How Tampa Bay college students can help protect monarch butterflies

How Tampa Bay college students can help protect monarch butterflies

By Mason Moore

ST. PETERSBURG—Have you ever wondered why you may be seeing fewer monarch butterflies?

Well, the monarch butterfly, also known as its scientific name Danaus Plexippus, is struggling to successfully make its annual migration to the west. But there are ways Tampa Bay locals, including college students, can help the species along with other important insects.

The International Union of Conservation for Nature reported that “monarch butterflies’ population have been declining rapidly over the last 40 years due to issues such as climate change, disease, and harmful pesticides.”

Butterflies are one of the most important and helpful pollinators alongside other insects. And just simply planting a native pollinating plant and reducing your use of chemical pesticides in the yard or garden can help save them from endangerment.

Monarchs are slowly losing their host plant called milkweed, on which they feed and lay their eggs. It is encouraged to plant only native milkweed according to where you live. If not, it places the butterflies in areas they typically wouldn’t be, and they are prone to freezing.

A monarch butterfly perches on milkweed at Willow Tree Nursery in St. Petersburg. Photo by Mason Moore

Dale McClung is the owner of the Florida Monarch Butterfly Farm in St. Petersburg. The farm has been in business supplying local butterflies since 1996, up until this year when McClung decided to shut down the farm to go into his retirement.

He said that the best thing to do is, “Create habitats. Plant milkweed for monarchs. Plant other host plants for other butterflies and moths.”

Some St. Petersburg plant shops that sell Florida native milkweed for butterflies are Dolin’s Garden Center at 801 62nd Ave N. and Terah Gardens at 200 49th St. N.

In Tampa, Citrus Park Landscape Nursery at 8334 Gunn Highway also sells native milkweed.

Planting native milkweed gives monarch butterflies food and energy, but it also gives a safe place for them to lay their eggs after they reproduce.

McClung advocated for protecting other insects that are on the decline as well, such as moths, who don’t get as much love as butterflies.

“Insects, in general, are in decline, not just butterflies. If you want to bring butterflies to your yard, simply plant the right plants. Nobody thinks of moths, but they’re important too. There are many more moth species than butterflies, but they lack the good PR butterflies receive,” McClung said.

The USF St. Petersburg Garden Club has big plans to help the monarch population this year.

“I hope that this is the year we get the RHO garden together because I heard many years ago it used to be a great and wonderful place to get free herbs and fruit, I definitely want to bring that back,” club president Lucinda Duah said.

Lucinda plans to reach out to an organization called monarchwatch.org, which sends free milkweed plants to schools and nonprofits. They hope to create a butterfly garden flourishing with milkweed along with other native plants in the RHO garden at USFS within the near future.

“I want to help put out some signs in the garden and around the school to educate people. Because when they’re not aware, they just don’t care” Lucinda said.

Landmark St. Pete artist’s absence leaves residents yearning for more

Landmark St. Pete artist’s absence leaves residents yearning for more

A friendly familiar face has been missing from the Saturday Morning Market for several months.

By Emily Zambrano

ST. PETERSBURG – With every St. Petersburg landmark you can think of, there’s a painting of it signed “Juan Santos Garanton” in someone’s room.

Having sold more than 1,000 paintings, Garanton is renowned in the St. Pete community for turning everyday sights into iconic landmarks for residents and visitors through his watercolor paintings. The presence of his art at the Saturday Morning Market, located downtown, will be missed as his absence continues.

Garanton hasn’t attended the market in a few months so he can support his wife, ChiChi Garanton, as she battles breast cancer. ChiChi has been by his side through all his adventures, and now it’s his turn to be there for her.

“That’s ChiChi, my wife… she’s my muse,” Garanton said when reminiscing on old sketchbooks.

Garanton says that this break is temporary and that he will return to share more of his art with the community.

With the hope of one day traveling back to their hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, to paint the landmarks holding the memories from their childhood, Garanton’s style continues to develop, and ChiChi continues to smile proudly at the years of hard work she has witnessed.

With a profound bond like theirs, they will bring about wonders to be loved by all.

Juan Santos Garanton’s painting studio is in the St. Petersburg home he’s shared with his wife for the last 40 years.
Photo by Emily Zambrano

After meeting in St. Petersburg in 1979, when Garanton was studying at Eckerd College, they moved to South Florida, where he earned his degree in advertising design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Their next adventure was getting married and moving back to Venezuela within three days of his graduation. They could only stay away from St. Pete for a couple of years, and eventually came back and moved into their current home of 40 years.

Now, they are facing the fight against cancer together.

As a member of the St. Pete community for so many years, he has watched it continue to change and develop. He has been going to the Saturday Morning Market for 20 years and was one of its first vendors.

“When it first started, we just looked like seven idiots,” Garanton said. “And then it just grew and grew.”

It was at this market that Garanton became known for his paintings of St. Pete. As a non-believer in prints, every piece he sells is an original Garanton, an image transferred straight from his eyes and heart onto a canvas.

