Cultural Council Completes Beautification Project

The St. Johns Cultural Council transformed the front area at the Cultural Arts Center in St. Augustine Beach to an inviting courtyard with the help of council volunteers and volunteers from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

The bold initiative of the “Courtyard Beautification Project” was led by Karen Coker, a board director with the cultural council. To fund the project, the St. Johns Cultural Council hosted fundraising events. In addition, the cultural council received donations from businesses and St. Johns County residents.

Sally Ann Freeman, an award-winning Master Gardener with the University of Florida and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), suggested seaside friendly plants.

The landscaping complements the commemorative bricks that were used 10 years ago as the initial fundraiser for the first renovation of the building in 2001.

Among the many volunteers from the community were eight students from The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind Garden Center. Led by instructor Jenny Henningsen Palmer, the students eagerly helped with digging, planting, mulching, edging, carting materials around, and driving to and from supply stores.

The St. Johns Cultural Council assumed the building in 2000 from the City of St. Augustine Beach as a project to restore the building for use as a nonprofit arts center.

Beginning in 2001, funded by grants from the Florida Division of Historical Resources and individual and corporate donors of over $800,000, extensive restoration and rehabilitation of the exterior and 5,000 square feet of the interior was accomplished.

In 2007, The Dance Company, a local nonprofit dance school, became the first anchor tenant, and The Art Studio joined tenancy in 2015. Further renovations will provide space for more local arts and events for the community as well as visitors.

For information, call 808-7330 or go to stjohnsculture.com.

Read the original St. Augustine Record story contributed (July 18, 2017).

About FSDB
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904.827.2212 voice or 904.201.4527 videophone. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.

Tammy Jerkins Named FDOE Teacher Of The Year

Orlando, Fla. – Tammy Jerkins, secondary mathematics teacher from Leesburg High School in Lake County, was named the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year at the awards gala held tonight at Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios Orlando. Educators from throughout the state of Florida attended the event to celebrate excellence in education as well as Tammy’s friends and family to celebrate her accomplishment. The event was hosted by journalist Neki Mohan. Governor Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, and Macy’s Executive Vice President Regional Director of Stores Dennis Witte were on-hand to make the announcement.

Governor Rick Scott said, “First Lady Ann Scott and I are proud to join Macy’s and the Florida Department of Education to recognize the 2018 Teacher of the Year, Tammy Jerkins. I’d like to thank all of these educators for their incredible impact on Florida students and I applaud their commitment to preparing them for higher education and successful careers. The workers and leaders of tomorrow are in our classrooms today and every day, Florida teachers go above and beyond to ensure their success.”

Dennis Witte, Macy’s Executive Vice President Regional Director of Stores said, “Teachers generously give of themselves every day to educate, inspire and motivate their students. By doing this, they elevate and empower future generations to achieve great things. Macy’s is thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate and honor Tammy Jerkins for the contributions she is making by ensuring our students are equipped with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital to Florida’s success.”

This marks the 29th year of Macy’s sponsorship of the Florida Teacher of the Year program. Macy’s and the Florida Department of Education presented Jerkins with a check totaling $25,000, a $1,000 wardrobe, a $1,000 check for her school and an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said, “Congratulations to Tammy Jerkins on being selected as Florida’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Jerkins’ career has been marked by her commitment to excellence and service to Florida’s students. I look forward to working with her over the next year during her term as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education.”

The remaining four finalists were presented with a $17,535.00 check from the Florida Department of Education and Macy’s – Elementary school teacher Katelyn Fiori from Vero Beach Elementary School in Indian River County; Exceptional Education teacher Diego Fuentes from the Hillcrest School in Marion County; Elementary school teacher Michael Miller from Kissimmee Elementary School Elementary School in Osceola County; and Mathematics and AVID teacher Vanessa Ko from Palm Harbor Middle School in Pinellas County. Each of the finalists’ schools received a $1,000 check during each of the announcements.

