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Advocacy groups: Forget Oscars snafu, focus on ‘Moonlight’

Yes, the Great Mistake of Oscars 2017 made history in all the wrong kinds of ways. But a day later, advocacy groups and others overjoyed by the Cinderella win of “Moonlight” were saying, let’s forget the snafu and move on — because “Moonlight” made history in all the right kinds of ways.

The coming-of-age story of a gay black youth in a poor Miami neighborhood was made on the tiniest of budgets — $1.5 million, said director Barry Jenkins backstage. It had a mostly black cast, and was seen as the first LGBT-themed movie to win best picture in the 89-year history of the awards show.

And so, there’s no point in wondering whether the spectacular mess-up that led to “La La Land” first being announced best picture winner — incorrectly — would overshadow the “Moonlight” win, said Sarah Kate Ellis, president & CEO of GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy group. “I don’t think you CAN overshadow the ‘Moonlight’ win,” she said in an interview, while acknowledging it was “a bit upsetting that it went down that way.”

What won out, she said, was not only a strong message of diversity and inclusivity, but “hopefully the bigger dream — that Hollywood recognizes this and continues to produce films like this, so that they are not the exception but the rule.”

“So often we’ve heard from Hollywood that writers aren’t writing about these things,” Ellis said. “So having a success at this level takes that narrative out.” The reason for the film’s success, she said, was simple: “It reflects the world we live in today. Countless people can relate to it.”

Gil Robertson, president of the African-American Film Critics Association, said he woke up on Monday morning simply “floating” over the “Moonlight” win.

“It’s definitely a sign that the tide has turned” in Hollywood, Robertson said. The most significant result, he said, is what it would signal to up-and-coming filmmakers.

“What’s cool for black filmmakers and filmmakers in general is that this lets them know that it’s possible,” he said. “It shows them, ‘Wow, I can do this too.’ That’s probably the biggest thing to come out of this.” As for the snafu, he said, “It was a mistake. Let’s just move on.”

That’s essentially what Jenkins said backstage, minutes after accepting the best picture trophy. He noted that he had wanted to thank the studio, A24, for believing in and supporting the project throughout — but didn’t have time, given the chaos onstage.

“My whole acceptance speech was going to be in thanks to them, because it’s amazing to be Barry Jenkins right now, but it was not a year and a half ago for a guy who made a movie for $13,000 and hadn’t made a movie in seven years at that point,” he said. “And it’s unfortunate that things happened the way they did. But hot damn, we won best picture.”

He added that “the folks of ‘La La Land’ were so gracious. I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that.”

Oscar tabulators PwC, in their 83rd year providing the service to the academy, later apologized in a statement and were investigating why presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway had been given the wrong envelope — a duplicate envelope for the best actress category, which was won by Emma Stone for “La La Land.”

Director Damien Chazelle‘s buoyant musical had been widely considered a shoo-in for best picture after netting a record-tying 14 nominations and a slew of earlier awards this season. The film still won six Oscars, including best director for Chazelle, at 32 became the youngest ever to take the prize, and for score, song (“City of Stars”) and actress to Stone.

“Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time?” Stone said later of the mix-up. “Cool!”

It wasn’t the only gaffe at the ceremony. An Australian film producer’s photo was mistakenly included in the “In Memoriam” tribute. Jan Chapman‘s photo was shown with the name of Janet Patterson, an Australian costume designer who died in 2015. The Academy didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Moonlight” triumphed in a year when the academy was under pressure to honor more diverse films after two consecutive years of #OscarsSoWhite, when no black actors were nominated. (Even before “Moonlight” won best picture, this year’s awards were much more diverse, with supporting acting wins for the film’s Mahershala Ali, and for Viola Davis in “Fences.”)

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs had taken action to diversify the membership of the largely white, older and male film academy. “Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith,” Isaacs said on Sunday.

In Liberty City, the Miami community featured in “Moonlight,” Larry Anderson, who played the character of Antwon in the film, said Jenkins’ success had given him hope for his own future. Larry, 17, is a junior at Miami Northwestern Senior High School.