“Having his paintings makes me so happy to look at,” St. Pete resident Kate Walker said. “I have a painting of Ceviche, and it reminds me of all the memories I have there. I have been wanting to get more of his pieces and have no idea where to find him since he hasn’t been at the market in a while.”

Although Garanton and ChiChi are taking a break from the market, fans don’t have to worry about saying goodbye forever. They plan to make a reappearance next season and are excited to be back in that environment.

“A lot of people love everything he does,” ChiChi said. “Plus what we love about the market is the stories, it’s wonderful, and the memories people share.”

Despite the challenges he has faced, Garanton has found ways to follow his passion and share his work with the world. His latest focus: abstract oil paintings.

“Watercolor is my forte, but this is more freedom,” Garanton said. “I’ve been dealing with all these personal things but when I paint these, I feel like I’m going in the right direction.”

Garanton is submitting his work to be on display at the Art Fusion Museum in downtown St. Pete. His work was recently on display at the Dali Museum in a special exhibition, along with 11 other local artists.

As a strong believer in the power and diversity of art, Garanton encourages anyone and everyone to let their emotions flow and express themselves in their own style of art.

“Just do it,” Garanton said. “I think just do not critique yourself, just do what you feel. Let it flow. You can make art with anything. For some people it’s garbage, for other people it’s art.”

The style of art that Garanton will be sharing in the future may be different from his watercolors, but it is guaranteed that the art he shares will hold a sense of passion and freedom. His latest creations demonstrate his love for painting in its truest form.

To Garanton, art is meant to be shared. It is meant to be seen and appreciated by other people, and with the endless walls of canvases gathered in his studio, his impact on the St. Pete community is far from over.

You can find more of his work on his website, https://www.juansantosgaranton.com/.

Guiding towards faith and liberation

Guiding towards faith and liberation

By Sierra Laico

ST. PETERSBURG—In a city known to locals for being progressive and passionate about social causes, it is no surprise that the city is home to Allendale United Methodist Church (UMC), a church that welcomes all walks of life.

A congregation like this requires a revolutionary leader—and they found one in Reverend Andy Oliver.

Oliver, 42, has been the Senior Pastor at Allendale UMC since 2016. Born in St. Petersburg and having grown up all over the state of Florida, he returned to his birthplace after his years of social justice work, including doing grassroots organizing in Chicago.

His journey to get to where he is now was not uncurving. After attending seminary school at Duke Divinity School, he served two United Methodist Churches in Fort Lauderdale and Lakeland. After that, he felt he was not serving in the way he was supposed to—so he left to become a bartender. While bartending, he met a community organizer, who told him he was going to make an organizer out of Oliver. They protested Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and he joined in the efforts of legalizing gay marriage, among many other efforts.

In 2012, he took a job in Chicago as communications director for the Reconciling Ministries Network, a network United Methodists organized for full inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. And four years later, Oliver was appointed to Allendale—a church that was experiencing nearly 50 years of decline.

He turned the church around almost immediately. Oliver told the Tampa Bay Times in 2020 that “the church had nothing to lose. We embraced the urgency. I practiced ministry without fear.”

Reverend Andy Oliver wears a stole with an LGBTQ+ rainbow flag pin and a Black Power fist on it as he poses with the Allendale UMC sign.
Courtesy of Andy Oliver

Since he became pastor of Allendale, the church has become involved in various community outreach projects and social justice movements such as immigration rights, farm workers’ rights, rights for the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a recent post by the Allendale UMC Facebook group, the church celebrated Oliver’s seven-year anniversary since being appointed as pastor of the church.

The flooding of over two dozen congratulatory comments spoke volumes about how valued Oliver is by the community.

“Great news! We started going back to church because of Andy,” Allendale UMC church-goer Ed Lally said. “Not afraid to speak up about injustices here and around the world.”

Despite the agreeable community that has been formed within Allendale, the subheading on the church’s website reads “A community of seekers, followers, and doubters.” With this, Oliver and members of the Allendale community embrace skepticism and doubt, too.

“Skepticism, questions and doubting—those things are welcome. I think those are a part of one’s faith. We want people to question and to ask questions. We have a lot of people who are part of us who are atheists,” Oliver said. “We’re all on a different point on this journey and trying to figure it out together, and we can best figure that out in community with each other.”

When skepticism and doubt are discussed regarding Christianity, criticism of the church arises when arriving at the topic of the Christian church’s decades-old, overarching intolerance of the LGBTQ+ community, abortion rights, and other progressive ideals. However, Allendale UMC places great emphasis on supporting community outreach projects and progressive values.

“This church and community [are] a blessing and what all Christian churches ought to strive for,” said Jen Lamont, a member of the church’s Facebook page.

Not only do skeptics arrive in the form of individuals, but they also present themselves as neighboring churches. While Allendale pairs with other churches in the Tampa Bay community, they have run into opposition from other congregations about certain things the church believes. Oliver says that although the church may receive pushback at first, it does not always stay that way.

“[The church Allendale partners with on a community project] might not be a church that is fully welcoming to LGBTQ+ people, for example,” Oliver said. “But because they get to know us working on housing, they start to realize that they might be wrong about the LGBTQ+ community. We start to see some growth.”

