Off to Nicaragua!

It’s official… Thrilled to volunteer with Quetzaltrekkers in León, Nicaragua starting in July!

Here’s a couple videos I found that give you a glimpse of what I’ll be doing as a hiking guide for this organization whose funds go to help niños de la calle, or local street kids.

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The sad story of Gainesville’s almost ice rink

In which I spent almost three weeks visiting the construction site of downtown Gainesville’s ice rink two or three times a day…  In which I was hit on repeatedly by the people in Bo Diddley Community Plaza… In which I watched an old man who did not need the money from this project spend two weeks sleeping in his truck…

This story earned me another front pager for the Gainesville Sun.

Originally, this was going to be a video project for a class about the rink’s construction, with a final interview of someone excited about it and shots of people happily skating. That slowly fell apart. After visiting the construction site so often with my camera, the main subject started to tell me things in passing when I wasn’t filming. These details were the most fascinating and would have helped people truly understand his character and his situation. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t say them on the record. But the story was still about a guy who was struggling but not going to give up.

When the story came out, he called to thank me for doing a nice job. He said he had thought about quitting the project in the days after our last interview, but he decided against it because he said that’s not who he was. The rink should be done by the end of the next week, he said, and he mentioned hiring me to make a promotional video about it. Later, I found out he did decide to quit the project. The rink was so close to being done! But I understand his struggles, and I hope, on some level, Gainesville does, too.

Food People

In true fashion, I finished the final project for my photography lighting class about 30 minutes before it was due. Some people just work better under pressure…

The assignment was 10 photos with a unifying theme. I chose people involved in the food cycle, and I loved getting to go behind-the-scenes at places like UF’s meat processing center and one of my favorite restaurants, The Jones B-Side. I realize the lighting, especially the rim light, is way too hot in a lot of these photos. I’d love the chance to keep working on this series. Asking people to play with food for you is fun! And it’s been a long time since I laughed as hard as I did while shooting the “pooping” shot.

In which I spent days at the hazardous waste center…

My story “Hazardous Waste Collection Center’s Kurt Seaburg keeps things running smoothly” was published on the front page of the Gainesville Sun today.

I had so much fun hanging out at the center and getting to know Seaburg. Everyone there is always laughing! I hope that friendly, lighthearted character shines through in the piece.

SWAG

My first story in the Gainesville Sun this semester landed on the front page! It’s about a community that needs help and a resource center that just opened to serve it called SWAG.

SWAG center tackling dilemmas facing southwest Gainesville’s poor

Looking back, I would’ve loved to spend more time at the center getting to know the people there, so I could tell the story through their eyes as a series of four of five vignettes. That didn’t fly with the Sun’s editors, and I ran out of time. But it’s ok. I still got a byline on a front-page centerpiece, and it looks wonderful with the photos and graphics.

As the reporter I’m shadowing, Morgan Watkins, told me, “You gave the front page of the Sun some much-needed SWAG today.”