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Thursday, March 05 2020

Content provided by Polk County Government via Facebook.

Polk County - On Friday, February 7th, children in Polk County received free dental screenings and dental care as part of the Give Kids A Smile program.

This program, held at Travis Technical College’s Dental Program, allows students and staff of the program to use their skills to provide free dental screenings, treatments, and education to children in need.

Polk County’s Indigent HealthCare Division supports the funds for this program.

For more information about this program, visit kids-a-smile/history-of-give-kids-a-smile

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:58 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Photo: Facebook.

Content provided by All Saints Academy via Facebook.

Winter Haven - The Northeast Polk Gazette would like to congratulate the All Saints Academy's Upper School Advanced Dance Ensemble for their selection to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in November.

According to a post shared by the school on their Facebook page, the dance team is among 400-500 dancers selected from thousands of applicants for this huge honor.

The post also shared that, in addition to rehearsals with professional choreographers for one week in NYC, the girls will get to explore the city and enjoy shows and cultural experiences. We can't wait to see them in the parade!


Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief & Editorial Board Member.

NE Polk County - During the Months of November through February, The Northeast Polk Gazette received entries for our first young writing contest.

As part of our commitment to our community, we launched the "NE Polk Gazette Young Writers Award" to promote excellence in writing at the high school level. Our goal with this competition was to recognize outstanding writing achievement by high school students.

Students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades were invited to enter in one of the following categories:

1. Poetry: Two-three poems.
2. Fiction: A short story (1,500 words or fewer).
3. Nonfiction: A personal or academic essay (750 words or fewer).

One winner was to be selected in each category. The winner in each category would be awarded a prize of $500 each.

As expected, many high school students from the Polk County area sent us their stories and a panel of six judges, selected the winners. The panel members included two college graduate students, a senior high school student, a life and health coach/motivational writer, a NE Polk Gazette board member, and Ambassador Retired Harry K. Thomas, Jr. who previously served as the US Ambassador for Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and Bangladesh before retiring from the Foreign Service in March 2018.

It is with pleasure that we present to you the winners for our first young writing contest.

* For Poetry, we had a tie and the winners are Octavia Jackson and Ethan Thomas, both from Winter Haven High School.

* For Fiction (Short Story), we also had a tie and the winners are Isabelle Arias- Runyan and Alanna Goodson, both from Lake Wales High school.

* For Non-Fiction, the winner is Ambar Disla-Borja from Winter Haven High School.

The Northeast Polk Gazette and its Board Members want to congratulate our winners for their amazing entries and wish them all the best in their college careers.

Photos of the winners receiving their awards will be published in our April edition.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Winter Haven - Hope Equine Rescue's 2020 "Reading with Rescues" program kicked off on February 10.

Fuego, one of the horses at the rescue, was a huge hit during the event and the students even gave him a new hairdo. By the way... Fuego is still available for adoption in case you were wondering. Scarlett and Sassy Pants love being read to.

If you haven't done so, make sure to register for the next session. You can register by contacting Mary, the event director, at 863-608-3756.

What's Reading with the Rescues (RWR)?

Reading with Rescues is a program for K-8th grade students, and allows them to come to the rescue and read to horses, donkeys or mules, supervised, but unassisted, for approximately 20-25 minutes. Students are welcome to bring their own reading material or borrow some from the donated books.

The program will take place on the second and fourth Monday of the month. The session starts at 6:30 pm and should finish at around 7:30 pm. Sign-up will be by RSVP only and limited to 25 students per session.

This is a working farm. Please wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable clothing.

After reading, students will have a "pony experience" where they will pet an equine and get to ask a handler horse questions.

All parents/guardians and students will be required to sign a release waiver. An adult will be required to stay on the property while the student is reading.

A $5 donation per student is required.

