• School newscast empowers Riverview Gardens students to tell their own stories

    by Carolina Hidalgo, St. Louis Public Radio

    Fifth-grader Saniya Bryant sits at a desk at Koch Elementary, meticulously studying a set of questions. Behind her, a lime green cloth hangs from the ceiling. Across from her, a fourth-grader swivels a video camera in her direction.

    “Quiet on set.”

    Saniya is prepping herself to conduct an interview for Koch TV, the school's student-run online newscast. Originally a public speaking course for fourth- and fifth-graders, the class morphed into a news operation this year.

    Every Thursday, students gather in a converted teacher's lounge at the Ferguson-area school to do research, prepare questions and write scripts. They record each other in front of the makeshift green screen with Principal Howard Fields’ personal Canon equipment and an iPad teleprompter.

    They often interrupt the show to burst into song – a “Hello?” spoken into a mic becomes a quick Adele impersonation – and crack jokes – “You sound like some chicken without seasoning!” – but Fields is quick to point out the valuable skills they’re learning while having fun.

    “They’re working on critical thinking, literacy, listening – components they’re being assessed on outside of Koch TV,” he said. “Everything we do is about impacting student achievement.”

    A former high school basketball coach, Fields brings a coaching mentality to the news team. He reminds students to play their part – producer, anchor, cameraman – and work together.

    “Mr. Fields steps back and lets us do what we’re capable of,” said fifth-grader Myauna Hayes, who Fields describes as a star reporter. “We’re all in this together.”


  • A couple of portraits from a recent series looking at the toll a homicide takes on families, neighborhoods, first responders and the legal system.

    Mary Pat Carl, lead homicide prosecutor for the city of St. Louis.

    Mike Mahon, an attorney with Missouri's public defender system.

  • A few from my first month in St. Louis.

    U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, greets Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, during a Hillary Clinton campaign event in St. Louis.

    Anaya Chenna, 5, of St. Louis, participates in a candlelight vigil aimed at raising awareness of the toll of gun violence in St. Louis at Saint John's United Church of Christ.

    Murphy Lee poses for a portrait at Vape Ya Tailfeather, his new vape shop, in St. Charles.

    Grace Kenyon walks her dogs, Lhenny and Brown, near the Ashley Street Power House, a city landmark that developers have said could become a team store in the proposed stadium plan.

  • Estero High kicker Emily Culvahouse kicks during football practice on Oct. 29, 2015.

    Ashley Ward, director of the Next Level Leadership Academy at Next Level Church, prays during a vigil for those injured during a shooting at ZombiCon at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. 

    Rene Calambu, of Fort Myers, and 10-month-old Jaylin Amador Diaz, of Naples, look onto the runway while waiting to board Choice Aire flight 908 to Havana on Nov. 2, 2015. Southwest Florida International Airport began direct service to José Martí International Airport on Monday afternoon.

    Emily Culvahouse, right, watches teammates run drills during football practice at Estero High School on Oct. 29, 2015.

    Emily Culvahouse watches teammates run drills during football practice at Estero High School on Oct. 29, 2015. Culvahouse has been a kicker at Estero since her freshman year. 

  • Richland Balsam. Blue Ridge Mountains, N.C.

  • Ben and Alyson. Nashville, Tenn.

  • Around Town: In the elderly pockets of Naples, Bob Shea searches for healing

    He is Bob Shea. He is 57. With purpose, he wears ridiculous hats. His colorful Hawaiian shirt tucks into his bluejeans. He holds a beige C.F. Martin and strums simple chords.Shea does about 40 of these sessions per month, playing guitar for residents of nursing homes. Some would call it music therapy. Shea, who lives in Bonita Springs, calls it something more than that.Read more here:

  • Top: Gloria Sellers tears up as Bob Shea performs "Amazing Grace" at HarborChase of North Collier, an assisted living memory care center, on July 22, 2015. A nurse by trade, Shea now spends his time performing dozens of shows a month for patients with dementia at memory care centers in the area. Bottom: Residents sit in the main common room at HarborChase of North Collier as Bob Shea performs on June 25, 2015. The assisted living memory care center aims to provide socialization and stimulation for patients with dementia.

  • William Collins, 5, sits in a reading corner in his new kindergarten classroom as his parents fill out paperwork for the upcoming school year during an open house at Poinciana Elementary School in Naples on Aug. 13, 2015. Collier County public school students head back to school Monday morning.

  • Kathy Lowers, center, of Naples, prays with her daughters, Izzy, left, 10, and Maggie, 18, right, outside the Collier County courthouse in recognition of the National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2015.

    Joshua Tatum, 11, of Naples, prays with a crowd Thursday afternoon outside the Collier County courthouse in recognition of the National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2015.