“Knowing that he came from the same — not just Miami, but Liberty City, same Pork n’ Beans (housing project), Miami Northwestern (High School) and the same programs that I’ve been part of, it tells me I can achieve me in the same way as him,” Larry said. “It does give me a special connection that he walked the same halls.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Lottery plans lean case against lawsuit

The Florida Lottery’s outside lawyer plans to call only two witnesses at trial in the lawsuit filed against it by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

According to court filings, attorney Barry Richard listed Summer Sylvestri, the Lottery’s procurement director, and Michael Manley, its deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs director.

A non-jury trial is scheduled for March 6.

The speaker sued the agency, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, saying it was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiple-year, $700 million deal for new equipment.

Corcoran says the Lottery can’t sign “a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.”

Richard has countered that the Legislature cannot “micromanage individual contracts” and noted that the state’s “invitation to negotiate” leading to the contract discloses any deal would be contingent on “an annual appropriation” from lawmakers.

In fact, he adds, such a disclosure is required under state law.

Sylvestri will testify on “why it is important for the Lottery to contract with vendors prior to appropriation of money.”

She’ll also discuss why “the Lottery enters into multi-year contracts generally, and the basis for the decision to make the Contract multi-year.”

Manley will talk about the “importance of the Lottery being able to execute contracts … prior to receiving appropriations.”

And, according to Richard’s filing, he will testify on the “history of the Legislature’s awareness of the Lottery executing multiyear contracts and of the Legislature funding such contracts annually.”

The deal in question with International Game Technology (IGT) will provide the Lottery with an array of new equipment. The contract is for an initial 10-year period, and the Lottery exercised the first of its three available three-year renewal options.

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Florida Blue Symposium to ask ‘what’s next’ with ACA, politics of health care

With the Affordable Care Act certain to remain a leading issue throughout 2017 and beyond, hundreds of leading health care professionals will gather this spring to discuss the question: “What’s next?”

“Affordable Care Act: Where Do We Go From Here — The Politics of Healthcare” is the featured roundtable at the Florida Blue Foundation’s annual Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards held April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee.

The two-day conference will host more than 400 Florida-based, regional and national health professionals there for the opportunity to know more about a wide range of issues, including health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Executives on hand will be from a wide range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more.

One of the highlights will be the April 20 panel discussion moderated by Dr. Daniel Dawes a leading health care strategist and attorney. As a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, Dawes serves on the boards of several organizations that seek to improve health care access and outcomes. He is written several publications on health reform and equity, as well as the book “150 years of Obamacare,” published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Among the panelists are Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida; Dr. Antonia Novello the former U.S. Surgeon General; Jason Altmire, senior vice president of public policy and community engagement at Florida Blue; Dr. Susan McManus, the distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida; and Alan Levine, President and CEO of the Mountain States Health Alliance and a former secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Later that day, the symposium will conclude with the Sapphire Luncheon and Awards ceremony at 12:30 p.m. April 20. With Patrick Geraghty, the CEO of Guidewell Holding Company, as keynote speaker.

Online agenda, registration and information on the location and special group hotel rates are available online. The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is at 6000 W. Osceola Pkwy. in Kissimmee. To make reservations by phone, call 877-491-0442.

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Oscar nominees: FSU film school is nation’s ‘hidden secret’

Oscar nominees and Florida State University graduates Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders find themselves in unfamiliar territory lately, launched there by the exhilarating ride of their Oscar-nominated film “Moonlight.”

For years, McMillon and Sanders — nominated for an Academy Award in film editing — have comfortably worked behind the scenes often in tight editing rooms, where their faces are illuminated by the flickering light of video passing back and forth on computer screens. Now, they are smack dab in the middle of pre-Oscar buzz, where they are illuminated by the bright spotlight shining from the year’s breakout film.

“It all happened so quickly,” said McMillon, who’s made history as the first African-American woman nominated for an Oscar in film editing. “I’m still trying to take it all in.”

Finding themselves as stars in this real-life show is admittedly surreal for two artists who have spent their careers outside the limelight. “Moonlight” has rocketed to commercial and critical success with eight Oscar nominations, a Golden Globe for Best Picture and many other awards.

“It’s so amazing,” McMillon said.

Earlier this month, they attended the Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hilton, where more than 160 Hollywood stars dined and got to know one other in the hotel’s famous International Ballroom.