If you would like to volunteer to assist with this program please e-mail them at

For more information about this great organization, you can visit their website at

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Haines City - For this month's community leader of the month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Karen Knipling, and this is what she shared with us:

NEPG: Tell us a short story about yourself and how that experience inspired you to become who you are today.
: I’m not a leader. I’m just a person, a member of the GFWC Four Corners Junior Woman’s Club. I’ve always been interested in service to others. I went to Catholic schools from pre-school to college. My first job was a civil service position in the local library in New Rochelle, NY.

When my husband, Al, and I moved to Florida in 1980, I went to work for Walt Disney World. At that time, guest service was the primary value to the company. I moved throughout the company in several divisions. I joined the library at Imagineering to help with the Epcot project. I provided research to the designers to finish the Park. At the Information Technology Library, I assisted programmers and database designers while moving from the mainframe world to PCs and networks. I was welcomed into the Entertainment Division where I headed the Resource Center where I supported Show Directors, Producers, Costume Designers, and a myriad of other creative professionals. I enjoyed a career focused on service. Until I retired in 2009, I had very little time to focus on community service.

NEPG: What are your main responsibilities as a member of the GFWC Club?
: As a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Four Corners Junior Woman’s Club, I am part of a team that helps the community of the Four Corners area through volunteering and fundraising. We join forces to locate non-profits that need support. The Club has been focused on women’s and children’s needs primarily. In the past, the Club supported Veterans and animal support groups. My main responsibility on the team has been to keep the community informed of our activities and how neighbors can join with us to help.

NEPG: How do you manage the different personalities among the people you work with to be able to make an impact not only in their professional lives but also in their personal lives?
: As a former New Yorker and a retiree, I tend to be succinct. I give advice freely and often. Greet everyone with a smile! I am grateful for all the support I receive from Club Members. I am grateful for all the community support we receive! Just leave this world better than the way you found it, and have fun doing it!

NEPG: Tell us a little bit about your family and how you manage your professional and personal lives without allowing one to affect the other.
: My husband and I have one daughter (Emily), two grandchildren (Lilly is 6 and Parker is nearly 2), and their father is Donovan. Emily spent many hours along with me at work, in daycare, studying ballet, and attending school. Now my husband and I get to spend lots of time with our grandchildren while their parents build their careers.

NEPG: What message would you like to pass to other leaders, who like you are trying to make an impact in our community?
: Think about the one-, five-, and 20-year plans with the same vision. Grasp the value of research and future demographics. Remember that people are people.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Davenport - This month, on The Student Leader of the Month, we want to feature a student from Ridge Community High School. Ladies an Gentlemen, meet Ms. Nahessa Smith. We had the pleasure of interviewing Nahessa, and this is what she shared with us:

NEPG: Which grade are you attending right now?
: I am currently in 11th grade.

NEPG: What leadership position are you responsible for?
: The leadership position that I am responsible for right now outside of my family, is a member of the Ridge Community High School girls’ basketball team. I am often looked at and referred to as the defensive leader. I am often tasked with guarding the best person or the best players on the opposing team. I enjoy my defensive duties because it proves that you don’t have to be the tallest, the strongest or score any points. Defense is all about heart.

NEPG: Tell us about how your leadership approach has influenced others around you.                                                  Nahessa: My leadership approach has always been to lead by example and to stand for what’s right, even if I’m standing alone.

I think that it is easy to be a follower, it takes no effort to do what everyone else is doing. It’s tough to be a leader. I always try to lead by example with my family, on my sports team, and within my community.

NEPG: What are your plans for the rest of the school year?
a: My plan is to maintain good grades and not let anything distract me from that; just stay focused.

NEPG: What would be your message for younger kids who are planning on taking a leader's role within their school?
: My message for the young kids in the community who want to take on a leadership role is to stay true to yourself, don’t allow others to influence you out of your comfort zone; be a leader, not a follower.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Photo: Wikipedia.

Winter Haven - Meet Maryly VanLeer Peck, PH.D. Mrs. Peck was a lifelong advocate for women in science. She organized most of the student chapters of the society of Women Engineers in Florida and was the first woman chosen to head a Florida Community College as president. She endowed scholarships for women at Polk State College who went on to study engineering at the University of Florida.

