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    In the early to mid 2000’s when capital flowed like water and banks gave loans like candy the housing market was booming. Housing prices were skyrocketing and loans were made to people with low credit. Spurred by subprime mortgages it seemed like almost anyone could afford to buy home. Families, investors, and the banks were all happy- it was a win-win for everyone, or so it seemed.

     When the housing market began to stabilize investors realized that home values weren’t going to rise forever. Families came to the conclusion that the 2 bedroom home they purchased probably wasn’t worth the million dollars they paid. And most shockingly, banks began to notice that people with low credit sometimes didn’t pay their bills. All of these factors led to one of the worst housing markets in U.S. history.

     When the real estate market isn’t doing well it’s typically homeowners who feel it worst. Most people don’t like to see their investments decrease and neither do homeowners.  When home values are decreasing many people feel like they’re losing money even if it isn’t physical. And when people feel like their losing money they tend to spend less and a domino effect is created that can effect an entire economy. The entire market could be clouded by a bad stigma.

     Today, many people still carry the stigma that the real estate market is “bad” or underperforming, and while that may have been true in the past it isn’t for today. In Florida, year-over-year home values are up almost 15% and many markets are seeing record low home inventories. These low inventories have led to median home sales price increases of over 18%. Homebuilders are building new homes in astonishing numbers compared to prior years and overall development is up in many areas of the state. The real estate market is back and it’s time many homeowners got over the bad stigma of the past and entered the market. With rising home values now is the perfect time to invest in real estate.

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We are the boys from old Florida
F-L-O-R-I-D-A
Where the girls are the fairest,
The boys are the squarest
Of any old state down our way

We are all strong for old Florida
Down where the old Gators play
In all kinds of weather
We’ll all stick together
for F-L-O-R-I-D-A

Singing We Are the Boys from Old Florida is a classic University of Florida tradition. Putting your arm around a stranger and swaying in The Swamp with 90,000 other Gator fans is possibly one of the best feelings in the world. This year though things are a little different, our mighty Florida Gators football team has a 4-5 record. Headlines read “The Downfall of Gator Football” or “Florida Gators Drop From Ranks of College Football Elite”, and however true it is important that we remember one key phrase in our third quarter tradition: “In all kinds of weather we’ll all stick together”. 

If you consider yourself a member of the Gator Nation I encourage you to keep your spirits up. In 2000 Alabama went 3-8, and now they’ve won the BCS National Championship 3 out of the last 4 years. I promise you we will move back into the top ranks because what separates the Gator Nation from other fan bases is that we never stop talking about how great it is to be a Florida Gator.

Even if we’re 0-12(which I hope never happens) we will still wear orange & blue with pride. We have so much to be proud of both academically and athletically, and not in just football. Athletically we have one of the best athletic programs in the nation. We currently rank in the top ten in multiple sports including: Men’s and Women’s Swimming, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Golf, Women’s Soccer, and Women’s Volleyball(and these are only Fall sports).  Academically, the University of Florida is the 14th best public university in the nation and our research expenditures are in the top 20 among all institutions. While our football team is having a bad year we are still great in many aspects. It’s STILL great to be a Florida Gator, because in all types of weather we’ll all stick together.

 

Go Gators!

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Imagine stepping foot on a college campus for the first time and suddenly- before taking a single class- having to choose a course for the rest of your life. While students typically switch majors multiple times many institutions fail to give students a well rounded liberal arts education. In an effort to attract the brightest students many universities give credit for IB, AP, or AICE classes taken in high school. These credits are applied toward general education classes that would take the place of a liberal arts education.  And while this can save money and shorten the amount of time spent in college I think it is important that every student receive a general liberal arts education.

When many people hear of a liberal arts education they think about social sciences or english and picture a New England landscape with hipster students wearing black framed glasses carrying leather bound books. But the fact is a liberal arts education plants the foundation for the college experience and allows students to find themselves and their interests before choosing a path. Many times students are quickly forced to put themselves into a major and on a track that they’ve never even studied before. Higher education should be about expanding your knowledge and discovering what you want in life. We need to give students more time to figure that out.

A liberal arts education can also be an equalizer that allows students from all backgrounds to explore their interests before making  career decisions. Recently in Florida, the state legislature passed a bill giving the University of Florida “the green light to create a 9- to 12-hour core curriculum unique to the institution that all students would be required to take”. The important part of this common core is that student can not opt out of these classes using IB, AP, or AICE credit. This common core would create a more united campus and enable all students to share in common knowledge.  UF President Bernie Machen said having a “shared educational experience” is important and I could not agree more.

