In this episode of Florida Focus: Nike pays homage to the success of Plant High School’s football team; a St. Pete man is in critical condition after his girlfriend sets him on fire; South Florida wants to become their own state; The Humane Society of Tampa Bay offers a pumpkin patch promotion.
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.
October 17 2014
PGA certified professional Jeff Gibson is in his fourth year teaching golf classes to USF students, and he could not be happier.
“I’m so impressed 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 problem.”
A Texas native, Gibson moved to Tampa and graduated from King High School. In 1979, he graduated from USF.
Gibson went on to have success playing the mini-tours around the country for 20 years. He won multiple times and qualified for a U.S. Open sectional as recently as 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 importantly, Gibson is happy with the golf journey he has traveled on. 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 about the Gibson Golf Academy, visit www.gibsongolfacademy.net.
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.
Fashion designer Tracy Negoshian is elated to have a signature store, Tracy Negoshian and His, in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla.
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 University of South Florida 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 affordable, quality clothing of the Tracy Negoshian 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 is looking forward to adding active wear to her collections, which will soon be available online and at the signature store.
Tracy Negoshian and His is now open at the Sundial in downtown St. Petersburg.
To shop Tracy Negoshian, Inc. online, visit tracynegoshian.com
In today’s episode of Florida Focus: A quadruple murder suspect pleads not guilty this morning in a Pasco county court room; an overnight fight in a McDonald’s parking lot led to a smashed car and gunshots in St.Pete; a twenty ton tree removal crane toppled over yesterday in Largo; a man died this morning after losing control of his vehicle in port Richey; good news continues at the pumps, gas prices are the lowest we’ve seen since 2010.
The USF students who went to Japan with the Kakehashi Project had great expectations.
They expected to visit ancient Japanese shrines and modern museums. They knew they were going to meet students at Kyoto Sangyo University and meditate with Buddhist monks.
What they did not expect was the bond they would establish with one another – a bond that would continue long after their 10-day trip had ended.
“I’ve kind of added to my family,” said Andrew Machado, a humanities major at USF. “It puts a lot of things in perspective. You start to create connections that you would have never created here.”
The Harvest Hope Center reflects on the community garden’s success since its launch last November.
Harvest Hope is a part of the University Area Community Development Center, located on North 22nd Street. The Center allows volunteer members to grow fruits and vegetables at no cost in the garden.
“We’re trying to bring any kind of diversity into the diets of the people who live in our community, we know health and nutrition is a really big issue here, often we see obesity rates and we see people buying what’s cheap and fast and easy,” said Megan Gallagher, the Development Center’s sales coordinator. “We want them to have a chance to buy something that is healthy for them, that’s good for their kids and to teach them how to live that really good lifestyle.”
The garden contains 18 vegetable and 12 fruit plots, with numerous starfruit trees alongside them. Gallagher urges the community to take further advantage of it.
“Our garden is open to anyone in our community, we love having anybody come by, we currently have volunteer groups from all over Tampa Bay,” she said.
For more information about the Harvest Hope Center or how to get involved, please visit uacdc.org.
Laura and Mike Gilkison’s business and vision is special.
It’s rare to find people doing what they love and able to make money doing it. It’s even more rare to start that process after holding full-time jobs your whole adult life.
But that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“Years went by and I saw people, like at the fair and stuff,” Laura said. “They were showing beekeeping and I said, ‘That’s a good idea, I want to do beekeeping.’”
Driven by Mike’s expertise in carpentry, USF’s classes on beekeeping and Laura’s life-long passion for bee’s and nature, two years ago they started their own handcrafted Cypress beehives business.
Their cypress beehives were on full display at the 5th annual Taste of Honey festival hosted by the USF Botanical Gardens.
When asked if she was impressed with the turnout and exposure provided, Laura responded with a simple answer.
The festival presented over 100 different types of honey, spanning several continents including almost all of the 50 states. Along with the honey samples, the festival featured a live band and plenty of food samples that included honey as an ingredient.
Encouraged by the interest in their beehives, Laura provided a glimpse into the future of their family business.