As the first woman to receive an advanced degree at the state university in 1955, she went on to work on rocket fuel development. That brought her to the attention of Life Magazine in 1962 as one of the 100 “most important young people in America.”

Peck was a long-time member and Fellow of the Society of Women Engineers. She was also featured in Life Magazine, was named Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Florida in 1991, and received numerous recognitions and awards for her work in the advancement and awareness of engineering as a profession for women.

In 2006, she was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame for her notable contributions in academia. Peck passed away in 2011.

This information first appeared in


Photo: Florida Women's Hall of Fame.

Lakeland - Meet Carol Jenkins Barnett. Ms. Jenkins Barnett is the daughter of Publix supermarket founder George Jenkins and an heir to the Florida-based fortune. She has worked her entire life to make a difference for all of Florida’s children, giving thousands of children a better opportunity to fulfill their potential. Her generous gifts of time, talent and treasure continue to impact the lives of countless Floridians. Mrs. Barnett has served as president of Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. since 1991, and as a member of the board of directors of Publix Super Markets, since 1983. She has served as vice-chair of the Florida Council of Economic Education, co-chair of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance, and as an executive board member of the Florida Council on Economic Education. In 1997, she became a founding board member of the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland. In 1998, Mrs. Barnett initiated the “Feed Me a Story” children’s reading initiative and in 1999, she was appointed vice-chair of the Florida Partnership for School Readiness Board. After 33 years on the Publix board, she stepped down in June 2016 following a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

This information first appeared in the Florida Women's Hall of Fame website.


Photo: Wikipedia.

Haines City - Meet Amber Denise "Sevyn" Streeter. Amber is an American singer and songwriter, best known for being a member of the girl groups TG4 and RichGirl where she was known as Se7en. She signed to Atlantic Records and released her debut single "I Like It" in 2012. Her debut extended play Call Me Crazy, But... was released on December 3, 2013. It sold over 17,000 copies within its first week and spawning her first top 40 hit single "It Won't Stop", and "Next". The single achieved gold certification from RIAA marking it as her biggest selling single to date. In 2015, her first extended play (EP) Shoulda Been There, Pt. 1 was released. The extended play was preceded by two singles "Don't Kill the Fun" and "Shoulda Been There." Her debut studio album Girl Disrupted was released on July 7, 2017. The album has been preceded by the release of five singles "Prolly", "My Love for You", "D4L", "Before I Do" and "Fallen." She has written songs for artists such as Chris Brown, K. Michelle, Usher, Kelly Rowland, Ariana Grande, Trey Songz, Alicia Keys, Fantasia, Brandy, and Tamar Braxton. Streeter was born on July 7, 1986, in Haines City to Tim and Karen Streeter. She grew up singing in church and talent shows; by the time she was 5, Streeter already knew she wanted to sing for a living. At the age of 10, she competed on Showtime at the Apollo and tied for first place by singing "My Funny Valentine."

This information first appeared in

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 07:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Polk County - Every year March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history.

Did You Know? Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Week

Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.

In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians—led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women's History Alliance)—successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

Subsequent Presidents continued to proclaim a National Women’s History Week in March until 1987 when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme. The 2020 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote.”  The theme honors "the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others."

This article first appeared on

For more information on the National Women’s History Alliance, visit their website at 

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 06:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Content Provided by The City of Lake Alfred.

Lake Alfred - On Monday, February 17, at the City Commission Meeting Wallace Nix was sworn in as the new Fire Chief.

Fire Chief Wallace Nix has been with the City of Lake Alfred 28 years. He began as a volunteer Firefighter and has worked his way up the ranks all the way to Chief of the Department. His wife Linda Nix was present to pin him with the Chief’s badge while Director Bailey administered the Oath of Office.