For the 2018 Teacher of the Year program, Governor Rick Scott secured additional state funds for teachers in the program to significantly increase these awards honoring Florida’s top educators.

Additionally, Macy’s presented the Magic of Engagement Award to Keli Sare from Sallie Jones Elementary School in Charlotte County; the Magic of Believing Award to April Wallace from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind; the Magic of Leadership Award to Jason Kester from Mainland High School in Volusia County; and the Magic of Giving Back to Lauralee Mitchell from Shadeville Elementary School in Wakulla County. Each of these awards were presented to four educators who went beyond the basic job description with unique abilities to continue positive growth in their students.

For the past 29 years, Macy’s has annually contributed to the state-run Teacher of the Year program, making it one of the largest corporate cash contributions to Florida public schools. To date, Macy’s has contributed almost $3 million to teachers throughout the state.

The Florida Teacher of the Year was chosen from 195,744 public school teachers throughout the state by a Department of Education-appointed selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community. Florida’s top educator was selected on the basis of the superior ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching and outstanding school and community service. The most important qualification was the teacher’s ability to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.

During the gala event, the remaining 68 district winners from around the state were also recognized for their achievements and excellence in teaching. Each of the nominees were presented with a $10,880 personal cash award from the Department of Education and Macy’s.

Read original Florida Trend story (July 14, 2017.)

About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.

 

 

Board of Realtors Announces Scholarship Winners

Since 2001, the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors has awarded more than $180,000 in scholarships to St. Johns County graduating seniors to help them defray the cost of attending college or trade school.

At the start of each school year, members of the education committee reach out to local high schools to promote $1,000 per student scholarship program. To qualify, students must submit an application, transcript, essay and three letters of recommendation. The Board of Realtors education committee members conduct a blind selection process. This year, 10 of 43 applicants were awarded $1,000 scholarships. Of the 10 scholarships awarded, two were for the child or grandchild of a Realtor member. Usually, one scholarship goes to the child or grandchild of a Business Partner member, but none applied for 2017.

The scholarship money can be used for any college or trade school expense, including books and living expenses. Funds for the program are raised through annual association events, including a live and silent “Have a Heart Auction,” donations from Realtors and Business Partner members and the proceeds from the first annual 5K Walk/Run. The association also provides a check box on its annual dues invoice that allows members to donate to the scholarship program when renewing membership.

“We feel very passionate about education in general and the education of our high school seniors in particular,” said Victor Raymos, AE/CEO, St. Johns County Board of Realtors and Multiple Listing Service. “These scholarships help them do good things for themselves and for the community. It’s just a great program.”

Some Realtors attended awards night at the high school to present a certificate to scholarship recipients.

Nancy D’Aulizio presented to Florida School of the Deaf and Blind student Zachary Williams. Verna Bacon presented to St. Augustine High School students Anna Crum and Hannah West, child of a Realtor member. Beth Ruggeri presented to Pedro Mendez High School student Maria Ruggeri, child of a Realtor member. Penny James presented to St. Joseph Academy student Stephanie Pulido. Tony Bosco presented to Nease High School students Jayachardra Kura and Gabrielle Tinny. Victor Raymos presented to home school student Jeremy Smith. Charles Beard presented to Creekside High School student Ashlynn Campbell. Steve Gay presented to Bartram Trail High School student Kaitlyn Paduano.

The Board extends congratulations and best wishes to all of the 2017 scholarship recipients and their families.

Members of the education committee are Steve Gay, chair; Beth Ruggeri, vice-chair; Carol Alford; Verna Bacon; Allison Barlow; Russell Benes; Shirley Bennett; Tony Bosco; Donia Carr; Casey Duggan; Maria Gelinas; Bill Glaeser; Kelly Seketa James; Penny James; Debbie Clifford Keller; Carol Lagasse; Elizabeth Michaels; Don Pires; Joan Scop; Ted Smith; Diane Vespucci; Ron Barry; Melissa Wissel; and Brian Walker.

