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Boys and Girls Club ramping up job path program

Hassan Lewis is an articulate, 21-year-old working as senior program specialist at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. A senior studying social sciences at the University of South Florida, Lewis knows what it’s like to feel the need for extra support in middle school. And he likes to give back.

“I think back to when I was in middle school,” he says. “It feels like the pressure of high school is coming.”

So Lewis, who oversees a group of fifth graders, offers coaching and mentoring to them, helping the boys and girls to have a sense of belonging. It’s all part of what the Boys and Girls Clubs have been doing to reach youths early and help them plan their career paths.

The Boys and Girls Clubs is gearing up the effort with the official launch of a program called Think Big for Kids. Led by a volunteer, Tony DiBenedetto, tech entrepreneur and former CEO of Tribridge, the program targets underprivileged students 12 to 18.

It started in 2016 after DiBenedetto recognized Boys and Girls Club students had a general lack of awareness about potential careers. He and a team created a plan including on-the-job training, trade school certification, and a two- or four-year degree, depending on the career track. DiBenedetto also recruited some businesses to help.

Chris Letsos, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, says they recognized working with high schoolers was a bit late. “We really needed to focus on career exploration activities in middle school,” he explains.

The goal is to “focus on ending generational poverty and addressing the opportunity gap and achievement gap that our kids face,” he says.

They’ve been working with some 400 to 500 youths, initially in Town ‘n’ Country and East Tampa. They are now in eight middle schools including Webb and Pierce, Town ‘n’ Country; Marshall and Tomlin, Plant City; Shields Middle, Ruskin; Greco, Temple Terrace; and Chasco, Port Richey.

“Our goal is to serve 2,000 kids through 2022 through Think Big for Kids,” he says.

Partnering on the Think Big for Kids initiative are Tribridge, Bank of America, Haneke Design, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, JDP Electric, Painters on Demand, ReliaQuest and Tampa General Hospital.

Letsos says they are looking for additional partners, whether they are individuals or businesses, who want to participate in the project. Interested parties should contact DiBenedetto.

“We can’t do this on our own,” he says. “This is a community problem that only the community can help us address.”

Ultimately, it’s more than just career placement, Letsos points out.

According to The Sentencing Project, a Washington-D.C.-based organization advocating for a fair and effective justice system, the United States leads the world in the number of people incarcerated, with 2.2 million in prisons and jails. In the last 40 years, there’s been a 500 percent increase -- at least in part because of harsher sentencing penalties. It also says the number incarcerated for drug offenses has skyrocketed.

“We have to do better by our kids,” Letsos says.

New service arms parents in battle against cyberbullying

Bullying is bad, but at least children can escape it when they are safe at home. With cyberbullying, not so much.

“Bullying no longer ends when the child goes home from school. It follows them home because it’s social media,” explains Allison Mook, Vice President of Client Services for a new Tampa-based service, BulliPatrol.

The company is trying to address the cyberbullying problem by raising parental awareness of their children's online activity. Its goal is to reach the most vulnerable with the message that they are not alone and can get help.

“Bullying now is different,” asserts Andrew Grubbs, Founder and President, a programmer who came up with the idea. “It’s always a threat. That’s where we need to accept that the genie is out of the bottle. Social media is here to stay. Kids are going to use it.”

The service works by analyzing phrases in online messages. “Once the child starts receiving messages that are negative, the parent receives an alert,” explains Mook, who is handling marketing.

The service, which costs $5.99 a month, has launched in Tampa Bay, with plans to expand nationally. It already is generating a fair amount of interest in the TV media locally and in North Carolina and Indiana.

It’s hard to say exactly what BulliPatrol’s staffing needs will be just yet. But Grubbs expects hires to be in Tampa Bay.

“We aren't hiring currently, but have identified our personnel needs and will be able to fill them as we gain momentum,” Mook adds.

In the meantime, they are reaching out to moms, mom and dad blogs and websites, schools, libraries and churches, even the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. “We feel like this is something we can actually make an impact with on a national level,” she says.

What’s next? “We’re always looking at how do we help the kids escape from the problem they’re experiencing,” Grubbs says.

New app, Script, enhances communications between educators, parents

A Tampa-based company is gaining traction in the education field with an innovative app that uses technology to ease the administrative burden on teachers. Called Script, the firm has secured funding from local partners Ark Applications and PAR Inc.