Meet Fire Chief Wallace Nix:

“It started one day 27 years ago when my son fell and busted his lower lip. I stopped by the Lake Alfred Fire Department to ask a life long friend Firefighter Medic Don Guillette if my Son needed stitches. Firefighter Guillette said to me... why don’t you become a Volunteer Firefighter... it’s a lot of fun. By the way, my Son got 7 stitches,” said Chief Nix. And, just how he mentioned... that's how everything started.

Chief Wallace Nix started his Firefighter career at the age of 31. He joined the City of Lake Alfred Fire Department in 1993 as a volunteer. He started taking fire classes at Ridge Technical Center, Basic Volunteer Firefighting, Emergency Vehicle Operations, and First responder under Chief Cloud.

Chief Nix stated that at his age he had to take classes and promote as soon as possible.

He began with the following, starting in 1993:

*  Attended Polk State College for National Registry Of Emergency Medical

Technicians in 1994.

*  Attended Lake County Area Vocational Technical Center (Minimum Standards

of Firefighting certificate) 1994.

*  Division of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire Standards and Training

Certificate of Competency.

*  Pump Operator in 1999.

*  Fire Officer I 2002.

*  Fire Inspector I/II 2009.

*  Fire Investigator I 2010.

Chief Nix was hired as a part-time Firefighter/EMT at the City of Lake Alfred Fire Department in 1997. Promoted to full-time Captain in 2005 under Chief Pridgen. Promoted to Deputy Chief in 2019 under Chief Costine. Finally, he was promoted to Fire Chief on February 17th, 2020.

Chief Nix was hired full time at The City of Winter Haven Fire Department as Firefighter/EMT in 1997, promoted to driver in 1999, and promoted to Lieutenant in 2001. He retired from Winter Haven Fire Department with 17 years of service.

Chief Nix worked 48 hours on and 24 hours off for almost 10 years working full time at both departments, LAFD and WHFD.

“I started my lifelong dream job at The City of Lake Alfred as a volunteer and secured a retirement at WHFD. My final promotion of Fire Chief at the City of Lake Alfred will complete my journey,” said Chief Nix.

Congratulations on your promotion to Fire Chief Wallace, the City of Lake Alfred thanks you for your service.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 06:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Content Provided By: The Organization's Website.

Lakeland - For this month's "In The Spotlight," we want to feature a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of our beloved animals. Without further ado, let us introduce to you the SPCA Organization.

Founded in 1979, SPCA Florida is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Lakeland. Dedicated to improving the lives of pets and people in the community, SPCA Florida provides caring, compassion and hope to more than 4,000 homeless animals entering our doors each year.

Open to the public, our McClurg Animal Medical Center is a state-of-the-art veterinary facility that heals and helps 50,000 patients annually. Thousands of more pets and people are served through our community outreach and education programs.

SPCA Florida is a No-Kill organization and will only euthanize animals for medical reasons.


Attorney Rick Stephens drafted the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, and the three founders recruited the SPCA’s first Board of Directors and served as its first officers.

From 1980 to 1991, volunteers held off-site adoptions every Saturday at the Publix in Lake Miriam Plaza on South Florida Avenue. SPCA members were recruited and foster animals found forever homes. Funds for the outreaches and for the foster care program were raised through a crafts group’s Christmas sales and an annual SPCA Flea Fair. By 1988, the Flea Fair grew into the Treasure Chest Thrift Shop in downtown Lakeland which eventually closed in 1999.

As the number of unwanted animals grew, volunteers realized that a shelter was needed. After a Building Committee spent ten years seeking a property donation, the hard work finally paid off in 1990. SPCA member Betty Thornton appealed to Dr. and Mrs. E.L. Kinsinger who left a bequest in excess of $200,000. The money was used to purchase the land on which the SPCA shelter was built in 1991.

On May 8, 2001, through a grant from the City of Lakeland, county funding and widespread support from private donors, more than $500,000 was raised to build and equip the low cost spay/neuter clinic.

