Last updateTue, 24 May 2016 4pm


Local school magnets attract students to SFHS, NHS

Magnet Schools

Bob Brown/Alachua County Today

Alachua County SWAT team members demonstrate special weapons and tactics to students at the Newberry High School Law Enforcement Expo.

ALACHUA and NEWBERRY – High School students interested in vocational opportunities after graduation have several options in different county schools.

Students can receive training within Career Academies, commonly referred to as magnet programs, that specialize in providing education tailored to particular lines of work.

While there are 13 Academies spread throughout county high schools, only two of those schools are outside the city of Gainesville.

Santa Fe High School in Alachua is home to both the Academy of AgriScience and the Institute of Biotechnology, while Newberry High School houses the Academy of Criminal Justice.

JoAnn Brady, Director of the Academy of AgriScience, said students who have completed the Veterinary Assisting program are eligible to test for the Veterinary Assisting Certification through the Florida Veterinary Medicine Association.

“It prepares students,” Brady said. “They are having many experiences with animals and training that would prepare them for vet school, and the FFA provides really great leadership opportunities.”

AgriScience offers tracks other than Veterinary Assisting as well, such as courses in plant science, farm power and machinery, and livestock judging.

“My philosophy is to have all the doors open for them when they graduate,” Brady said.

The kinds of research in AgriScience and Biotechnology can be intimately related, which makes the housing of both Academies at Santa Fe ideal.

A greenhouse and hydroponics center allows students to grow plants without soil by using liquidized nutrients instead.

Tyler Jones, a senior in the Institute of Biotechnology, said he likes working with plants the most.

“At first I didn’t even know what it [biotechnology] was, and as I kept going, it got more and more interesting, and I love science,” Jones said. “Mostly I like plants.”

Jones plans on going to the University of Central Florida to major in biotechnology.

“The important thing about our program is that there’s an industry certification that used to not be available called the BACE exam,” said William McDavid, Director of the Institute of Biotechnology. “It proves that the students can work in a lab, that their skill level is worthy.”

Water Resource Specialist, Bio Technician, and Lab Assistant are a few of the jobs available upon completing the biotechnology program at Santa Fe.

Students may also be able to capitalize on the close proximity of several biotechnology companies located in and around Progress Park in Alachua.

At Newberry high school, the Academy of Criminal Justice is a magnet program that is associated with the Criminal Justice program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville.

Director Patrick Treese has been teaching, recruiting and guiding students through the program since 2008.

There are four levels of training. According to Treese, in ninth grade, students are taught street law, proper handcuffing techniques, and how to conduct traffic stops. In tenth grade, investigation is the focus, while state law is highlighted in eleventh grade and on-the-field situations in twelfth.

As a sworn Federal Enforcement officer, Treese brings first-hand knowledge to the students.

“I tell my students to turn off the TV, turn off the social media, because what they see on there in regards to law enforcement is not real,” Treese said.

On average, Treese teaches about 150 students, and he said about 80 to 85 percent go on to college.

The students that Treese has taught still come to him long after graduation for guidance and letters of recommendation.

“If the kids want to get into law enforcement, I’m there to help, to make sure they are successful,” he said. “I tell them all the time, the decisions you make now affect you later down the road.”

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Alachua home to school district volunteers of the year

Volunteers Emerson Boukari

GAINESVILLE – Three volunteers who collectively contribute more than 60 hours every week to local schools have been named Alachua County’s School Volunteers of the Year for 2016.

Cary Emerson, Adam Boukari and Sally Holly will represent the district in the statewide Outstanding School Volunteer Awards program, which honors youth, adult and senior volunteers who have shown outstanding dedication and commitment to quality education in Florida.

“Our district would not enjoy its current success were it not for the contributions of volunteers like Cary, Adam and Sally,” said Superintendent Dr. Owen Roberts. “They provide time and talents that make a huge difference in the lives of our students.”

Santa Fe High School Principal Elizabeth LeClear echoed Roberts' comments. “Cary Emerson is an extraordinary young woman,” she said. “She is such a hard worker and is always positive and pleasant. She is a great representative of Santa Fe High School.”