“Schools are absolutely loving it. Parents are loving it too,” says Aaron White, Co-Founder and CEO. “They don’t have to rely on little Johnny to bring home the paperwork.”

White, who worked in the tech education field in the Tampa Bay area for eight years, found Script in 2016 after recognizing the mounds of paperwork teachers were managing.

“They can’t focus on what they’re best at, which is teaching. There’s no other solution out there,” he explains. “I decided that I was going to build one.”

Along with Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Patrick Cahill, White has been working in beta mode to fine-tune their service with feedback from educators.

Now part of the Tampa Bay WaVE Launch program, Script will have its “first big rollout” this year, he says. Script charges a transaction fee; payment arrangements are worked out with each school.

Their immediate goal is to help with forms for field trips, parental permission slips and monetary payments.

Parents can access the program with an app through iOS, Android and the web while educators use an online dashboard. Payments can be made quickly with credit or debit cards.

“We handle all the heavy lifting technology wise,” White says.

An undisclosed amount of investor dollars will be used to develop the Tampa team and expand the company, first In Florida and then nationally. “We want to do this product really well and then look on other things,” he says.

Ark Applications is a privately held equity and consulting firm and PAR is the publisher of assessment instruments, software and related materials.

Script currently employs three, but will be adding another customer service representative, a developer and one or two sales people within the next two months.

They eventually want to manage the transfer of any document to the parent. “Right now when we hand a little paper to Johnny we don’t know if the parent sees it,” he says.


Greek, Caribbean music highlight heritage festivals in Tampa Bay Area in June

Tarpon Springs merchants are planning their inaugural Opa! Palooza, a celebration of their Greek heritage, June 9-11. The event features authentic Greek music and up to 90 vendors of arts and crafts.

And in Tampa, Caribbean music is featured at Tampa Bay Caribbean Heritage Festival on June 3 at the University Area CDC.

The Tarpon Springs Merchant Association is hosting Opa! Palooza, being organized by SIK Promotions of St. Petersburg. It hopes to attract visitors to the community known for its sponge docks in the off season, says Suzanne King, SIK’s Owner.

“We want to do cooking demonstrations, other kinds of authentic talks, workshops. We’re talking with the guy that designs and makes the diving helmet,” King says.

The free event runs from noon to 9 p.m. on June 9, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 10, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 11 on Dodecanese Boulevard.

The itinerary includes a Battle of the Bands Saturday night, with the winner being chosen to perform at Tarpon’s Seafood Festival, also organized by SIK, in November. Odyssey and Ellada will perform and author Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos will be on hand for storytelling. A petting zoo also is planned.

Also in Tarpon Springs, the One Act Plays Festival runs from June 8 to 11 at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St. General admission is $18 for a performance of 10 plays by 10 playwrights, with shows at 7:30 p.m. June 8, 9 and 10. The curtain rises at 2 p.m. June 11.

In Tampa, the Caribbean festival is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. at 14013 N. 22nd St. Performances by Jah Movement, Teddyson John, Fete Fit/Get Moving, DJ Spice, Voz y Accion de Puerto Rico and Tropical Groove Jazz are planned. Tickets are $10, with children 10 and under free.

The event, hosted by CANDO-Caribbean American National Development Organization, Inc., features food trucks and children’s activities.

Here are some other events planned in June.

Rock the Park is slated at 6:30 p.m. June 1 at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown. This free monthly music series concert, which is for all age groups, features Zigtebra, Luxury Mane and Ari Chi.

St. Petersburg Opera Company is featuring The Tales of Hoffmann at 7:30 p.m. June 2, 2 p.m. June 4, and 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Palladium Theatre, 235 Fifth Ave N.

• The 24th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 and 4 at 595 Corey Ave. The free event includes handmade pottery, jewelry, paintings and more.

• Clearwater Spring Concert Series: Third Eye Blind -- Take a trip back in time with this alternative rock band along the water at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. Show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $31.

• The 16th Annual St. Armands Circle Craft Festival kicks off June 10 at 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 and 11. Learn more here.

