Last updateThu, 20 Nov 2014 12am


Proof of hard work

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SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Santa Fe High School 1997 graduate and former NFL football playher Adrian Peterson visited Santa Fe High School to speak about his new book "Don't Dis My Abilities" recently.


ALACHUA – Adrian Peterson, 34, is walking down the hallway at Santa Fe High School like he never left. The 1997 graduate and all-star football and basketball player is home after all. Next to him is a student pushing a rolling cart with a box of books on it. This time, Peterson is more than a famous athlete. He’s an author bringing his own book to the Raider media center.

“The library still looks the same,” Peterson says to the students in front of him. “It still smells the same, just the people are different.”

And then he begins to talk of his journey.

“I am living proof of hard work,” he says. “That being from Alachua, Florida, I grew up with a speech impediment, had a big dream and made it to the NFL.”

Peterson started dreaming of becoming an NFL player at the age of six, he says. “But I didn’t get drafted until I was 21 years old,” he adds.

He remembers what it was like struggling when he spoke with a stutter in class. “I always wanted to speak clearly,” he says. “I could hear kids in the background laughing and snickering, and I remembered what my parents told me. ‘You go to school to learn, not to make friends.’ ”

Peterson played for four years as a Raider and won a state title before becoming the first sophomore at Georgia Southern University to win two National Championships in 1999 and 2000.

After he graduated college, Peterson was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round. He played for eight years, including the 2006 NFC Championship season and Super Bowl XLI, and ran for over 1,200 yards in his career.

Santa Fe High invited Peterson to come by and talk about his new autobiography “Don’t Dis My Abilities” which talks about his success as a football player, as well as his current difficulty with a speech impediment and infant daughter’s medical issues.

The visit was made possible by a donation the media center received from Dollar General, Media Specialist Georgeanna Moore, says. “In the fall, we received a phone call from Dollar General saying that we’d been selected as a literacy program they would like to donate to,” Moore says. “So they came out and there were kids in the media center, teachers came in from the copy room. They handed me a check for $40,000.

“So since then, we call it literacy explosion,” Moore says. “We are trying to do something to get the kids motivated to read and into studying.”

A projected image of the cover of Peterson’s book shines on one wall as he speaks. Students are leaning in listening to his stories and advice.

When he wants to make a point he repeats it.

“Start a habit,” he says. “Start a habit. A habit is something that is hard to break.

Instead of going home and getting on your Smartphone or facebook, read a little bit.”

Peterson knew he would need to speak in public one day, he says. So he continued to take speech classes. “In high school, I did interviews with the Gainesville Sun and TV 20, he says. “At Georgia Southern, I went from doing seven interviews my entire high school career to seven or eight interviews in a day with media such as ESPN.

Interviews intensified when Peterson spoke as a Chicago Bear player after games. “In one interview session there’d be 20 microphones, 20 pens and papers, 20 video cameras in front of you,” he says.

“I knew one day I would need to express myself.”

Peterson offers more advice to the students.

“It’s okay to look up to a professional athlete,” he says. “But find someone you can touch. Find someone who does it the right way, every day.”

Go to school, make good grades, take the right classes and put yourself into the right position so when a university calls and offers you a scholarship, you’re ready.”

I am proud of myself for having perfect attendance from 2nd to 8th grade,” Peterson says about why going to school is so important. “If you see it and listen to it in class, you’ll learn it.”

A student asks Peterson about how he wrote his book.

“It started off as a hobby,” he says.

“Just put your ideas on paper. Don’t worry about punctuation, just get your ideas on paper. A week here, put it away and come back to it. A month here, in between flights. Off season and then, one day I looked up and I had 30 pages.

“I wrote mostly on the computer, but sometimes when I didn’t have a laptop, I would think of an idea and then put it on my iphone and when I got back to the computer, I would write it out.”

Students asked Peterson about his education, family and current work. “I own a small trucking company, started a youth flag football team in Chicago and stay at home with four kids,” he says.

