GAINESVILLE – The UF Innovation Academy (IA) is welcoming the incoming class of 2026 IA students, as well as family, friends, and guests, to the UF campus and to the IA program at IA’s convocation event, Launch Into IA. This event will take place on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Reitz Student Union.

The Launch Into IA 2023 ceremony will be followed by a reception for family, friends and guests and breakout rooms for the over 350 incoming IA students to receive important information about the upcoming spring semester.

The Innovation Academy (UF IA) is one of the nation’s most forward-looking undergraduate programs – at one of its most dynamic research universities. UF IA gives motivated students a small-college experience focused on innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, ethics, and leadership on a unique spring-summer schedule. UF IA enrolls and supports academically talented students focused on developing knowledge to grow new business opportunities, services, and products through curricular and co-curricular experiences.

The UF Innovation Academy is also honored to welcome Dr. Farouk Dey as the Launch Into IA 2023 Keynote Speaker. Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Education, Dr. Dey is a higher education and workforce development executive who has led and transformed university organizations for two decades. Dr. Dey has held positions at UF, Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University and is now the Vice Provost for Integrative Learning and Life Design at Johns Hopkins.

Second-year business administration major, Jaden Nosse, will be this year’s IA Sophomore Student Speaker. “It gives me great joy to welcome our incoming class of 2026 of over 350+ students to the start of their academic careers at the University of Florida,” said IA Director Dr. Jeff Citty. “This year we will continue to ensure our students success through expanded community partnerships, engaging our alumni and growing our student resources.”

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GAINESVILLE ‒ - Below are the updated City of Gainesville traffic impacts scheduled for January 6-13, 2023. 

NW Fifth Ave.: Northwest Fifth Avenue will be closed from Northwest 13th Terrace to Northwest 15th Street for road reconstruction from Monday, Jan. 9-Thursday, Jan. 12 (7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.). 

Continuing Notices 

SW Ninth Terrace: Southwest Ninth Terrace will be closed between Southwest First Avenue and University Avenue due to the construction of a new development. Construction is expected to last through August 2023.

Note: All lane and road closures are subject to change due to unforeseen conditions, such as inclement weather.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ It's not just Santa Claus who delivers presents at Christmas. Charities and organizations hold toy drives to gather gifts for underprivileged children and food for those in need, making Christmas special for kids and families that might otherwise receive little.

Since 2008, the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) and Fire Department (HSFD) have been making dreams come true through Operation Holiday Cheer. The first responders collect donations of new toys, shoes, clothing and books from the community so they can gift them to local children.

Beginning in the fall, HSPD and HSFD ask for donations, and working in conjunction with the City of High Springs CRA, Parks and Recreation Department and Public Works, they set up collection points within local businesses and city sites to gather donations.

This year Operation Holiday Cheer made six special deliveries, with additional families picking up their gifts directly from the police department. The event was organized by High Springs Police officer Jason Taylor with help from HSPD administrative assistant Angela Robertson. Taylor personally visited families, talked with the parents first and if approved, to the kids. Many of the recipient families, but not all, were chosen from a list provided by the High Springs Community School, that notified the School Resource Officer of families they felt could use help.

According to Robertson, donations come from all over the community. “About 60 percent are donations from businesses, 30 percent from individual citizens and about 10 percent come from organizations like the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Women’s Club and other local organizations.

“The whole community pulls together for this,” said Robertson. “In addition, on cash gifts, we try to support local businesses by buying presents there. The families also receive a gift card to buy food for the holidays.”

Robertson said that donations grow each year, especially after the pandemic when so many families were hurt financially. “This year we were able to help over 50 families,” said Robertson. “But we don't want the community to become complacent and think we have enough.” Robertson says that any increase in contributions increases the number of families they can help.

On the morning of Dec. 20 its go time as a caravan of multiple police cars, a High Springs fire truck and a City of High Springs public works pickup truck formed at the police department, and lined up for the mission. The public works truck pulled a long trailer packed with bags of Christmas presents. At 9 a.m. the caravan headed north with lights flashing and a police siren to alert drivers at crossroads. Drivers pulled to the side of the road as the convoy passed, some waving or clapping, knowing the mission the police were on.