“I saw Joi there talking with Denzel Washington,” Sanders said. “That’s when it really started to sink in for me.”

While McMillon shared a cheerful chat with Denzel Washington in the luxury hotel built by billionaire Conrad Hilton in the 1950s, she saw her old FSU friend Barry Jenkins — also an Oscar nominee for writing and directing “Moonlight” — talking to legendary film director Steven Spielberg.

Elsewhere, she spotted another old FSU friend. “Moonlight” cinematographer James Laxton was getting to know gifted actor Jeff Bridges, who was there because of his seventh Oscar nomination since 1972.

Then, McMillon saw Sanders sitting at a table with famed film editor Carol Littleton, whose many honors include an Oscar nomination for editing the movie “E.T.” in 1982.

“It was just so cool to sit back and see Barry next to Steven Spielberg, and James was seated next to Jeff Bridges,” McMillon said. “It was so crazy!”

It has been life-changing, too, both professionally and personally.

McMillon is proud to be the first African-American woman nominated for an Academy Award in film editing, and that fact is also a little hard for her to believe.

“It’s such an honor,” McMillon said. “I hope this will shine a light on, hopefully, creating more diversity behind the camera. But for me, I went from not being able to land a feature film to not only landing a feature, but being nominated for an Oscar. So, my career has done a ‘180’ in a matter of months. I’m still processing that but definitely enjoying it at the same time.”

For Sanders, the impact on his life has been just as dramatic, and he is thankful beyond words for his old Florida State friend and former roommate.

“Barry has changed my life twice now,” Sanders said.

The first time was on Jenkins’ film, “Medicine for Melancholy,” which put Jenkins on the radar of movie industry insiders in 2008. Sanders believes that project saved his career and changed the trajectory of his life.

“I personally had been stuck in reality television. I was editing, but it didn’t feel fulfilling,” Sanders said. “I was losing my passion for filmmaking and editing because the things I was working on felt a little soulless. But doing that project with Barry made me realize what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

So years later, when Jenkins came calling again with a project called “Moonlight,” Sanders jumped at the opportunity to work with him and old college friends. Members of the Florida State film school squad have stayed close since they graduated from the College of Motion Picture Arts some 15 years ago, even sharing Thanksgivings with each other in Los Angeles.

Their Hollywood careers have seen peaks and valleys, but through it all their friendship has been a constant in their lives. That bond sets them apart from other film school grads living in L.A., based on what Sanders has seen.

“Florida State people have all stayed close together since school and that’s really unique compared to people from other film schools, who seem more mercenary, looking out for their own interests,” Sanders said. “The FSU people are a little more like family.”

“We definitely made lifelong friends that feel like family,” McMillon said. “It’s so cool to be part of something where creatively, you’re surrounded by people who are trying to achieve the same thing and you get to do it together.”

McMillon describes Florida State’s film school as a “hidden secret.”

“It’s a truly amazing film school because it challenges you to do every aspect of filmmaking,” McMillon said. “That makes you a better filmmaker by knowing what’s involved in other areas: what a writer has to do, a director and a cinematographer. Creatively, it makes you a more in-touch filmmaker. I think Florida State is one of the best film schools around and definitely one that will help you come into this industry more prepared than some other film schools will allow.”

“They put a camera in our hands the first weekend we were on campus,” Sanders remembered. “It was a great experience. Every weekend we would shoot 100 feet of film.

“We didn’t pay for equipment, film processing or anything. It was just the tuition and then you got to make all these films and get so much hands-on experience. The people I know who went to (other film schools) were paying $60,000 a year and then still had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to make their short films on top of it. They’re jealous of the experience we had at Florida State.”

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State begins process of issuing medical marijuana ID cards

Florida health officials who oversee the medical marijuana program have started processing identification card applications for patients and caregivers.

The cards, which are issued through the Office of Compassionate Use, are part of regulations passed by the Florida Legislature last year. Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambinieri says the rule became effective Feb. 19.

To apply for a card, a patient must be a Florida resident and qualify to receive medical marijuana. Current conditions covered are cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms, along with patients with terminal conditions.

Amendment 2, which was passed last year, expands the conditions to HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other similar conditions.

Gambinieri adds the department is in the process of updating their website to accept applications electronically.