“I graduated before my last collegiate football game,” he says. “So if the NFL didn’t want me, I still had a plan B which was a degree in recreation and a minor in sociology.”

Students applauded at the end of Peterson’s presentation and he visited with them and posed for photographs before the next class arrived.

Sophomore Austin White said he learned a lot from Peterson. White, 16, plays center on the Raider football team.

“Always keep a strong work ethic,” he said about Peterson’s advice. “School comes first, work hard and stay strong.”

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Sheriff commissions new safety patrol

Q - safety patrol 1SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Alachua County Sheriff Saide Darnell swears in 11 new safety patgrols officers at Alachua Learning Center.

ALACHUA – Two Alachua County Sheriff cars pulled up on the lawn near the basketball courts at Alachua Learning Center on April 29 but no one was in trouble. Sheriff Sadie Darnell climbed out of one vehicle while Deputy William Edward May got out of the second.

The whole school was gathered to celebrate the swearing in of 11 new safety patrol officers.

“It’s actually a real honor,” said 16-year-old Makayla Miller, 16. “I wasn’t expecting to be the captain.”

Darnell greeted the crowd and explained to the students what was happening and why it was important.

“Their badge and banner show they have the added responsibility to make sure that everyone is safe and orderly,” Darnell said. “Don’t run, don’t hit, don’t say bad words or be mean to each other. Become the leaders in our society that model the way and behave the right way.”

Darnell explained to the students what was about to happen. “A pledge is a promise that they will do the things they say,” Darnell said. “They’re making a public promise. This is their job but they aren’t going to get paid for it. But they will get a reward,” she added “They get to go to Washington D.C. where they’ll find out about our government and where the laws are made.”

“See my badge,” Darnell said and pointed to hers. “It’s a star. It’s visible representation of what they are doing.

“Pay attention to the words,” she said. “And practice the words every day.”

Darnell asked the students to raise their right hand and repeat after her.

“I promise to do my best to:

• Report for duty on time

• Perform my duties faithfully

• Strive to prevent accidents

• Always set a good example

• Obey my teachers and officers of the Patrol

• Report dangerous student practices

• Strive to earn the respect of fellow students.

I promise to abide by this pledge”

After they all said the pledge, each student was called up by name to receive a safety patrol badge sponsored by AAA.

Seventh grader Varshana Trudeau was excited about his new role. “I’ll be helping the little kids and it will be a lot of responsibility,” he said.

Darnell said the safety patrol has been in place for 37 years in Citrus, Levy and Alachua counties.

“This is one of the few opportunities that rewards children for good behavior,” she said. “They are starting in their role models of good citizens, they look out for one another.”

Krishna Rivera, administrative director at Alachua Learning Center said the patrol would be a good opportunity for students at the school.

“We’ve always been talking about it. Sheriff May and Triple A and Ms. Hayton helped make this happen.”

The new student patrol members are Captain Makayla Miller, Lieutenant Lauren Ashton , Sergeant Abhay Edwards, Romero Alejandra, Jade Coyle, Jonette Gadomski, Laura Byers, Logan Tugman,, Nistha Kowlessar, Radhapriya Uzcategui and Varshana Trudeau.

Darnell said, “Our role is to keep our county safe. Their role is to keep the school safe and orderly.”

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Newberry open to help from GSC with Nations Park

The Newberry City Commission acknowledged its dissatisfaction with the performance of Nations Park at a joint meeting with the Alachua County Commission last week.

“The first two years have been disappointing,” Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad said. “We have not achieved the number of tournaments we would like. We are going to relook at all our options with our newly-elected commission.”

Nations Park is an open invitational tournament baseball and softball park featuring 16 stadiums according to the park Web site. It was built in 2012.

Conrad said the City was grateful to the county for funding close to $7 million of the approximate $7.3 million to build the park.