In today’s changing world young people are being pushed earlier than ever to find a course for their life. College should be an experience for growth and discovery and we should give all students the opportunity to explore their interests. And while some students may moan and groan at getting a liberal arts education it will plant a foundation for the future and enhance the college experience.
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This weekend I had the chance to participate in an event called Dance Marathon(DM). Dance Marathon is a fundraising event where participants stand for 26.2 hours nonstop to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network and Shand’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Florida.

Coming into Dance Marathon the only thing I expected was feet pain. For the first few hours I felt okay, I was a little bored and a little unsure of how I would endure 20+ more hours. I began thinking about why I was there, thinking to myself  “Why do I dance?”. The easy answer was to just say “For The Kids” (FTK), a common Dance Marathon phrase.

While Dance Marathon raises money mainly for Children and pediatrics it also raises awareness on the impact of cancer. Having had multiple family members with cancer I can closely relate to having someone you know have cancer. It is unfathomable to me to think about a child having cancer, and while I’m so fortunate not to have been personally effected by cancer I know it can strike at any moment.

The best part of Dance Marathon was seeing the kids and families participating in the event, they helped reminded all of us what we were fighting for. After hearing story after story I knew that 26.2 hours of standing doesn’t even begin to compare to what a child with cancer has to go through. Some of the funds raised from Dance Marathon help go to programs that help children with cancer live a normal life. Dance Marathon made those children shine like stars, they felt amazing and I teared up seeing them smile.

At Dance Marathon I dance for everyone- children, parents, family members, and everyone impacted by cancer.  It pains me to see cancer debilitating a child’s already short childhood. We all must work together to find a cure to cancer, for everyone- for children and for adults. As my pink tank top I wore at the event said “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” I hope Dance Marathon doesn’t stop until we find a cure. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to take part in this amazing event. At the University of Florida we raised $1.169,722.16 for Shands Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network. A record breaking amount that almost had me sobbing.
I hope I continue to be apart of Dance Marathon and I hope to raise even more next year!

FTK!

P.S.: Click below for a few pictures of me from the event!

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As if the past few years of economic turmoil haven’t been damaging enough for our state university systems the sequestration only further highlights how blinded our priorities are. I understand that the sequestration was created in an effort to avert a government shutdown, but how troubled are our priorities that we would label programs that benefit our most vulnerable students as part of this package of spending cuts?

We are doing a disservice to our students by unfairly targeting them when we should be making higher education more affordable and accessible. Students are already baring the brunt of annual tuition hikes, and with a reduction in state funding for our public universities the last thing we need is a reduction in aid from the federal government.

According to an article from PolicyMic:

“Federal work-study grants will be cut by $49 million, which will force approximately 70,000 students to borrow money from other sources. However, the cost of borrowing will increase as well. As a result of the sequester, student loan origination fees will skyrocket, meaning loans will become increasingly inaccessible to low-income students.”

“[The Sequestration] also include[s] a $725 million cut to Title I funding, which funds schools with a large percentage of students from economically disadvantaged families.”
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Including education cuts in the sequestration is not the right path for the country. It unfairly targets students who have already seen dwindling support from the government and sends a poor message about the future of higher education in our country.

Read more about the sequestration’s impact on low-income students:
http://www.policymic.com/articles/30073/sequestration-2013-will-hurt-education-low-income-students

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This is a caption.

tb-two* tags along for a test ride with Peter Couture, Daily Driver columnist for tbt* and the Times

GUY’S TAKE: ANTHONY CLOSE
Robinson High

Curb appeal factor: One of my favorite things about the Chevy Volt is its curb appeal. The sleek, aerodynamic design reminds me a space pod, and with an interior to match, its futuristic appearance will definitely make your friends jealous. General Motors decided to use a black exterior trim that really compliments the curvature of the body. If you’re not really into American car, it’s okay because this car looks nothing like Chevy’s other compact cars.

Environmentalist factor: If you’re looking the save the planet but don’t want to ride your bike everywhere, this may be the closest thing to an acceptable car. According to GM, for up to 50 miles (35 miles according to the EPA) you can drive without using gas. Just like your cell phone, this plug-in hybrid plugs into the wall. But this cutting edge technology comes with a price, $39,145 for 2012 models before a $7,500 federal tax credit. So if you can afford it, say bye bye bike.

Leg room/head room/backseat factor: If you’re like me and you’re under 5’6’,’ the Volt’s backseat may be fine for you. But if you’re 6 feet or more, the backseat may be a little cramped. Because of the sleek design, the back end of the car drops steeply, limiting the headroom. The backseat’s center console means you’d never be squished by three passengers, though. Despite being a compact car, the front seats offers a lot of leg room and a spacious dashboard, which, in my opinion, makes up for the backseat.

Published by the Tbtwo*, a publication of the St.Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times.
(http://www.tampabay.com/tb-two/blog/2011/10/18/get-car-2012-chevy-volt/#)

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