Earth Day

Earth Day

Earth Day activities abound in Cape Coral

Published Cape Coral Daily Breeze April 17, 2015 issue 

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An abundance of Earth Day activities are being held throughout Cape Coral starting this weekend and carrying on through next week.

Keep Lee County Beautiful Inc. is sponsoring the Great American Cleanup Earth Day Trash Bash at 14 locations throughout Lee County this weekend, including one in the Cape.

Program Coordinator Trish Fancher said the Great American Cleanup program runs from March 1 through May 31.

The Cape Coral location, which is being hosted by Council member Rick Williams and Keep Lee County Beautiful board member David Scott, will be held at the Burnt Store ramp located at 230 Burnt Store Rd. S., this Saturday.

Fancher said volunteers are asked to arrive at the boat ramp by 8:30 a.m. to check in and pick up supplies. She asks that large groups sign up by visiting under the Great American Cleanup tab to ensure they have enough supplies on hand.

Fancher said the volunteers will clean a large section of Northwest Cape from the Burnt Store ramp area.

One hundred and fifty volunteers are expected to volunteer at that location and about 1,200 volunteers throughout Lee County.

Volunteers will be picking up casual litter and debris, which may include food wrappers, cans and bottles.

“They will pretty much pick up anything,” Fancher said.

When the event was first held in Lee County 60,000 pounds, or 30 tons of trash was collected. Fancher said that number has decreased, which is great news.

“It is decreasing,” she said of the waste. “The education is working and people are taking responsibility of securing solid waste.”

This year she said they have secured two, 20-yard dumpsters which can accommodate 10 tons of trash.

Fancher said the Earth Day Trash Bash is a great event. She said it provides a great opportunity for students to put in volunteer hours for school, as well as providing a great project for companies to do team building.

“It’s great for individuals to get out and participate in their community and get to know their neighbors,” she said.

For more information, or to locate a specific site, call Fancher at (239) 220-3771.

Rotary Park Environmental Center is also hosting an Earth Day event this Saturday, April 18, as well as Earth Day itself, Wednesday, April 22.

The Native Plant Sale, now in its 12th year, will feature three vendors from local nurseries that specialize in native plants from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday.

“People wait for the Native Plant Sale,” Environmental Recreation Specialist Honey Philips said. “We have tons of people come here.”

She said those who are seeking good plants should come first thing in the morning.

There will be numerous plant experts on hand to help people purchase plants. They also will share information regarding what the right plant would be for the right place.

The four-hour Rain Barrel Workshop, taught by a master gardener, will be held during the sale. Phillips said they have a couple openings left for the workshop. It is $45 per person and includes a rain barrel.

On Earth Day, the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife will host a special butterfly house tour from 10 a.m. to noon. Although the tour is free, donations for the Friends of Wildlife are accepted.

Phillips said the tours are normally offered Monday, Friday and Saturday.

Also on Wednesday, April 22, a 3 p.m. the City of Cape Coral and Lee County Electric Co-Op will donate three more fruit trees for Trafalgar Middle School’s garden. Mayor Marni Sawicki and students will plant the trees that afternoon. The public is invited to attend.

Trafalgar Middle School has 26,000 square feet dedicated to a garden and fruit trees, which helps serve local soup kitchens.

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“We wanted to provide fresh vegetables and fruit to local soup kitchens . . . people in need,” Trafalgar Middle School Builders Club Advisor Al Piotter said of the garden that began in August 2014.

Piotter said Bob Feiler and Tom Andrighetti have played a crucial role in the garden and remain very involved. Also students Doodland Martial and Melissa Vu have donated a great deal of time taking care of the garden.

The garden has such staples as tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, collards, egg plant, dill, Swiss chard and basil. It also has 67 fruit trees.

“It’s unbelievable,” Piotter said.

The Garden Club developed out of the Builders Club, which participates in community service projects almost every weekend. Once the garden came to fruition, the community stepped in and provided materials and funds. Piotter said individuals have sponsored rows in the garden.

Trafalgar Middle School was recently invited to the White House because they placed first in the state of Florida for the Single Service Project for having a garden that produced one ton of produce. The school also received an award from Kiwanis International for their garden.

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Haley Gamez, now a freshman at Mariner High School who played a vital role in the garden last year, her mother, Piotter and one other advisor will travel to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, April 29.