• Carrollwood Cultural Center has a number of events planned for June, including an outdoor market with crafts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 10 and Cypress Creek Dixieland Jazz Band at 8 p.m. June 10. Get the details on these and other events here.

• Independent film buffs, music lovers and foodies gather from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every third Thursday (June 15th, July 20, etc.) for Flicks And Food Trucks at The Grand Central at Kennedy at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., in Tampa’s Channel District. The event is free.

• Travel vicariously at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa. Its International Photography 2017 Exhibition showcases winners from June 23 to August 18.

• The 15th Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24 and 25 at 271 Main St., Dunedin. The event is free.

Learn more about the June art scene in Tampa Bay at Arts Tampa Bay and at Creative Pinellas.


Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay are hiring at locations in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The organization is looking for helpers for its Summer Day Camp as well as its year-round after-school programs.
 
“We’ve starting the process, coordinating the number of hires we’ll actually need [for the summer],” says Sandra Kay-Weaver, VP of Talent. “Ideally we’d like to have everyone on board by the end of May, and in our training.”
 
The organization usually brings on 50-70 staffers to oversee camp programs; experience in childcare is not mandatory. “It’s very helpful if they have experience working with children in groups,” she says.
 
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. The camp positions’ pay averages $8.75 to $15 an hour depending on job experience, Kay-Weaver says. Some positions are fulltime and some are part-time, depending on the club’s need. “Hopefully they [the applicants] are engaging, fun,” she says.
 
Part-time positions are available year-round for the after-school program. “We are always recruiting for a pipeline of part-time positions,” Kay-Weaver says.
 
Cassandra Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications, says there usually are more part-time positions than full. “One of the biggest areas we seem to have trouble filling is bus drivers,” she adds.
 
Because staff interacts with children, screening is rigorous. “We do very meticulous drug screening, background checks,” says Thomas, “and it does include people working on the administrative side as well. We tend to go into the clubs too.”
 
At Bethune Park in Wimauma, Club Director Ronneka Peacock says the need for after-school program specialists is immediate. “My club absolutely needs people right now,” she says.
 
She prefers people with some kind of childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting. “I’m looking for staff and are able to have fun and still have the kids respect them and listen to them,” she says.
 
Those who are interested in applying for jobs at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay can begin the process online. Information is available on internships and volunteer opportunities as well. Candidates also can check the club locations and pick up an application on-site.
 
The organization has a full-time staff of about 40 to 50, who work at the administrative offices or the clubs. These positions do open up periodically. “It’s always a great idea if they have Boys and Girls Clubs in their background,” Kay-Weaver says. “We want people who are dedicated to our mission.”

On The Ground: RCMA welcomes new leadership from Miami-Dade

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

For the first time in 28 years, Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) of Florida will welcome new leadership.
 
Gayane A. Stepanian, 45, an executive with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, has been picked as RCMA’s next Executive Director. 

Stepanian will succeed executive director Barbara Mainster, 75, on Jan. 2. 

RCMA is a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality child development services for farmworker families and other rural, low-income families in child-care centers, family day-care homes, after-school dropout prevention programs and charter schools. Mainster served as executive director from 1988 to the present. 

“I am inspired and humbled to join RCMA,” Stepanian says. “I am thrilled to join others who are absolutely dedicated to delivering world-class child care and education for our most vulnerable kids.” 

The organization, which began with 75 children in two child-care centers, now serves nearly 7,000 children in 68 centers in rural areas of 21 Florida counties. It also operates three charter schools, in Hillsborough and Collier counties.
 
“I think you will all agree that Gayane is a wonderful addition to the RCMA family,” Mainster told the RCMA staff, via e-mail. “I like her, and know you will, as well.” 

More than 80 percent of the children RCMA serves are Hispanic, and 11 percent are African-American. In addition, 85 percent of RCMA employees come from backgrounds similar to the communities they serve. 

Mainster believes that Stepanian’s background qualifies her as an excellent successor. Stepanian is the daughter of a Mexican mother and an Armenian father, and is fluent in English and Spanish. 

“My parents came to this country with nothing but their sheer will,” Stepanian says. “It is that same will and passion that I see in our volunteers, staff and families at RCMA. RCMA, to me, is like coming home.”
 
Since 2014, Stepanian has been Director of Grants Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Miami. She is a child safety expert with degrees in psychology and education, and is a mother of three teenagers. 

