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Michele Miller, Times Staff Writer

Michele Miller is a Tampa Bay Times writer in Pasco County. Miller coordinates and provides stories and photographs for Pasco entertainment features as well as the Top of the Class education feature.

Phone: (727) 869-6251

Email: miller@tampabay.com

  1. Original music, discussions about censorship headline new concert series

    Music & Concerts

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Freedom of expression entwined with some good reads, original music and an opportunity to get to know the people in your neighborhood are the thoughts behind a four-part monthly concert series sponsored by the New Port Richey Public Library.

    "BANneD Books: Celebrate Your Right to Read" kicks off at 7:30 p.m. July 21 in Sims Park with the tunes of St. Petersburg's Trigger City Trio....

    Trigger City Trio
  2. Lots of local options to celebrate Independence Day


    The skies will be lit up this holiday weekend as the nation celebrates Independence Day. Local residents and visitors will have more than a few patriotic options throughout the weekend.

    Friendly KIAfest Main Street Blast, Friday and Saturday at Sims Park, off Main Street in downtown New Port Richey. The two-day event will feature classic rock music, arts and crafts, food and beverages, military vehicles on display, a classic car cruise-in, a trolley pull, kids games and a fireworks display Saturday evening. Hours are from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and from noon 11 p.m. Saturday. The Friday entertainment schedule includes the bands Stardust Memories — A David Bowie Tribute, SPF 40 and the Wholigans. Saturday entertainment includes the bands Glad All Over, the Bob Hope Band, Petty Hearts and Fleetwood Max. Fireworks are scheduled for 9:15 p.m., weather permitting. Free....

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times (2009)
  3. At Holiday nonprofit, alternative therapies help veterans overcome traumas



    At 11 a.m. on a recent Thursday morning, a group of veterans who served in different military branches and different wars pushed furniture against the walls to make room for yoga in the confines of Veterans Alternative.

    Meditative music wafted through the air as chief operating officer Janel Norton guided the men, and a couple of their wives, through deep breathing exercises and a series of poses....

    Veterans Alternative chief operating officer Janel Norton leads a yoga session at the organization’s Holiday clubhouse.
  4. Book about famous painter's garden inspires one at Fox Hollow Elementary



    For more than 10 years, art teacher Gayle Ratza had been itching to spruce up the courtyard outside her classroom at Fox Hollow Elementary School.

    Her hankering started soon after she took the teaching position, and about the same time she happened upon a pop-up book called A Walk in Monet's Garden.

    The book, with beautiful illustrations by Francesca Crespi, was useful in teaching young students about the 19th century impressionist movement begun in France by artists such as Claude Monet. It also served as inspiration for the plot just outside her door....

    Students and Lowe’s employees work together laying garden pavers on May 25.
  5. Mobile pottery studio offers opportunity for local students to create


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Todd Still sat at the back of a school bus that had been converted into a mobile pottery studio, imparting instruction on the intricacies of working a potter's wheel to a passel of fourth- and fifth-grade students who were more than eager to get going.

    "Super fast is not what we want. Super slow is not what we want," Still told the students as he circled his hands around a blob of spinning, gray clay....

    Todd Still, director of youth education at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, makes a point recently to a student working on a potter’s wheel during a session in the Wheels on Wheels Mobile Pottery Experience at Longleaf Elementary School in New Port Richey.  The studio debuted in March.
  6. Woman honors memory of husband with donations to Land O'Lakes valedictorians


    NEW PORT RICHEY — On June 3, the fifth anniversary of her husband's death, Marjorie Hitchcock opened up her morning newspaper and says she found the perfect way to honor his memory.

    On the front page of the Pasco Times was a story about the record-breaking 10 valedictorians from Land O'Lakes High School — nine from the International Baccalaureate program and one traditional — who were set to graduate that evening....

    Land O’Lakes High’s valedictorians in the International Baccalaureate program are Jeffrey Gu, center table, and, seated from left, Aimee Fernandez, Emily Luo, Maya Henning, Grace Park, Julia Thorner, Albert Brotgandel, Elizabeth Olatunji and Saloni Mehra.
  7. Nine valedictorians finish atop of IB program at Land O'Lakes High



    For four years, they shared the same classrooms, teachers and driven work ethic.

    The race for class rank was always close — a cluster of students at the top with no apparent breakaways. When all was said and done, the close-knit teenagers would finish their senior year with the same grade-point average — 4.7857 — and the honor of being named valedictorians of the International Baccalaureate program at Land O'Lakes High School....

    The International Baccalaureate program at Land O’Lakes High School has nine valedictorians graduating this year: Jeffrey Gu, center table, and from left seated, Aimee Fernandez, Emily Luo, Maya Henning, Grace Park, Julia Thorner, Albert Brotgandel, Elizabeth Olatunji and Saloni Mehra.
  8. Card program aims to brighten seniors' days

    Human Interest

    ODESSA — Dear Friend...