When asked if Oliver had anything he would say to someone that is interested in joining Allendale’s community, he has a simple yet fruitful answer.

“Allendale United Methodist Church is a community that is open to all people who want to be in community with other people who are trying to figure out life, and to work together in solidarity for liberation of all people,” He said.

Local freelance social media manager’s days revolve around engagement

Social media is a big part of everyone’s life. For Nicole Billing, her world revolves around it.

By Emily Zambrano

ST. PETERSBURG – Nicole Billing is thriving as a freelance social media manager and has been since May 2021.

Her days include multiple moving parts that demonstrate how much work goes into managing popular social media sites when you’re passionate about what you do.

“When you run a popular account, it’s easy to feel like you’ve made someone’s day by interacting, which just feels wholesome and nice,” Billing said.

Every freelance job requires discipline and planning, and over the years Billing has developed a productive and fun workday for herself.

“The great thing about social media management is that every day looks somewhat similar so it’s easy to fall into a routine,” Billing said.

Billing’s routine consists of making a checklist of everything that needs to be done for the day. This can include engagement, stat tracking, creating campaigns, etc. By allotting a certain amount of time for each task, Billing is able to ensure she spends her time wisely and effectively.

Nicole Billing has been a freelance journalist and social media manager for the last two years.
Courtesy of Nicole Billing

She likes to start her day slowly through engagement, which usually consists of scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, commenting on posts and replying to comments on the company’s page. After this, she checks her email for any messages from brand partners, making sure to stay in touch with them in regards to any questions or assets (promo codes, images, etc.) they may have.

Billing spends most of her day working on email blasts that are sent out to subscribers. These are email campaigns that partners pay for to promote their product, and Billing works with them to create it. She generally works on three to five of these a day.

In between all these moving pieces, she makes sure to keep her calendar and schedule up to date to keep everything balanced in her routine.

Billing makes sure to create a checklist of these tasks every day. Dividing her time in this way allows her to avoid any missed or late deadlines.

“I make sure that everything gets done in advance so that there is wiggle room to correct mistakes or push trendy content,” Billing said.

Whether it be an Instagram post, story, reel, giveaway or any other visual content you might find on her pages, Billing makes sure to schedule engaging with followers and replying to comments into her day. This helps her appreciate the successful feeling that comes with these interactions, as well as learn what content the audience likes to see.

An example of this was when Billing would run a Facebook Live every Friday; the audience loved her and her team, and she was constantly engaging the audience, according to the Facebook account @GlutenFreeandMore.

A few months ago, Billing was working full-time as a social media manager for Simply Gluten-Free. With this position, she was working a typical 9-5 and worked with colleagues to ensure everything was done right and on time.

“When I worked with her, Nicole was always willing to lend a helping hand no matter how busy she was and always came up with innovative new ideas,” Billing’s former co-worker Julia Gennocro said.

Now, working freelance, her days are fully under her own control. This kind of job comes with a lot of responsibility, but Billing is able to keep herself disciplined and focused and gets just as much work done as she would in a regular office.

She recommends using social media management checklists that can be found online for anyone starting off with this type of work.

Right now, Billing is working with mostly allergen-friendly food/wine companies, such as Planet Oat, Pastene, Cocina 54 and several more. Although she would like to explore more niches in the future, she loves watching the reactions and engagement of this audience.

“Watching how much engagement [posts get when they perform well] makes me feel successful at my job and like I was making a difference for those in the allergen-friendly community,” Billing said.

Right now, out of all the social media platforms out there, Billing’s favorites are Instagram and TikTok.

“I think that humans are visual creatures and this is the ultimate way to attract their attention,” Billing said. “They also tend to feel more personal, which is great for connecting with your audience and forming relationships.”

Social media has a large role in today’s world. It’s people like Billing who have a huge impact on what we see, so it’s important to consider their opinions on what they do.

“Ultimately, I believe that social media is a great tool for keeping us connected, sharing information, and promoting one’s business or product,” Billing said.

However, she also agrees that social media can be detrimental to a person’s health if used incorrectly, and the breaks and moderation of use are essential. She emphasized the importance of remembering that social media feeds are branding tools and that not everything that is online is real.

Currently, Billing is enrolled in a Digital Marketing Certification course so she can take her career to the next step. She will be incorporating this course into her daily work routine for the next six months in hopes of learning more in the marketing/branding field.

Another thing that Billing is working toward is combining her passion for talking and communicating with people with her passion for social media. The end goal: become a radio program or podcast host.

Traffic Advertising’s fluffiest employee specializes in tail pitches

Traffic Advertising’s fluffiest employee specializes in tail pitches

Social media specialist Brooke Nolan often uses Lily Bella the Shih-Tzu as inspiration for advertising content.

By Mikayla Lewis

PALM HARBOR, FL – While seated at her desk enjoying her boost of morning caffeine, Brooke Nolan is greeted by a small, fluffy thing: Lily Bella. The elderly Shih-Tzu fueled the inspiration for a day’s worth of social media posts at Traffic Advertising.