Following are some of the essays submitted for the 2017 scholarship:

Anna Crum submitted the following essay as part of her application for a St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors Scholarship.

Over the past four years spent as an AICE student at Saint Augustine High School I have learned many lessons, that are applicable to my life and the life I desire to build. In order to complete a task to your highest capability you have to fuel your body to prosper, sustain, and preserver through the highs and the lows. Being a high school athlete your body is constantly under stress and it is important to fuel your body to last you through long practices and long days at school. As a result of my experience as a student athlete I have come to understand the importance of nutrition.

I plan to attend the University of North Florida in the fall with aspirations to be a Dietary Nutritionist to help others fall in love with taking care of the body and giving it the proper nutrition to withstand whatever life throws your way. In addition to nutrition, I have a passion for staying active. During my time as a student at the University of North Florida, I plan to find a working environment that shares the same morals and recognizes the important of taking care of the human body. As well as finding an internship to help gain experience and wisdom in my field. While pursuing both of these goals I plan to engage in relationships with those in the field as well as those wanting to improve their overall health. In addition, I plan to work full-time during the summer and if the opportunity presents itself I will work part-time during the school year, while insuring my main focus is to further my educations and career objective.

Jeremy Smith submitted the following essay as part of his application for a St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors® Scholarship.

“I have grown up as the sixth generation on my family’s farm in Hastings. I have been actively involved in three different high school sports and the 4-H program, while maintaining a 4.20 weighted GPA. Currently, I am dual-enrolling at St. Johns River State College. I have almost completed a year’s worth of schooling. When I finish high school, I am going to attend SJR State College as a regular student to complete my two-year Associate of Arts degree. Six years ago I became a member of the St. Johns County 4-H Forest Ecology Team. We competed each year at our state contest and in 2016 our hard work paid off. My two teammates and I won the state contest and qualified for the national contest. At the National 4-H Forestry Invitational we placed as a team third and I placed fifth as an individual. After I finished my two-year degree at St. Johns River State College, I would like to pursue a degree in Forestry at another college or university. I am currently considering Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia or the University of Florida.

Stephanie Pulido provided the following essay as part of her application for a St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors Scholarship.

“My name is Stephanie Pulido and I currently attend St. Joseph Academy Catholic High School as a senior. I will be a freshman at Flagler College in the fall, studying for a double-major in business and communications. My education is of superior importance to me and I plan on devoting my time to my studies as a full time student. Upon my college graduation, I hope to obtain a career with the Golf Channel as the first Cuban-American female broadcaster or be employed with the PGA Tour Headquarters.

My career objective would not have been made possible without my grandfather’s influence of welcoming golf into my family, and my father encouraging me to become acquainted with the sport. I mention these figures in particular because without my grandfather, who was a past realtor®, I would not have the career objectives that I possess. Although he plays an important role in my life, this could not have been made possible without the guidance of my parents.”

Read original St. Augustine Record story (July 19, 2017). 

About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.
Blind Toastmaster Uses Words To Help Others See

When glaucoma stole Walter Blackmon’s eyesight at 5 years old, it also stole some of his dreams.

That day, he was at his babysitter’s house, sitting at a table and drawing cartoons from the newspaper. Then he heard the woman’s chickens outside in the backyard.

He ran over to watch them, but his vision kept blurring. The chickens suddenly looked hazy. Elusive images flitted about the yard. At first, his babysitter didn’t believe him; when he told her he couldn’t see, she thought Blackmon was being a trickster, playing a bad joke. He pleaded and pleaded and finally started to cry.

That was the start of when he lost his vision.

As a kid, Blackmon yearned to play in the National Football League, to enlist in the military, be a Marine, to be a champion basketball player.

But his life took a detour. He had to relinquish those dreams and replace them with new ones.