Trulieve, one of the even companies in Florida authorized to dispense medical marijuana, said it will give patients a break on the cost of obtaining the card.

“Trulieve is offering a $75 credit off one order of $150 or more to make up for the cost of getting an ID card,” a company representative said in a statement. “Additionally, we are offering complimentary assistance with the application process, from filling out the application to turning in completed application packets. We want to make sure we minimize the burden on our patients.”

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Child welfare investigator, mother arrested for cocaine, heroin in home

A recently-fired employee of the Florida Department of Children and Families, who had worked as a child protection investigator since 2015, was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies on drug trafficking charges after a warrant was issued for her arrest, a spokesperson with the agency said Tuesday.

According to the Lakeland Ledger, Laymeshia Hicks, 25, turned herself into the Polk County Sheriff’s Office late Monday afternoon. She and her boyfriend, Xzaiveous Scott, 31, are each facing charges of trafficking in heroin, trafficking in cocaine, possession of a structure to traffic drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Deputies found the drugs in the master bedroom when they responded to an armed home-invasion call last Friday at the couple’s home, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Scott’s nephews, ages 16 and 18, were there when two intruders forced their way inside and ransacked the house Feb. 17, she said.

Investigators found 68 grams of heroin and 288 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of about $35,000, authorities said.

“The alleged actions of this individual are completely reprehensible and do not in any way reflect the values of the department” DCF spokeswoman Jessica Sims told FloridaPolitics.com late Tuesday. “We are charged with protecting the state’s most vulnerable individuals and we have extremely high standards for those tasked with carrying out this mission.

“Ms. Hicks was employed by the department in late 2015 as a child protective investigator after passing a level two background screening, and immediately upon learning of these charges, we began taking steps to terminate her employment. We will continue to assist law enforcement in any way possible,” Sims concluded.

According to the Bradenton Herald, Sheriff Grady Judd said Hicks’ 3-year-old child was living in the house.

“Are you kidding me?” Judd said. “Come on, girl, what is wrong with you?”

Judd said he thought the couple was victims of a home invasion, but he said Scott ran because he knew law enforcement would find drugs.

Scott came to the house during the investigation but later left. Detectives contacted both Scott and Hicks by phone, but they refused to meet or talk, the release said.

The Lakeland Ledger went on to give descriptions of the armed robbery suspects:

— A 5-foot, 11-inch to 6-foot, 1-inch-tall black man with a light complexion and skinny build. He was last seen wearing a camouflage-style sweatshirt and pants, black mask with a skull face, black shoes and gloves.

— A 5-foot, 10-inch-tall black man with a light complexion and husky build. He was last seen wearing a red/orange hooded sweatshirt, gray pants, black shoes, black bandanna, gray skull cap and black gloves.

Law enforcement asked that anyone with information about Scott’s whereabouts or with information regarding the robbery call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200, the Ledger reported.

Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous may call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477 or visit www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com, where they may be eligible for a cash reward.

Marilyn Meyer can be reached at marilyn.meyer@theledger.com. Follow her on Twitter @marilyn_ledger.

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Lens of time magnifies FSU experience for Oscar-nominated cinematographer

Oscar nominee and Florida State University alumnus James Laxton is coming off the best professional experience of his life on the film “Moonlight,” which is nominated for eight Academy Awards — including Best Picture.

Laxton earned an Oscar nomination for cinematography on the film and now, days before the 89th Academy Awards on Feb. 26, he’s still trying to process that news.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet. It definitely feels surreal but in a good way,” said Laxton from his California home. “It feels amazing.”

Laxton teamed up with six other Florida State film school alumni on “Moonlight,” including his good friend Barry Jenkins, who wrote and directed the film and earned Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Laxton knew something special was happening during the filming of “Moonlight” in the fall of 2015. The crew set up in Miami’s tough Liberty City neighborhood where Jenkins and playwright Tarell McCraney grew up just blocks away from each other. Laxton said he could feel a heightened intensity unfolding during filming.

“You do feel a certain sense when you’re on set with the energy and the spirit that seems to be palpable among the collaborators around you that something special is happening,” Laxton said. “But that’s a very personal thing and not necessarily something that you feel confident would connect with as many people as ‘Moonlight’ has.”

