Escambia County Commision Honors State Champion 4-H Meat Judging Teams

September 14, 2020

The Escambia County Commission recently honored the members of two Escambia County 4-H Meat Judging teams that won state champinships.

The Escambia County 4-H Meat Judging Team won the senior division state championship. Team members are Jessica Conti, Hannah Thorne, Ethan Thorne and Chad Sasser.

Conti was also the over high scoring individual with three teams and 11 individuals competing in the virtual state competition held last Saturday.

Other top placing individuals included Hannah Thorne in second, Ethan Thorne in third and Sasser in 10th place.

Escambia County also brought home the state championship in the intermediate division of the contest as the sole competing team, with team members Tucker Padgett, Gracie Meredith, Alan Bray Crews and Abigail Bray Crews.

As state champions, the Escambia County teams earned the right to represent Florida in the National 4-H Meat Judging Contest at the American Royal Association in Kansas City, Missouri, in October.

SRSO’s New Bloodhound Puppy Has A Name. And It Is…

September 12, 2020

The new Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office K-9 bloodhound puppy has a name.

Over 8,200 entries were submitted in the SRSO “Name Our K-9″ contest.

And the winner is….. K-9 Nez.

Nez is French for the word nose, which is the reason why bloodhounds are so good at what they do. The name was submitted by Jo Morgan who will have an upcoming opportunity to meet Nez.

Escambia Commission Honors Molino Teen For Saving Lives Of Her Family From House Fire

September 10, 2020

The Escambia County Commission recently honored a Molino teen for saving the life of her family from a fire that destroyed their home on Crabtree Church Road.

Destany McKim, 14, saved her mother and grandmother from the fire about 12:30 a.m. on January 25, 2019.

Destany, who was 12 at the time of the fire, said she was up late doing homework, and smelled a little smoke. At first, she thought her mother was cooking.

“As soon as I looked over at the living room, the extension cord just burst into flames,” Destany told She immediately went to wake her mom and grandmother as the house began to fill with dark smoke.

“My mom is a smoker, so she didn’t smell the smoke. It didn’t wake her up, and my grandmother wears a CPAP machine, so couldn’t have smelled it,” she said. There were no working smoke alarms in the home.

As she got her mother and grandmother out of the home, she had the forethought to close the doors to slow the spread of the fire. Her grandmother went back in with a fire extinguisher, but the flames spread rapidly.

“It just spread everywhere, and the windows had just burst.” She worked to save the three family dogs, including a 65-pound basset hound that she ultimately had to tote away from the burning home.

“I don’t feel like I am a hero. I feel like I did what anybody else would have done in that situation because I just thought of my family. If I had gone into panic mode, there was no keeping my mother out of panic mode,” Destany said. “I don’t feel like a hero, but I’m flattered.”

“She’s a hero. A real hero. She saved her lives,” Destany’s mother Datanya Wells said recently.

Destany, who will attend Northview High School this year, may have a future in firefighting. She’s applying to be an Escambia County Fire Rescue junior firefighter.

Last month, she received the Girl Scout Bronze Cross for Valor for saving her family.

Pictured: The Escambia County Commission honored Destany McKim for saving the life of her family from a 2019 house fire in Molino. and courtesy photos, click to enlarge.

Tate, PHS Students Named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

September 9, 2020

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has named semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.

Local students named National Merit semifinalists are Michael R. Dixon and John T. Semple from Tate High School; and Sydney Dodson, Calla Endacott, Kendall Frazee, Owen Ides, Maxanthony Mateer, Alyssa Pascoe, George Prettyman, Mai Tran, Ashley Wu and Amy Zhang from Pensacola High School.

Escambia High Students Win NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

August 23, 2020

A team from Escambia High School won the high school division for the  best design in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge.

While NASA is preparing to send the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon in 2024 with the Artemis program, the next generation of explorers, engineers, scientists, and spaceflight professionals are sharpening their skills to help the agency establish a permanent presence on the Moon and send the first humans to Mars.

The agency announced the winners of the 2020 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge during a virtual awards ceremony.

