Features, Local

Helping the homeless find homes, jobs and schooling

Health, Local

Widow starts charity for firefighters with Parkinson’s

For Miami Herald.

Shortly after marrying John Somerville, his wife Donna noticed a drastic change in his behavior: He was walking differently and his face had turned blank.

“It was like he had a stroke,’’ said Donna, who later learned her husband had Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that develops gradually and causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

John was an avid athlete who had no previous health issues and had retired as a fire captain. He had worked for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue for 31 years.

Donna, a former educator with Miami-Dade Schools, scrambled to figure out how to take care of her husband for the next eight years. He died on Jan. 7. He was 62.

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Booker T. Washington on the verge of unveiling state-of-the-art planetarium

For Miami Herald.

Booker T. Washington is on the verge of unveiling a newly renovated planetarium, which will be the centerpiece for the school’s new astronomy magnet program that will begin in August.

The facility is the first of its kind at a Miami-Dade school, which the school hopes will encourage more interest in its program as the deadline to register is approaching.

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Ground broken for family aquatic center in West Perrine Park

For Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade County Parks broke ground for a new $5.9 million family aquatic center at West Perrine Park at 10301 SW 170th Ter. last Saturday.

The ceremony was led by Miami-Dade County District 9 Commissioner Dennis C. Moss. There was about 30 people in attendance.

When Moss began his term, he was committed to building a pool in West Perrine.

“We are going to make good on the promise that I made,” he said. “This will be a state of the art swimming pool and the community is going to be very pleased.”

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Girl, 16, who claims teacher took her virginity, sues Miami-Dade School Board

For Miami Herald.

A former South Dade Senior High student is suing the Miami-Dade County School Board for not providing her with better protection from her teacher who sent her lewd texts and had sex with the minor.

The 16-year-old, who goes by the initials C.R.R., is also asking for damages from her former geometry teacher Bresnniel Jansen Mones, who the lawsuit claims sent her graphic texts and took her virginity on his desk in December 2013.

The suit asks for monetary damages and claims neglect on behalf of the School Board, which it says knew of a similar incident at the same school also involving Mones, five years ago.

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Local, Uncategorized

Gobbling up bargains: Holiday shopping kicks into high gear in South Florida

For Miami Herald.


Hector Perez camped out for more than 29 hours at Best Buy, to be first in line to snag a 50-inch Panasonic TV for $199, speakers and a tablet.

“Between all that, I’ll save 500 bucks,” said Perez, 32, of Westchester, who arrived at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday to await the store’s 5 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving. “So it’s worth it.”

Nearby, Natalie Leon and her fiancé Leonardo Gonzalez had gotten in line at 6 a.m. on Thursday to get the same doorbuster TV and a GoPro camera.

“We’re getting married in June, so it’s the first TV for our new apartment, and the GoPro camera is for our honeymoon” — a weeklong cruise in the Caribbean, said Leon, 23, of Westchester.

Across South Florida, the holiday shopping season kicked into high gear on Thanksgiving Day, as many stores paraded their wares in a flurry of doorbusters, deals and discounts. At some stores, lines snaked around buildings hundreds-thick, as shoppers salivated — for deals.

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Fitness, Health

Get a smart start to the school year with these fitness programs

For Miami Herald.


Making sure kids eat the right foods and exercise during the school year is a tough task for most parents. But, for one 12-year-old, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has become part of her daily routine.

Aisha Chebbi, a seventh-grader at George Washington Carver Middle School in Coconut Grove, started by giving up soda.

“Sprite was my favorite soda,” Aisha said. “Some people don’t know that they are really bad for you, they can cause heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

The next step came when she joined a before-school, hour-long exercise program. She arrived at school at 7:45 a.m. to fit the class into her school day, which began at 9 a.m. “This is where I came up with a lot of ideas about how to make kids healthier.”

Aisha wrote a letter to first lady Michelle Obama, telling her of two initiatives she wanted to develop for students throughout the county: “8 before 8” and “No Sugar for Breakfast.”

In 8 before 8, Aisha wants to emphasize that kids should drink eight glasses of water a day. Aisha carries a water bottle to school so she can hydrate throughout the day. The No Sugar for Breakfast program would make parents and students aware of healthier options for breakfast other than sugary cereals.

“If kids have sugar for breakfast, they are prone to have more sugar and fats in their diet,” said Aisha, who switched from sugary cereals to eating oatmeal or eggs, fresh fruit and drinking milk or water.

After school, she began swimming and playing tennis at a local park.

Obama responded to Aisha’s letter, encouraging her to join her Let’s Move! initiative. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation recently selected Aisha to serve as a Youth Ambassador on the 2014-15 Youth Advisory Board, which focuses on reversing the childhood obesity epidemic.

“When you’re more active and eat better, you feel better and you do better in school,” she said. “You’re more confident.”

Here are places and programs in Miami-Dade County for kids to get on a healthier track.

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Education, Events

Museum brings art to Miami-Dade summer-camp kids

For Miami Herald.

Starting with a pile of colorful twist-ties — those flat, wired ribbons that keep your bread in the bag — two dozen Miami-Dade kids made frogs, spiders and hats.

The kids, ages 5 to 14, then attached their creations to the ceiling of a community center at Juan Pablo Duarte Park in Allapattah, creating a larger work of art.

The art-making exercise was part of the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s outreach program, “PAMM in the Neighborhood,” in which the museum traveled to more than 70 camps and community centers throughout Miami-Dade County, from North Miami Beach down to Richmond Heights. The project reached more than 8,000 budding artists.

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Coral Gables police department and disability group create ID cards for people with autism

What happens when lawyers, an academic institution and the police department get together?

The creation of wallet cards, a communication tool used to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder in situations where they would be in contact with law enforcement.

“This card is going to be an aid,” said Lt. Bart Barta of the Coral Gables Police Department, who has a son in elementary school with autism. “We don’t want police officers or first responders to misinterpret the behaviors and the actions that individuals with autism might be having.”

The group behind the wallets cards, Disability Independence Group (DIG), University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and the Coral Gables Police Department recently won $5,000 in the Philanthropy Miami Shark Tank, a competition launched by Leave a Legacy of Miami-Dade.

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