And those childhood dreams of athletic prowess? He found other avenues in which his lack of sight was more hindrance than a roadblock. In high school — Blackmon started at Leon High then transferred to Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine — he ran track, wrestled and later power lifted in competitions. In 2006, he won a world record in powerlifting at an International Blind Sports Federation competition. Lifting, playing sports lets him “give my all, and leave it there.”

Read Original Tallahassee Democrat story by Nada Hassanein (July 5, 2017).

About FSDB
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.

Camp Rock Tunes Up For Young Musicians

Watch Camp Rock Tunes Up Summer For Young Local Musicians by ABC First Coast News (story continues below):

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – When you’re 13 years old and going on super-stardom, Camp Rock hosted at the St. Augustine Amphitheater is the place to be.

“You get something out of it, you know?,” 13-year-old Jordon Henley of St. Augustine told First Coast News about the program on Thursday. “You jam a lot and you’re having a blast… and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Camp Rock is the brainchild of Jim Stafford, who runs Eclipse recording studio across town on U.S. 1. Think of a week-long day camp themed around the movie “School of Rock” starring Jack Black. The program’s 2016 inaugural class included just 11 kids, burgeoning to 30 in just its second year.

“This year we set a limit of 30, and we filled up,” Stafford said with a smile while watching his charges from a seat about 15 rows away from the stage.

“You get touring musicians to come in and nurture middle and high school-age students, form them into bands,” Stafford continued, explaining the structure of the five-day camp that includes collaboration both in a classroom setting (using the spacious backstage dressing rooms at the Amphitheater, where so many famous performers have prepared) and on-stage.

“They met each other for the first time on Monday,” Stafford detailed. “And, Tuesday they were formed into groups, and here we are on Thursday, and they’re performing at a very high level.”

Indeed they were. As Stafford explained, the program is best for kids who have at least some experience playing an instrument, although previously playing with other musicians is not a prerequisite. The only other requirement is a thirst to learn, as 12-year-old vocalist and drummer Madison Wardell happily detailed.

“I’ve learned that if you breathe deeper in to your diaphragm you can get a higher note,” she said, beaming yet another trick of the trade:

“If you smile while you’re singing, you’ll get perfect pitch!”

 Thirteen-year-old Eric Hasselman, whose styling is of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” impressively echoed another Eric (Clapton, who played on the Fab Four’s 1960s hit) said he’s learned a thing or two from Camp Rock.

“I learned mostly to – how to work with a band, and how to, like know when to do certain things during a song,” the young phenomenon-in-the-making said.

Stafford agreed, impressed that the kids are picking up an important tenet of the study: In music, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

“With these kids, you can see them exponentially improve, and it’s that feedback off each other,” Stafford said.

If dreams of stardom are a seed, all on hand agreed Camp Rock is water to its growth.

“We get so much out of seeing [the kids] light up,” Stafford smiled, “and all of us [instructors] wish there were something like this when we were younger.”

Amen to that, said young Madison Wardell: instruction without interference.

“I just think that it’s cooler because we’re not actually having teachers help,” she said. “We’re doing this as a band together, with no teachers. Well, the teachers are involved, but, you know.”

Yes, it was obvious. The kids were getting a pitch-perfect blend of guidance – no pressure about playing the wrong note – a symphony’s worth of inspiration.

On that note, I asked Henley how he’d like to headline a show at the Amphitheater some day as a professional touring musician.

“That would be awesome, that would be really cool!,” he said, looking out at the seats.

Hasselman took the vantage point of the acts he’s seen from those very same seats.

“I’ve seen bands here, and it’s just cool seeing it from this point of view, looking out.”

As for Wardell, she wasn’t mincing words about rocking the house one day in the future.

“I’d just die … of happiness!,” she exclaimed  with an important addendum any 12-year-old girl would confirm. “I’d also die of happiness if I met Justin Timberlake!”

Camp Rock includes a performance by the kids Friday at noon at St. Augustine Amphitheater. The concert is open to the public. Next week, they’ll head in to the Eclipse studios to cut a CD.

About FSDB
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.