On The Ground: RCMA da la bienvenida a su nueva directora

To read this story in English, please follow this link.

Por primera vez en 28 años, Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) de Florida da la bienvenida a su nueva leader.
 
Gayane A. Stepanian, de 45 años, una ejecutiva del club Boys & Girls Clubs de Miami-Dade, ha sido elegida como la nueva Directora Ejecutiva de RCMA.

Stepanian sucederá a la Directora Ejecutiva Barbara Mainster, de 75 años, el 2 de enero. 

RCMA es una organización sin fines de lucro que provee servicios de desarrollo infantil de alta calidad para familias de trabajadores del campo y para otras de familias rurales de bajos ingresos en centros de cuidado infantil, guarderías familiares, programas de prevención de deserción escolar y escuelas chárter. Mainster  sirvió como Directora Ejecutiva de 1988 hasta el presente.

"Me siento inspirada y honrada de unirme a RCMA", dice Stepanian. "Estoy encantada de unirme a otros que están absolutamente dedicados a ofrecer cuidado de niños de clase mundial y a la educación para nuestros niños más vulnerables".
 
La organización, que comenzó con 75 niños en dos centros de cuidado infantil, ahora sirve a casi 7 mil pequeños en 68 centros en las zonas rurales de los 21 condados de la Florida. También opera tres escuelas en los condados de Hillsborough y Collier.
 
"Creo que estarán todos de acuerdo en que Gayane es una maravillosa adición a la familia de RCMA", dijo Mainster al personal RCMA, vía correo electrónico.
 
Más del 80 por ciento de los niños que atiende RCMA son hispanos, y 11 por ciento son afroamericanos. Además, el 85 por ciento de los empleados de RCMA provienen de orígenes similares a las comunidades que sirven.
 
Mainster cree que la experiencia y credenciales profesionales de Stepanian la califican como un excelente sucesora. Stepanian es hija de madre mexicana y padre armenio; habla inglés y español con fluidez.
 
"Mis padres vinieron a este país sin otra cosa que su pura voluntad", dice Stepanian. "Es esa misma voluntad y pasión la que veo en nuestros voluntarios, personal y las familias de RCMA. RCMA, para mí, es como volver a casa".
 
Desde 2014, Stepanian ha sido Directora de Desarrollo de Subvenciones para los clubes de Boys & Girls en Miami. Ella es una experta en seguridad infantil con una carrera en psicología y educación; es madre de tres adolescentes.

For Good: Classes on human trafficking offered in South Hillsborough County

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

Seeking to educate the community in Hillsborough County about how to effectively combat human trafficking in the area, the Campaign Against Human Trafficking-Sun City Center/South Shore is offering two free four-hour courses on Jan. 11, 2017
 
Florida is one of the leading states in the nation for human trafficking activity and Tampa Bay is a hub for child sex trafficking and Internet pornography, according to a documentary aired by PBS in 2013 titled “Too Close to Home: Human Trafficking in Tampa Bay.”

Children may have been picked up in malls, off the streets or from connections on the Internet. They may believe they are headed for a fun afternoon, a cute date, or maybe they run away and are found by a pimp (usually within 48 hours of being on the street). Some have been labeled as “throw-away” children, those whose parents have kicked them out or sold them off. The average age of a trafficked child is 12, and many will never live past their 19th birthday, according to data posted on the CAHT Website.
 
The stories are heartbreaking. Hoping to combat this phenomena, the Campaign Against Human Trafficking-Sun City Center/ South Shore founded by June M. Wallace works to bring awareness about this criminal activity and educate the community on how they can actively work to put an end to human trafficking.
 
“The Many Faces of Human Trafficking” from 8 a.m. to noon is open to all community members, and will focus on providing an understanding of the origins, methods of operation, and indicators of trafficking along with an understanding of the unique victimization process. An emphasis will be placed on the importance of building alliances and coalitions as part of a coordinated community response to human trafficking using case studies as examples.
 
“Introduction to Human Trafficking,” from 1-5 p.m. is exclusively for law enforcement and victim services. This course will focus on an overview of best practices for investigating cases, legal remedies for trafficking victims, and interviewing victims. Special attention will be placed on human trafficking being a victim-centered crime.
 
