her back is a painting, “No Man Band”, by Leroy Campbell.

She spoke of her love for jazz music after the death of her father. The music helped her deal with the grief. She used to drive to the record store to listen to the music, particularly from the Harlem Renaissance age.

Mootoo left the United States at a very young age with her parents to go live in Bordeaux, France. Of the 10 years that she lived there, she remembers how it felt to be a part of a community. She remembers how kind people were, the food, the neighbor she sometimes stayed with when her parents were at school.

She remembers how close she was to her teacher, to the point that she refused to leave and started to cry when her father told her it was time to move again. Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of how different her experience would be when they moved to the Republic of Congo.

Life in the Congo could not have been anymore different from France. Gone was the feeling of love and belonging. Gone was her nurtured yet ill-fated love for reading at least two books a week.

She was enrolled in a public school, and the experience was shocking to say the least.

“I looked different from everyone. It was much more striking than in France, maybe because of my hair being long and my complexion being different,” she said.

The difference extended to how everyone treated her as well. Teachers and students alike did not warm up to her.

She looks back at the experience now, and she wisely notes what it all meant. She realized that it was not about who she was as an individual, but what she represented.

“To them, I was supposed to be a rich person who didn’t need to be in a public school, but at the time I didn’t know the difference. It was a difficult time, and I was very upset,” she said.

Last year, Mootoo’s life came to a standstill when her mother died.

Even though she does not go to church, it gives her a sense of peace to know that her mother and father are finally together in heaven. In a way, she feels better knowing that her mother did not suffer that long through the cancer battle.

***

Mootoo’s interests are as extensive as they can get. She smiles sheepishly and admits one of her guilty pleasures is watching all “The Real Housewives” franchises at the end of the day. A proud look replaced her smile when she said that she also loves crocheting. Her phone is full of pictures of all the things she has recently made, including a sweater for her son, Harrison, who will be attending a university in Colorado.

Her face lights up when she talks of Harrison. She is amazed by how charismatic and talented he is. The courage she sees in her son is reflected by the comparison she makes of what she wishes she could do.

“I wish I could sing and dance and be as charismatic as my kid. It’s amazing how he’s able to do that,” she said. “I wish I could stand up in front of people and belt out a song, but I could never do that. I’d throw up.”

When she was asked what some of her failures in life had been, she said she does not want to view them as failures, but more of things that needed to happen. She recognized the difficulties she had of being a single mother and of not having a degree.

“I believe that my humility has to do with all these things that I thought were failures, but in fact were just life experiences,” Mootoo said.

Two rooms before Mootoo’s office is one of her colleagues, Saviya Jean-Baptiste. They have known each other for more than five years.

Jean-Baptiste credits Mootoo to showing her the beautiful and yet-to-be discovered spots in Tampa.

“She had a dinner party for the Super Bowl. It wasn’t anything fancy, but just the bursts of laughter that we had was completely different. It was goofy and comfortable,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Both Jean-Baptiste and Mariela Noles Cotito, a graduate assistant at the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean at USF, have one thing in common. They are in awe of the person that is Alexis Mootoo. Her story from studying for her bachelor’s degree all the way currently to her doctorate at a later age, and constantly breaking down social barriers as a black woman impresses the two to be inspired by her each day.

“She’s a great human being. We email back and forth sometimes and she uses this expression ‘cool beans’. Now that I know she’s older, it’s funnier to me,” Cotito said.

Technology implementation helps Bulls batters to improve their performance

Hitting a round ball with a round bat might be the single most difficult thing to do in sports. Baseball players of the University of South Florida spend a lot of time in the film room before they step inside the batters box.

“We’re able to look at guys swings in practice, in games, and in intersquads,” Bulls Head Coach Mark Kingston said. “How we like to use video the most is get a good library of when a guy is really swinging it well, and when he may be struggling, and then what we can do is put those videos next to each other, and you see what the differences are.”

Assistant Coach Mike Current is the czar of the film room and helps to mold his players into complete hitters.

“I think video is a big part of the instruction process. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain something to a guy and him listen to what you’re saying and understand how to translate it into action,” Current said. “But when he can actually see what’s going on and see what you’re talking about it’s a lot easier to make adjustments.”