In 2003, the spay/neuter clinic expanded to include wellness services for animals in need of vaccinations and other healthcare. Now, the SPCA shelter takes in over 6,000 animals annually and the clinic has been expanded to a full-service medical center.

Thanks to a contribution of eight acres of adjoining property by Reva McClurg, SPCA Florida will continue to expand its Campus of Kindness and its community impact.

How Can You Help?

Each year, compassionate donors enable SPCA Florida to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home thousands of orphaned animals. We also serve over 2,000 pets and people through our community programs and provide affordable veterinary care through our veterinary hospital. As a private 501(3) non-profit, the majority of SPCA Florida’s funding comes from generous donors and business partners like you.

Our organization does not receive state or federal funding and is not associated with the ASPCA or United Way. Your tax-deductible gift will help us to improve the life of a pet in need.

Helping dogs and cats in need is easy. Select from one of the online options below or see Other Ways to Give. You may also donate over the phone (863) 577-4608, mail a check to SPCA Florida, Attention: Philanthropy, 5850 Brannen Road South, Lakeland, FL 33813, or visit the Administrative Office Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. To schedule an after-hours donation please call (863) 577-4600.

For more information about this great organization, visit their website at

Posted by: AT 06:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Content Provided By: The Organization's Website.

Polk County - For this month's "In The Spotlight," we want to feature a non-profit organization dedicated to making our community a safer one.

Let us introduce to you the Heartland Crime Stoppers.

The Heartland Crime Stoppers organization provides anonymous cash rewards for information regarding crimes occurring in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.

About Their Program:

This Crime Stoppers Program began in 1982 from the efforts of the City of Bartow and the Bartow Police Department. The program grew to cover all of Polk County and in 1994, the program was incorporated as Polk County Crime Stoppers, Inc., a recognized 501C(3) organization.

The program continued to grow to include all of Hardee and Highlands Counties. With that growth, we are now known as Heartland Crime Stoppers to reflect the three (3) counties in the heartland of Florida.

Heartland Crime Stoppers is an independent organization, which is governed by a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors oversees all financial and business matters relating to the organization. The Board of Directors also approves and determines monetary rewards for tips which resulted in an arrest, the recovery of stolen property, or the recovery of illegal drugs/narcotics.

Through a combination of efforts by local media, businesses, civic and social clubs, law enforcement agencies, and the public, The Crime Stopper Program has proven to be an effective tool in fighting crime and identifying criminals in Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties.

How Does The Program Work?

Heartland Crime Stoppers encourages members of the community to assist local law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime by overcoming the two key elements that inhibit community involvement: fear and apathy. Put simply, Crime Stoppers is a three-part approach to solving the crime. Heartland Crime Stoppers relies on cooperation between the police, the media, and the general community to provide a flow of information about crime and criminals.

By guaranteeing a caller's anonymity Crime Stoppers allows the caller to give information in a positive atmosphere without the prospect of retribution. By offering cash rewards for information leading to an arrest(s), the program encourages otherwise reluctant callers to provide information.

Ways You Can Help:

1) The Phone Call:

When you dial our toll-free tip line at 1-800-226-TIPS, your tip information is received by a Crime Stoppers operator. There is no caller ID, and conversations are not recorded. Heartland Crime Stoppers receives the information and then passes the information to the Law Enforcement Agency covering that jurisdiction. Calls are accepted on any crime, no matter where the location!

If the information concerns information outside Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties, we will forward the information to the correct jurisdiction, anywhere in the USA.

2) The Online WebTip:

Tipsters have the option of giving us tips online. The process is completely secure and anonymous and is a very effective and efficient means of safely communicating with us in today's world. Our WebTip process is powered by the world's leading online tip solution provider, Anderson Software.

The very unique integrated Two-Way Dialog capabilities allow the tipster to come back and provide additional information to their tip at any time, but also provides a secure means for Crime Stoppers to ask questions or provide reward information back to the tipster through the same secure and encrypted interface.