Nolan, 22, spends most of her day glued to a bright red iPad, producing social media content for over 13 car dealerships in Florida. She’s been with the company for about a year, continually growing in her own craft and expanding her horizons within the companies she works for.

“Traffic Advertising is a full-service marketing and advertising agency in Palm Harbor, providing clients with a range of services including traditional media buying (such as radio and print), social media marketing, digital marketing, and more. We have clients throughout the country ranging from automotive to hospitality,” said Shana Moran, the digital director at Traffic Advertising.

Nolan starts off the day like most by checking her social media accounts; only, she does this pretty much all day. It sounds like a Gen-Z dream to spend all day browsing Instagram and Facebook, but Nolan puts more effort into the posts she makes than the casual food pictures and filter-ridden selfies that saturate social media platforms.

Nolan has gained a reputation in her office for finding opportunities in the mundane, or areas one might not normally explore.

“I look for inspiration all around me. From national days to other brands’ content, to even music. It’s all about trusting the process,” Nolan said.

Nolan used Lily Bella as her inspiration for a stream of Instagram story posts on Traffic Advertising’s account, serving as an example of how Nolan utilizes her surroundings to create interesting content.

Lily Bella is Traffic Advertising’s fluffiest employee. Courtesy of Brooke Nolan

A lot of Nolan’s posts revolve around relevancy to months or seasons, holidays, current events or trends by creating eye-grabbing visuals. She most often uses Canva to create Instagram and Facebook content – the company currently only works through these two social media platforms, and soon, they will expand to Twitter.

There was a clear shift in content when Nolan started at Traffic Advertising – she goes the extra mile to create interactive content.

“A lot of content creators in the scene have stuck to the old ways, from advertisement strategies, to not putting effort into social media,” Nolan said. “And I came from a background in film and music. Plus, I’m a lot younger for my role, and that allows me to put my own twist on it.”

She brings a creative outlook to the company through her background working in the arts. The current idea she is working on is an adoption event at Volkswagen Wesley Chapel, which only opened a year ago. May is national pet month, making a pet-related event relevant, especially because it’s for a good cause. She plans on using organic posts to boost the event, as well as creating an Instagram filter and reaching out to local animal shelters to collaborate.

Nolan has put time and effort into curating posts for their clients and has had success in promoting and covering events before.

Brooke Nolan, the social media specialist at Traffic Advertising, uses her iPad to do most of her daily tasks. Courtesy of Brooke Nolan

“My most successful post would have to be a family Halloween event I photographed at Hyundai New Port Richey,” Nolan said. “It got a few thousand impressions organically. I also got to see how impactful events are on the community.”

While Nolan is the creative mind behind Traffic Advertising’s content, Dan Consoli acts as a curator of sorts. Consoli is the social media manager and oversees the content before it is put out. He is a first-time social media manager but has worked with social media at other jobs in the past. He works with the budget and manages all social media content before they are posted to clients’ pages.

“My favorite part of my job is creating a well-performing ad with the ever-changing landscape of Facebook Ads Manager,” Consoli. “With Facebook’s updates that seem to come out of nowhere constantly messing with your ads, it feels nice to be up to speed and use those changes to optimize my ads rather than fall prey to them.”

Consoli has also found success in advertising events with Nolan. Together, they created a buy-back event in March for a client.

“It maintained one of the lowest cost-per-result and highest messaging rates that this company has seen in the last few months,” Consoli said.

The social media team at Traffic Advertising composed of Nolan and Consoli reflects the significance of successful advertising and event planning and execution through social media. Creating interactive, eye-grabbing and relevant content is a key component in sales success within an ever-changing, technologically evolved society. As trends ebb and flow, advertisers have to stay on their toes.

Swim trunks and miraculous circumstances

Swim trunks and miraculous circumstances

How borrowing a pair of swim trunks and trying to win back your girlfriend can land you on the front page of The New York Times.

By Sierra Laico

SARASOTA—As he flips through pages of notes, types away on his computer, and scrolls through his phone searching for the right contacts, freelance journalist Isaac Eger forages for his next story.

Being a freelance journalist does not offer a typical day-to-day routine, so shadowing one on any given day may not give you the riveting reporter story you would hope for. But Eger enjoys the creative freedom that working freelance provides. As someone who makes a living from writing articles—he has quite an abnormal view of writing.

“My day consists of lots of phone calls, lots of emails. Like, reaching out to potential subjects. I’d say that there’s a lot less writing than there is anything. I find writing to be incredibly painful—it’s probably my least favorite part of the job, actually,” he said.

Eger did not plan on becoming a journalist. Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from Reed College, Eger says he stumbled upon journalism under extraordinary circumstances. While on his first trip to New York, Eger met Joe Sexton, who was the editor of the sports page of The New York Times, by borrowing his swim trunks. About a year after graduating college and going through a breakup with his girlfriend who told him he was not ambitious enough, Eger set his sights on sports writing.

“To prove to her I was ambitious I was like, ‘I’m going to become a sportswriter,’ because I enjoyed writing and talking about sports. So that’s when I reached out to Joe Sexton, I said ‘Hey, remember me? I borrowed your swim trunks, I’m going to move to New York to become a writer.’ I asked him if he had any advice or anything I could do for him, and he said ‘Come to New York, settle down for a little while, and then we can talk,'” he said.

