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....
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....
04/09/17 Human Interest
As the Rays' stadium situation appears to move toward a "Forever St. Petersburg" conclusion next to Tropicana Field, I'm stuck on one troubling thought.
Yes, a new stadium may generate more corporate support and spur more fans to go to games.
But as I sat in traffic Thursday afternoon crawling toward St. Petersburg, I couldn't help but think more than polished digs will be required to resolve the team's attendance woes....
04/07/17 Human Interest
I didn't plan on attending the LifeLink Foundation news conference Thursday morning.
But somebody did.
I didn't think I had time to squeeze it into my schedule.
But somebody did.
Maybe it was luck or maybe just serendipity, but I like to think the events of that morning happened for a reason.
LifeLink had called the news conference to unveil two new murals promoting organ donation at the Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office on Hillsborough Avenue. I had received a notice about the event earlier in the week, but decided to pass because I already had a busy day planned....
I'm worried about what we lose if malls disappear, and I'm not talking about big sales and free food court chicken.
Payless Shoes filed for bankruptcy this week, Sears reportedly is on the brink of bankruptcy and Macy's and JCPenney are in the process of closing more than 100 stores across the country.
In the world of retail, the closures don't represent hiccups, they constitute a trend. As more and more people choose to do their shopping online, big department stores and mainstream clothing outlets continue to take a hit....
The first time I spotted Randall Drayton on the sidelines at an Armwood High football game, he stood out, even among a team of seasoned players and budding superstars.
At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, how could he not? Drayton was a "bus player," one of the first guys you had get off the bus to intimidate the opponent.
When my son, also a member of the Armwood team, asked me to give him a ride home — to a trailer on a dirt road east of the school — he came across as respectful and quiet....
04/02/17 Human Interest
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will field questions at today's Florida Economic Forum at Bryan Glazer Family JCC. Clearly, it'll be a bit easier for Buckhorn. He has already earned his second term. No word on whether Rick Baker plans to attend. . . .
Of course, neither Buckhorn nor Kriseman have the unenviable task of being the mayor of Clearwater. In a high-stakes game, George Cretekos must balance Scientology's development plans with what's best for the city. The church holds all the cards and David Miscavige may be dealing from under the deck....
03/26/17 Human Interest
Anything is possible, and the Rays might end up moving to another city.
Yet it's difficult for me to believe Major League Baseball wants to give up on one of the nation's fastest growing areas. Last year, 58,000 people moved to Tampa Bay, placing it in the nation's top 10 for growth. It's an undeniable market dynamic.
But like so many other aspects of our community, greater regional cooperation and a concerted push toward a stadium solution would solidify the Rays' place in Tampa Bay. That the search continues isn't reason for panic. Better to get it right than rush and end up with another problematic situation....
03/24/17 Human Interest
As a prelude to tonight's performance of It Gets Better, the traveling musical production that chronicles true stories of the LGBTQ experience, the David A Straz Center for the Performing Arts staged a "World Cafe'' Wednesday evening.
It's goal: to encourage a community conversation about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community, especially teens.
The term "It Gets Better" stems from a campaign sparked by nationally syndicated sex advice columnist Dan Savage, who wanted to reduce the growing number of LGTBQ teen suicides with a message of encouragement....
WEST TAMPA — Jeanette LaRussa Fenton retired in January after 41 years of public service with Hillsborough County and most recently, the city of Tampa.
Fenton, however, remains engaged with helping the community where she was born and raised: West Tampa. This week, the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce hired Fenton to serve as an economic development consultant and help bring greater value to chamber members and the overall area....