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Chris Latvala sponsoring bill proposed by local high school students

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

State Rep. Chris Latvala has filed a bill conceived by two Countryside High School students.

House Bill 1147 would require the state Commissioner of Education to create a high school elective course for some students to provide lessons in life skills, leadership development, college planning, and a study hall.

Under the bill the State Board of Education would be authorized to adopt the new curriculum.

The legislation comes as a result of Latvala’s “That Ought to be a Law” contest.

“I am truly excited to be sponsoring this piece of legislation, which we selected out of dozens of student responses from high schools in Clearwater and Largo. I also look forward to having the students come to Tallahassee to present their bill in front of a committee stop with me, and help to engage them in the legislative process,” Latvala said.

Sophomore Hannah Abrahams and senior Emily Cunningham came up with the idea for the bill under the guidance of teacher Helen Tait. Abrahams is a student in Countryside High’s Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or ISTEM. Abrahams takes both advanced placement and honors courses.

Her passion though is singing, dancing and acting. The young student hopes to go to a four-year university and dreams of one day performing on Broadway.

Cunningham plans to study anthropology in college and hopes to one day become a museum curator.

The girls’ teacher has been an educator at Countryside High for more than 12 years. She teaches U.S. Government and enjoys instilling in students a sense of responsibility at citizens.

Latvala’s father, Jack Latvala, is presenting the proposed law in the Florida Senate. If approved and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott it would become effective July 1, 2016. The bill is targeted toward high school students who are involved in their community, work and participate in extra curricular activities.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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