Eger spent the first month in New York playing basketball around the city, and by the time he met with Sexton, Sexton wanted to hear his basketball tales. After telling him stories, Sexton told him to write them down, which Eger did. After receiving some edits from Sexton, Eger got a call a week later from Sexton telling him to buy a copy of The New York Times—and Eger’s story was on the front page.

“It was funny, I couldn’t really appreciate what had happened because all I wanted to do was win back my girlfriend,” he said.

Isaac Eger often does fieldwork to speak to potential sources for his Florida-based stories. Courtesy of Isaac Eger

Eger has since narrowed his journalism to a more local lens, and for the past few years has been writing for Sarasota Magazine. His passion for local journalism runs in the family, as his mother worked as editor-in-chief of the magazine from 2018 to 2022. Eger says he enjoys working for the magazine because of the personal relationships he has made there and the trust the magazine has in his writing. This has allowed him to take on stories that would otherwise be a tough sell for other publications, such as a recent story he wrote about the September 11th terrorist attacks and its connection to Sarasota—which is where former President George W. Bush was at the time.

Along with the story connecting 9/11 to local roots, Eger has developed a beat writing about environmental issues affecting Florida as well as beach privatization along Florida’s coasts, one of which won multiple local awards, in addition to the national Folio Eddie award in the category of “Single Article, City & Region, Overall” at the prestigious Eddie & Ozzie Awards.

As for his stories about environmental issues affecting Florida, late last year subsequent to the infamous Gabby Petitio disappearance, Eger wrote a story about how the manhunt for Brian Laundrie devastated Venice’s Carlton Reserve.

“Petito and her family are the victims of this sad story, but so is the Carlton Reserve. The depiction of Florida as a wild and untamable landscape couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Eger wrote. “The last slivers of untouched Florida exist only as archipelagos between sprawling sub-developments. Florida does not need to be tamed. Rather, it is in desperate need of re-wilding. If we continue to think of Florida as a hellhole, it’s easier for developers to convince us to pave over it.”

Eger also has a newsletter called “Apocalypse Florida,” where he writes stories about “Florida and the end of the world.” The newsletter, which you can receive for free or by paying a small optional fee, features stories about politics, culture, the environment, and other topics—most of which find roots in Florida.

What could be next for Eger? Eger says he is “going with the flow,” but has a lot of projects in mind, including two book ideas—one about basketball and Buddhism, and the other about Florida—which he eventually wants to walk the entire coast of to continue his research on beach privatization within the state.

Where are all the bikes? A look into the supply chain shortages in Tampa Bay

Where are all the bikes? A look into the supply chain shortages in Tampa Bay

Prospective cyclists are finding a lack of bicycles and a scarcity of repair parts due to the global supply chain crisis and hyperinflation.

By Matthew Lee

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —The global supply chain and hyperinflation issue has increased both goods and professional services, and the bicycle industry is no exception to the worldwide economic phenomenon.

Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the United States were urged to social distance and to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. Individuals took advantage of the situation they were dealt with to invest in new hobbies and extracurricular activities, resulting in people purchasing bicycles for exercise and enjoyment.

According to cyclist mechanic at The Bike Room, Bailey Arnold, the shop in St. Petersburg saw a decrease in business when the pandemic started.

“Midway through the pandemic, we noticed an increase in business because people wanted to go outside during lockdowns. It seems people remembered what it’s like to enjoy outside” Arnold said.

Bailey Arnold, a mechanic at The Bike Room in St. Petersburg, works on repairs for a customer’s bicycle. Photo by Matthew Lee

The market for purchasing bicycles and issuing repairs is slowly improving, but many bicycle shops are issuing wait lists for both purchases and repairs.

“As of right now, we are not issuing waitlists since we are unable to acquire new bikes for customers, so we are just sticking to repairs,” Arnold said. “Due to the current supply chain issues, bicycle manufacturers are trying to accommodate bike shops by giving each a fair share of bikes to sell to customers. When it comes to issuing repairs for customers, individuals who use their bicycles as their main source of transportation are priority repairs over causal riders.”

To adapt to the rise of inflation and increase business, The Bike Room instated a mobile mechanic truck to drive out to events and issue repairs by bringing the repair shop directly to their customers across the St. Petersburg area.

In a combination with the constant influx of new people moving to Florida every day and the rise in gas prices, some bike riders are opting for more bicycle riding to avoid the harsh traffic and to save some extra money.

“The recent increase in gas prices and inflation absolutely motivated me to use my bike more,” said University of South Florida student, Peyton Lebron.

“Whether or not I prefer biking as my main source of transportation really depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing, and if I have any cargo that can’t fit my backpack. I also have to rely on my car to get to my job and internship in St. Petersburg due to my home being an hour away
by car. I tend to try and only use my car as a last resort, especially due to its age and gas prices.” Lebron said.