Technological advances have ensured that players like freshman Garrett Zech have advantages that generation before his did not.

“The work we do in the film with Coach Current has definitely helped my mechanics and ability to compete at this level,” Zech said.

When Kingston played baseball professionally, the ability to watch video was not as easy as it is today.

“They’d sometimes bring out a camera, and you could watch it or you’d see the highlights on the news that night and tape it,” Kingston said. “These days guys can get instant feedback. I think the instant feedback is really the key to how video is used these days.”

Man reminisces vague Gasparilla experience

A Post-Gasparilla Dominic Fike taken by Augustine Baker

Dominic Fike remembers going to Gasparilla last year, but doesn’t remember getting home. This year, 20-year-old Fike is prepared to stay as far away from the pirate themed festivities as possible.

Fike came from Naples last year to celebrate one of Tampa’s most well-known party weekends of the year.

Like many Gasparilla attendees, Fike began drinking when he woke up around 10 a.m. After several rounds of beer pong at his hotel, Fike and his group took a taxi downtown to join the parade.

“That’s what you do for Gasparilla,” Fike said. “You just get super drunk and walk around at a parade. It’s a tradition.”

Fike’s Gasparilla celebration began like many others do.

Throughout the day, Fike and his group aimlessly walked through downtown Tampa in search of beads, girls and more drinks.

After drinking all day, Fike’s group needed a quick intermission to effectively continue their belligerent escapade.

“After we left Gasparilla is when the night started to go downhill,” said Fike. “I don’t remember much after that, but I heard I was going crazy at this party.”

After getting back to a friend’s apartment at the Province, Fike was told he took a Xanax.

“I think that was probably what really did me in that night,” Fike said.

Fike said his group was ready to call it quits around midnight, but he was ready to continue partying, so he went on by himself.

Being close to a college campus makes it easy to find a party in any apartment complex within a five-mile radius.

After little searching, Fike said he found a rager.

“On my way to the party I fell and smashed my face into a pole,” Fike said. “I walk into this party covered in blood and bruises, but I’m still down to drink more.”

After partying until 4 a.m., Fike decided to head back to his hotel.

Soon after getting back to his room, he got into an argument with one of his friends and stormed out of the hotel.

“That’s the last thing I remember,” Fike said. “After that it goes completely black.”

Fike has one vague memory of being asked to take a drug test in a hospital. Before he was able to reply, he fell asleep.

When he woke back up, he was alone and immediately decided to leave the hospital.

Fike said his phone was dead and he didn’t know where his friends lived, so he walked to USF to try and find them.

After passing Greek Village a girl stopped him, noticing he was covered in blood and only had one shoe on.

She brought Fike into her sorority house and let him take a shower. She lent him some of her boyfriend’s clothes and gave him a ride back to his friend’s apartment.

Fike had to stay home and work this Gasparilla, but even if he didn’t, he said he still wouldn’t have come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Focus News Brief March 2, 2016

In this episode: a nine-year-old girl is hit while waiting to board her school bus, two people and their dog are killed in a Lakeland mobile home fire, gas prices continue to rise, President Obama announces a historic trip to Cuba with the Tampa Bay Rays and the bay area ranks in the top 50 best metropolitan areas to live nationwide.

 

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Young dreamer changes her life after a Christmas gift

Amanda Fernandez always knew that she was going to be a professional in the beauty industry. She achieved this dream by owning her salon 23.

The business has been open since June 28.

“I think I was really destined to be in this beauty industry,” Fernandez said. “I remember putting on my mom’s bras and walking in their heels, putting lipsticks all over my face.”

It all came true after a family member wanted to help her get on her feet. He invested in her and the studio.

“I just immediately started crying because it is always something I dreamed of, but I never thought at 23 that I would have been able to do that,” Fernandez said.

Bombshell’s Beauty Studio differs from other local salons because Fernandez uses social media to connect with her clients, including Periscope to live record working on their hair.

The name of the studio was inspired by the look Fernandez wanted her clients to have when they leave the salon. She said women do not realize how beautiful they are.

“When they leave here, I want them to leave feeling like a total bombshell,” Fernandez said. “I want them to say, ‘I look good. I’m gonna go home, and my husband is going to take me on a date.'”