Feature Stories

Explore a selection of my enterprise and feature stories below.

New place for birders to flock coming to Apopka

In the future, Central Florida birders will have a special place to flock in Apopka to hang with feathered friends.

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a conservation project and lease agreement with the nonprofit Orange Audubon Society to develop the Apopka Birding Park at the entrance to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive at 2923 Lust Road.

“Birders are growing and growing. It’s really a growing sport,” said Deborah Green, Orange Audubon Society president. “Even now, when it’s jus

Apopka voters to choose among four candidates for two council seats

With two City Council seats up for election in Apopka, issues like deteriorating roadways, services for people experiencing homelessness and approaches to economic growth have been hot topics among the four candidates.

For Seat 4, incumbent Nick Nesta is up for reelection and will be facing Eric Mock once again after defeating Mock in 2022.

Vying for Seat 3 are first-time candidates Nadia Anderson and Darryl Richardson. Incumbent Kyle Becker announced in February that he will not be running fo

The pricetag for Orange County’s new animal shelter is now $95 million — and no one knows how to pay for it

A new animal shelter in Orange County is now projected to cost close to $100 million – nearly triple a previous estimate – and county officials don’t know how to pay for it.

The dilemma came to the fore as Orange County Animal Services presented an update on the planning of the new shelter at a board of county commissioners meeting this week.

The shelter has been a topic of discussion since 2017, but the original cost estimate was $34 million. OCAS has $41 million on hand for the project, leav

Crowded rooms. Computers in the hall. Should Maitland spend $19 million for a new library?

If you need to use the computers at the Maitland Public Library, you’ll probably end up sitting in the middle of a hallway. The building, parts of which are more than a century old, has no space for a computer lab.

Now Maitland’s leaders are asking city residents to fix that and a host of other shortcomings by supporting a $14 million bond on the March 19 ballot to build a new and improved library.

The question for voters is whether the improvements are worth the property tax increase proposed

Voters could settle saga of Winter Park’s ban on gas-powered leafblowers

Under threat that the state could usurp its authority over noisy lawn equipment, Winter Park may instead turn to voters to decide the fate of its controversial ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

Negotiations between a city official and a state senator could resolve the dispute over the ban that was first approved two years ago, and thrust back into the spotlight this month as landscapers and residents squared off.

UCF alumna and real estate entrepreneur pushes toward $1 million

She’s confident, she’s ambitious and she’s driven. UCF alumna and Realtor Alexandra White is making strides in the world of real estate after graduating in 2019.

During her time as a student White was accepted into the UCF College of Business’s Professional Selling Program, a competitive mentorship program that only accepts 35 exceptional students each year who show potential and promise in the fascinating and lucrative field of sales.

White was recently invited back to the university by her f

In an emergency? In Orange County, you can make a 911 video call

Imagine that you’re jogging down a trail and you trip on a rock. You’ve twisted your ankle, and there’s nobody around. So you call 911, but the dispatchers don’t know where you are and neither do you. Well, you’re in luck.

Orange County has implemented a new form of emergency communications technology that allows residents to make video calls to first responders. That means people in need can not only describe their emergencies, but also show them — helping responders to identify locations and

Florida law prohibiting diversity sparks concern among UCF students and faculty

Students and faculty are concerned a Florida senate bill that passed earlier this year will negatively impact higher education due to cuts in funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs and censorship of educational curriculum.

Dr. Larry Walker, vice president of UCF’s Black Faculty and Staff Association and assistant professor at the College of Community Innovation and Education, said he is worried the jobs of his fellow colleagues are at risk.

“We want to make sure that there are no

Knighthawk Audubon hike for red-cockaded woodpecker

With binoculars pointed up toward the sky, members of Knighthawk Audubon stood silent and motionless as they listened to the distant chirps of a bird that they could only hope was the red-cockaded woodpecker.

On Saturday morning, 15 members of the UCF chapter of the National Audubon Society embarked on a hike through Hal Scott Regional Preserve and Park with a mission to spot the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Although the red-cockaded woodpecker has been on the endangered species list si

Homelessness jumps by 40% in Lee County: Hurricane Ian, rising rents to blame

Homelessness jumps by 40% in Lee County: Hurricane Ian, rising rents to blame

After losing their Fort Myers home in Hurricane Ian, Paula Brennan and her partner Trenton Morrissey have been out on the streets ever since.

The couple for several months sought respite in public spaces like libraries and bus stations. Brennan said they've tried many times seeking aid and resources from local services with little luck.

"We're paying for a disaster that I sometimes really struggle with" Brennan, 42,

'I just feel safe': 2 Naples women platonic partners after divorces, becoming more common

'I just feel safe': 2 Naples women platonic partners after divorces, becoming more common

Naples residents Patty Kulak, 28, and Marissa Baker, 31, have been best friends since 2021 after the two bonded over their divorces and became each other’s biggest support system. Kulak and Baker, who are not only best friends but also roommates, refer to their relationship as a “platonic life partnership."

Originally from New Jersey, Kulak lacked a support system when going through her divorce and “chose

Neo-Nazi group flyers left in Naples Park didn't target specific people, CCSO says

A Texas-based neo-Nazi group that recently distributed flyers in a North Naples neighborhood tried to intimidate minorities especially, says a civil rights group.

Seventy Ziploc bags containing flyers that stated “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” were distributed on Naples Park driveways the morning of May 14 ― Mother’s Day ― by the Aryan Freedom Network. Collier County sheriff’s deputies said they collected the bags, which also contained rice to act as a weight. They also said the “suspicious incident,” a

UCF Professor utilizes virtual reality to treat PTSD in critical illness survivors

Not everyone leaves the hospital with a smile on their face after being cured of a critical illness. For some people, a stay in the hospital means developing post-intensive care syndrome and PTSD.

Dr. Brian Peach has initiated a clinical trial testing the use of exposure therapy to treat those who suffer from the mental health ailment he has seen impact his ICU patients firsthand.

Peach, an assistant professor within the College of Nursing and an ICU nurse at Orlando Health, said in January, h

Children with ASD learn self-defense skills at the Family Judo for Autism program

Children who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder fill the halls of the CHPS Rehabilitation Innovation Center and put on their judo gis in anticipation of throwing around a fifth-degree black belt judo master every Saturday afternoon.

Once a week for 45 minutes, kids ages seven and up have the opportunity to participate in a 16-week martial arts class that teaches them basic self-defense techniques. Dr. Jeanette Garcia, director and primary investigator of the program, said the Family Ju

Nursing alumni join together at the College of Nursing Alumni and Friends Reunion

The chatter of dozens of UCF nursing alumni filled the halls of the Celeste Hotel on Saturday night as they sipped on glasses of chardonnay and reunited with past classmates in anticipation for this year’s College of Nursing reunion.

Although an annual event, Victoria Wright said this year’s College of Nursing reunion boasted a record attendance of 170 people in comparison to last year’s 130. Wright, the assistant director for alumni engagement for the College of Nursing, said this is because i

UCF professor works to address gender-based violence

When she's not baking treats for her two daughters, Dr. Bethany Backes is busy developing solutions for the types of gender-based violence that exist in our world and at our campus.

Backes, a New Jersey native, is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, School of Social Work and the Violence Against Women Faculty Cluster at UCF. She said she is always working on a new research project and is the primary investigator for a project at UCF called the Care on Campus program, w

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