To use this feature, visit their website at then click on the "Submit-A-Tip" tab to leave an anonymous web tip.

3) P3 Tips On Your iPhone or Android:

P3 Tips allows tipsters to submit secure and anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers on your iPhone or Android. Tipsters could receive rewards of up to $3,000 for information submitted to Crime Stoppers and nobody will ever know your identity. The app is even password protected on your phone, so only you can access it!

Enjoy the convenience of communicating with Heartland Crime Stoppers via your mobile device. No shortcode or keywords required. Auto-locate the nearest agency that you can submit to or select an agency manually. Include images and video with your tips and have fully anonymous two-way dialogue and real-time chat with the receiving agency.

To install this free app, tipsters can search for P3 Tips on the Apple App Store or Android Market.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 06:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

By: M.C. Reyes, Editor-in-Chief and Member of the Editorial Board.

As we gather to celebrate Women's History Month, we want to invite all our readers to take time to acknowledge the wonderful women who, in one way or another, had made great contributions to our world and community. The truth is that all those women had something in common.. they were courageous, determined, and fearless, and they all stood up and joined forces to make this world a better place, not only for them but for the generations to come. If that's not impressive, I am not sure what is.

In case you guys didn't know, the 2020 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote.” What a great theme, right? And, the great part about that theme is that it came right at a time when our country has been the most divided and we depend on courageous individuals to bring the peace back into our world and into our lives. And, I have no doubt that our newer generation of women will take example from those women from our history and will stand up and fight for what they know is right.

Later this month, the National Women’s History Alliance will honor the women who have fought for woman’s right to vote in the United States.

In recognition of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, they will honor women from the original suffrage movement as well as 20th and 21st century... women who have continued the struggle (fighting against poll taxes, literacy tests, voter roll purges, and other more contemporary forms of voter suppression) to ensure voting rights for all. Again, what a great thing this is.

To our courageous women, which include those currently in uniform, to the veterans, and those who gave their lives for our country, today we say THANK YOU for your service and God Bless You All.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 06:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

By: Mileydy Morales, GenZ Guest Contributor.

As women, it is in our care-giving nature to put the feelings and needs of other people before our owns. How do I know? Well because I am a woman... well, a young woman, actually... but that's beside the point. The truth is that there have been several moments in my life where I have stopped in my tracks and wondered, “why am I helping this person at the cost of my own well-being and mental health?”

Since I was a little girl, I have been conditioned to think that it is wrong to be selfish and it is wrong to choose yourself over other people. But the more hardships and adversities I experienced, the more I realized the importance of putting yourself first. I vividly remember sitting in the audience watching one of my well-respected peers give a speech titled “Self-centered is not selfish” and having an epiphany. "Why have I spent my whole life prioritizing other people at the expense of myself?" It wasn’t until about halfway through my senior year in high school when I decided to stop. I decided that, from this point on, I would always choose myself.

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to help others and to give to those who can’t give back, but how can you help others if you can’t even help yourself? I believe that in order to be fully able to help someone, you must be in a stable and healthy mindset and place in your life.

After a period of soul-searching, I decided I would never sacrifice my dreams, mental health, or emotional stability, for the sake of someone else succeeding.

The minute I began choosing myself over others, I saw a change in my life. I no longer allowed people to walk all over me, and was therefore respected by my peers. I learned that there was a difference between actively wanting to help others, and being a doormat. I began to spend more time enjoying the things I actually loved such as theatre and music, and no longer spent energy ensuring I lived up to the expectations others had set for me. Putting myself first for once allowed me to see my life through a lens I never had before. I used to walk through the world thinking it was my job to hold everything up, and when I finally realized that it wasn’t, I was able to forgive myself for all the experiences I sacrificed in order for others to feel okay.

Bottom-line is... putting yourself first is not selfish; it is actually the key to living a healthy, and successful life.