The first stop was a large family with five children. The children had not been informed of the surprise visit and were stunned by the multiple police cars with lights flashing. Two of the officers wore inflatable costumes as Santa and a Christmas tree. As the costumed characters and police officers holding large bags of presents approached, the children's eyes widened in wonder and the realization that the bags were for them. Each child was gifted a huge bag with multiple presents as the older ones helped the younger ones open the packages.

The second stop had not been suggested by the school, but rather through HSPD. Responding to a service call at the home, officers saw that the family with two teenage daughters had fallen on hard times and was struggling financially. On the delivery day, the mother was home with her daughter and the father was working, unaware of the event. Hearing that there were police cars with lights flashing at his house, he raced home in his work truck, and jumped out of the vehicle asking what had happened to his family. When informed it was a Christmas visit, he clutched his chest in relief and thanked the officers for their gifts for his family.

The third stop was at the Circle K gas station, where the mother of two pre-teen girls was working. Unable to change her shift, her daughters were brought to the store, unaware of why they were coming. When the convoy arrived, both girls were surprised, hesitantly approaching the police vehicles. Two large bags were presented to the girls with the older girl receiving a skateboard and a helmet to go with it.

The fourth stop was at a home with four children, all under the age of 10. The two youngest were unsure of all the attention until the mother helped them open gifts and they realized the gifts were for them. One young girl sat on her mother’s lap hugging a doll while the others quickly opened their gifts.

The fifth stop almost didn’t happen as no one would answer the door after repeated knocks. The police staff member who arranged the visit called the mother, only to find out she was at work, and the older teen son was not supposed to open the door to strangers—including multiple police officers with lights flashing. After she contacted her son, he timidly came out as did his younger sister. Their shyness gradually disappeared, replaced with joy as they realized the gifts were for them.

The final stop was also from a service call and did not involve children. In November, police and EMT's were called for a medical emergency with an elderly couple who only spoke Spanish. The couple became frightened by the situation and began to panic when officers tried to take the husband to a hospital.

HSPD officer Mayuly Mardase spoke Spanish and was called to the scene. While resolving the communication problem, Officer Mardase found out that the couple had no heat and no money. HSPD decided to make them one of the recipients of Operation Cheer. Again, the elderly couple did not know about the special holiday visit. With Mardase acting as interpreter, the HSPD presented the couple with electric blankets, a heater and warm clothing as well as gift cards for food and clothing.

Operation Cheer is well named. Through the commitment and hard work of first responders and a generous community that helps support it through donations, Operation Holiday Cheer brings happiness and cheer to those who might otherwise not have a merry Christmas.

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ALACHUA COUTY ‒ The principal and assistant principal of Williams Elementary School have been selected as Alachua County Public Schools’ Principal and Assistant Principal of the year, and will now go on to represent the district in the statewide recognition programs.

Principal Anyana Stokes and Assistant Principal Jennifer Roberson were selected by their peers districtwide based on their resumes and their responses to questions developed by the state on such topics as supporting teachers and student performance.

Stokes has been an educator for more than twenty years, having worked as a teacher, adjunct professor, dean and assistant principal at schools in Orlando and Gainesville. Since 2018 she’s been the principal at Williams, the school she attended as a child. Under her leadership, the school has seen significant improvement in student performance, including strong learning gains in English language arts (ELA) for all students and for the lowest-performing students. Stokes established the ‘Wildcat Pillars,’ underlying principals that anchor the work that the school’s administrators, teachers and staff are doing to boost student achievement.

Stokes says she’s honored by the recognition from her peers, but also gives credit to the entire school community.

“This is also recognition of the hard work and effort put in by the Williams teachers, staff, students, families, and community partners,” she said. “It’s so special for me to be serving at the same elementary school I attended as a child.”

Roberson also has years of experience as a teacher and school administrator, having previously served as assistant principal at both Shell Elementary School and High Springs Community School. She also supported Williams as a district instructional coach before becoming the school’s assistant principal in 2021. In that role, Roberson supports teachers through data-driven planning and professional development and serves as the school’s coordinator for testing and for the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program. She also implemented the United States of Readers Scholastic Program at Williams, which provides free books throughout the school year to students and teachers to promote excitement about reading.