The Human Exploration Rover Challenge team from Escambia High School won the high school division AIAA Neil Armstrong Best Design Award, which recognizes the team that best designed their rover to take on the punishing Rover Challenge course, making maximum use of resources and ingenuity. The award is presented in the name of the late NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong.

“This year, we had 111 teams from 27 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and 11 other countries,” said Julie Clift, program manager for the challenge at Marshall. “The teams pushed the limits this year, designing and building truly innovative rovers to take on the challenging course. Although we are disappointed we had to cancel the on-site activities, we are thrilled we are able to recognize and celebrate the teams’ hard work and creativity.”

The competition is one of seven NASA Artemis Student Challenges the agency hosts to engage and inspire the Artemis Generation. It is sponsored by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Office of STEM Engagement Next Gen STEM in Washington; and managed by Marshall’s Office of STEM Engagement.

The challenge was launched in 1994 as the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Just six college teams participated that first year. Expanded in 1996 to include high school teams, the race evolved again in 2014 into the Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Since the challenge’s inception, more than 12,000 students have participated.

Photo: Escambia High School for, click to enlarge.

Cantonment Improvement Committee, Ascend Cares Hold Book Bag Giveaway

August 16, 2020

Ascend Cares and the Cantonment Improvement Committee held a drive-thru book bag distribution Saturday at Carver Park to help local children get ready for back to school. Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

Train Caboose Moved From School To Heritage Park In Atmore

August 12, 2020

A caboose that was outside an Atmore school for years has a new home in a local park.

The Burlington Northern caboose was recently moved from Rachel Patterson Elementary School to Heritage Park on Main Street at West Craig Street. photos, click to enlarge.

Escambia County 4-H Meat Judging Teams Win State Title

August 11, 2020

The Escambia County 4-H Meat Judging Team won the senior division state championship.

Team members are Jessica Conti, Hannah Thorne, Ethan Thorne and Chad Sasser. They are coached by Brian Estevez.

As state champions, Escambia County team earned the right to represent Florida in the National 4-H Meat Judging Contest, still on schedule at this time at the American Royal Association in Kansas City, Missouri. in October.

Conti was also the over high scoring individual with three teams and 11 individuals competing in the virtual state competition held last Saturday.

Other top placing individuals included Hannah Thorne in second, Ethan Thorne in third and Sasser in 10th place.

Escambia County also brought home the state championship in the intermediate division of the contest as the sole competing team.

Amos The Labradoodle Helping Pensacola Sailors Cope During Pandemic

August 7, 2020

With COVID-19 still affecting the world, Sailors have been more restricted in an effort to maintain control of the virus and keep Sailors safe. With new accession students attached to Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station, that has meant less socializing, with restrictions to fitness, spiritual services and liberty onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida.

However, there are still ways that Sailors can receive in-person counseling with a chaplain. In these unique times of anxiety, loneliness and stress, the chaplains at Corry Station have incorporated a therapy dog in training to help the student population.

Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals, such as horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and birds, into the treatment plan. It is used to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy. The chaplains’ therapy dog is a Labradoodle named Amos.

While under these restrictions, it is more likely for Sailors to become more reclusive and suffer from things such as loneliness, depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Studies have shown that social interaction, and counseling is a good way to combat these things, offered U.S. Navy Chaplain Cmdr. John Ismach-Eastman.

“I think with everything going on, with all the services and other ways to cope with stress limited due to COVID-19; Amos is a wonderful option for healing,” said Ismach-Eastman. “Although we offer in-person counseling, there is a major trend for most counseling to be virtual. While that option can certainly help, it only helps to an extent, especially since we were designed as social beings. The chaplains know all too well that touching screens more than hearts plays a detrimental toll on our mental and spiritual health. Amos meanwhile can offer something we can’t–namely a physical touch, a hug and the love and affection therapy dogs are known for.”

For some students onboard Corry Station, Amos has already contributed to their well-being. Information Systems Technician Seaman Apprentice Kyara West is one of those Sailors.

“It was nice and helpful being with Amos,” said West. “I have a lot of anxiety talking to people, especially people I don’t know that well. It was definitely calming to be with him while I was in the chapel; just being able to pet Amos and have him around helps me focus. The dog is so loving and being able to feel that helps me be more comfortable.”