A cyclist enjoys the clear skies and sunny weather on a ride through downtown St. Petersburg. Photo by Matthew Lee

If you’re considering purchasing a bicycle or riding more frequently to save money on gasoline, please comply with bicycle safety regulations and learn tips to prioritize safety by reading bayfront health’s article on how to stay safe on your bike at https://www.bayfrontstpete.com/content-hub/bicycle-safety.

Column | A day in the life of a college student: diabetic edition

Column | A day in the life of a college student: diabetic edition

By Shelby Churchward

Life is hard enough for people who do not have an autoimmune disease, but it becomes even more complicated when you add diabetes to the mix.

Picture this: you and I sit down at a restaurant to eat lunch. You take a sip of your soft drink and munch on some chips while you wait for your tacos to come to the table. The atmosphere is chatty, and the weather is warm but not overbearing. You think nothing of what you are eating and drinking at this moment.

But as I’m sitting next to you, I have already done all the math on what I chose to eat and drink, prepped the insulin that I will need for this meal, and checked to make sure I have enough medication left to handle anything that might occur after the meal.

As a type one diabetic, there is a lot more that goes into simple, everyday tasks that someone without this disease would not even think about.

Type one diabetes is a genetic disorder that can show up in childhood and lasts through the rest of one’s life. Aimee Dougherty, a nurse practitioner at the Wellness Center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, said is a long-lasting condition “in which your pancreas produces little to no insulin and requires insulin therapy, monitoring blood sugar levels, diet and exercise to maintain normal blood sugar.”

Some of the supplies a diabetic needs, including insulin, an insulin pump and insertion supplies.
Photo by Shelvy Churchward

I use an insulin pump to help regulate my blood sugar levels instead of the typical needles you might think of. This pump essentially functions as an external pancreas, constantly adjusting the amount of insulin I have on board to maintain blood sugar levels.

Usually, when I tell someone that I have diabetes they assume that I cannot have things like cake or cookies. While that may not be the case, I still find myself avoiding certain foods.

I have stopped drinking juice and soda. I no longer eat sweets or foods that contain a lot of complex carbohydrates purely because I have no desire to deal with the outcome. When I consume those foods, it is difficult to predict what they will do to my blood sugars. So as much as I might enjoy a good PopTart or a Dr. Pepper, I no longer indulge in those things.

My little sister, Marley Churchward, has spent the past 10 years learning how to adjust certain aspects of her life to best adapt to her diabetes.

“I really have to think about how much physical activity has a larger effect on my sugar levels. Plus, the ways my levels being too high or too low can affect how well I make critical thinking decisions. This disease is all about learning from your mistakes. It’s not easy and you can’t let it control you,” Churchward said.

I work hard to maintain good health and appropriate blood sugar levels and I can tell you it is a full-time job. Every time I want to have a slice of cake, I have to figure out how many carbohydrates are in the cake and formulate a math equation to determine how much insulin I need to take. I then have to put that information into my insulin pump to be delivered to my system.

Every night when I lay down to go to sleep, I plug my insulin pump into the charging cord. This means that while the insulin pump is attached to me, I am attached to the charging cord on the wall. I can only roll so far away.

Many others struggle with this disease and the lifelong effects it carries. Many type one diabetics have had the disease for so long that they stop thinking anything about the differences that exist in everyday life. However, there are people who struggle to come to terms with certain areas of it, such as Rob Boehlein, who has been diabetic since he was 5 years old.

“There’s always a looming medical cost that takes a large toll, mentally, on me. Not to mention a feeling of burden that I might put on anyone who would choose to be involved with me. I almost feel like the psychological effects of living with an irreversible disease like this might be the biggest difference,” Boehlein said.

Maintaining a positive mindset is hard even without the added stress that comes along with Diabetes. Despite the challenges, many diabetic college students are making the best of their situations and staying strong.

The best way to take care of yourself as a diabetic living on a college campus is “Stay as active as possible and eat healthy low glycemic foods, stay on top of your labs and medical appointments. If you’re taking medication, take it as directed, do not skip doses or change how it is to be taken,” Dougherty said.

And diabetes among young people is much more common than you might think. Dougherty pointed to the recent National College Health Assessment for USFSP, which found at least 2.1% of students had been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes/insulin resistance by a doctor.

Essential workers still on the front lines of COVID-19 two years into the pandemic

Essential workers still on the front lines of COVID-19 two years into the pandemic

By Alexa Breiding

People who have been deemed “essential” by the states are continuing to show up for work, putting themselves at the highest risk for catching COVID-19.

For over two years, frontline and essential workers have been working hard to provide their services, including retail workers, doctors and nurses. Doing so has led many to catch COVID-19, leading them to quarantine and stay home.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, custodians, airport workers, SEPTA workers and other essential workers have been faced with a difficult question. “Can I afford to miss two weeks of pay? Or should I risk infecting coworkers and customers?”

Many essential workers after being exposed to COVID-19 still show up for their jobs because they can’t afford to quarantine. Juliana Reyes from the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Benjamin McMillan, a supervisor from the Philadelphia International Airport. McMillan has reported that just the thought of going home after his job and risking the chance of infecting his father is very frustrating.