Laxton and Jenkins met at Florida State about 15 years ago, when they shared classes in the College of Motion Picture Arts, as well as a four-bedroom house near campus. The roommates came from very different backgrounds: Laxton was from San Francisco and had grown up visiting film sets with his mother, who was a costume designer. Jenkins channeled the difficulties of his Liberty City childhood into academics and sports, and he excelled in the classroom, track and football.

But at Florida State, the two students discovered they had more similarities than differences.

“We just connected on a number of levels,” said Laxton, who graduated with Jenkins in 2003. “At the very beginning, we watched films together, talked about films together and learned what inspired and connected us. It became very clear, very quickly that we had a lot of common instinctual connections in a visual sense.

“What attracted him to filmmaking visually, attracted me to filmmaking as well. The conversations just started. When we started making short films in school, what we wanted those to look like became almost effortless conversations because we had this background of knowing what inspired each other on a personal level.”

The Jenkins-Laxton cinematic partnership grew at Florida State and continued after graduation. Laxton has become Jenkins’ go-to guy for cinematography because of their history, mindset, friendship and chemistry — all elements that together become invaluable on a film set.

“The majority of the work I’ve done has been with James,” Jenkins said. “There are things I want to set up that are very spontaneous and James is great with that. If I come up with something on the fly, I don’t have to explain every detail of why or how because James and I have the same shorthand. When you’re making a film, you want to operate with as much trust as possible.”

Laxton believes that kind of trust shared among the FSU alumni on “Moonlight” is a key reason the film has succeeded with crowds and critics.

“It allows us not to second-guess one another and to trust that someone is onto something,” Laxton said. “Let’s support them, let’s keep moving in that direction, let’s keep creating without hesitation. We all felt very at ease and trusting. That supports the creative spirit the film wanted and needed from us.”

Laxton looks back on his FSU experience as a very special time in his life in a unique location. As a native of San Francisco, he’d never experienced a place with the distinctive southern beauty of Tallahassee — the landscape of northern Florida made the learning process even more memorable. And, he discovered the school’s nurturing environment set it apart from other strong film schools around the country.

“I think not being in a major industry hub like L.A. or New York allowed me to learn the craft in a way that felt very personal, safe and comfortable,” Laxton said. “There was never the added pressure of feeling like I needed to get an internship at a studio or find commercial work as a production assistant.”

So what’s next for Laxton? The immediate future includes a new HBO project, and he’s reading lots of scripts. But he understands it will be tough to re-create his extraordinary experience working with his FSU family on “Moonlight.” It gave him a rare chance to contribute a personal perspective, or what he calls his “voice,” to a film that created such an intimate bond with so many people.

Those are the thoughts he’s been turning over in his mind since the release of “Moonlight” last October and becoming part of the film’s wild ride. Laxton is thinking about the concept of voice in filmmaking — something he thinks would be a valuable exercise for today’s film students — and he’s examining how the truths of his voice influence his work.

“The advice I would give is, just think about who you are and where you come from,” Laxton said. “What your perspectives are in the world. Be conscious of those ideas and allow them to come through how you approach a project visually.”

As for getting the FSU film school family back together on a future film project, Laxton said he’d jump at the chance to work again with his old friends and college roommate.

“I definitely would love to work with Barry again,” Laxton said. “We definitely intend to collaborate as long as we’re standing on two feet.”

Via the Florida State University News.

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Drs. Christine Laramée, Chad Masters: ‘Three Cs’ – choose the right health care at the right time

If you start having chest pains or receive a head injury, you probably realize you should go to the emergency room (ER) right away.

But for medical issues that are urgent but not an emergency – such as a sinus infection or an ankle injury – many people aren’t sure whether they should go to the emergency room, a walk-in care center or their primary care physician (PCP). One way to make the right choice is to think of the “three Cs”: condition, convenience and cost.

Condition:

The seriousness of your condition is the most important concern. If you experience a life-threatening illness or serious injury, seek care at the ER immediately. Illnesses and injuries that require an ER visit include head injuries, coughing up or vomiting blood, severe burns, paralysis and chest pains. Less urgent health issues such as fever, flu, earache, pink eye, urinary tract infection and cold can be treated either at a walk-in care center or your doctor’s office. Most walk-in care centers can also perform X-rays, electrocardiogram tests, blood tests, minor surgery, stitches, and treatment for broken bones and sprains.