No doubt, aside from being an alternative form of therapy, Amos does indeed provide a much needed social interaction benefit. Sailors and other military members can see him and interact with him, having a companion to be around them which is a limited availability among COVID-19 safety procedures. Amos also helps these Sailors in training, and he is learning to pick up on saddened or depressed service members while providing them with the companionship they may need.

West, having a background with dogs already, said that animals have always been a good stress relief for her, and military members can benefit greatly from the use of therapy animals. She hopes that Amos being onboard Corry Station leads to more opportunities to utilize him and that it leads to more awareness of getting help for service members.

“I think therapy animals are something Sailors and other military members would greatly benefit from being around,” added West. “Animals in general are already great, but having these animals that are specifically trained to notice when someone is down, or might just need some extra love, is super helpful. Maybe what we’re doing here will lead to more things, like forming a club, or getting other bases to start doing the same thing.”

Amos is available by appointment, and service members do not have to be referred. Contact the Chapel at (850) 452-6376 for counseling or a therapy session with Amos.

IWTC Corry Station is a part of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT). With four schoolhouse commands, a detachment, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains over 20,000 students every year, delivering trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.

Pictured: Sailors attending courses at Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida, pet Amos, the in-training therapy dog, during a visit. Photo By Seaman Neo Greene for, click to enlarge.

Lipscomb Elementary Counselor Named Finalist For National Magazine’s Educator Of The Year Award

August 5, 2020

A Lipscomb Elementary School counselor has been named a top four finalist for a national magazine’s Educator of the Year Award.

Patricia Swanz-Reiners was named a finalist for the award to be presented by Reinvented Magazine. She was nominated by Angela Cleveland, the director of NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) Counselors for Computing Program. The two met at the annual National Math and Science Initiative annual conference last year.  Swanz-Reiners’ participation in last year’s NMSI conference built relationships that provided the opportunity to present to various groups. She became a Counselor Consultant with Counselors for Computing and has been presenting virtually in several states since the pandemic closed schools in the spring.

“Swanz-Reiners was the counselor representative on the ECSD (Escambia County School District) team last year and it was the initial year that NMSI offered a week on coding and computer science.  We spent the week in sessions specific to our areas and NCWIT was the leader in the group for counselors. Pati has stayed involved with her NCWIT contacts and she traveled to speak at events and she has presented at a couple of NCWIT virtual events,” explained Lauren Thurman from ECSD’s Instructional Technology Professional Development Department.

“Part of my presentation to other school counselors includes talking about the Grant for Excellence which Lipscomb received from the Escambia County Public Schools Foundation for a program we call Google Expedition: Voyage into the Unknown,” said Swanz-Reiners. She worked with Thurman to present the Expedition to Lipscomb’s students last year.

“Google Expedition incorporates both virtual and augmented reality and challenges students to not only be consumers of technology, but also producers of technology.  By introducing new opportunities that engage our students in cutting edge technology, we are leveling the educational playing field for all students.  We are providing equity in the classroom regardless of the student’s socioeconomic status, race, or gender.”

“Being recognized as a finalist gives me the opportunity to highlight the importance of the work I am doing in my school, that many of us are doing in our school district, and the work I am doing with so many other school counselors,” said Swanz-Reiners when she learned to the Education of the Year Award nomination.

Reinvented Magazine has a single mission in mind, she explained. Their mission is to reinvent the general perception of women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) while inspiring interest in STEM for young women worldwide. “The Educator of the Year award recognizes the critical role that K-12 educators have in sparking an early interest in STEM and opening opportunities for young people, especially those underrepresented in the field,” Swanz-Reiners said.

“Being selected as one of 20 finalists from around the world is an honor that elevates the role of educators who are impacting change in their sphere of influence and serving as a role model of how we can integrate inclusive strategies to engage more students in STEM with creativity, advocacy, and collaboration,” said Swanz-Reiners. ”Finding out I was in the top four finalists was so exciting! It truly is an honor to be among amazing women who are doing great things in the world and making it a better place for all of our students, especially our girls. It was thrilling.”

Reinvented Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that aspires to break barriers and aid the movement to get more girls involved in STEM by creating the nation’s first print magazine for women in STEM.

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