Writing

Pet Pal Animal Shelter

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His large brown eyes have been staring out the same bars for most of his 4 years of life.

At 105 pounds, Zeus the calm and gentle Rottweiler mix has yet to be adopted.

A small facility off 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South in Midtown, Pet Pal Animal Shelter is the only home Zeus knows. As their longest resident, Zeus is safe because of the no-kill policy at Pet Pal.

 

Royal Theater

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Shakespeare famously once wrote “All the world is a stage,” and for many of the children of Midtown’s Boys & Girls Club, the stage is their world.

The names and photographs of famous people who have visited the Royal Theater hang in the hallways. The memorabilia includes images of entertainment legends such as Duke Ellington and Judy Garland. The children are greeted by these pictures everyday when walking into their rooms. The first room is for group one of this semester, the children who are 5 to 8 years old. The room next door is for the children ages 9 to 12 years old. “Currently, we have 57 children registered with an ADA of about 40 kids. ADA is average daily attendance,” Kayren Lovett said. Lovett is the club director.

 

Crosses and Hugs

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Just a short time ago her life was in utter chaos.

Her husband was in jail, she didn’t know how to run the business that she was suddenly in charge of and her head was spinning like unformed clay on a potter’s wheel. But Elizabeth Bunbury felt blessed the day she found inspiration in the conversation of an insistent stranger.

A compassionate and strong woman and artist, Bunbury is open to telling her story. She married twice.

“I had a husband that died, another was an alcoholic,” she said.

 

The Baranoff Oak

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People wonder if the Baranoff Oak, that still stands in Safety Harbor, was a sapling when Ponce De Leon arrived in Florida.

It’s the oldest living oak tree in Pinellas County. The oak is featured in the town’s business directory. The tree is asked about so often, Gina Bingham, a reference librarian at Safety Harbor Public Library, wrote a blog about it. She excitedly tells people all about the tree. A volunteer at the Safety Harbor Chamber or Commerce named Ginger Watson, received a picture of the Baranoff Oak as a gift from her sister in the mail.

 

 

 SEAS Plans On-Campus Environmental Solutions

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Although the president of the Student Environmental Awareness Society said the club has been down a “rocky road this semester,” they continue to meet every Tuesday at 5 p.m. and plan events.

“The reason I say it’s rocky is because of transitions. We have had two different presidents in the past two semesters,” said Catie Wonders, the president of the Student Environmental Awareness Society, or S.E.A.S., and senior at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Continuity is essential and Wonders thinks they may have finally found that.

An edited version of this article was featured in the school newspaper, The Crow’s Nest:

http://crowsneststpete.com/2012/11/25/seas-plans-on-campus-environmental-solutions/

 

 

Gay-Straight Alliance at USFSP

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A diverse group of students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg meet every Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the University Student Center to discuss and take on the controversial subject of gay rights.

 

 

 Clearwater Readies Residents for Pipeline Construction

FLORIDA – The City of Clearwater is conducting natural gas pipeline replacements and improvements said Mike Deegan, the Gas Operations/ Construction Coordinator.

The City of Clearwater, with the use of flyers containing detailed information regarding the gas pipelines, warned its citizens about the upcoming construction. In the information given, the city informed the residents that road closures may occur, everything that the city temporarily damages will be replaced, and before going on private property the property owner will be notified. The Mayor of Clearwater, George Cretekos, discussed the reason for Clearwater’s switch to natural gas; he said, “As a result of a series of public forums and discussions, the Clearwater City Council adopted a “greenprint” strategy to help it become more sustainable and to encourage its residents to become more aware of their impact on the environment.”

The City of Clearwater has approved natural gas for the residents of Clearwater in an effort to cut costs and have a more efficient fuel source. Natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline creating less air pollution said Bob Clifford, the President and CEO of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. He also said, “The longevity of the equipment is increased and the cost per gallon is considerably less.” As an example of the benefits of natural gas used in vehicles, Clifford said that the savings for a traditional garbage truck running on natural gas is $80,000 per year. “The benefits far outweigh the negatives,” he said. When contacting Florida Public Utilities, the citizen reaches a recorded message stating: “Natural Gas stays on, even when the lights go off.”

The mayor and members of the city council agreed that natural gas is a more reasonable option for everyone. The few fueling stations around Clearwater will soon be made available to the public. Cretekos said, “The city [Clearwater] is the first city in the Tampa Bay area to have opened a natural gas fueling station which is now available to the city fleet and some commercial fleets in the area; and, it will soon be able to serve individuals, as well.  The equivalent cost of natural gas at this facility is now less than $2.10 per gallon.”