Convenience:

The second factor to consider is convenience. PCPs often have limited office hours and require an appointment. But for some medical conditions, waiting for an appointment may be difficult. For example, if you wake up with a urinary tract infection on Saturday morning, it may be very uncomfortable to wait until Monday for a doctor’s appointment. Walk-in care centers are typically open seven days a week and don’t require an appointment.  Emergency rooms are open 24/7, but often have long wait times for non-emergency care.

Cost:

Third, consider the cost. Under most health benefit plans, patients pay a low or no co-pay to visit their doctor.  A visit to a walk-in care center typically has a higher co-pay but costs less than the ER. In addition, tests and treatments performed at the ER are usually more expensive than if they were performed at an outpatient center. According to UnitedHealthcare data, in Florida, the average cost for a non-emergency ER visit is $1,500 to $2,000, compared to $150 to $200 on average for a visit to an urgent care center.

The most important factor in choosing the right care setting is that you get the care you need. Choosing the right place for you – depending on your condition, convenience and cost – can make a big difference and save you money.

___

Dr. Christine Laramée is Medical Director of United Healthcare of Central and North Florida; Dr. Chad Masters is Regional Medical Director for Florida for MedExpress.

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Chancery High gives hope, future for struggling Orange County students

Estefania Rivera enrolled in her zoned public high school as the new girl, but the bullying became too much for her to handle.

Merciless in their torment, the other kids “mobbed and harassed” her every day. It reached the point where Rivera didn’t want to go to school anymore.

“I had no friends,” she said. “So, they thought there was something wrong with me.”

So, Rivera just quit going to school. When the bus came, she’d wait outside. When her parents were gone, she’d just go back inside and watch TV and do “anything except school.”  She eventually just dropped out.

Eventually, she realized she must do something to continue her education; a year later she went back to her high school and tried to re-enroll. But Rivera was too far behind in her studies to graduate within a reasonable amount of time in a traditional high school setting.

That was where Chancery High School comes in. Chancery is one of several charter schools operated by Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS), which is hired by nonprofit boards to run dropout prevention and recovery charter schools.

At Chancery, students who have fallen behind in Orange County public schools can work at their own pace with the assistance of certified teachers. The school is set up for students who, for whatever reason, have fallen so far behind in studies a chance to complete their education.

Coming to Chancery, students voluntarily sign agreement consent for enrollment; parents must sign off as well if the child is under 18.

The bulk of students enrolling are around 18 years old, have typically fallen 4 to 5 years behind grade level in reading and math and have far-below-average GPAs and number of course credits.

Forty-nine percent of the student body at ALS schools in Orange County are pregnant, parenting or responsible for the care of a sibling(s); 44 percent have part-time or full-time jobs to help support themselves or their families.

Angela Whitford-Narine, president of Chancery and other regional schools under the ALS banner, says the school’s ethos is that not every student learns at the same pace. ALS schools offer flexible schedules that help meet student’s needs, she said.

“It’s 100 percent symbiotic with the authorizing school district,” Whitford-Narine said. “Education is not one-size-fits-all. Some students need something different.”

Whitford-Narine boasts that her principals and staff know every student’s name. As she walked the halls and inspected various classrooms — each full of students quietly and diligently learning on computers — she spoke to students personally, using a casual, friendly manner. They all responded in kind.

Rivera said for her, the system works better — she’s not bullied anymore and her attendance is up. She feels better, also, when working at her own pace.

“The kids are mature here,” she said. “There is no bullying.”

After graduation, Rivera wants to attend a technical school and study nursing or veterinary studies.

“I like helping people,” she said. “I like making them feel better.”

Chancery strives to make life easier for those students whose life circumstances don’t allow them the free time to finish their high school education as normal. Whitford-Narine said some of her students are single parents, while others need to care for a sick or disabled parent or a younger sibling.

Some, Whitford-Narine added, can’t make it to school on time because they must wait until siblings get on the bus to go to school, since no one else in the family is available.