About the Author: Mileydy Morales is a senior at All Saints Academy in Winter Haven.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 06:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Polk County - As part of our commitment to our community, the Northeast Polk Gazette is pleased to announce our new investigative news section.
In this section, we will be sharing with our readers extracts of investigative news featured by our good friends at ProPublica.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. They dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuse of power and betrayals of public trust — and they stick with those issues as long when we are the only one standing. 

With a team of more than 100 dedicated journalists, ProPublica covers a range of topics including government and politics, business, criminal justice, the environment, education, health care, immigration, and technology. They focus on stories with the potential to spur real-world impact. Among other positive changes, their reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws; reversals of harmful policies and practices; and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels.

"For the members of the Northeast Polk Gazette, bringing our leaders accountable for what happens in our community is part of our mission and joining forces with such an amazing organization that can help us do that is a dream come true," said M.C.Reyes, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Gazette.

In the future, the Gazette hopes to be able to do their own investigative reporting, but for now, they will rely on the expertise of ProPublica to bring their readers quality investigative reports, not only from our area but also from around the nation.

What is investigative news?

According to The Investigative Journalism Manual (IJM), a project of the Global Media Programmes of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), "Investigative Journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters go in-depth to investigate a single story that may uncover corruption, review government policies or of corporate houses, or draw attention to social, economic, political or cultural trends. An investigative journalist, or team of journalists, may spend months or years researching a single topic. Unlike conventional reporting, where reporters rely on materials supplied by the government, NGOs and other agencies, investigative reporting depends on material gathered through the reporter’s own initiative."

Why is investigative reporting important?

According to the KAS manual, "this practice aims at exposing public matters that are otherwise concealed, either deliberately or accidentally."

What can you do as a community to support investigative journalism?

"As a community, it's important that we all stand up for what we believe in, even when we are the only one standing. When a community does that (stand up for what they think is wrong within their community), they can make change happen. 

As a reporters, we have the responsibility to report on the issues affecting our community, but as a community, we also have the responsibility to bring these issues to the attention of the investigative reporters so they can look, dig deeper, and do everything that needs to be done to get this issues fixed and/or to uncover any wrongdoing that may be contributing to the development of the issues. I'm my opinion, that's how a community can support investigative journalism," said M.C. Reyes.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 06:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

By: Kevin Brill, Ellie's Dad.

Tampa - Ms. Ellie is a 12-year-old Yorkie adopted through the Tampa Bay Humane Society. She enjoys exploring the backyard, snuggling under blankets, and reminding mom and dad to enjoy the little things in life like warm chicken nuggets.

Ellie also likes spending time with her fellow adopted fur sisters but high tails it to safety when a game of play tug of war or wrestling breaks out. Weighing in at just under 3 pounds, she is a true little-big-dog voicing a loud bark when she’s hungry, wants to go outside, or is up for a snuggle.

No matter the kind of day you’ve had, coming home to this sweet fur face brightens any mood. Mom and Dad are the lucky ones for sure!!!

Posted by: AT 05:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Press Release.

Winter Haven - Here are some news and happenings shared by our good friends at Bartow Regional Medical Center and Winter Haven Hospital.

Pet Therapy:

BayCare encourages pet therapy at all its hospitals through our Volunteer Services programs. Certified dogs and their hospital volunteer handlers visit with consenting patients (and their families/visitors) to lessen the stress that likely comes with a hospital visit. At Bartow Regional, Snickers, an Aussie doodle, visits the hospital regularly. It took more than a year for Snickers and handler Patricia Davis to undergo the training so they could earn certification as a pet therapy team. Snickers is one of several pet-therapy volunteers at BRMC. At Winter Haven Hospital, you can typically find Zora in the Cassidy Cancer Center infusion room where chemotherapy patients are settling in for hours of treatment.

COPD Awareness Month:

March 8-14 is Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week. WHH’s Better Breathers class offers free advice and support for those with COPD and other respiratory issues. The class is held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month in the Wellness Center conference room, and typically 10-12 people attend each month. In addition, on the fourth Wednesday, there is a “Breathe Easy Chair Yoga” class.