The City Manager, Chris Warrington, went into more depth on the cost of natural gas. “The current natural gas vehicle rate at our NGV filling station is $2.05/gasoline gallon equivalent (gge). For City vehicles, the tax-exempt rate is $1.73/gge & we have this rate locked-in thru 3/31/2012,” said Warrington. “The station economics were based on a savings of at least $1.00/gge, with an expectation that this would likely be $1.50 or more. So, you can see, we are currently seeing considerably better economics than we even expected.”

As for the use of natural gas in homes, Gulfstream, a gas company in Florida, provides the consumer with information about natural gas on its website. Gulfstream opened in May 2002 and has a natural gas delivery network 745-miles long illustrated in the photo to the right. The website for this company stated that it can deliver enough natural gas to produce electricity for about 4.5 million Florida homes. The Florida Natural Gas Association also provides natural gas information on its website. It stated, “Florida’s supply of natural gas originates mainly from wells in Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.” In the home, consumers can use natural gas for things like water, heating, cooking, and drying. Natural gas, however, can also be used for manufacturing, agriculture and the standby generation said the Florida Natural Gas Association. Its website also shows a map of the areas in which natural gas, propane and electricity are available in Florida.

Natural gas is only offered in areas where the infrastructure is already in place. If it is not available for the citizen, propane is also offered in certain areas. With a phone call to a sales representative of the Clearwater Gas System, a resident can get natural gas or propane for their appliances. Dylan Newell, a sales representative, said, “The cost for the consumer depends on which appliances they want to use with gas and their usage. Someone with a pool heater who uses it daily will have a more expensive bill.” He also said, “The cost of using natural gas in the home is about 55 percent cheaper than electric.”

Typically it takes about three to four weeks for the city to complete your order and the ball park cost for installation of natural gas for a water heater ranges between $1,100- $2,000 according to the Clearwater City website. For more information on the cost of natural gas or receiving natural gas in your home, call 727-562-4980. As the flyer states, call Mike Deegan for any concerns, compliments, or complaints at 727-562-4900 xt 7439.

 

 

 

 Alcohol Fuels Spring Break Problems

Students come to Clearwater Beach during March to party and have fun, but when alcohol becomes a factor there can be serious consequences.

Although is has decreased, Century Council website (thecenturycouncil.org) shows in a national survey that 37% of college students still binge drink. Drinking alcohol gives students a 68% chance of getting involved with the law or police according to the same website. It reports that in 2009, there were, “79 under 21 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Florida.” More statistics and information are available on their website.

Spring Break is time of year that tends to be busy for the police departments, local shops, and beaches. This is when the swarms of college students make there way to places like Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island, and Caladesi Island. Usually beginning in the middle of March and continuing into April, Officer Cameron, a Clearwater Police Officer patrolling Clearwater Beach, said, “This year has probably been busier than the past four years, maybe because of the better weather.”

When entering Clearwater Beach, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists are immediately subject to an enormous warning sign that states, “No alcohol on beach.” Officer Cameron said that even if a person is over 21-years-old, alcohol is not allowed on the beach and the proper action will be taken. Although there is an issue with underaged drinking during Spring Break, Officer Cameron also said that this problem of underaged drinking is, “pretty constant throughout the year,” not just during Spring Break. “Binge drinking,” the Center for Disease Control reports, “is most common among 18 to 34 year olds.”

A firefighter/paramedic, who only stated his first name: Mike, works at the fire station on Clearwater Beach. He has personally been called to, “about 30 calls,” related to intoxication just during the past few weeks when Spring Break started. He adamantly stated, “And that is just me, others have responded to calls related to intoxication as well,” while about four other firefighters listened. He said that out of the 30 calls, “Almost every single one of them,” was underage, “maybe two or three were not.”

Fake identification has been seen by Officer Cameron on the beaches, but not at the restaurants. Officer Cameron said that he arrested someone on the beach for having a fake identification card. He said, “She probably ordered it online or something, but she had changed the year of her date of birth so that it showed she was 22. She was 19.”

At Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill and Bar, a server that only stated her first name: Maya, 35, said that underaged drinking does not become more of a problem in her experience because she always asks for ID. “No ID, no drink,” she said. She has encountered fake ID’s before, however, she is always catches them she said and when she does she, “calls the manager,” but what happens to them afterward, “depends on the situation.” The restaurants also provide tools for the servers to prevent underaged drinking. “In the back, we have a book that shows all the ID’s from each state and we have laser lights,” Maya said.