Briuna Glover, 18, is the mother of a two-year-old girl; she found Chancery to be a refreshing alternative to balance completing her education with raising a daughter. She’s a member of the schools parenting assistance program, and the school’s flexible schedule allows her to get up and take care of her daughter in the morning, then go to school in the afternoon.

“She’s not a morning person,” Glover said of her daughter. “She doesn’t like to get up so early.”

While Glover attends school, her daughter is at a nearby day care with the childcare fees paid for as part of the parenting program offered at Chancery.

For others, Chancery is simply a better option.

Maria Benenche, 19, didn’t have a dramatic life circumstance preventing her from going to school. She just wasn’t engaged at her previous school.

“I didn’t take school seriously,” she said. “I had a lot of friends. It was hard to concentrate.”

A health problem forced her to miss a significant portion of her junior year. When she came back, the best option for her instead was Chancery.

And the different opportunities offered there, such as more one-on-one time with instructors, have helped her be more interested in learning.

“Regular school classes are 45 minutes,” she said. “There’s no time to take in what you learned. I didn’t retain much. Now if I need help, I can have one-on-one time with a teacher. My friends and family have told me I’m more serious and more determined since I came here.”

When she finishes, she says she wants to go to college to study photography — preferably somewhere on the coast.

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Blake Dowling: Smart delivery – a new disruption

The Leon County Research and Development Authority called the other day and asked me to give a chat about artificial intelligence.

I gave them the standard JJ-from-Good-Times response … Dyn-o-mite! … love to, thanks for thinking about me!

They had read something on AI I had put together for INFLUENCE Magazine last year and thought I would be a great “expert” on the subject.

I am no expert, ladies and gents, but I am a true believer in the cause that one should embrace all things.

So, I set out on a perilous journey to find something interesting to discuss with these fabulous folks. What you will read here is my dramatic exploration into a world of machines and the discovery that the Terminator series is a prophecy and we are all doomed! Just being dramatic to get your attention.

We may be doomed, we may be blessed, we will see where the future takes us, in the meantime …

I was talking to the team at Greenberg Traurig (Leslie Dughi, Gus Corbella and Michael Moody); they asked me if I had heard of Starship Technologies.

My first thought was “terrible name, folks,” with an image in my head of Starship Troopers (Denise Richards rocks, she should have won an award for her gutsy performance). But diving in, I was intrigued by what these cats were up to.

Starship was founded by the team that brought you Skype, and what they bring to the market is called a Personal Delivery Device (PDD) which they say will “transform” local delivery.

These wicked little bots are on wheels, cruising the sidewalks to bring whatever you seek. They can carry the about three bags of groceries and head straight to your door.

Partners in this venture range from Mercedes to Just Eat, both of whom (for obvious reasons) would like to get in on the ground floor.

If you are going to have a robot on wheels, it might as well be a Mertz: The best robot or nothing.

So, what are the uses? Grocery stores, FedEx, and restaurants, for starters. Other things to consider; the robot is locked, so robbing it would be difficult.

How far along are these folks? They have commercial trials going on in the U.S., Germany and Switzerland right now. So far, their robots have traveled 9,500 miles in 56 cities, all without any recorded incidents, while encountering an estimated 1,700,000 people.

Electrically powered, these robots have zero emissions, so that the lefty green crowd can applaud. They operate as true robots, learning routes and sharing routes with the other robots (Skynet-like world take over), and they have a range of about 3 miles before needing to return home for a charge (and secretly plan to take over the world, presumably).

Keep an eye on the Virginia legislature, which is on the verge of approving the use of PDDs on sidewalks statewide.

All kidding aside, “disruption” is a word used in tech all the time. Well, here we go again. This is awesome, cool and is happening now.

Look to see these disruptors potentially hit the streets in force next year; and get ready for a Starship heading your way soon – pending some massive lobbying.

To close today’s piece, let’s stick to the Starship theme and roll out some 80s lyrics …

And we can build this dream together

Standing strong forever

Nothing’s gonna stop us now

And if this world runs out of lovers

We’ll still have each other

Nothing’s gonna stop us now

STARSHIP – Nothing’s going to stop us now – 1986 (from the “Mannequin” soundtrack, for which it is well suited. Arrrgh.)

 ____

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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