First TAVR Patient at WHH:

With the recent opening of Winter Haven Hospital’s expanded Bostick Heart Center, the cardiac team is now offering transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to patients suffering from aortic valve stenosis. Our first TAVR patient has been waiting to have his surgery close to home by the physicians he trusts and is tentatively scheduled to undergo the procedure on March 3rd.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 05:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

Content Provided by Cindy Sellers Ransbottom.

Haines City - The Polk County Democratic Party held a Grand Opening for its second office in Polk County located in Haines City on Saturday, February 15, 2020. Over 100 attended to celebrate the new office located at 711 E. Main Street, Haines, City, Florida 33844.

Attendees enjoyed refreshments, music provided by Phil Schneider and Eddie Alvarado, face painting, spin the wheel and balloon animals as the Polk County Democrats welcomed the community to its new office. Polk Democratic Executive Committee Chair Katherine Sutherland, M.D. greeted the crowd and stated that all the members of the Polk County Democrats are excited to offer a second location to give expanded access for Northeast Polk County Democrats. “Thank you all for joining us today. Our added office here in Haines City follows substantial growth of our group including an increasingly motivated volunteer base. The number of Precinct Captains and Block Captains have greatly expanded during the last year. Voter registration goals have been exceeded month after month garnering us recognition from the Florida Democratic Party. We are proud to have an additional office to better serve the needs in Northeast Polk,” Chair Sutherland commented.

She then introduced speaker Polk County Democratic Executive Committee Vice-Chair Cesar Ramirez who spoke on the need for more Democratic legislators in Florida and announced his intention to become a candidate for Florida House District 41. He added he would be taking a leave of absence from the Polk DEC while he campaigns. The crowd enthusiastically responded to his announcement. Barbara Cady, a candidate for Florida House District 42, seconded the need for more representatives. Following the talk, visitors enjoyed a ceremonial cake cutting.

Later in the program, Haines City Vice Mayor Ann Huffman spoke on the need for diversity in politics. She introduced the candidate for Haines City Commissioner, Claude Holmes II. Darren Vierday also spoke on behalf of Congressman Darren Soto who was unable to attend.

The Haines City office hours are Monday – Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily. Other times are available by appointment by calling 863-668-7199 to set up a day and time. All interested Democrats are invited to stop by. The Polk Democratic headquarters remain in Lakeland at 1553 S. Combee Road.

For more information, please contact, visit their website at or call 863-668-7199.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 05:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 05 2020

By: Mike Ferguson, Contributing Columnist.

Davenport - For a select number of Polk County female student-athletes this academic year, the term "playing with the big boys" was more than a saying. It was a reality.

Last month at Ridge Community High School, Layla Nickerson signed her letter of intent to wrestle at Iowa Wesleyan, a Division III school. Nickerson, 17, became the first Bolts' female wrestler ever to earn an NCAA scholarship.

When it came to competing against boys, Nickerson wasn't alone at her school. This past fall, Molly Martin served as the placekicker for the Ridge Community football team. In her first game - a 47-20 win over Bartow - Martin became the first girl in Bolts' history to score in a varsity game when she made five extra points.

In Polk County, Martin wasn't the only girl to try her hand at placekicking. At Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake, Issy Pita became the first female player in program history. Her first contest was a 46-7 loss to George Jenkins, but it may have featured a bit of Polk County history.

In the season opener for both teams, three girls played in the contest. Pita made the lone extra-point attempt for Lake Region. For the Eagles, another female kicker, Anna Toms, kicked off 10 times. Linebacker Tyana Holder also saw playing time in the second half.

One week later, Pita was a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points in Lake Region's 56-29 win over Santa Fe Catholic. That was the first win for the Thunder since 2016.

There are a number of prominent and championship-caliber girls teams throughout Polk County. This academic year, however, many have proven themselves capable of excelling in sports previously reserved for boys.

Posted by: Content Coordinator AT 05:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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