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TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) named Trinity Brooke Whittington, a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County, as a finalist for the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year award. The announcement came during a surprise visit to Bell Elementary School, with Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality Dr. Paul Burns imparting the honor. The Florida Teacher of the Year program recognizes excellence in teaching and celebrates outstanding professional educators in schools across the state. The 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year winner will be announced on July 14 in Orlando.  

“Great teachers not only impact their students, but also their schools and their communities,” said Incoming Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “My congratulations to Trinity Brooke Whittington for your selection as one of five finalists for the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year award.” 

“We are very proud of Trinity Brooke Whittington. She’s an outstanding teacher and excellent role model for our entire community,” said Dr. Jim Surrency Gilchrist County Superintendent. 

“Mrs. Whittington’s classroom is a place of magic, where children are hooked from the moment they enter until the moment they leave. The relationships she develops with students, parents and colleagues are true and binding,” said Suzanne Mathe, principal of Bell Elementary School.  

Trinity Brooke Whittington has lived in the Gilchrist community her entire life. She has served as a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher for the past five years and focuses on creating engaging lessons that affect her students in positive ways. Mrs. Whittington also teaches about service by leading school-wide efforts to provide blankets to the local nursing home, and by starting a library swap program to promote literacy. Her personal academic journey includes earning a bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University, where she graduated summa cum laude.  

Five finalists were chosen for 2023 Teacher of the Year from nearly 185,000 public school teachers throughout the state. After each school district selects its teacher of the year, a selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community reviews each district application on the basis of outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service. The winner will serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education.

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NEWBERRY ‒ On a hot May 6 morning, law enforcement officers from the Santa Fe College Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Gainesville Police Department, Alachua Police Department, High Springs Police Department and the UF Police Department, gathered at the Jonesville Publix Supermarket parking lot.

They were there not because of a crime, but for their annual charity run called the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) that helps fund the Special Olympics.

They were joined by members of the Alachua County Fire Rescue, Santa Fe High School students, Special Olympics athletes and community volunteers to participate in a 1.2-mile run/walk. All together there were over 40 runners. Each volunteer or law enforcement officers was wearing a purple Special Olympics shirt they had purchased. The shirt sale is one of the main ways the Special Olympics receives their donations. Another group called the Gull Street Rods brought several custom cars to exhibit along the designated route.

There was also a number of special needs residents attending from Tacachale in Gainesville, which is the oldest and largest community for Floridians with developmental disabilities. These residents were there to watch the race and cheer on the runners. Before the run, an Olympian style torch was lit to be carried by runners and special needs athletes.

Accompanied by a police vehicle escort, the Torch Run started at the Steeple Chase Shopping Plaza in Jonesville before heading south on Northwest 140th Terrace. Runners made their way toward West Newberry Road before ending with a brisk walk retracing the route back to the plaza.

The Special Olympics was the vision of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family that included Rosemary, who had an intellectual disability. The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and gain confidence in themselves.

Neither athletes nor parents are charged a fee to participate in the program, and activities exist for those of all ability levels, from the highly functioning to the severely challenged.

Over the years the program has evolved into Special Olympics International — a global movement that today serves over 6 million athletes and Unified partners in 174 countries.

The Torch Run has been held annually since1981 when Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon created the Torch Run. With the support of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the event has spread across the country with over 97,000 law enforcement members participating in different Torch Runs.

There were over 188 torch runs held in 2019 in various communities and there are now 92 programs worldwide. Known as Guardians of the Flame, law enforcement members and Special Olympics athletes carry the “Flame of Hope” into Opening Ceremonies of local competitions. They also carry it into Special Olympics State, Provincial, National, Regional and World Games.

The flame symbolizes courage and celebration of diversity uniting communities around the globe. The Torch Run has continued to grow over and now includes other fundraising platforms. These platforms include: Plane Pulls, Polar Plunges, Tip-A-Cops, and more. Since the beginning, LETR has raised over $600 million for Special Olympics programs.