Roberson says she feels its important to balance hard work with making learning fun for students.

“The work we do is difficult, but I’ve found that maintaining a positive outlook during any situation can help make it easier,” she said. “A little positivity can go a long way!”

The Principal of the Year and Assistant Principal of the Year finalists are expected to be selected this month, with the statewide winners in both recognition programs announced in February or March.

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ARCHER ‒ Christmas came early to Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Cemetery Restoration Org. The SMITHBILT Company in Archer donated a much-needed shed to house cleanup supplies. Mr. Davis, who spearheaded the donation, was just as happy. It is people such as Mr. Davis who understand the importance keeping history alive.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2023) – Public outdoor lighting helps pedestrians and bicyclists stay safer at night. That is why Gainesville City Commissioners adopted new guidelines for sidewalk lights— specifically addressing where they should go, what brightness level to set, and how to place them uniformly while still preserving the local landscape and protecting wildlife.

Today’s adoption of revisions to the lighting ordinance of the city’s Land Development Code (LDC) will improve sidewalks and alleyways. The update means that new projects with areas used by pedestrians and bicyclists will have to meet Florida Department of Transportation lighting standards.

The recommendation is one part of a recently completed Pedestrian Lighting Study prepared by Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. The study lays out a plan for cost-effective, safety-focused lighting based on input from City of Gainesville Public Works, Gainesville Police Department, Gainesville Regional Utilities, and the Department of Sustainable Development. The Gainesville City Commission’s focus on enhanced outdoor lighting began in July 2022, when Commissioners requested a study in response to neighbors voicing safety concerns.

“This should help increase feelings of safety and also visibility for drivers in vehicles,” said Planner Dan Zhu, who worked on the revised ordinance.

Special Advisor to the City Manager Andrew Persons notes communities across the country are examining lights along sidewalks and walkways as part of urban improvement plans.

“Lighting is a major component of an approach known as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design—or CPTED. It’s how lighting and landscape can make spaces safer. Not only is there better visibility, but we can direct pedestrians and bicyclists to the best routes. We can also look at trimming trees near light poles to take advantage of fixtures already in place,” said Persons.

This is only the first phase of Gainesville’s plan for enhanced outdoor lighting. The next step will use study findings to begin updates for streets, roads, highways, bridges, curbs, curb ramps, crosswalks, bicycle facilities, underpasses, and overpasses used by the public.

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ALACHUA ‒ An arrest has been made in the Dec. 9 shooting that left one man dead and another in critical condition. At approximately 6:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, the Alachua Police Department (APD) and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Combined Communications Center (CCC) received several phone calls reporting multiple gun shots and others reporting that someone had been shot inside One 51 Apartments located at 15139 N.W. 150th Road, Alachua.

Arriving officers found a male near building 15139 who was suffering from a gunshot wound to his left side. Alachua County Fire Rescue arrived on the scene and began first aid. The wounded man was transported to UF Health Shands Hospital by ambulance. On the way to the hospital, the victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased by paramedics. The deceased man was identified as 22-year-old Jaquan Janario Robinson, of Fort White.

While officers and paramedics were attending to Robinson, CCC received a phone call from a second individual saying he had been shot in the back. Officers located 20-year-old Lacorrin Raheem Calhoun, suffering from a gunshot wound to his armpit area in the pasture adjacent to building 15139. First aid was rendered to Calhoun by law enforcement and paramedics. Calhoun was transported to UF Health Shands Hospital in critical condition and was released from the hospital couple days later.

The APD Criminal Investigations Division conducted several interviews with on-scene witnesses and persons of interest. After several interviews, it was determined that the incident occurred after a drug transaction went foul. During the course of the investigation, detectives identified Calhoun as the primary aggressor and a warrant for his arrest was applied for and granted.

On Dec. 22, 2022, Calhoun made contact with APD detectives at the Alachua Police Department and was interviewed and arrested for Second Degree Murder Possession of Firearm / Ammunition by a Convicted Felon, and Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon

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