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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

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  1. High school ends, but not opportunities for these students

    K12

    DADE CITY

    David Guadarrama didn't start high school thinking about what was coming next. College definitely wasn't in the picture. "I didn't really take education seriously before," he said. "In my freshman year I was struggling to get a 3.0 (grade point average). This year, during my last semester I had a 4.5."

    Fueled by scholarships, some financial aid, a hefty push from a college prep program and his own resources, Guadarrama is set to graduate with honors in a class of 282 at Pasco High. To top it off, he has figured out what comes next — the University of South Florida, with thoughts of a career in the science or medical field....

    Graduation cap, mortar board; Mortarboard iStockphoto.com
  2. Top twins: Jake and John Wahl finish No. 1 and No. 2 among Bishop McLaughlin grads

    K12

    SPRING HILL

    Neck and neck is a road most traveled for Jake and John Wahl, 17, a somewhat reserved yet affable set of identical twins who are gracious about fielding the typical questions that people ask them.

    • Who was born first? John, by 15 seconds.

    • How do people tell you apart? There are subtle differences, but the color-coded sneakers help.

    • Do you ever swap identities? They've been known to pull a fast one — maybe on a teacher passing back tests so they can be the first to see each other's score....

    Identical twins Jake, left, and John Wahl, of New Port Richey, talk with friends before graduation on Tuesday.
  3. Richey Elementary students pitch in to tell their tale

    K12

    Students in the Wheel enrichment program at Richey Elementary wrapped up months of hard work with a presentation of Fairy Tale Follies on May 14 in the school theater. The play, featuring 40 characters, was written by teacher Sclena Brantley and adapted by students for their stage. Brantley noted that students in other facets of the after-school program also pitched, working with teachers and parents to sew costumes and create props and sets for the show. Cooking students also contributed by preparing and serving healthy snacks made with vegetables from the school garden....

    Chelsea Cristopher-Sanchez, 12, left, is a queen determined to rid her land of bad storybook characters such as the Big Bad Wolf, played by Alyssa Maske, 12.
  4. Season-ending jamboree at Sertoma Youth Ranch features a musical mix

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING LAKE — From reggae, to a Grateful Dead tribute, to rock 'n' roll and Spanish funk fusion, it's there for the picking as festival season wraps this weekend at the Sertoma Youth Ranch.

    The Orange Blossom Jamboree, continuing through Sunday, is a final blast for ranch regulars that will feature more than 50 bands pumping out an eclectic musical mix in a woodsy setting.

    "We try to take the best of what Florida has to offer — the whole gamut — and put it out there," co-owner and event coordinator Megan Baker said....

  5. Calusa Elementary School club aims to educate students about the problem of bullying

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Madison Morrow might be just 10 years old, but she already has found a purposeful cause, one she takes on every other Thursday morning in the media center at Calusa Elementary School.

    That's where members of the school's Anti Bullying Club meet, Madison said, to learn "that bullying isn't cool and how to be a be a friend when kids are getting bullied and sad."

    She already has the makings of a public speaker, quieting the chattering din of 40 club members with the lilting sound of a mallet being dragged across a three-note chime. Then she takes command, wearing the club's signature purple T-shirt and bedazzled handkerchief skirt and leggings, her hair pulled back neatly in matching french braids....

    Calusa Elementary fourth-grader Madison Morrow works on a mural on April 17, Global Youth Service Day. 
  6. Centennial Middle School seventh-grader finds a cause: cancer patients

    K12

    DADE CITY — Sally Campbell never got to meet the great-grandmother after whom she was named. Cancer had a hand in that. But the memories shared by loved ones helped propel the Centennial Middle School seventh-grader into joining a cause to help others affected by cancer — maybe even help put a smile on their faces.

    Sally, 12, found something to pour her heart into after hearing about SOCKS (Students Organizing Cancer patients Krazy Socks), a nonprofit organization started by Pasco High student Courtney Nathe that provide socks to cancer patients....

    Sally Campbell, 12, has  collected thousands  of socks for cancer patients.
  7. Nature Coast Handbells turn to pops for spring concert

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL — The age-old practice of ringing handbells is a staple in many Christian churches, particularly come Christmas and Easter, when the melodic clinking of clappers against shiny metal heralds a joyful celebration.

    But there's more than one way to ring a bell in these modern times, and the Nature Coast Handbells group promises to show just how at their concert Sunday at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School....

  8. Seafood, blues and boat show highlight annual Cotee River fest

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — This weekend's 2015 Cotee River Seafood and Blues Festival promises to serve up some of the gulf coast's best offerings, whether it be a basket of deep-fried grouper bites drenched in lemon, a lazy paddle down the Pithlachascotee River or a slice of local blues — all played out over three days at Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey.

    Live music is the main attraction at the three-day event, and there's plenty to like, particularly since admission is free. ...