Both courses are sponsored by the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute, which is part of St. Petersburg College’s Center for Public Safety Innovation, and will take place at SCC United Methodist Church, 1210 Del Webb Boulevard West, Sun City Center. 

“Human trafficking educational opportunities of this caliber are becoming difficult to find,” Wallace says. 

To register for the “The Many Faces of Human Trafficking” training, click on this link.  

To register for the “Introduction to Human Trafficking” training, click on this link.

For questions about these courses, please contact Laura Heisler at 727-341-4437. 

The Campaign Against Human Trafficking fosters community and faith-integrated actions to end Human Trafficking in Hillsborough County by providing support to the Tampa Bay Task Force on Human Trafficking. The organization also focuses on raising awareness, education, victim services, and fundraising.

Ofrecen clases sobre tráfico humano en el sur del condado de Hillsborough

To read this story in English, please follow this link
 
Con la intención de educar a la comunidad en el Condado de Hillsborough sobre cómo combatir eficazmente la trata de blancas en la zona, la Campaña Contra la Tráfico Humano en Sun City Center/South Shore (CAHT, por sus siglas en inglés) está ofreciendo dos cursos gratis de cuatro horas el 11 de enero, 2017.
 
Florida es uno de los principales estados del país en el que se da la actividad de tráfico humano y la bahía de Tampa es un eje para la trata infantil con fines sexuales y pornografía en Internet, de acuerdo a un documental transmitido por PBS en el 2013 bajo el título "demasiado cerca a casa: tráfico humano en la bahía de Tampa”.

Los niños pueden haber sido enganchados en centros comerciales, en las calles o a través de Internet. Pueden creer que van a divertirse por la tarde, un encuentro agradable o tal vez se escaparon y fueron encontrados por un “padrote” (generalmente dentro de 48 horas de estar en la calle). Algunos han sido etiquetados como niños "desechables", aquellos niños que fueron echados a la calle o vendidos por sus padres. La edad promedio de niños víctimas de tráfico humano y sexual es 12 años, y muchos nunca viven más allá de su cumpleaños número 19, de acuerdo a datos publicados en el sitio web de CAHT.
 
Las historias son conmovedoras. Con la esperanza de combatir este fenómeno, la Campaña Contra Tráfico Humano-Sun City Center/ South Shore fundada por June M. Wallace trabaja para crear conciencia sobre esta actividad delictiva y para educar a la comunidad sobre cómo se puede trabajar activamente para poner fin a la trata de seres humanos.
 
El curso "Las muchas caras del Tráfico Humano" de 8 de la mañana al mediodía está abierto a todos los miembros de la comunidad y se concentrará en proporcionar información para la comprensión de los orígenes, métodos de operación e indicadores de tráfico en conjunto con la comprensión del proceso de victimización que es único. Utilizando estudios de casos como ejemplos, las clases harán hincapié en la importancia de construir alianzas y coaliciones como parte de una respuesta comunitaria coordinada contra la trata de personas.
 
“Introducción al Tráfico Humano”, de 1-5 de la tarde es exclusivamente para los ejecutores de la ley y para quienes brindan servicios a las víctimas. Este curso se centrará en un resumen de las mejores prácticas para investigar los casos, remedios legales para las víctimas de tráfico humano, y entrevistas con víctimas.
 
Ambos cursos son patrocinados por el instituto comunitario de policía Florida Regional Community Policing Institute, que forma parte del Centro para Innovación en Seguridad Pública de  St Petersburg College, y llevará a cabo en el SCC United Methodist Church, ubicado en 1210 Del Webb Boulevard West, Sun City Center. 

“Oportunidades educativas sobre tráfico humano de este calibre son difíciles de encontrar”, dijo Wallace.

Para registrarse para el entrenamiento “Las muchas caras del Tráfico Humano", haga clic aquí.

Para registrarse para el entrenamiento “Introducción al Tráfico Humano”, haga clic aquí.

Para más información sobre los cursos, por favor llame a Laura Heisler al 727-341-4437. 

La Campaña Contra el Tráfico Humano fomenta acciones integradas de fe y de la comunidad para poner un alto a la trata de personas en el Condado de Hillsborough proveyendo apoyo a la Fuerza de Tarea en Tráfico Humano de la  Bahía de Tampa. La organización también se centra en aumentar la concientización, educación, servicios a las víctimas y recaudación de fondos.

