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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. Olympics for young minds are a hit as new school year gets under way


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Trinity Cardona, 10, was feeling pretty good about her move to a new school as she watched a blinking, miniature robot skirt across a table in the newly painted media center at Cotee River Elementary School.

    "This is incredible. I've never seen anything like this before," Trinity said as the robot moved left, then right, then twirled around.

    It might seem magical, but it wasn't. The robot's color sensor was following a circuitous route that Trinity designed by drawing static codes with red, blue, green and black colored markers on a sheet of white paper....

    Trinity Cardona, right, Antonio Stone, center, and Rashawn Clay, draw color-coded lines for an Ozobot to follow using tools bought with Title 1 funds for the new Makerspace inside the school’s media center.
  2. Readiness camp gives young students a preview of kindergarten



    It was the last day of Kindergarten Readiness Camp at Calusa Elementary School, and Johnny Velasquez, 5, donned in a red Spider-Man T-shirt, was showing off the helicopter he had engineered from a bin filled with plastic toy connector discs.

    "That's wonderful," said exceptional student education intervention teacher Julie Morris, bending down in the school media center to admire Johnny's finished work as others built their own contraptions. "Would you be able to show that to a friend? Can you be a teacher and show them how you made it?"...

    Calusa Elementary ESE interventionist Julie Morris talks with soon-to-be kindergarten student Olivia Ostapow as she works on an activity at the four-day camp. 
  3. New shelter aims to aid homeless in west Pasco



    It was time to get the show on the road. Sue Campbell made her way past the rows of folded chairs to the front of the newly painted room to quiet the din of local notables and guests gathered for the grand opening of the ROPE Center's new sleep facility.

    Then she apologized for the poor acoustics.

    In a month's time, the white walls wouldn't feel so stark, and the ship-gray concrete floor would be covered with beds and footlockers that would dull the echoes. ...

    The new sleep facility is a 2,400-square-foot building on stilts that sits adjacent to the ROPE Center in Hudson. 
  4. LAMEcon anime festival to offer weekend of 'super nerdy' fun in Land O'Lakes


    LAND O'LAKES — Whether you're a fan of the new mobile game Pokémon GO, or you have more than a passing interest in Star Wars, ThunderCats or anime of any kind, there's something to take in this weekend at the Land O'Lakes Library's eighth annual LAMEcon (Library Anime and Manga Enthusiasts).

    The two-day event, sponsored by the Friends of the Library and private donors, kicks off with a dance and costume contest Saturday evening and wraps with a closing ceremony Sunday. ...

    Anime characters Leafa and Kirito, styled by Kira Chi Cosplay and Char Exia Cosplay.
  5. 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
  6. 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)
  7. 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.
  8. 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....

    Ratza sits in the recently created garden, which was funded by Lowe’s grants.
  9. 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....

    Zoe Carpenter, 10, works on a clay dog outside the mobile studio.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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....

    Odessa Elementary student Viky Mansour, 10, shows her message and designs to her teacher, Lauren Snodgrass.
  13. 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.
  14. 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....

  15. 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.