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State Impact Florida

Thousands of the most dramatic teenagers in Florida are in downtown Tampa this week for the annual state conference of the International Thespian Society.

For 25 years, the Florida Thespian Festival has given young performers the chance to get professional feedback, attend workshops with Broadway stars, and audition for college theater departments. 

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Know the joke about how many college students it takes to screw in a light bulb?

Probably not, since it’s not a real joke. Nor is the decision some comedians are making to avoid college campuses where they say students today are too easily offended.

Photo courtesy Tampa Bay 2-1-1

Students who are considered homeless by Florida schools can be living in hotels, trailer parks, in campgrounds or doubled up with friends or relatives. And with as many as 71,000 or more homeless students in the state the challenges can extend beyond the kids and families to include the schools.

For most kids school is a place of achievement and learning, or just a place to socialize with friends. But for kids without stable living arrangements it can mean much more than that.

M.S Butler

During a time when many Florida counties were cutting back on summer school due to a lack of money, Pinellas County started expanding theirs using a combination of federal and state funds. And attendance over the past three summers has more than doubled.

Across Florida, more than 288,000 students were enrolled in summer classes in 2014. Nearly 15,000 of them are now enrolled in Pinellas County schools. One of those is Campbell Park Elementary, where the Summer Bridge Program is now under way.

M.S. Butler

The first time some students learn about finances is during a high school economics class. Others learn by trial and error, but one program in the Tampa Bay area already has a  history of helping  students get an early start on making sense of their finances.

Here in central Pinellas County, just like any community in America, it’s early morning and everyone is beginning to show up for work.

Buses are unloading and students are heading  to  businesses like Verizon, Duke Energy and CVS Pharmacy which are getting ready to open.

Mary Shedden/WUSF

It’s just a few dozen yards from the charter busses to the stately columns of the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts entrance.

Dozens of energetic 12- and 13-years olds jump off the bus after a 25-minute ride from their Clearwater’s Oak Grove Middle School.

Volunteer docents scramble to sort out small groups by color, and hand out clipboards and pencils.

“Purple, nice straight line!” one docent yells from the top of the steps.

“Green group over here,” another barks.

M.S Butler

Of the more than 600 charter schools in Florida. Some focus on the arts, some on sciences. Others are high schools that help students who are at risk for not finishing or dropping out completely.

At the crossroads of  busy four lane highway in Clearwater, students have to make their way through the noise and exhaust of heavy traffic to get to their high school classes.