Emerson is a senior at Santa Fe. She’s been volunteering since she arrived at the school, and has contributed more than 600 hours in just the last 18 months. She’s organized numerous school events, including the Raider Rally and the annual Pie Auction to benefit early childhood programs. She’s involved with several clubs, including service clubs such as Interact, the youth version of the Rotary Club. She’s also serving on Santa Fe’s School Advisory Council.

Cary says she loves helping others and that serving at Santa Fe is a natural fit.

“My parents and grandparents are alumni, so I love being part of that tradition,” she said. “I want to make the school even better and make an impact.”

Emerson’s service also extends to the community. She is involved in several volunteer activities with her church, including annual mission trips to Haiti.

Adam Boukari is the district’s Adult Volunteer of the Year and contributes his time and expertise at both the local school and district level. Despite his busy schedule as Assistant City Manager for the City of Alachua, he has contributed more than 500 hours of service over the last year and a half. At Santa Fe High School, he both tutors and mentors students. He chaperons field trips. He’s served as the president of the boy’s basketball Booster Club for seven years. Boukari also serves on the District Advisory Council, a group of local citizens who advise the School Board on key issues affecting Alachua County Public Schools.

Boukari said his one-on-one connections with the student are the most important of his volunteer activities.

“Mentoring is so rewarding, both for the student and for the mentor,” he said. “You see these kids grow up to be wonderful members of society, and it feels good to know that you had a part in that.”

“Adam Boukari is an alumnus of Santa Fe,” said LeClear. “He gives so much of his time to our students. What an incredible student mentor. His dedication to our high school benefits so many of our students,” she said.

The district’s senior Volunteer of the Year is Sally Holly. She volunteers about 30 hours every week at Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High School, and has racked up nearly 1000 hours since the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Holly, fondly known as “Grandma Sally” to students and staff, has been volunteering in the Infant Room of the ACCEPT program (Alachua County Continuing Education for Pregnant/Parenting Teenagers).

“I just love the babies and seeing them smile and grow,” said Holly.

In addition to providing critical stimulation and love to the infants, Holly has also been a role model for the teens in the program.

"Grandma Sally is one of the most energetic persons in the childcare center at the golden age of seventy-five,” said Childcare Center Director Angela Monroe. “She often is seen reading to little babies while sitting on the floor and is always up for assisting the other care workers in taking the babies out for a stroller ride or assisting the other paraprofessionals with the older children on the playground," she said.

The state is expected to announce the five top volunteers in each of the three categories in the next few weeks.

Emerson, Boukari and Holly will be among 93 school volunteers recognized at the annual Alachua County Public Schools Outstanding School Volunteer Luncheon on Feb. 11, sponsored this year by the Florida Credit Union and the Rotary Club of Gainesville.

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Former Mayor Bill Coughlin, Jr., dies at 64


HIGH SPRINGS – William Joseph Coughlin, Jr., 64, passed away on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, at his home in High Springs following a battle with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that began when he was diagnosed in April 2012.

He served the City of High Springs as city commissioner for two three-year terms beginning in 2000 and again in 2007 and served as mayor in 2003 and 2010.

Following chemotherapy, Coughlin was able to go back to work at the University of Florida in 2013. According to his wife, Donna, he did well after that.

“I would say that 2014 was his best year,” she said. “He still had some limitations, but he could do most everything. We went hiking in the North Carolina mountains.”

Coughlin retired in April 2015, and “that's when his lymphoma came back,” Donna said. “He went through chemotherapy and radiation therapy, then developed a clot in his left leg. He went through a thrombectomy, which took a lot out of him. No matter how hard he tried, the lymphoma continued to come back.”

Coughlin passed away eight days after his doctor told him there was nothing else he could do for him, and he went home with the support of his family and hospice.

Donna describes Coughlin as an energetic, outdoors man who was happiest when he was near the water. He surfed when he was young and always had several salt water fishing boats. He loved salt water fishing with his two brothers, she said.

He was a very involved and devoted father. “He raised our two excellent children: Megan who graduated from UF Law School, and Kelly, who is in school to become a physicians assistant,” Donna said.

She noted that Coughlin loved music. “He had a bugle in his early years. As an adult he studied the mandolin, the guitar and then the violin. He made sure both the girls received piano lessons. At night after dinner, he would practice his instruments.”

He was also active in sports. “We met while playing co-ed soccer with various teams,” Donna said. “He taught Kelly and she got into competitive soccer. Eventually, they played co-ed soccer together. He taught Megan tennis, and she played in high school.

