Local ham radio operator and Pinellas County volunteer Neil Lauritsen received a Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for his many hours of volunteer service to Pinellas County. The award plaque was presented by 2011 Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala on April 12 in the Pinellas County Council chambers.
Since 1993, Lauritsen has volunteered more than 4,000 hours with Pinellas County. A longtime Clearwater resident, he was a volunteer firefighter and rescue squad member for 10 years before becoming a paid firefighter, paramedic and instructor for an additional decade.
His interest in amateur radio began in 1956 on an old Philco radio.
Amateur radio, and radio in general, got its start at the beginning of the 20th century. Federal licensing became a requirement after Congress passed the Radio Act of 1912. Over the years, "ham" radios have been used for private recreation, noncommercial exchanges of information, experimentation, and emergency communication.
Lauritsen was first licensed in 1979 as KA3DBK and later changed to a vanity call W4HNL.
He has been involved with Pinellas County Auxiliary Communications Service and Amateur Radio Emergency Service for 18 years and now serves as the ACS radio officer and the ARES emergency coordinator.
He is active in the Clearwater Amateur Radio Society, the St. Petersburg Amateur Radio Club and the Glorious Society of the Wormhole, where he is also the webmaster.
A Navy veteran, he has been an 11-year active member of Navy-Marine Corps Military Auxiliary Radio Service, holding the call sign NNN0TFH, and is the assistant to the Florida state director as NNN0GAL ONE.
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Recently, 135 artists exhibited 200 pieces of their work at the second annual Crystal Beach Youth Art Show behind the Crystal Beach Family Center. Submissions were accepted for drawing, painting, photography and three-dimensional art in different age brackets. There were also art activities such as shirt decorating, face-painting and mural design for children, and several of the Crystal Beach Pickers provided musical entertainment.
Judges for the April 9 show were Catherine Bergmann, curator of the Dunedin Fine Arts Center; Patti Buster, director of Art Education at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art; and artist Steven Spathelf.
For three-dimensional work, Sofia Angelini won first place.
For two-dimensional work, first place went to Sarina Sptaru in the 6- to 8-year-old age group; Caleb Smith in the 9- to 10-year-old age group; Holly Robinson in the 11- to 12-year-old age group; and Christina Bauwens in the 13- to 17-year-old age group.
For photography, Emily Perrin earned the top award in the 9- to 11-year-old age group; and Jill Lapine in the 12- to 17-year-old age group.
The Mary Lowe Award was given to Natalie Shaw.
Two new features of this year's show were automated registration and exhibition of the prize-winning works at the Leepa-Rattner Museum in Tarpon Springs.
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Mary Beth Scanlon, principal of Clearwater's St. Cecelia School, really knows how to motivate students. She challenged them to sell $10,000 worth of materials at the school's Scholastic Book Fair. If they succeeded, Scanlon promised to take the seat in a dunk tank.
St. Cecelia's students not only met the goal, but exceeded it, and set a new school record. Each student who bought five or more books was guaranteed a throw.
Because the book fair was a success, the school's library was able to add 163 books.
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Ashley Barry, daughter of Doug and Wendy Barry of Palm Harbor, received a bachelor's degree in elementary education with ESOL endorsement and reading certification from St. Petersburg College. Barry is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the National Honor Society and Kappa Delta Pi. She is a 2007 graduate of Clearwater High.