Weekend fun: New, shady venue for Temple Terrace Arts Festival

While last year’s Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival was literally taken by storm -- a tornado ripped through the stands, forcing it to close a day early -- this year’s event is taking place in a new venue with new partners, bringing the arts, nature and history together at this community event, now in its 43rd year.  

The festival takes place November 12-13, 2016, 10 a.m to 4 p.m in historic Woodmont Park. Admission and parking are free of charge.

“Given this new location, it’s a real opportunity to see and experience the beauty of Temple Terrace, while enjoying the event,” says Kim Straub, of the Temple Terrace Arts Council. “The community is very, very proud of this area -- it’s going to be our best festival yet.”

The juried festival is attracting some 80 artists and crafters from across Florida and the country -- a 40 percent increase from last year. However, the event this year weaves in some other interesting community and cultural draws. 

Though the event officially starts at 10 a.m., Saturday morning kicks off with a 5K, 10K and fun run sponsored by the Junior Women's Club called aTrot Through the Terrace.

A “stunning historical tribute” to the community will be unveiled in the Woodmont Gazebo at noon on Saturday where artwork created by local artist Tim Boatright, will be gifted to the new city mayor in a ceremony beginning with a bagpipe procession and ending with a presentation by the Temple Terrace Preservation Society. 

The Temple Terrace Garden Club will be hosting a standard garden show called Around and About Temple Terrace at the Festival on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. in the Clubhouse at Woodmont Park.  A juried photography exhibit is part of the show. 

Of course, art remains the heart of the Festival.  

One of the most popular features of the festival is the public art project. This year Straub says all visitors of all ages are invited to participate in “message totems.”  Utilizing large cardboard tubes, leftovers from industrial printers, the tubes will be cut into sections for individuals to create a message. 

“If you have a message you want to give to people -- happiness, an emotion -- do a design,” says Straub who will have paints and “a couple hundred shapes for people to do.” 

The completed totem sections will be stacked 10 feet tall to form a traveling exhibit. It is free to participate and all are welcome.  

Other highlights for families and kids include the Fresh Views art exhibit, a display of elementary school children’s work from 11 local schools, and raffles for kids to win baskets of art supplies. There are also raffles for adults -- $1 per ticket to win a $50 art shopping spree at the festival. A silent auction will be held for “sitting chairs” painted in the style of  specific Impressionist artists by Temple Terrace resident and artist Terry Klaaren, best known locally for his outdoor MOSI creation of the Recylosaurus Rex.

Live performances will take place throughout the event, including a Saturday evening presentation with pianist Mac Frampton at 7 p.m. around the corner from the Woodmont Park at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church, benefits support Trinity Café (ttpresbyterian.com) a non-profit organization feeding the homeless.

For more information on the 2016 Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival, send an email by following this link or call (813) 988-ARTS.

Students at low-income schools get unique experiences through MOSI's outreach program

When low-income schools can't make the trip to MOSI Tampa, the museum goes to them.

In an effort to bring enriching experiences to students at low-income schools, MOSI Tampa has created a program that will offer hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). MOSI will schools throughout the region, starting with 15 elementary schools in Polk County this year.

The idea behind the outreach program is to introduce students to technology in a fun way, but also help them realize their potential. The program will enable children to explore STEAM related disciplines through activities like creating their own robotic creations.

“At MOSI, we’ve found that one of the best ways to get kids to look toward career paths in important fields like science and engineering is to get them doing real science and engineering themselves,” says Grayson Kamm of MOSI. “Once they're exposed to these fields in new ways such as building and programming their own robots, they get far more interested and engaged. Some students start to picture doing this kind of cutting-edge work as part of their own future careers.”

Kamm says this program was made possible through the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation. This fund specifically applies to Title I schools, which are defined as schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.

MOSI's outreach program is titled Robot Roundup. In the program, 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade students will have the chance to understand the technology and engineering behind robots, as well as assemble their own.

“This is a way for MOSI to help bring a fresh spark to students, which reinforces what they’ve learned in class and makes it real for them creating an inspiration their classroom teachers can build on during the years ahead.”