“My husband was a very positive and energetic force in all of our lives. He really participated and was a real partner. He went too soon. We got married when I was 30 and he was 33. We could have used more time together, but we enjoyed the time we did have.”

Coughlin was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on Oct. 21, 1951, to parents William Joseph and Mary Newell Coughlin, the first of seven children. Following high school, he served in the United States Navy for six years on a nuclear submarine. After the Navy, Coughlin attended the University of Florida where he earned a masters degree in Nuclear Engineering.

Coughlin and his wife met in Gainesville and later moved to High Springs, where they raised their children.

He is survived by his wife, Donna, three children, Megan and Kelly Coughlin and Joseph Reid, his parents and six siblings. A funeral mass was held on Thursday., Jan. 28, at St. Madeleine's Catholic Church.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Santa Fe Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at St. Madeleine's Catholic Church, 17155 N.W. U.S. Hwy. 441, High Springs, FL 32643.

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Alachua seeks to boost downtown

Walker - Alachua CRA IMG 1886

CM WALKER/Alachua  County Today

ALACHUA – Representatives from Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA) were on hand late Tuesday afternoon at the Swick House in Alachua to hear from local business and property owners about how they would like to see the developments of Main Street and the Community Redevelopment Area occur.

The three representatives, Kevin Crowder, Director of Economic Development; Sharon McCormick, Director of Business Attraction & Marketing; and Lynn Dehlinger, Sr. Economic Development Manager, conducted a brief presentation before the Alachua City Commission the night before.

The workshop was the first in a series of steps in the creation and implementation of a plan to develop the area. Citizen input will help the group produce a marketing plan.

RMA contends that some of the plans it developed in other parts of Florida have led to a vibrant, healthy economy.

Some of the issues residents asked the developers to keep in mind included ways in which traffic might be directed from U.S. 441 to downtown Alachua; the creation of adequate parking; better signage; how to maintain foot traffic on Sundays when some stores are closed; removing stop signs on Main Street; modifications to city codes to encourage shorter business startup times; and ways to help keep retail buildings from being rented out as office space.

Crowder explained how the group expects the process to advance. “We expect to have a market assessment completed by the end of February,” he said. “In March, we plan to have the meat of what our strategies will be to achieve our goals. By April we will be finalizing the action plan and begin implementation. We expect to be finished with the process by May 1,” he said.

One audience member asked if there was a connection between a vibrant downtown area and arts and culture. “Absolutely,” was the response of all three RMA representatives. “A common theme in Winter Park, Sarasota, Melbourne, Delray Beach and Northwood Village is arts and culture,” said Crowder. “It's one of the key elements that helps define that area. Identifying those opportunities, they can be big or small, is very important.”

As an example of a small item that can be done to maintain arts and culture, he explained, “When there is a vacancy in Coconut Grove, the building owner keeps the lights on so the local artists can display their work in the window.”

Another important element in creating a destination for visitors is social networking, explained McCormick. Accurate GPS and tourist destination site listings are two ways in which the internet can help define an area for visitors. “Yelp is a great way to locate city building departments as well as other items,” said Crowder. “A Facebook page is a place to engage. It has to be managed. You have to work on it,” he said.

McCormick touched on the idea that Alachua already had a lot of existing assets. Following the meeting, Crowder listed some of the assets he had already observed.

“First and foremost is the historic essence...the historic buildings...the historic district, the National Register Designation, that is a big asset. The design of Main Street and the curve that was put in...the comments I've heard are that that aesthetic is a big asset. The proximity to U.S. 441 and I-75 is an asset. Alachua is closer to the interstate than a lot of the real vibrant downtowns that we see around the state. Progress Park is a strong asset and is probably not being used to its full potential.” Finally, he listed the city's proximity to a market like Gainesville as another benefit that can be explored.

Cultural tourism, an aspect of developing a vibrant downtown area, was defined by Crowder. “Anything that brings in people who don't live here to engage in and experience whatever creativity the area has to offer. It can be historic district tourism. Historic assets are cultural assets,” he said. “Whatever cultural experiences we find here that create that identity that makes people seek you out and want to live or visit is cultural tourism.”

RMA was brought to Alachua at a cost of $50,000 and is being paid for jointly by the Community Redevelopment Agency and the city's General Fund.

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