Last year, the garden provided more than 5,000 pounds, or 2.5 tons of food to the soup kitchen. Piotter said they have already provided 3,700 pounds of food to the soup kitchen this year.

Both the Builders Club and the Garden Club take care of the garden on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. Students and members from the community also tend to the garden on Saturday. Piotter said they also have master gardeners, community volunteers and teachers that provide a helping hand in up keeping the garden.

He said they plan to start another 900 square foot garden, as well as a 250 square foot mint garden and a 250 square foot flower garden. He said a student came up with the idea of starting a flower garden, so they could begin donating flowers to Hope Hospice and nursing homes.

The garden has also promoted a garden class at Trafalgar Middle School with 21 students enrolled.

All Aboard Preschool, 1918 S.E. Santa Barbara Pl., decided to host an Earth Day event for its parents and family members from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22.

Director Ann Marie Walsh said Kimberly Cain will be in charge of the first year event. She said since they received a greenhouse they wanted their kids to get involved in more earthy activities.

The parents and family members that attend will help plant flowers and vegetables in such items as boots, rain boots, shoes and buckets.

Events also will be going on throughout the county on Wednesday.

The public is invited to an Earth Day celebration on April 22 beginning at 10 a.m. at the Fort Myers Regional Library on the Cornog Plaza. The Lee County Library System will make a special public announcement at 10:30 a.m., which will coincide with a national announcement at that same time.

A variety of environmental programs will take place including an eco-themed storytime for kids beginning at 10:30. A representative from ECHO will discuss sustainable agriculture and world hunger. Lee County Solid Waste and Fort Myers Regional Library will have activities for kids and adults including a planting station, chalk drawings and an eco-craft table.

The Fort Myers Regional Library is at 2450 First St, Fort Myers.

Trafalgar Middle School is at 2120 Trafalgar Pkwy.

Rotary Environmental Park is at 5505 Rose Garden Road.

“We are reigniting that flame”

ISC sets seven-point plan for the future

Published in Herald & Tribune Oct. 29, 2014 issue

A mission that encouraged one executive director to move to Jonesborough continues to thrive, growing communities through new partnerships dedicated to continuing the oldest art form – storytelling.

“When you can bring 11,000 people together, it fosters a sense of community,” International Storytelling Center Executive Director Kiran Singh Sirah said. “That community spirit creates a better world.”

The center released “A Story in Progress,” which is the name of its strategic plan, last week highlighting seven steps: innovate, engage, grow, connect, educate, communicate and earn.

The communicate step is off on the right foot with a new digital communication strategy, which recently enhanced bringing the storytelling movement to the next generation.

“Google approached us because our name is getting out there,” he said. “They recognized us and wanted to give us recognition for the work that we are doing. That is because people have experienced things while they are here and they have gone out and told people.”

The partnership with Google’s Cultural Institute will help in sharing the story and history of the 42-year-old storytelling festival. The partnership places ISC among the White House, the British Museum and other cultural institutions that have had historical moments by making it accessible to online visitors.

The project, Sirah said made ISC assessable to 9million people instantly across the world.

He said by working with the Google team, they have created an enhanced street view of the center through Google Street View, as well as a tool to go into the ISC. When the Google team visited Jonesborough, they captured around 90,000 images for the panoramic navigational tool.

Another digital aspect occurred for the first time during this year’s International Storytelling Festival through live stream. That stream reached every arts agency in the United States, as well as Asia, east Africa and Europe.

“The National Endowment of the Arts made sure the information went to all 50 states,” he said.

The festival was also live streamed to hospitals, so people  not able to make the festival for different reasons could access access storytelling.

He said 3,000 to 5,000 people viewed the live streaming.

“These are people that may have never heard of Jonesborough,” Sirah said.

Some schools across the nation, he said, brought out the big screens to watch the festival while having live screening school parties.

“We planted seeds for a flourishing future,” he said.

Sirah said a new seed has been planted for the International Storytelling Center, one in which will not only enhance excellent storytelling programs, but also impact tourism in the Town of Jonesborough and Northeast Tennessee.

The “connect step” was also greatly enhanced through a new partnership.

ISC recently established a partnership with Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, which is scheduled to open in summer 2015 just minutes away from the theme parks.

The idea of opening the resort stems back to the childhood memories Dolly Parton had on her family’s front porch, telling stories.

“Dolly Parton’s newest hotel is to create a storytelling destination,”Sirah said.

