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Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 7, and continuing through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, Floridians can take advantage of tax-free shopping on clothing, footwear, school supplies and personal computers.

Florida Department of Revenue has strict rules as to what qualifies for the tax exemption. Clothing items that cost more than $100 are not eligible, nor are school supplies that cost more than $15. The exemption only applies to the first $750 of purchases of personal computers and related accessories for noncommercial home or personal use. In addition, sales of qualified merchandise at theme parks, entertainment venues, public lodging establishments or airports will be taxed.

The state defines clothing as “any item of wearing apparel, including all footwear (except skis, swim fins, roller blades and skates) intended to be worn on or about the human body. Clothing does not include watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas or handkerchiefs.”
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Approximately 11 percent of families in Pinellas County are at poverty level and more than 2,110 children are homeless in Pinellas County.

The Pinellas Education Foundation and the Pinellas County Council PTA are collecting school supplies at four different locations for students in need.
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ST. PETERSBURG - When entrepreneur Autumn Blum set out to develop a new line of eco-friendly sunscreens and body care products, she turned to scientists and students at Eckerd College for testing and research.

Blum, a 1997 Eckerd chemistry honors graduate, already had founded and sold a successful cosmetics company, Organix South.
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Tuesday, July 22
SEMINOLE - Since 2013, the Seminole Warhawks and Jesuit Tigers high school baseball teams have faced off annually in a test of state powers.

Usually the game is held at Jesuit’s Paul Straub Field. But thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays, both teams could have a chance to play their annual game at Tropicana Field.

“What we want to do for the kids is to allow them a chance to do something that they might never get to do in their lives,” said Daniel Newhart, director of group sales for the Rays. “For us, it’s another great way to give back to the Tampa Bay community.”
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LARGO - The AdvancED Accreditation Commission has granted Pinellas County Schools district-wide accreditation.

This distinction is the highest level of accreditation a school system can receive from the organization.
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ST. PETERSBURG - Ashley Zhou, the 2015 St. Petersburg High School IB valedictorian, is the first Pinellas County Schools student to earn a perfect score on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Exam.

Zhou’s perfect score of 45 is extremely rare. Only 161 students of 141,852 candidates throughout the world earned all 45 points this year. Zhou is one of just two students who achieved the perfect mark in the United States. She’ll begin college this fall at Duke University.

St. Petersburg High School established the first IB program in Florida in 1983. Since that time, the IB program has expanded in Pinellas County to include programs at Palm Harbor University High School and Largo High School. Seniors in the IB program take a series of exams to earn their IB Diplomas. This year throughout the district, 234 students of 263 candidates were awarded an IB Diploma.
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As many as 250,000 kids go hungry in Tampa Bay every day. For that reason, Goodwill-Suncoast and Feeding America Tampa Bay are partnering to carry out a food drive to bring kid-friendly food to the most needy areas of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

From Aug. 1 through Aug. 23, the two organizations ask that donations of nonperishable kid-friendly foods be dropped off at Goodwill-Suncoast retail stores in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Food donations will be accepted inside Goodwill stores as well as at donation doors at stores. Goodwill’s storefront donation centers at the Indian Rocks Shopping Center in Largo and at 7601 Park Blvd. in Pinellas Park will also accept food donations. For a list of Goodwill retail store locations, visit www.goodwill-suncoast.org.

Foods most needed include canned goods with pop-tops, microwaveable meals (like mac n’ cheese), cereal, oatmeal, granola bars, juice boxes, crackers, fruit cups, applesauce, dried fruit snacks, peanut butter, jelly.
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Monday, July 7
Students from technical education programs in Pinellas high schools and colleges won the nation’s highest awards at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

Industry leaders representing more than 600 businesses, corporations, trade associations and unions recognized the students for demonstrating excellence in 100 hands-on occupational and leadership competitions, such as robotics, criminal justice, aviation maintenance and public speaking. All competitions are designed, run and judged by industry using industry standards.

The following Pinellas students received medallions and Skill Point Certificates:
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ST. PETERSBURG - The James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences recently was certified as a LEED Platinum building, the highest rating for sustainability by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Certification Institute.

The certification, which took more than two years to complete, reflects a deep commitment to sustainability at Eckerd College, one of the top 10 environmental studies schools in the Fiske Guide to Colleges in 2011. It is the first LEED Platinum building on Campus. The building opened in January 2013.

One of the most innovative aspects of the building that helped secure the rating is the use of reclaimed water from the city of St. Petersburg’s wastewater treatment plant, adjacent to the campus, for the air conditioning system, which saves thousands of gallons of water a day. Water from the air conditioning system is also used to maintain the proper temperatures in the adjacent greenhouse rather than going to waste.
 ... Read More 
Tuesday, July 1
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SEMINOLE - Seminole Middle School chorus member Kapri Hollowell received the first Joey Miazga Character Award at the school’s May 27 spring choral concert at Seminole High School.

Choral director Chavis Cook created the award in honor of Miazga, his predecessor and an influential music teacher during her time at SMS from 1981 to 2003.

Each year, the award will be given to a student who exemplifies leadership in the classroom and inspires other students, said David Tagliarini. He served as band director at SMS for a portion of Miazga’s time at the school.
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The Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County recently expanded its support of the Summer Food Program which provides weekend meals for Pinellas County children attending Summer Bridge elementary schools, as well as other community sites.

The expansion allows meals to be provided at an additional six Summer Bridge elementary schools.

A study by Feeding America found that more than 20 percent of U.S. children are “food-insecure,” meaning they have insufficient access to nutritionally adequate food, especially on weekends and school breaks. In Pinellas County, that number increases to nearly 25 percent - and approximately half of all students in the county are eligible to receive free or reduced price lunches.
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Mary Footman, a Pinellas County Schools behavioral specialist, and Shuntial Green, of Pinellas Secondary School in Pinellas Park, have received a $2,000 Student Achievement Grant from the National Education Association Foundation to start a research-based behavioral skills program.

The program, called Behavior and Management Moments, will teach students about real world issues and stories while providing them with life skills essential to making appropriate behavioral choices.
 ... Read More 
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SAFETY HARBOR - Mary Kate Downing of Safety Harbor is the recipient of the 2015 Dorothy Ruggles Scholarship Award, one of three $1,500 scholarships presented by the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in 2015.

Nominated by Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, Downing is a junior at Florida State University, majoring in media/communications studies. She was selected for her academic excellence as well as her community involvement.
 ... Read More 
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