    Wishing you well...

    Have a nice day...

    Where to start? That was the challenge for fifth-graders from Odessa Elementary School, who recently spent time penning cheerful messages to elders they had never met.

    No problem. Brainstorming paired with good intentions fueled enough thoughtful verse and colorful drawings to fill greeting cards provided for the sole purpose of brightening someone else's day....

    Ronald Tyson looks at the greeting card message from Odessa Elementary School student Ariel Farmer, 11, for the Bring Smiles to Forgotten Seniors program recently. The students decorated cards that will be delivered to seniors at assisted living facilities in the Tampa Bay area to brighten their day. Tyson, of Odessa, founded the local program.
  9. Among PHSC graduates: first class of nursing students with bachelor's degrees



    Sometimes the path from here to there is a series of fits and starts, peaks and valleys, that upon retrospection prove to be valuable steps in the process of bettering oneself.

    That journey is one Hilesca Hidalgo, 47, has come to appreciate — one the mother of two young daughters can trace back to when she was 19 and had recently moved from Puerto Rico to the Miami area....

    Hilesca Hidalgo, center, was one of 20 PHSC bachelor’s nursing program graduates Wednesday.
  10. Team says goodbye to Odyssey of the Mind; but first, World Finals



    Some victories are bittersweet. That's the general feeling for a couple of members of the Odyssey of the Mind Division III team representing Wiregrass Ranch High.

    After six years of competing on various Odyssey teams together and making it to the state competition each year, Kayla Gutierrez, 17, and Kaden Robinson, 18, are about to go their own ways.

    Robinson, a senior at Wesley Chapel High, is graduating, and it doesn't make much sense to continue....

  11. Young saxophonist hopes his talent leads to a career in contemporary jazz

    Human Interest


    The afternoon sun streaming through the window bathed Kyle Schroeder in warm light as he gave a solitary performance in his parents' dining room.

    With eyes closed, foot tapping time, Schroeder, 18, moved his fingers over the brass keys of his alto saxophone while the family's pet pocket beagle, Olive, lounged lazily nearby.

    Kicking off the casual set was an old Charlie Parker tune called Billy's Bounce, followed by a little jazz improvisation, Stella by Starlight, and a song Frank Sinatra used to sing called Nancy (with a Laughing Face)....

    Kyle Schroeder, 18, of Trinity has made inroads in the local jazz scene and has gained notice for his alto sax talent.
  12. Pick your own a popular choice at new Starkey Blueberry Farm



    The season is ripe for blueberry picking, and the weather has been, well, downright perfect.

    That thought was not lost on Jen Barber, 35, of Land O'Lakes when she packed up her three sons and ventured into the new U-pick fields at Starkey Blueberry Farm.

    The plan was to pick enough to fold into pancake batter come Saturday morning, with a little left over to freeze.

    "We're doing pretty well, considering," Barber said, as her 9-month-old son, Cale, snoozed in his baby sling while brothers Jimmy, 6, and Josh, 2, scampered in and around the long rows of ripening bushes. "I think I would do better on my own, though. They keep eating what I pick."...

    Partners Trey Starkey, right, and Aaron Derksen have planted 47 acres featuring eight varieties of blueberries.
  13. Robotics team from River Ridge High prepares for world championships


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The competitive season isn't over for the engineering whiz kids from River Ridge High School.

    After two promising outings at regional competitions, the River Ridge Royal Robotics team is set to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championships on Wednesday through April 30 in St. Louis. The team is one of two from the Tampa Bay area to move on, joining the well-established Minotaur robotics team from Middleton Magnet High in Tampa....

    The River Ridge High Royal Robotics team earned its berth through regional competitions.
  14. Boats, blues and lots more planned at 17th annual Cotee River Seafest


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Boats, seafood, mermaids and music will be among the highlights as the 17th annual Cotee River Seafest gets under way Friday for a three-day run in and around newly renovated Sims Park.

    The festival, presented by Bright House Networks and New Port Richey Main Street, offers something for all in a somewhat different setting, said Judy DeBella Thomas, the event's coordinator. "With the new layout of the park, we're kind of excited with how everything is placed this year," Thomas said....

    Lauren Mitchell and her band will belt out the blues at the festival on Saturday.
  15. Looking for something to do? There's still plenty going on at Chasco Fiesta


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Chasco Fiesta continues through Saturday in downtown New Port Richey, and there's still a fair share of festivities to take in.

    You're in luck if you love a parade, or if your taste in music leans toward country or the oldies — maybe with a plate of ribs on the side. That would be courtesy of the West Pasco Sertoma Club, which will host its annual barbecue in Sims Park on Friday and Saturday....

    West Pasco Sertoma volunteer Gary Tinker pulls ribs from the smoker for the annual Sertoma BBQ on the opening day of the Chasco Fiesta last week.