The partnership with Dollywood initially came from communication Jimmy Neil Smith had years ago.

When Sirah started the position at ISC, he wanted to revisit that communication, which recently turned into establishing a formal partnership.

“It’s a kind of partnership based on mutual respect with each other,” he said. “If we can bring people to this region year round, think of the impact. It creates a stronger economic push for the Town of Jonesborough and the region as a whole.”

The partnership will include ISC assisting with training, performances and other special activities.

Dolly Parton,has her own “rags to riches” story that turns into giving back to the community.

“I like working with the idea of what Dolly Parton has done,” he said.

This year, Dollywood sponsored the family tent at the International Storytelling Festival.

The sponsorship focused on helping to nurture the next generation of storytellers, Sirah said, by fostering a sense of how stories can unite generations.

The oldest art form is flourishing again and creating a movement that has united storytelling across the world, according to Sirah.

“ISC is a great comeback story,” he said.“We are reigniting that flame.”

One of Sirah’s dreams, which coincides with the educate step, is to make storytelling assessable in every classroom through digitizing. By digitizing the work, he said, classrooms can see the link between such disciplines as technology and faith because stories tackle and explore them all.

“By using the digital process, it makes it available to classrooms across the world,” Sirah said.

The center is also working on an annual program with the National Endowment for the Arts, which could potentially include the annual winner of Poetry Out Loud at the annual festival.

The youngest storyteller, Anita Norman, performed at the festival this year. Norman was the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

“When you give young people the mechanism to have a voice and recognize what they have to say is important, it offers a sense of validation and recognition that they give and contribute in great ways,” he said. “When you recognize young people it gives them a pathway to have a voice.”




“Won the lottery”

Over the course of the last few weeks I have had the chance to interview a few U.S. Presidential Scholar’s. It’s inspiring to see what high school seniors are accomplishing. These students are going to go far in this world.

Chandler student a U.S. Presidential Scholar

Published in SanTan Sun News June 7, 2014

Named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, Arizona Virtual Academy senior Anna Han feels like she “won the lottery.”

“I never thought it would happen,” Han says. “There is no way to say who is going to get it and who is not. I knew a lot of people who were contenders and thought they were amazing.”

The Presidential Scholar in the Arts will travel to Washington, D.C., this month and perform at the Kennedy Center during the award ceremonies. The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the president, to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars.

Arizona Virtual Academy Head of School Cindy  Carter says she is proud of Han.

“She is an example of how this particular academic environment worked for her,” Carter says. “It wasn’t an easy road. It was rigorous for her.”

Han says she began attending Arizona Virtual Academy when she was in eighth grade because the school provided her with the flexibility she needed to focus on her academics while pursuing her musical interest.

Longtime musician Han took up piano 13 years ago when her parents enrolled her in extracurricular activities.

“I started out with group lessons and developed an appreciation for music,” she says.

The 18-year-old has been with the same piano teacher, Fei Xu, since she began. She cites Xu as one of her influences.

Han says for most presidential scholars, their eligibility is based on ACT and SAT scores. Han, on the other hand, was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar through her participation in the national program YoungArts. She explains that she sent an application to YoungArts and was invited to Miami for a week last January where she participated in workshops, master classes and performances.

While Han was in Miami she performed a basic 10-minute piano audition, before being paired into chamber groups to learn a piece of music.

“It was really fun. We got to know all the teachers there and learned a lot,” she says of her experience in Miami. “I got paired with another pianist. We did a dual piece.”

Because Han was a junior when she participated, she was evaluated and considered as one of the 60 high school seniors to be nominated for this year’s scholar award.

“You get nominated for the presidential arts program, then you apply,” she says. “That application gets sent to the presidential scholar committee.”

Han will be honored in Washington, D.C., during National Recognition Weekend. She, along with the other scholars, will receive the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a White House-sponsored ceremony. She says a show with a storyline will be put on by all the performing arts scholars in the Kennedy Center.

“I have never done something quite like it, so I am excited,” Han says.

She says she is most excited to meet the other scholars because she is sure each one is amazing.

This fall, Han plans on pursuing a bachelor’s of music degree at The Juilliard School, which is located in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

“Ideally I would like to perform. Music has been something I have been working towards since I was really young,” she says. “It’s a really difficult career to sustain. I want to bring it to more people. I am also interested in teaching.”