I know that from generation to generation we often hear how teenagers are lazy, unmotivated and so on. But I am compelled to say that is not the case with a fairly large group of high school students I encountered this summer.
In May, I had surgery at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg that requires follow-up physical therapy a couple of times a week. I have seen numerous teens, both young women and young men wearing red shirts, doing a variety of jobs helping the staff at Bay Pines. They have served in a number of capacities with direct involvement with the veterans getting care.
I was very impressed with this group of teens. They have given up a significant amount of their summer vacation time to volunteer and work at the hospital. I had occasion to speak with a couple of them, and I was very impressed with the plans these young people have for the future. They all were very polite, quick with a hello, and quick with a smile. When called to assist a staff member or a VA patient, they did not hesitate.
I believe these young people deserve a very big thank you and recognition for their caring and willingness to volunteer their time during their summer vacation.
Rob Homan, St. Petersburg
How violent is too violent? | Aug. 3
Promoting peace, kindness
The Hunger Games Camp at Country Day School was featured in the Tampa Bay Times. Unfortunately, the article led the reader to believe that the focus was on violence. This, and the suggestion that a child was hurt while in our care, could not be further from the truth. The emotional and physical safety of our students and campers is our utmost concern. It is unthinkable that Country Day School would ever support or encourage violence.
We welcome the opportunity to be part of the important national discussion on youth and violence. Our students are actively involved in promoting peace and kindness. Many of the same students in this camp were also invited delegates to the International Model U.N. in New York this spring, where they met with 1,500 other student delegates from around the world to work together on topics centered around world peace and cooperation. The elimination of violence starts with teaching students tolerance, kindness and cooperation — not by censoring them from popular fiction.
In this case, after careful consideration, we decided to offer a camp for middle school students centered on The Hunger Games. Our decision was predicated on the development of a curriculum that replaced any subjects of violence with positive themes of character development and team building. Activities integrated the academic subjects of physics, engineering, art and theater. Campers navigated through outdoor courses and even had fun playing tug-of-war in the mud. However, there was absolutely no fighting, weapons, aggression, violence or even pretending to harm.
We are proud to have offered the Hunger Games Camp, but saddened to have it portrayed so negatively.
Ted Gillette, head of school, Country Day Montessori and Country Day World School, Largo
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Sixty-eight years ago this week, in the final stages of World War II, two horrific events took place. The United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9), Japan. Within months, more than 200,000 people died, with many more affected by blast injuries and radiation.
According to Ploughshares, there are 17,300 nuclear weapons in the world, with the United States and Russia holding 8,500 and 7,700, respectively. Roughly 2,000 of these weapons are on high-alert status — ready to be launched at a minute's notice, perhaps by accident. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, cause catastrophic disruptions of the global climate, with the effects persisting for decades and producing harmful radiation that would last for thousands of years.
The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next decade. Certainly there's a better way to spend our tax dollars. Protecting public health and the planet must be a top priority. So find a quiet moment to reflect on what happened 68 years ago, and then insist our leaders in Washington and around the world work tirelessly to abolish nuclear weapons.
Lynn Ringenberg, M.D., president, Physicians for Social Responsibility/Florida, Tampa
Mosaic pumps water to dilute waste | July 21
Who looks out for the state?
It has been heartening to note readers' letters in response to your newspaper's July 21 expose about Mosaic. Thank you for alerting us that the state permits Mosaic to extract 70 million gallons of water daily to dilute the polluted water it creates — all of which is then flushed into local creeks and smaller bodies of water, and who knows where it all ends up.
In the meantime, Central Florida's fragile aquifer is being depleted as the water table falls lower and lower and valuable wetlands are being destroyed.
And what are state officials doing about this, as Mosaic continues to run its warm and fuzzy commercials on TV and its radio ads that proclaim it is "committed to water stewardship"? The company's chutzpah strains credulity. So, state officials in a position to do something: Are you looking out for the state's interests or Mosaic's?
Rick Carson, St. Petersburg
School grading system
Add flexibility to rules
For every school in Florida that ever received lower than an A, I wish considerations like those former Education Commissioner Tony Bennett gave to his favorite school would be given. For example, Bennett argued that since graduation rates were a factor used to calculate school grades, and since the charter school only took students to 10th grade, it was unfair to apply that measurement to the school.
I used to work at a school in Tampa that had one of the highest percentages of ELL students (English language learners) in the area. It was not unusual for young people to come to our classrooms "right off the boat" and not speaking a word of English, let alone reading or writing it.
But rulemakers in Tallahassee require these students to take the FCAT reading and writing, and now end-of-course exams in math, history and science, after only two years. Anyone with two years of a second language knows that's a tough challenge. Not surprisingly, many fail the first time, thus lowering the school grade, not to mention student self-esteem and graduation prospects.
So, why couldn't that school exempt those students, or give them another year or two before their scores count against the school? Seems only fair, right?
This is just one example of how unfair and ridiculous the school grading system is.
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor
Tampa Bay Rays
And the best site is …
We make the trip from Ormond Beach to St. Petersburg several times a year to see the Rays. Getting to the Trop from our area by car is a three- to four-hour trip through heavy traffic most of the time that always seems to come to a stop several times, particularly going through the I-4/I-275 intersection in Tampa.
The location of a new stadium for the Rays should be driven by the need to increase attendance by at least 5,000 to 10,000 per game, and much of that can come from the I-4 corridor from Daytona Beach to Orlando and points east of Tampa as well as from Tampa and St. Petersburg if access to the stadium is improved.
I believe that a new, retractable-roof stadium located near the fairgrounds and the Hard Rock casino could tap that entire market. A high-speed rail system as well as an improved I-4 will make that a much easier trip for Central Floridians than the present trip to St. Petersburg.
If a new hotel or two were built at that site it could be a great entertainment center for the Tampa area with baseball, concerts at the fairgrounds and the casino. Buses presently make daily trips from our area, and many other Central Florida areas, to the casino, but none to Tropicana Field. If just that service were extended and/or combined it would mean thousands more baseball fans in the seats each year.
I hope the site selection committee will give this site serious consideration with the expectation of attracting thousands of new Central Florida fans to the games and helping keep the Rays in Tampa.
Harley Hoffman, Ormond Beach
Show your support
I am a Rays' season ticket holder, attending perhaps 60 games a year. It was a distinct pleasure last weekend to experience a near-sellout and a complete sellout. The energy was palpable; the players responded; the fans had a great time.
The Rays are among the best teams in baseball — let's show them we support them by buying tickets and attending the games. You won't be disappointed.
Paul Carder, St. Petersburg