“We actually want to sell local to Florida, and mainly the Tampa Bay area,” Laura said. “We just enjoy it because we love bees, and we feel like we’re doing something for the environment. It’s not just making money, I mean that’s not the only reason why we’re doing it, otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. ”
For more information on handcrafted cypress beehives, email email@example.com.
Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea held their inaugural event “Art of the Roast” for the arts on Sept. 9.
CEO and president of Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea, Ted Abrams, has been with the company since 2001 and had one major thing in mind: to brew success.
“What we are trying to do with this event is to create,” Abrams said. “We do a quarterly coffee so at the beginning of every quarter on a calendar basis we come out with a new origin of coffee that has a great story behind it. What we are looking to do is to commandeer local artists in Tampa Bay to create our first quarter 2015 coffee.”
Local artist, Ivaldo Robles, was one of the artists present at “Art of the Roast” showcasing his work on abstract expressionism.
“I believe that art is very important for the community in Tampa and all over the world,” Robles said. “It represents an important subject for all communities for children and adults to have an open view of the culture of that community and to have a venue to be creative and to open up new opportunities in the future and this is a great part of it.”
The company was established in Tampa Bay in 1984. Joffrey’s continues to draw inspiration from the arts, originally from the great American dance troupe, the Joffrey Ballet, which coincides with their company name.
Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea offers more than 100 varieties of coffees and teas and in 2012 they joined a world-class brand becoming the official specialty coffee of Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort and Disney Vacation Club.
Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea is located in Ybor where locals are fortunate enough to experience world-class coffee.
Primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall took the stage at the USF Sun Dome earlier this month to encourage students and audience members to raise their conservation efforts and environmental awareness.
This event was brought to USF by the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with Frontier Forum and University Lecture Series.
Eric Eisenberg, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, felt that his goal in getting Dr. Goodall to speak was one meant not only to inspire students, but also to give them perspective on all of the positive change they can bring to the world.
“It seems to me that one of the main goals we have in educating students and preparing our graduates for the world today is to really have a global perspective on what the grand challenges are that are facing us as a species, as a planet.
Dr. Goodall spoke about her experiences living with chimpanzees in Africa, her perseverance with her research and stressed the importance of having compassion towards both each other and animals.
Students, among other interested guests, were very moved by Goodall’s virtue and true care for the world and her work.
“It was absolutely incredible. I am so ecstatic that USF got her to come and speak,” said Alexis Beaudoin, senior in Health Sciences. “It was inspiring and it really gave me hope.”
There are two more lectures planned for this school year and the dean thinks students will really enjoy them.
“Every year we get together and we try to identify three or four people that we think would really be transformative to bring to campus,” said Eisenberg. “And I’ve been very proud of the people we’ve invited and brought in the past.”
Cooking with the Dietitians is an event hosted at USF to help students learn about eating healthy. Tips are given to students, by registered dietitians, to find ways to choose a healthy lifestyle on the second week of every month.
Dividing your plate into fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein is just one of the important topics in the presentation. Ashlea Kurmay, a USF student, attends these events and has learned the importance of cooking a healthy meal.
“Suffice for yourself by actually going to the grocery store and cooking an actual healthy meal and I think that this really helps teach students that,” Kurmay said.
Busy schedules and skipping a healthy meal are common among students in college.
However, Kurmay is proof that it’s not impossible to make small changes for a healthier lifestyle. She keeps an active schedule and stays away from drinks that have a great deal of one specific ingredient – sugar.
“I work about four to five times a week and I just try to eat really healthy and not drink like soda or anything with a lot of added sugar,” Kurmay said.
A vegetable like a bell pepper is recommended by Health Promotion Specialist Alex Kloehn, who works with USF’s Wellness Center. The vegetable usually does not get credit for its benefits because it is an uncommon ingredient for recipes.
Bell peppers have high levels of vitamins A and C and are a good source of fiber. Although they range in different colors, the red, orange, and yellow peppers carry more of these nutrients.