  • Sgt. Danny Salls, with the Collier County Sheriff's Office, fits second grader Christine Belizeire, 8, with a new helmet before the start of the school day in Immokalee on May 6, 2015. Students were encouraged to bike to Pinecrest Elementary Wednesday as part of National Bike to School Day.

    First grader Junior Sanchez learns how his new helmet should sit on his head from Cpl. Michael Taylor, right, with the Collier County Sheriff's Office, in Immokalee on May 6, 2015. Sanchez was one of many students who biked to Pinecrest Elementary as part of National Bike to School Day.

  • The Naples Bears, made up of high schoolers from half a dozen local schools, practice at Palmetto Ridge High School on April 7, 2015. The team is headed to the state rugby championship game this weekend with eight championships under its belt. 

  • Kaneisha Atwater, center, celebrates with Whitney Knight, left, after FGCU beat NKU 60 to 43 to win the Atlantic Sun Women's Basketball Championship tournament at Alico Arena on March 15, 2015. 

  • Danelle Downs, of Fort Myers, left, Jamia Curry, visiting from North Carolina, center, and Kami Peoples, also from North Carolina, right, take instructions from a booth worker as he gives them extra chances to make baskets at the Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair at the Lee Civic Center in North Fort Myers on March 4, 2015. 

    Janiele Garza, 5, of Immokalee, surveys an ice cream cone on the last day of the Collier County Fair in Naples on March 22, 2015. 

    Omar and Anabelle Hendricks, ages 3 and 4, of Naples, share an ice cream at the Collier County Fair on March 13, 2015. 

  • Daniel Gianferrara, 16, of Naples, waits with Leroy for their turn in the steer competition at the Collier County Fair on March 13, 2015. 

    Caleb Blocker, 5, watches his older cousins and friends get ready for the steer competition at the Collier County Fair on March 13, 2015. 

  • Dick Thackston gets ready to cut his four birthday cakes with the help of his grandson's girlfriend, Bahar Arghavani, left, at his 90th birthday party at the Museum of Military Memorabilia at the Naples Municipal Airport on Dec. 20, 2014. 

    Kara Thackston hugs her grandfather, Dick Thackston, after making a short speech about him during his 90th birthday party at the Museum of Military Memorabilia at the Naples Municipal Airport on Dec. 20, 2014. 

  • Leelee Zeitler, 6, checks on her family's cow, Gurdy, during the Old Florida Festival at Collier County Museum in Naples on March 8, 2015. The Zeitler family spent the weekend dressed in period clothing while educating attendees about how Florida crackers used to live. 

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    Home. Queens, N.Y.

  • Anthony "Buckets" Blakes, of the Harlem Globetrotters, helps Nasja Garlin, 10, spin his basketball during a visit to the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida on Feb. 23, 2015. The Globetrotters are in the area for a March 3 performance at Germain Arena. 

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    NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. - Bob Knight cruised through Bradenton on a spring Saturday in 1964, his evening plans sketched out in his mind. He would see if his friend Judy Williams was home and talk her into going bowling at Cortez Lanes. He could work on his game – some guys from the shop had a league team going – and they could get some beers and sandwiches.

    Judy had a friend staying with her, so he invited her to tag along. Paula was 18, with a rebellious streak and sharp bangs cut into her short, dark hair. She squeezed between him and Judy – all 92 pounds of her – as they rode in his ’58 MG sports car. His hand brushed against her leg every time he shifted gears and he wondered if he had a chance with her.

    Paula had a boyfriend at the time. Randy – an aspiring musician. But Bob was so much fun to be around. He tried to help her break her gutter ball streak and she sneaked sips from his beer. He was mature, responsible and 25 years old.

    Before they said goodbye, they made plans for the next day. 

    “And I’m sure I got a little kiss,” Bob said.

    From then on, when Bob wasn’t working on cars and Paula wasn’t waiting on tables, they were together.

    Two months after meeting, they were engaged. Paula picked out a set of rings – $100 at Gordon’s Jewelers. She borrowed a white dress from her younger sister. They made plans to elope – they would drive seven hours to Georgia, where Paula wouldn’t need parental permission to get married.

    She wriggled into her sister’s dress in a gas station bathroom. Their friends told them they wouldn’t last six weeks.

    Fifty years later, Bob and Paula Knight dance beneath jewel-toned lights at a weekly singles mingle – couples welcome – at The Shell Factory in North Fort Myers. They slow dance to oldies and twirl to Rolling Stones covers. Their favorite local musician croons from atop a small stage, wearing a shiny shirt and a powder blue guitar.

    They go dancing three times a week. She likes to waltz and he likes to twist. In between dances, they sit at one of the plastic tables surrounding the dance floor, sipping white wine and beer. 

    They have no problem with cliches – Bob insists he fell in love at first sight – but they take immense pride in the half-decade of work they’ve committed to each other.