Some school visits have already begun. The list below includes all of the schools that will be participating in the program.
 
  • Edgar L. Padgett Elementary, Lakeland
  • Elbert Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Walter Caldwell Elementary, Auburndale
  • Sleepy Hill Elementary, Lakeland
  • Wahneta Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Palmetto Elementary, Poinciana
  • Garden Grove Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Phillip O’Brien Elementary, Lakeland
  • Medulla Elementary, Lakeland
  • Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary, Fort Meade
  • Loughman Elementary, Davenport
  • North Lakeland Elementary, Lakeland
  • Pinewood Elementary, Eagle Lake
  • Purcell Elementary, Mulberry
  • Southwest Elementary, Lakeland
In addition to the Robot Roundup, MOSI offers other hands-on science experiences to schools throughout the state. Other outreach programs include a mobile science lab, and a portable planetarium. For information on MOSI's school outreach programs, visit the museum's website.

For Good: Sarasota Hackathon seeks computer science mentors for teens

Keeping up with computer technology in the 21st century is no small task, even for the most tech-savvy teens. With the computer science industry growing at dizzying rates and creating an increased demand for coding and computing training, the race is on for today's high school computer whiz-kids to download the most competitive skills in tech, logic, critical thinking and design.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County estimates that over the next 10 years, there will be 1-million more computing jobs than there are graduates to fill them -- an up to $500 billion loss in potential salaries -- and that 30 percent of jobs will require technology and coding skills. In an effort to address the critical need to introduce high school students to education and career opportunities in computer sciences, the Education Foundation will host the region's first #SRQHacks Student Hackathon, Oct. 14-16. 

Limited access to advanced computer science and technology training for students from low-income families is among the greatest challenges Sarasota County schools face in fostering future generations of computing professionals. Today 52 percent of the 43,000 students enrolled in Sarasota County schools qualify for the income restricted National School Lunch Program, and while public school classrooms offer basic computer science training, kids from lower-income families struggle to access learning opportunities beyond the classroom basics. 

The #SRQHacks Student Hackathon aims to reach students whose families may not have the resources for after-school clubs or technology-enrichment programs. Student participants will include Sarasota County students ages 13-18 recruited through Sarasota County Schools, the Education Foundation’s Digital Learning Lab partners and community organizations. 

The hackathon's three-day immersion experience pairs students with tech mentors to build a web or mobile app that positively impacts the community. Prior to the event, Sarasota and Manatee County communities will select area-specific issues, which the student-mentor teams will be tasked to provide app-based solutions for by applying computer science skills and outside-the-box thinking. 

"Our partners and sponsors recognize that an intense immersion coding experience like this has the potential to grab the interest of a student and set him or her on a career path they might not have considered attainable,” says Jennifer Vigne, Executive Director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

Supporting partners include the City of Sarasota Police Department, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, New College of Florida and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

“It is part of our mission to create a culture where all students aspire to some type of post-secondary education, whether that means community college, technical school, or a university. This hackathon is a unique way to expose students to coding and match them with mentors who can inspire their interest in pursuing a technology-based career," Vigne says.

The hackathon is currently seeking three types of volunteer mentors to work with students in October: Developers (programmers, engineers and computer science college students or graduates), designers (front-end developers and graphic designers), and innovators (educators and entrepreneurs), as well as event sponsors.

MOSI collaboration aims to enrich experience for those on autism spectrum

MOSI is making changes to its museum for visitors on the Autism spectrum.

The Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) has developed a partnership with Behavioral Consulting of Tampa Bay (BCOTB). Working under the motto “partnering toward a more autism accessible experience,” the duo hopes to offer families and children in the autistic community more opportunities to participate, without overstimulating.

“Accessibility and inclusiveness is at the heart of what we are all about,” says Grayson Kamm of MOSI. “So as we look at ways to eliminate any barriers to accessibility that we have unintentionally created, it's a perfect fit to have a partnership that helps us understand the best ways to serve families who have members with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Some of these barriers include revising maps and signs so families will know what kind of sensory exposure they will experience (lights, sounds, etc) and rearranging some exhibits allowing families to bypass sections that may be cause over stimulation. MOSI is also incorporating these changes on its new website, set to launch in September.