“These workers, who make $13 an hour, have already lost hours and tips during the pandemic. And while they can use their paid time off to quarantine, many haven’t accrued enough time because their hours have been cut,” Reyes said.

Even if their work puts them at a higher risk of exposure, many aren’t getting paid extra.

Registered nurses at Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, Calif.
Courtesy of Sophia Nieto

Sophia Nieto, a 29-year-old travel nurse from Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, Calif., caught COVID-19 at the beginning of January 2022. Nieto had already been in contact with COVID-19 once before January, leading her to the familiarity of recovery.

“I’ve had COVID-19 before, since this was my second time, I knew what to expect. Though this time, I was across the country stuck in a hotel room away from family. I tried to enjoy my few days off, catching up on sleep and Netflix shows,” Nieto said.

Nieto’s symptoms only lasted for about 24–48 hours, and they consisted of fevers, chills and body aches. Desert Valley Hospital required Nieto to quarantine for a minimum of five days with no symptoms for 24 hours. In order to take care of herself, Nieto rested, took lots of vitamins and stayed hydrated.

When it came to the virus, Nieto’s workplace took precautions by wearing N95 face masks and having proper PPE. N95 masks include a filter that contaminants dust, mists and fumes. Along with this, the mask ends in 95, meaning that there is 95 percent efficiency and it’s a non-oil mask. A non-oil means that if no oil-based particles are present, then the mask is allowed in the work environment. Other masks that are only resistant to oil for 8 hours or less couldn’t be worn. The PPE, personal protective equipment, in a hospital was reinforced by including caps, gowns, booties and face shields.

Working in a hospital automatically puts you at risk of getting COVID-19, and many were forced to call off, which created some conflict.

“My place of employment was short-staffed, and they had to find quick coverage for the days I was out of work. This automatically created conflict with nurse-to-patient ratios and charge nurses had to take on patients, as I was not the only employee affected by the virus,” Nieto said.

With working in such a hostile environment, those employed must be present. Not only are they responsible for their own lives, but the many lives of others in their exact position.

Emergency medical technician James Dylan Maxey, 25, had COVID-19 for three days. Currently working at American Medical Response in Miami, Maxey, along with other coworkers found themselves exposed to COVID-19.

“We are typically with hundreds of COVID-19 patients every single day. You can expect yourself to catch COVID at least once,” Maxey said.

Some precautions that Maxey’s workplace enforced was the requirement to wear masks and gloves on every single call whether it’s COVID-19 or not.

“On COVID calls specifically, we have to wear an N95 mask, a gown, gloves and we have the option of wearing a face shield,” Maxey said.

After COVID-19 calls, EMT workers would get 15 minutes to clean the stretcher, truck and themselves by providing disinfectant wipes, spray bottles and hand sanitizer.

Working as an essential worker in a position where your place is known to be needed, is difficult for many young people. Even though Maxey only had a sore throat and a cough, it forced him to stay home and recover. This caused many workers like himself to fill their lives with updated schedules.

“Others were affected because they had to work extra shifts in order to cover for me,” Maxey said. “This whole experience affected me personally because it prevented me from working and doing things that I normally would do on a day-to-day basis. Even after I tested negative again, it felt like I had fatigue for a couple of days and a lingering cough that lasted for weeks.”

Gianeylla Martinez is a team leader at Rack Room Shoes and was exposed to COVID-19 in January 2022. Her job was already short-staffed, so she had to recover and go back to work as soon as possible.
Courtesy of Gianeylla Martinez

Gianeylla Martinez, team leader from Rack Room Shoes, had also been exposed to COVID-19 towards the beginning of January 2022. Martinez’s symptoms were spread out, including major headaches, a runny nose, and a cough.

“I had COVID for 10 days, and each day I had a different symptom,” Martinez said.

Where Martinez worked, they were already short-staffed to begin with. This meant that serving as a team leader, she had to go back as soon as possible.

“My work’s decision on COVID was that it was okay to come back even if you were still testing positive- as long as you were vaccinated. I didn’t go back. Considering I had obtained the virus from work in the first place, I did not want it to continue to spread,” Martinez said.

With catching COVID-19, it was recommended by the CDC to quarantine for five days. Martinez was planning on staying home during that time, though on her fourth day of quarantine, she had been put on her work schedule after still testing positive.

“It made me feel as if my work didn’t value my health,” Martinez said

“My work wanted me to come back a lot sooner than my body was capable of doing. I felt angry at my coworker who got me sick because of his beliefs he would share at work, not caring about the virus and refusing to wear a mask and get vaccinated,” Martinez said.

“The most important piece of advice I can give to anyone who gets COVID-19 is to avoid stress as much as possible. Turn your phone over and go outside. Because I was so stressed-out during quarantine, it was taking me longer to get better,” Martinez said.

‘Artrepreneur’ shares passion for blending art and wellness

‘Artrepreneur’ shares passion for blending art and wellness

By Samantha Skye

Olivia Mansion wears many hats.

As the co-founder, chief marketing officer and director of communications and artist relations at Fairgrounds St. Pete, Mansion is passionate about art and wellness and works to bring the two together through her entrepreneurial endeavors.