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The Cade to launches into Outer Space this Summer 

At a museum not so far way, visitors of all ages will soon experience the stellar amazement of our mysterious Milky Way galaxy.  

Wandering the Milky Way: A Tour of the Solar System is set to take off as the new summer theme at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention on Thursday, June 2, invading every space of the Cade through January 2023. 

With immersive experiences and hands-on discoveries, Wandering the Milky Way offers the perfect escape from Florida’s sweltering summer heat. Museum visitors can cool off in climate-controlled, state-of-the-art comfort while delving into the lives of inventors who made breakthrough discoveries about our neighboring planets, as well as other far-out features of our solar system and beyond.  

Expect to travel from Jupiter’s swirling red spot to the icy geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton. Learn about the inventors who’ve used robots, rockets, and rovers to take the people of Earth on a tour of our galactic neighbors. Perhaps, most exciting of all, Wandering the Milky Way provides a glimpse of how humanity explores outer space. In the featured exhibit, Voyages: A Trip through Time and Space, guests will learn about Voyagers 1 and 2 and how they are still broadcasting back to Earth as they travel farther into space than any manmade object. 

The new museum-wide theme will feature not just exhibit panels and interactives, but also a host of space-themed activities. Little ones get a chance to construct a spacesuit from a plastic egg, make galactic slime, and find out why potatoes make excellent astronaut fuel. 

Families, jet to the Petty Gallery, where the Astronaut Academy is enlisting kids for an out-of-this-world mission. In the area designed especially for the Cade’s youngest guests, kids can send a parachute flying in a wind tube and crawl around an obstacle course.  

Of course, no museum exploration would be complete without an introduction to Neil Armstrong (1930– 2012), an American aerospace engineer, test pilot and astronaut who flew on the Apollo missions and first set foot on the moon. To get a sense of what it was like to take that famous lunar step, one activity invites kids and kids-at-heart to make an impression in a pile of moon sand. 

Even the Cade’s Fab Lab has gone outer limits to investigate how technological innovations will lead to even larger leaps for humankind. In the lab, guests can build a rover and test it on alien terrain, while discovering the secret code hidden on the Mars rover. Ye olde printing press is getting in on the action too, printing stories for guests that cover topics related to space. 

“The Cade Museum offers a learning experience that you won’t find anywhere else,” says Bailes. “We call it our Inventivity™ Framework. We take a non-traditional, multidisciplinary approach to teaching science. We teach STEM concepts with art, creativity, and play, and most importantly through the lens of invention. When kids ask ‘why do I need to know this?’ we can show them a product they really care about or an invention that has changed their lives. We bring that science concept to life in a way that is meaningful. And most importantly, it’s fun. Everyone loves to create and build and stretch their imaginations. We hope our visitors have a blast launching into the world of space exploration.” 

For more information about the Cade Museum’s upcoming exhibits and programming, visit cademuseum.org

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BELL ‒ Rescued horses, riders, family and friends came together on Saturday, April 30 for the first annual Horses Without Humans (HWH) Volunteer Rescue Makeover Challenge. The event was held at the Horses Without Humans facility at 6191 N. U.S. Highway 129 in Bell. Horses without Humans is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit equine adoption organization devoted to rehabilitating and retraining unwanted and at-risk equines with the goal of finding them suitable life-long adoptive homes.

More than a hundred members of the community joined the 17 competitors and 19 rescue horses competed in the event. Competitors were chosen from people who had volunteered 40 or more hours at Horses Without Humans. Participants had been training their assigned rescue horses since March 13, doing basic groundwork and introducing the obstacles, to see how much progress they could make.

Every participant in the horse-handling competition was required to maneuver a course that contained 26 obstacles of varying difficulty, including everyday items like a low bridge, water obstacle, mailbox, wind chimes, a jump, and a gate. More challenging obstacles include a teeter-totter, a high bridge, a ball that horses pushed down a chute, backing through poles, climbing up and over a set of three huge tires, doing turns on the hindquarters and forequarters, a slalom around cones, a figure eight around barrels, entering and backing out of a horse trailer, and side-passing over poles.