The Clearwater fire station next to Palm Pavilion’s goes on calls related to young people frequently Mike said. He listed a few things that the younger crowd gets involved with: “Injuries/fighting, car accidents, and heat exhaustion.” Luckily, Mike thinks that Spring Break and the number of kids getting intoxicated are not getting worse or increasing because not as many people are showing up to Clearwater Beach. He said, “There is not much to do on Clearwater Beach anymore, there used to be more shops open.”

 

 

Younger and Mature Students Share Similar Challenges

Students face many adversities that make going to school and getting the homework done difficult, whether a person is younger and just starting college or older and returning to college.

“The literature suggests that age does not contribute to student success,” said J. E. Gonzalez, the Director of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The college does not keep statistics on age according to Gonzalez, however, he said, “Full-time/Part-time could be a proxy for age as older students have more responsibilities such as jobs and families.” After talking to several older and younger students, it appears that the notion that older students have more responsibilities or adversities to face is false. The students universally face factors that hinder their abilities in some way and in turn make it difficult for each of them.

Lori Castellano, 42, works full-time and is going back to school at USFSP, however, when she returned she didn’t know what it was she wanted to do, she didn’t know what major to choose. She worked in the legal field for about 19 years and decided to do something different after discovering that she didn’t care much for the legal field anymore. After narrowing it down, she chose to major in Mass Communications and Minor in Media Studies for which she will receive a Bachelor’s degree.

“The most difficult thing for me probably is scheduling my classes each semester,” said Castellano, “where I work, the state pays for 6 credits each semester. I have to wait until the end of the registration period to sign up, so I have a very short period of time to sign up and then all the classes are gone. Also, closer to the end of your degree, the classes are not as available.”

Majoring in Governmental Accounting after earning a degree in Finance, Michelle Miller, 38, came to USFSP with a goal of earning a second degree. She works full-time, she is married, but does not have kids, and receives no financial aid. “I don’t know how people with kids do it,” Miller said. Intently focusing on the classes and, with working from 7:30 to 4:30, she really has to manage her time right she said.

Freeman Beymer, 45, worked for the family business before deciding he wanted to go back to school. He is working toward a Master’s Degree in Accounting. He has a step-daughter, however, he said that she is old enough that she takes care of herself mostly. He works full-time which makes it challenging to take three classes and has personal factors at home that also make it difficult.

Out of four students interviewed for this article, ranging from 18 to 23, three of them said that they work part-time, one said she works full-time. None of them have kids and all of them receive some kind of financial aid. Even at a young age, these students and many like them face the same issues that older students face. Managing time, working, commuting, money, scheduling, and not knowing what it is they want to do are all factors that many, or maybe even all, students must confront.

As a student gets older, however, some of the pressures go away. Fran Tenorio, 67, is registered in one class this semester at USFSP: French. People who are 65 and over are allowed to take classes free. “As a senior and a Florida resident, we get to take up to three classes for free,” she said. She and her husband are retired and they are both registered in the class together. They practice the language with each other at home. Managing time, having the money for school and working become less of a challenging without those factors to distract the student.

Even with the time and financial investments, people like Castellano are still only narrowing down their career options. While she discovered the legal field was not her passion, she inevitably said, “It’s hard to find what you want to do.”

 

 

 

 

Following in each other’s footsteps

This story was published in the school newspaper, The Crow’s Nest 

At the age of 51, my dad decided to go back to school, joining me at the USF St. Petersburg.

Now 54, my dad has stunned me by achieving great things in a short amount of time. He finished his associate degree and is well into his bachelor’s degree for mass communications. He put off school to raise me and work.  Later, after his bicycle rental shop closed during the economic downturn, he ended up at a desk job he described as “soul sucking.” I could tell he was miserable. He took one class with me and realized how much he missed the learning environment.

“I always regretted not earning my degree,” he said.

It wasn’t long after that he decided to make a change. He quit that job and the next school semester, he became a full-time student.

Writing had always been a gift of his, and in his second semester, he amazed me with his first ever article – a front-page story in the Crow’s Nest. It was a hard-hitting news article about carrying guns on school campuses. He has also become the first recipient of the Stephen Noble Internship, a paid internship at WUSF.

Am I jealous? Yes. But more importantly, I’m proud.

Although we are working toward the same degree and taking the same classes, there is no competition between us. We cheer each other on and ask advice when needed. We also come up with the best story ideas together. Some people ask if it’s awkward having my dad attend the same school and my answer is always no. I love having him at the same school because I get to see his hard work come to fruition when another article is published or a professor or peer tells me all about how much they love my dad and his writing.

Already proving that you can do anything you set your mind to, he has also reinforced in me the value of working hard. If this is how he starts his new beginning, I know he will go far. My dad and I will graduate together and I can’t wait. It will be so exciting to don the black cap and gown and walk across the stage with the man who has inspired me.