“The County understood it would take time for the park to really get going,” County Commission Chair Lee Pinkoson said. “We figured it would take about three years to ramp up, and we’re in year two. We did make a major commitment, and it’s eating up a lot of the bed tax, but I think it has all the potential in the world.”

Conrad stated that Newberry was open to receiving as much help as it could get from the Gainesville Sports Commission in attracting events to the park for the summer.

“We would like to work to book tournaments with the GSC,” Conrad said. “The City is open to managing the park itself or having an outside agency, like GSC, manage it. By 2015 we hope to have a new contract with either GSC or a new entity.”

City Commissioner Jordan Marlowe added that the new commission would bring fresh insight concerning the park.

“Nations Park is a central part of Newberry, and we have some new ideas to work with,” he said. “Everyone wants to see Nations Park succeed.”

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Hundreds gather to celebrate Antwan Ivey

W - antawn 8SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

More than 500 friends, family and faculty gathered at Newberry High School on April 26th to celebrate and remember 2007 graduate Antwan Ivey, who passed away unexpectedly on April 14.  Ivey became a star running back for Charleston Southern University in 2008 and 2009. He planned to return to CSU for an NFL scouting day.  Ivey was known as "Kelo" to his fellow players and friends because of his small stature.  The celebration included words of inspiration by Pastor Winter Brown and was presented by former NHS Principal Hershal Lyons.

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Annual biotech celebration draws record crowd

Q - bio tech 1SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Mia Laduke and Josh Fisher, center, are entertained by a humanoid robot at the 11th Annual Biotech Celebration.

ALACHUA – Brent Johnston says the View Master is the way to go. The sales rep for BioTek Instruments, Inc. based in Highland Park, Vt. says no one can resist picking them up. “People like them,” he says. “They’re retro you know.”

But take a look at the images inside the classic stereoscope first introduced in 1962, and it’s anything but retro. BioTek touts some of the most complex microscopes and cell imaging systems in the world used by scientists to see cells with up to 60 times magnification. And then there’s the camera built into each instrument for digital imaging.

It’s vendors like this that Director at UF Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator Patti Breedlove said made the 11th Annual BioFlorida Celebration of Biotechnology held at Progress Park, “The biggest turnout ever.

Innovation corridor, the tent that actually had biotech representatives in it, was packed and stayed packed the whole time,” Breedlove said.

“One of the CEOs just about lost her voice. It was just non-stop talking.”

Breedlove said more than 655 people were in the tents and that 165 were putting on the event so 500 were strictly attendees.

“It does put the spotlight on what goes on here,” Breedlove said about Progress Park and RTI Surgical which hosted the event on May 1.

What started out as an event with tables filled with scientific equipment and supply vendors for scientist only, has now become a showcase for support businesses surrounding research and more.

“Over the years, other companies that are important support to the biotech sector including insurance companies, banks and law firms have joine,” Breedlove said.

“Now you also have UF departments because they’re looking for students for their graduate programs.”

Santa Fe College surgical technology major Josh Fisher and his friend cognitive neuroscience major Mia LaDuke were entertained by the humanoid and programmable robot known at Nao. The 59 centimeter (23 inches) tall unit was dancing and showing off for them.

Fisher Science Education sales rep Steven Steinfeld noticed the growth in attendees. “We definitely were busy the whole time,” he said. “The visitors seemed pretty excited to see what we had.”

Steinfeld was promoting the Nao robot which is an educational robot from Aldebaran Robotics based in Paris. The bot is used to teach coding and comes complete with voice recognition software and STEM curriculum. Purchase price: $17,000.

Rep Lindsay Kotula said there are hundreds of videos on YouTube that have been made starring Nao, which she says has a given name of “Sonny.”

Breedlove is excited about the turnout of the event and the timing of it as she announced news about recent IPO that are homegrown.

“The greater Gainesville Area now has four NASDAQ listed biomed tech companies,” Breedlove said. Those four companies are RTI Surgical, AGTC, Exactech and Axogen.

“That’s more per capita than any other city in the United States.”

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