“Our families are always searching for places where they can spend time together that will be supportive of their needs and won’t overwhelm them,” BCOTB President and Founder Kelley Prince  stated in a press release. We’re excited to help MOSI take that to the next level.”

BCOTB works one-on-one with families on the spectrum, with programs customized for each child's needs. The company has been honored with an Autism Impact Award from the International Center for Autism Research and Education, as well as named Most Valuable Resource by Autism Speaks Tampa Bay.

Grayson says the some of the changes BCOTB has recommended will come quickly, while others will take some time, however the community can aid in this process.

“Things like maps and signage can be upgraded without any major delay,” he says. “Larger projects, like rearranging exhibits to group them in a more sensory-friendly way, depends on available funding and planned maintenance schedules; donations or a dedicated funding source would allow us to speed up this process.”

To find out how you can help, click here.

Who is hiring in Tampa Bay? July hiring roundup

The healthcare job market in the Tampa Bay area is as hot as the pavement in Florida summer, with plenty of opportunities for jobseekers. Read on to see who is hiring in this July job hiring roundup from 83 Degrees.

HP One is a health insurance agency with several openings in its Tampa office. Among the openings is a Sales Manager and Licensed Insurance Agent.

Both positions require relevant experience and a health insurance license, the Sales Manager position requires a Bachelor's degree as well.

To see all open positions, click here.

Due to a $12 million surgical services expansion, Memorial Hospital of Tampa is seeking to expand its surgical staff. Positions include a Laboratory Supervisor, RN-Surgery, Quality Management Coordinator, among others.

To view all of the career opportunities, click here.

Help children in need of medical care at home by working for PSA Healthcare. The company is currently in need of RNs and LPNs in Tampa, Sarasota and Lakeland.

To apply for one of these opportunities, click here.

Looking for an opportunity in the healthcare field that is not clinical? Consider this opportunity with Genex Services, a managed care provider based in Tampa. They are seeking a Field Case Nurse Manager. In this role, you will need to have a RN degree, however, you will be assessing patient's care while maximizing cost containment.

Find out more about this position here.

If you have a heart for helping those nearing their last days, consider a career with Chapters Health Systems. Previously known as Hospice, Chapters Health Systems, has plenty of opportunities throughout the Tampa Bay area. Some of these opportunities are clinical, others are administrative. Positions include Donor Relations Assistant, HR Business Partner, Medical Director, RN and Physician.

To see a full list of positions, click here.

Freedom Health, a medicare contract health insurance company, has several employment opportunities. Based in Tampa, Freedom was ranked 7th-fastest growing private company in America by Inc. 500 Magazine. Currently, the company is seeking a Quality Analyst, Technical Writer, Case Coordinator and Compliance Coordinator, among several other positions.

To view these opportunities and others, click here.

Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Escape game room opens on Kennedy near downtown Tampa

A new form of live-action entertainment has popped up on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. Who's the center of the action? You!

Escape Countdown joins downtown Tampa's Great Escape Room and Town N' Country's Can You Escape? as the latest in a series of puzzle and adventure games for groups. 

Inside Escape Countdown and the sistering Sarasota location, visitors will have to use their wits to escape from an interactive room in 60 minutes or less. 

Room themes are immersive, ranging from fantasy -- Alice in Wonderland -- to sci-fi -- it's up to your team to save the world! Other adventure themes include Paris and Jail Break. Finding and solving clues and puzzles, while working together with your team, will help players "escape" the room in the allotted time.
 
Room escape games, which gained popularity in Asia before making their way through Europe to the United States, have gained traction even in Florida in recent months.

“We are excited to see how the public will respond to this unique concept that is taking the world by storm,” explains Houdini Partner Group CEO Brent Alexander. 

Escape Countdown has locations in Tampa and Sarasota, with a third location opening in Atlanta in 2016. 

“Our goal is to make this a premium experience," Alexander said. "We want to be more like the Disney of escape room attractions.”

Alexander and Escape Countdown plan to keep the experience fresh for visitors by adding new themes to the attraction during the upcoming summer months.
 
While participants are not actually locked into rooms during the one hour of gameplay, exiting the room and not returning before the end of the game will mean disqualification. 

Games are $29.99 per player, and teams of 2-8 can register to play. Parties and corporate outings are encouraged.
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