News Cast 3/1

News Cast for March 1st:

Schools seek mentors for at-risk students

Okeechobee County school officials have begun pushing a new mentor program called Buddy.

It stands for Building Up Diverse and Dynamic Youth.

Heather Dobbs recently explained the program to Okeechobee City Council.

She said they plan to start with fifth graders, “Fifth grade is the beginning stage to hopefully catch them before they get into middle school.  That is where life sort of turns upside down for a lot of people.  Hopefully the mentors can have a relationship with the students before they enter this tumultuous time of life.”

She noted a number of factors will be considered when choosing which students need a mentor.  These include grades, attendance and behavior at school.

Research shows students with mentors do better in school, attend class more regularly and have a better chance of going onto college.

Dobbs said they’ve been able to attract a lot of mentors so far but could always use more.

“You can make a huge impact.  We have to start on a relational level in order to make system wide impact.  One person can make a big impact on a child’s life for sure.”

Those interested can contact the school board offices for more information at 462-5000.

Tribe eyes climate change impacts

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has hired their first ever climate resiliency officer.

Jill Horwitz plans to focus on things like energy independence and protection of cultural resources.

She’s worked for 15 years as an environmental advocate.

She notes the tribe hosts a yearly renewable energy and sustainability conference.

Horwitz said the number one issue will be water, “We are going to have more droughts and a longer dry season.  That will be very hard on farmers, ranchers, and growers.”

Horwitz said the Brighton Reservation will also have warmer weather.  “We will have double the number of days above 95 degrees, or about 100 days per year by 2050.”

She said climate change could cause major disruption to the tribe activities.

She listed an increase in ground water, coastal erosion and shifts in habitat as other impacts from climate change.

Horwitz graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in environmental science.

She also earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at Florida Atlantic University.