“Many of the rescue horses we receive have not been handled and are not well trained. The goal of the Makeover was to train the rescue horses, so they are prepared to go into any discipline,” said Yvonne Barteau, founder of Horses Without Humans. “It's all about educating people and developing relationships…building partnerships. Horses cannot become what we want by remaining what they are. Several of these horses needed to learn to trust and work with people, and to learn basic skills. Competitors worked hard on doing basic groundwork and then working on the obstacles. Both the volunteers and the horses showed their many skills and made us proud at the Makeover.”

Thirteen-year-old Chanel Bass and her horse Elsa were the Overall High Point Champions for the day, as well as winners of the Junior Advanced In-Hand class. Overall High Point Reserve Champion Eva Farrell and her rescue horse, Tilly, also won the Senior Advanced In-Hand class, as well as the Reserve Champion award for Best Turnout. The Champion award for Best Turnout was bestowed on “Trooper” Doug Brown, who was dressed as a U.S. Cavalryman in the Spanish-American War of 1898, complete with hat, boots, and bandolier. His rescue horse, Rusty, was adorned with equine garb of that same era.

First place in the Junior Beginner In-Hand class was won by Kylie Kimmel, with second place going to Alana Ange. The Senior Beginner In-Hand class was won by Rebecca Mouras, with second place going to Matt Maiella, third place to Janet Herzberg, fourth place to “Trooper” Doug Brown and fifth place to Johanne Young. First place in the Junior Advanced In-Hand class was won by Chanel Bass, with second place going to Reilee Baker. Eva Farrell won the Senior Advanced In-Hand class, with second place going to Diane Metzel, third place to Diane Quinn and fourth place to Connie Perry.

Judges for the Makeover were Kassie Kuz and Jan Nierzwick, both seasoned dressage riders and competitors themselves. In scoring the competitors, they focused on the contestants’ abilities in several categories, including catching and haltering; groundwork; general interaction; timing of aids; forward motion; willingness to guide/steer; horse’s yields to pressure; handler and horse’s conduct, demeanor, and confidence; the competitor’s ability to build a solid foundation; and performance on the obstacle course.

Barteau encourages people who may be considering buying a horse to consider adopting, sponsoring, or fostering a horse in need. For more information about Horses Without Humans, visit the HWH website at www.horseswithouthumansrescue.org.

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  HIGH SPRINGS - The High Springs Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) will host its inaugural social soiree on Tuesday, May 17th at 6:30PM. Area residents and business owners are invited to The Opera House, located above The Great Outdoors Restaurant, 18587 High Springs Main Street for an evening of fellowship and education. Joe Cirulli, founder of Gainesville Health & Fitness, will be our guest speaker. An update on the High Springs downtown/CRA master plan with CRA Coordinator David Sutton and Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham will also be provided. Admission is free. Light refreshments will be served.

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NEWBERRY ‒ There are hundreds of commercial ziplines in the U.S. and Newberry is poised to add one more as the Board of Adjustment approved a zipline application on May 9. The Special Exception application allows a zipline course, accessory uses and off-site signage on approximately 59.75 acres located east of Northwest County Road 235, approximately a half-mile south of the intersection of Northwest County Road 235 and Northwest 46th Avenue/County Road Northwest 36.

The application was submitted by Spain Development LLC, acting as agent on behalf of property owners Ann, Carl S. and John Salmi.

Special Conditions

The Planning and Zoning Board heard this application on May 2 and approved it with 11 conditions proposed by the City’s Planning and Economic Development Department. Those conditions include:

Prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy or Completion, the owners must obtain all necessary Florida Department of Health permits for the construction of a well and septic system, and, should City water and wastewater services be extended to a distance of 800 feet from the property, the owners must connect to City services within 12 months of notification of the availability and pay all applicable fees.

Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the owners shall obtain an access easement from the subject property to Northwest County Road 235 in a form acceptable to the city attorney which shall be recorded into the public records of Alachua County.

If the access road is gated, the owners shall coordinate with the Newberry Fire Department and Alachua County Fire Department on installation of a Knox-box for emergency access.

Prior to an issuance of an off-site sign permit, the owners shall provide evidence of authorization from the landowner upon which property the sign is placed to construct and maintain off-site signage in a form acceptable to the city attorney.

Prior to issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy or Completion, owners shall provide to the City of Newberry Building Official and display in a conspicuous location on the property a valid Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) annual permit and record of the last inspection by same.

Prior to making modifications of operations, the owners shall notify FDACS and the City of Newberry Fire Department and Alachua County Fire Department by written and verbal report before those changes become operational.

All defects, manufacturer bulletins, or failures of inspection shared with FDACS must also be sent to the City of Newberry Fire Department and Alachua County Fire Department and the last 14 daily inspections must be made immediately available upon request by same.

The proposed use shall not be enlarged, increased, intensified or altered without further review by the City of Newberry Board of Adjustment or other board designated in the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) as amended from time to time, and discontinuation of the use for a period of 12 consecutive months shall render the special exception null and void.

No use of public address systems shall occur prior to 8 a.m. or after sunset, except under emergency circumstances.

The owners shall comply with and maintain an up-to-date an operations and emergency plan that is kept on file at all times with the City of Newberry Fire Department and Building Department, and same shall be notified by written and verbal report with fourteen days of any changes to the operation and emergency plan.

In accordance with the facility’s most current approved operations and emergency plan, owners shall: Provide, at the owners’ expense, the Fire/Rescue/EMS services specified and as may be determined necessary by the City of Newberry Fire Department, for all events, including all event days; provide adequate emergency medical services for all events, as required by their insurance and, as applicable, provide emergency vehicle access to all areas of the site and all event activities, allowing safe routes of passage prior, during and after events; not obstruct or impede emergency services access; provide on-site fire suppression capability and emergency medical service capability; ensure personnel are familiar with and can implement appropriate safety, maintenance, and emergency policies and procedures; obtain at least $1 million liability insurance; comply with all health requirements for the provision of restrooms and food handling, and ensure all mobile food vendors attain and hold a current mobile vendor license; and not permit open fires.

Karl Spain said there would be nine towers built on the property and a 1,064-sq. ft. building that includes bathrooms, concession stands and other required spaces.

Additional Requirements

The BOA added two more requirements including a $1 million policy per incident insurance policy and dark sky friendly lighting.

Although Spain said he planned on purchasing a $5 million umbrella, the City wanted to make sure the wording included at least $1 million insurance policy per incident. The other addition was dark sky friendly lighting on the building and structures. Spain said for special events he intended to light the cliffs, but on non-special event lighting he said he would agree to the dark sky friendly lighting requirement.

Additional items included a weight requirement of 70-275 lb. limit for riders on the zip lines, double line attachment to people on the zip line, a helicopter landing pad for emergencies, natural trails that would be constructed, towers constructed in steel, a handicapped line, wheel chair accessibility, staff training in basic life support and the inclusion of Automated External Defibrillator (AED) equipment on site.

Spain’s cost estimate at this time is $50-$55 for half-day riders and $95 for a full day. He said there would be an area for events such as weddings and that environmental education may be a part of the project at some point. Currently, he hopes for 90 – 200 visitors per day, but that the facility was rated to accommodate 350 visitors with upgrades in the number of employees on site.

The BOA unanimously approved the Special Exception with the addition of the dark sky lighting and insurance per incident requirement.

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ALACHUA COUNTYL – Alachua County Commissioner Mary Alford has submitted her resignation to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 
In a memo to Alachua County Chair Marihelen Wheeler, Alachua County Attorney Sylvia Torres outlined next steps according to the Florida Constitution and State Statutes. 

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