“Actually, a bell pepper has almost twice as much vitamin C as an orange.” Kloehn said. “So, it’s something that people don’t know. So, when you’re sick and you want to fight off that cold, try having a bell pepper instead of an orange.”
Kloehn is the head of the promotions department at the Wellness Center for any health presentation and can be available for a one on one discussion. The Student Health Services is also another option to find a professional dietitian and help you make a health plan.
“It would be great if people knew a little bit more about why fruits and vegetables are beneficial. And that’s one of our goals here with produce of the month,” Kloehn said.
The next event for Cooking with the Dietitians will be on October 8th.
The Digital Bullpen
3-D Printing the Future: The Exhibition is the newest attraction at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). The museum has 3-D printers that print objects during the exhibit.
3-D printing is making consumer goods cheaper by allowing people to print almost anything imaginable.
“Basically what the exhibit shows is the next industrial revolution in all sorts of different industries that 3-D printing is applicable to,” Tom Hamilton, a 3-D printing expert said. “There was this dad; his son was born without fingers on his left hand. Instead of being twenty thousand to fifty thousand dollars; it cost only about five to fifteen dollars for that one prosthetic hand.”
Anything from solid concrete buildings to a pancakes can be designed and printed using 3-dimensional technology. Not only are scientists making significant advances in the engineering and culinary fields, but in the near future they hope to be able to print organs to use for organ transplants.
“Even in the medical field, they have managed to print off graft-able ears and noses out of cellulose and either collagen or hydrogen,” Hamilton said. “They can just take a CT scan of you and use that as a computer assisted design file and they will just print that. We have a 3-D printed heart here, not a real heart, but it’s a plastic heart that has been printed from a CT scan of a patient.”
Some of the unique artifacts in the exhibit include: a pistol, a model car, a bikini, a heart, a fetus, a mask, a microscope and a working wrench.
The exhibit will be at MOSI until Sept. 28.
A reverse mortgage is a home loan that makes payments to the borrower, instead of the traditional method, when the borrower makes payments to the lender. A reverse mortgage is available to homeowners who are at least 62 years old. The mortgage plan gives individuals, who have equity in their home, additional funds for a more comfortable retirement.
According to a National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association website, “You are not required to pay back the loan until the home is sold or otherwise vacated. As long as you live in the home, you are not required to make any monthly payments towards the loan balance, but you must remain current on your property taxes, homeowners insurance and condominium fees (if you live in a condo).”
Robert Estell, a satisfied reverse mortgage recipient, believed that taking out a reverse mortgage was the only way to survive retirement.
“We were very limited in the income because we retired with Social Security income only, and we could not meet our obligations with that kind of income. So, we had to look around for some relief,” Estell said.
Reverse mortgage specialist, Larry Brooks, emphasized that many elderly homeowners do not have the luxury of obtaining funds for retirement. A reverse mortgage enables them to access cash and improve their financial life.
“A lot of seniors are house-rich and cash-poor. The money is coming from their retirement and from their savings, so this opens up an option for them to help their kids out without touching any of their core assets,” Brooks said.
The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association provides outlined information, such as a homeowner’s responsibilities, and the types of reverse mortgages available.
Anyone interested in a reverse mortgage should visit reversemortgage.org for more information.
Tampa Catholic High School is known for its excellent academic and extracurricular programs. The school prides itself on the fact that its students feel prepared for whatever life may throw at them after high school.
“It’s just helped me develop a lot of people skills and helped me stay really organized,” senior Ariel Mathias said. “Being so busy makes me have to be on top of all my stuff, which has been really helpful and will probably be really helpful in the future.”
Busy is an understatement for Mathias. She the captain of the varsity volleyball team, members of Ambassadors, Student Ministry and is the Secretary of Student Government. Mathias excels in the classroom as well, being in Advanced Placement and Honors courses.
Getting involved “allows them (students) to be successful in life in general because they’ve had experiences in groups …and are able to conduct themselves successfully in different environments,” Dean of Students Cheriese Edwards said.
Tampa Catholic truly offers its students exactly what they need to make them the best version of themselves and prepare them for the real world.