The Sunshine City hosted the third annual Mayor's Youth Showcase of Achievement at the Mahaffey Theater last week.
Those who attended Wednesday evening are still raving that it was the best showcase yet.
The event, while popular among participating students and their families, goes unnoticed by most in the city, but it draws participants from throughout the county.
Months ago, more than 430 entries were submitted from middle and high school students in 10 categories. On Wednesday, more than 1,200 people watched the winners receive awards from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.
One student who stood out was Christian Nattiel, a senior at Boca Ciega High School who, rather than playing basketball in college, decided to follow in his father's footsteps and accept an appointment to West Point. Nattiel beat out 45 students from 20 schools in the academic achievement category.
The city gave out more than $42,000 in prizes to 62 Pinellas County students.
The showcase of achievement was open to all middle and high school students in Pinellas.
This month, I served with 29 other judges to select worthy students in 10 categories: academic achievement, scholar-athlete, citizenship or leadership, fine arts, literary arts, performing arts, media arts, science/technology, vocational or business, and overcoming adversity.
The event wouldn't be possible without the efforts of the folks at TASCO, who facilitate the rolling trust fund.
If you're interested in donating to this worthwhile program, contact TASCO at (727) 892-5060 or TASCO@stpete.org.
• • •
If you loved E.L. James' erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey, you might be interested to know that a St. Petersburg native is getting some Internet buzz about his new book.
Omega Kayne, in town visiting relatives, has been acting professionally for 22 years in television, film and commercials. Many here may know the Lakewood High School standout by his given name, Mark Cruise.
But in the last year or so, he has switched gears and is now the author of C.O.T.C.-Kayne Revealed. Ask Kayne to tell you about the book and he's quick to point out: "It's grown," which translates to adult reading, a la Fifty Shades of Grey.
The self-published book is available at Barnes & Noble, amazon.com and createspace.com.
This week, Kayne will have a book signing and meet and greet for his book. The event is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill at 1320 Central Ave.
Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter @StPeteSandi.