BRANDON — Sharmaine Burr awoke on May 20 full of emotion.
As she prepared to commence with St. Leo University students in the Tampa Convention Center and accept her bachelors degree in social work, she reviewed a list of achievements that defy time:
• sitting on the National Association of Social Work board.
• earning the association's student of the year honors....
05/22/17 Human Interest
Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, told the audience at the St. Petersburg Chamber legislative roundup last week that the Legislature's failure to provide more funding for mental health initiatives was "immoral."
I couldn't agree more. When you ask mental health care advocates about what they need to better care for some of the community's most vulnerable citizens, you expect to get a litany of policy change requests. But really, they have a pretty a good grasp of what's required. They just need more money to provide proper treatment....
Trimeka Benjamin, founder and CEO of Swim Digital, says she genuinely wants to help other business women.
She concedes she's not where she wants to be, but after running her own company for eight years, she says she's still blessed to reach back and help other women.
Benjamin is launching the Sisterhood of Swim, a program of mentorship that her company is taking on by doing work at a discounted rate for women-owned, women-led businesses and a series of digital marketing workshops in partnership with Working Women of Tampa Bay. The program starts on May 30 in Tampa. ...
05/15/17 Public Safety
GIBSONTON — In the wake of a Hillsborough deputy's 2016 fatal shooting of Levonia Riggins, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, officials worried a series of protests in Clair-Mel might spill into violence much like the scenes the world witnessed in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 after an officer shot Michael Brown.
Spurred on by County Commissioner Les Miller, officials organized a series of community law enforcement workshops to help bridge the divide with residents and avoid a similar outbreak. The first were held in Clair-Mel last December....
05/14/17 Human Interest
Someone far smarter about Florida politics said that if Gov. Rick Scott vetoes the onerous budget passed by the Florida Legislature and the House and Senate override it, it would be a tremendous loss for Scott.
I disagree. He's already lost. So has the state.
The Legislature, led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, ignored all of Scott's priorities, including Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. It has crafted a budget that undermines K-12 education, shafts the University of South Florida, cuts funding to worthy programs and shortchanges environmental efforts....
05/07/17 Human Interest
The speaker of the Florida House, the minority leader in the House, the head of the state Senate Appropriations Committee and at least a half dozen other "powerful" legislators purport to represent Tampa Bay.
Yet, the University of South Florida still got cheated out of earning pre-eminent status among state schools and all the prestige and money that come with the designation.
A late change in the standards moved the finish line, leaving a $48 million pool to be split between the University of Florida and Florida State....
I see photos of people standing in front of Riverview High School holding posters that say, "Fire Lesbo Wicked Teachers," and I wonder if they could answer two simple questions.
One: Are you pro-life? If they answer yes, the second question would be a bit more complicated: "If you're pro-life, what are you doing out here?"
Being pro-life means all life, and hanging in the balance are the lives of LGBTQ teens and teens overall who are trying to navigate the challenges of adolescence....
04/30/17 Human Interest
A group called the Liberty Counsel has accused Riverview High teacher Lora Jane Riedas of going too far in her efforts to send positive messages to LGBTQ students and crossing into political activism.
Riedas, openly gay and the adviser for the school's Gay-Straight Student Alliance, told Tampa Bay Times reporter Marlene Sokol she's convinced she's done nothing wrong.
The district's professional standards office is reviewing the complaint, and how it frames its decision will send a message to LGBTQ teens and all students....
Aaron Keith Robinson, then 18, stood at his mother's bedroom door in 2001 proclaiming to be a soldier, a general in the Lord's army.
He said he was prepared to die.
It was 2 in the morning.
"The inflections in his voice made me know something wasn't right," said Aaron's mother, Pamela Robinson.
That scene remains etched in Pamela's mind 16 years later. In the middle of the night, the ravages of bipolar disorder dawned in Aaron's world. Life would never be the same, for any of them....
04/23/17 Human Interest
Author and educational psychologist Michelle Borba delivered an important message at Thursday's annual Frameworks luncheon, sharing how it's never been more important in this increasingly self-absorbed world to instill empathy in our youth.
Citing both empirical and anecdotal evidence, she made a compelling argument on how children can benefit from the social and emotional learning Frameworks annually delivers to 45,000 Hillsborough students....
I've got a secret.
Don't tell anyone.
On May 20, I'll be one of the presenters at the fifth annual Sandhill Writers Retreat at Saint Leo University, but if you think I'm going to show up for my session and leave, guess again.
That's the secret. I'm going to sneak in early and attend as many presentations as I can. I discovered two years ago at the retreat that there's so much joy and insight to be gained from discussing the craft of writing....
04/18/17 The Heater
As a teen, Delano S. Stewart woke every morning to check the newspaper.
He longed to know how his favorite player fared in the game the night before, but he noted every hit and stolen base recorded by that player as more than statistical footnotes.
If Jackie Robinson went 2-for-3 during the late 1940s and 1950s, it did more than help the Brooklyn Dodgers win on the diamond. Stewart says Robinson's success served as a beacon for every black person during that time....
04/16/17 Human Interest
My idea of a new television show typically revolves around discovering an episode of Perry Mason I've never seen.
Everybody under the age of 30 just asked, "Who's Perry Mason?"
But my 24-year-old son has made it his mission to introduce me to 21st century TV. His latest triumph: getting me to watch Girls, an HBO show that features four of the most unlikable characters in the history of the medium....
04/15/17 Human Interest
A child struggling through the complications of premature birth.
These elements of Melanie Rojas-Silva's remarkable resurrection story actually understate how much she has overcome since hitting a homeless, penniless nadir.
Silva, 37, left the care of her grandmother in Puerto Rico and joined her parents in the United States at the age of 11, stepping into a home rife with domestic abuse. She and her younger siblings found themselves in the middle of constant tumult until one night when the battles came to a head....
Before a captivated audience at the University of South Florida's Kente Awards on Tuesday, sophomore Nya Knighton, the Black Student Union's Miss Uhuru made an impassioned plea.
Knighton, who grew up on the west side of Jacksonville skipping down to the corner store as a grade schooler to get boiled peanuts, longs for a life beyond those simple beginning. She's majoring in international studies with a minor in political science and plans to earn a certification in Asian studies....