    Charlie Morris Band plays Saturday at 3 p.m.
  9. After hiatus, Ragbirds happy to head south for Stringbreak festival

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL — It's been awhile since the Ragbirds have been on the road, and the band is eager to be making its way south for the 10th annual Stingbreak Music Festival, which runs through Sunday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch.

    "It's been a long, long, long, long cold winter," percussionist Randall Moore said from his home in Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Ten years ago, Moore founded the Ragbirds with his wife, front woman Erin Zindle, who also plays fiddle and mandolin and is the primary songwriter for the band. Until the birth of their daughter, Aviva, 18 months ago, touring was a way of life for the couple and the band, which got a reputation for ramping up audiences with an authentic, upbeat musical mix of Americana folk-rock, Latin, Middle Eastern and Celtic rhythms and African percussion....

    The Ragbirds will be hosts for the Last Island Dance and Limbo Contest during their Saturday evening performance.
  10. Still performing at age 75, Tommy Johnson says his musical ability is 'kind of a miracle'

    Human Interest

    HUDSON

    After 60 years of performing professionally, Tommy Johnson knows what gets people going, and he aims to please.

    Donned in signature stage clothes, the hint of a silver ponytail sprouting from his black fedora, Johnson takes turns playing three digital keyboards positioned against a red velvet backdrop. Fingers bounce rapidly across black and white keys as he leans in to hold a chord or flip a switch to bring up the sound of a flute, clarinet, saxophone or percussion....

    Tommy Johnson with Liberace in Las Vegas during a talent search competition that Johnson was a finalist in.
  11. Pasco festival celebrates under-appreciated loquats

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — So maybe you're wondering about that tree the landscaper planted in your yard, the one with the large, leathery leaves that's covered in bunches of small, yellow ripened fruit — that right this minute is being devoured by birds.

    Maybe you already know that tree is a loquat, but have no idea of what to do with all that fruit. Or perhaps there's an open spot in your yard just begging for planting. ...

    Market off Main owners Rose Mohr, right, and Jerry Kuss prepare a loquat pie Monday while testing recipes for Saturday’s festival. About 300 people attended last year’s event and Mohr thinks the event could grow.
  12. Festival brings bluegrass stars Tyler Williams, IIIrd Tyme Out to Hernando's Sertoma Ranch

    Music & Concerts

    BROOKSVILLE — When Tyler Williams takes the stage for his first appearance at Sertoma Youth Ranch's annual Spring Bluegrass Festival, event promoter Ernie Evans will be standing nearby, taking it all in.

    Not just the music, mind you, but the looks on the faces of the first-timers in the audience. Evans has watched it time and again — ever since he caught Williams' act about 10 years ago in Nashville, at a place called the Station Inn....

    Award winners Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out headline Saturday at the Spring Bluegrass Festival.
  13. Chasco Fiesta celebration set to start soon, raise money for nonprofits

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The party gets going this weekend as New Port Richey begins nine days of festivities associated with the 69th annual Chasco Fiesta.

    From carnival rides to boat and street parades to music in the park to a Native American festival, there's a lot to take in for both locals and out-of-towners looking for some fun.

    At the same time, nonprofit organizations and charities in Pasco County will get a boost. Philanthropy is, after all, the seed that got it all started in 1922, when some local do-gooders decided to create a hometown festival to raise money for New Port Richey's library....

    Troy Elvrum, of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington state, displays wares at the Chasco Fiesta in downtown New Port Richey’s Sims Park last year.
  14. For Florida folk fans, Will McLean Festival is 'like a family reunion'

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING LAKE — The strumming, picking and singing about Florida's natural charm and indigenous folklore is the main attraction of the annual Will McLean Music Festival.

    As is paying homage.

    McLean was the father of Florida folk — a storied, gentle-natured man; a black-hatted troubadour who roamed the state in dilapidated rides, writing and singing about what he saw with the thought of preserving it through song. ...

    “Mean” Mary James, 35, will make her second appearance at the annual music festival.
  15. Annual festival at Anclote High gives culinary nod to Black History Month

    K12

    HOLIDAY

    The aroma wafting down the hallway is like the cast of a fishing line, making you want to follow your nose with hopes of getting a sample of what's been cooking.

    Open the door to chef Robert Wright's culinary classroom at Anclote High School, and there's a beehive of activity. Kids in whites and a couple of volunteers are creating stick-to-your-ribs fare — fried chicken, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, salmon croquettes and plumped-up corn bread muffins. Add to that some sweet offerings — sweet potato pie piped with whipped cream, red velvet cake, Sierra Mist cake and Mallory Baack's oatmeal crumb cookies....

    Joseph Wallace, 18, and Meagan Smith, 18, pull apart pork butt roasts seasoned with a mix of garlic, oregano and sugar.