“In my role, I have the pleasure of supporting our artists in bringing their artwork to life, telling the story of Fairgrounds St. Pete, and working with our founders to shape the direction of the company,” Olivia said in a Beyond the Conversations interview. “It is a love letter to Florida.”

Fairgrounds showcases the beauty that is in Florida so that we can collectively preserve it.

From upstate New York, Mansion and her family would vacation in Florida and, on one of those trips, she learned about the University of Tampa and knew it was where she belonged.

“I came down to Florida for college and then, just like any Latino family that can’t let their kids go, my parents actually ended up moving down to Tampa,” Mansion said.

Mansion has a master’s in education, English linguistics and cross-cultural studies from Brown University and a master’s in entrepreneurship from The University of Tampa, according to her profile on the Fairgrounds website.

On an exclusive tour of Fairgounds for the Tampa Bay Times, Mansion said “If you’re one of those people that loves mysteries, who likes digging deep into things that are curious, you’ll just love it.”

She and her business partner help employ artists at Fairgrounds St. Pete, which ensures fair compensation and equitable opportunities.

“We have a dream team. Everyone here is committed, they’re creative, they’re kind and we’re very collaborative. . . Everybody’s very talented and everybody has their own expertise,” she said.

Olivia Mansion is the co-founder of Fairgrounds St. Pete and said love of entrepreneurship and this city inspired her to help create the permanent, immersive art exhibit.
Courtesy of Fairgrounds St. Pete

She considers their collective energy quite powerful.

Mansion is a big proponent of health and wellness, practicing self-love and self-care whenever possible.

“I believe wholeheartedly in wellness and being a whole person… I’m definitely a seeker so I’ve tried many different things, but I came across breathwork and I tried Wim Hof (a famous breathwork teacher),” she said.

Hof’s process became a gateway for Mansion to feel how powerful our breath is and how it’s a free tool when used wisely.

On Instagram, she calls herself the “boujie breathwork teacher,” with the tagline “Helping you have that Main Character energy using your breath.” She helps her breathwork clients de-stress and focus on being present more often than not, which is a feat in today’s overstimulating world.

Mansion even has a podcast called Immersive Breathwork. One breathwork technique is free, but her online course costs $11.11, which is considered a sign to become aware and conscious of your actions.

“Numbers are the universal language offered by the deity to humans as confirmation of the truth,” according to the late St. Augustine de Hippo.

“We have to prioritize ourselves and our well-being before anything or anyone,” Mansion said.

She swears by her routine of running, drinking lots of water, meditating, breathwork, journaling and taking a moment of gratitude outside surrounded by nature.

Her husband, Mikhail Mansion, is an interdisciplinary artist and engineer who uses technology to release creative expression and bring immersive experiences to life, according to ArtScape. His work can be experienced in a permanent exhibit at Fairgrounds St. Pete. Together, they founded OK! Transmit back in 2018, where one can attend talks, presentations, workshops and experimental performances focused on innovation and new media.

Chris Parks, known as Palehorse, and his wife have curated, then hosted and organized, the Shine Mural Festival since 2015. In 2018, he met Mansion who told him about Fairgrounds St. Pete and then, in 2020, they had their first Zoom call to kick off a prosperous partnership. According to Parks, Olivia is always in a cheerful mood and has a contagious charm. She’s very organized and professional.

Parks believes he was the first artist they contacted about the concept. What interested him about the opportunity was having the creative freedom to really imagine the space and bring his vision to life without working from a brief.

“She was really open to the ideas that I had during the lockdown,” he said.

Getting to create a full, immersive space with the help of producers and few restrictions were what sold him on working with Fairgrounds St. Pete.
Posters, pins and stickers are a few items Parks has to offer in the gift store, but the items that have been moving the most are his printed shirts and hand-embellished skateboards.

“I’ve enjoyed having a little shop locally … and the immersive space online” to use as a showroom for his work, Parks said.

His work is based on Hindu mythology and meditation, as well as symbols.

“I’m a huge fan of his work professionally and his wellness work… He has a weekly meditation session that he hosts on Wednesday nights,” Mansion said.

“Entrepreneurship is an extension of ourselves… It’s such a creative medium. You get to just share your message, share your product, service, with the world and help people solve a problem,” she said.

Share about your business and learn to love sales. Be confident in your ask – we’re open for business; this is our product/service and this is the price, Mansion said. And, she recommends approaching these conversations with confidence.

Some of her other tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  1. Focus on one idea and one concept, then change your strategy around that one thing. Entrepreneurs tend to jump from one project to another without spending enough time and energy on the first one to see it succeed. It’s easy to get discouraged when something isn’t working.
  2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and/or ask a professional for their input. “Seek those around you and see if there is even a market need for what you’re doing. Our customers validate what we do.”
  3. Focus on your health and well-being more than anything because what makes you a good entrepreneur is feeling complete and ready to make courageous, yet difficult decisions.
    Connect with Olivia Mansion on LinkedIn to set your entrepreneurial spirit on fire.