    Paula’s favorite saying is that a perfect marriage takes two imperfect people.

    “And if both people want to stick it out, it only gets better.”

    - Carolina Hidalgo, staff

  • Kenneth Brown, of Naples, who fought a B-24 in World War II, climbs into a Consolidated B-24 Liberator at Naples Municipal Airport as part of The Collings Foundation's Wings of Freedom Tour on Feb. 5, 2015.

  • The Most Rev. Marcus Stock, bishop of Leeds, England, and bishops from as far as Italy and England traveled to Naples for Tony Rosso's ordainment ceremony at St. Agnes Catholic Church on Feb. 2, 2015.

  • Left: A spot nose crystal ball python sits in a case at Havens' Reptiles' booth at the Reptiday reptile show at Crowne Plaza Fort Myers At Bell Tower Shops on Jan. 3, 2015. Right: Britney Sosa, of Fort Myers, celebrates her sixth birthday picking out a pet gecko with her family at the Reptiday reptile show at Crowne Plaza Fort Myers At Bell Tower Shops on Jan. 3, 2015.

  • BIG CYPRESS INDIAN RESERVATION, Fla. - TJ Stockton leans against a wooden quarter pipe and guides a skateboard back and forth with her small foot. She raises a plastic water bottle to her mouth as she watches the older kids struggle to land kick flips — the 6-year-old knows she has a lot to learn.

    Wheels smack into concrete and wood bangs against metal — percussive sounds that blend with the grungy pop rock filtering from a set of speakers, providing a soundtrack at the tribal skate park. The park, a collection of rails and small ramps, sits next to the basketball court on the Big Cypress Indian Reservation, creating a gathering place for the community’s children.

    Near the quarter pipe, TJ’s best friend and cousin, Halley Balentine, pictured above, right, takes a break too. She douses herself with a bottle of blue Gatorade as a 2-year-old rolls by, belly-down on a board bigger than his body, narrowly avoiding the clatter around him.

    TJ started out riding on her stomach too. Then on her knees. Then on her feet.

    She’s been skateboarding since she was a baby, she said, an interest sparked by older cousins and siblings who are now whizzing across the park. It’s just hours before a skateboarding contest.

    Organized by the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum as part of this year’s American Indian Arts Festival, the competition coincides with the display of “Ramp it Up,” a traveling national exhibit on the history of skateboard culture on American reservations.

    As judges arrive and participants register, TJ splays out across the concrete in the early November heat. One day, she said, she’ll be as good as her sister, Alena, who’s grinding across a rail on a pepperoni pizza-print board. The 12-year-old practices her tricks over and over, her brow furrowed in determination behind her black-rimmed eyeglasses.

    Today, skaters are competing for prize bags stocked with new decks, wheels and skate gear. The contest was funded largely by the ABC Foundation, which gives scholarships to kids involved in extreme sports in honor of Alexander Blaine Cypress. Cypress, an avid skateboarder and TJ’s cousin, died of pneumonia two years ago at age 21.

    TJ glances periodically at her sister and talks through a row of missing front teeth — her enthusiasm is palpable even if her knowledge is spotty.

    “I’m gonna get older and I’m gonna do a 50-50!” she said, as she peels the back off a sticker and presses it to the bottom of her scratched-up skateboard.

    What’s a 50-50?

    “I forgot!”

    Old enough to be excited about competing but young enough to not care about the outcome, TJ spends most of her morning goofing off as the older kids practice.

    Danny Fuenzalida, a Miami skateboarder and emcee of the event, announces an official 15-minute practice session to kick off the contest. TJ is back on her freshly stickered board in her pink-trimmed Nike high-tops, balancing with her arms out, gliding across the park.

    - Carolina Hidalgo, staff

  • Charlie Crist hugs supporter Joan Balkin, of Miami, during the first stop of his Charlie Crist for Governor Early Vote Tour in Miami Beach, Florida on Oct. 25, 2014.

  • Trixie Towers, right, laughs with Chloe Bone Cicconi backstage at this year's Southwest Florida Pride festival at Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers on Oct. 11, 2014. Chloe was crowned this year's festival queen, an honor Trixie held last year. 

    Anthony Dawkins starts putting on makeup while getting dressed for Southwest Florida Pride at his home in Fort Myers on Oct. 11, 2014. Dawkins, who performs as Trixie Towers, was crowned queen of last year's festival. 

    Trixie Towers double checks her outfit at home before heading out to Southwest Florida Pride on Oct. 11, 2014. Trixie, who was crowned queen of last year's festival, performed at this year's event at Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers.

  • A few Instagram photos from a collaboration with the incredibly creative Bethany Mollenkof, who mashed up some of my photos from Florida with some of hers from California, for echosight – a photo mashup collaboration project created and coordinated by the awesome Daniella Zalcman.