Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paul Ryan focuses on fiscal message at UCF rally

     Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan held a town hall rally at the University of Central Florida on Saturday, Sept. 22, in support of Mitt Romney and in defense of the issues facing the Republican party 45 days before the national presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

     “We can’t afford four more years of the last four years,” said Ryan, in his speech to a crowd primarily comprised of seniors and students.

     The large group in attendance gave an overwhelming positive reception to Congressman Ryan throughout his entire speech with no noticeable outburst of heckling during his time on stage.

     Ryan used this event to focus on economic issues that he feels reflect on the declining path the country is taking and he referred to a statement that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago when President Obama took office.

     Cuts to NASA in recent years and how this has adversely affected the local economy in Central Florida was the first point that Ryan made, addressing the loss of America's role as the leader in space exploration and mentioning our new reliance on Russia to send astronauts into space.

     A majority of the rest of his opening speech was solely focused on the economic issue facing our nation, primarily dealing with the skyrocketing national debt and reliance on foreign countries like China to borrow money to meet our financial obligations.

     In a move he is well known for on Capitol Hill, Ryan used examples of graphs and pie charts to show the rate of borrowing and spending over the last 80 years and how the current path we are on is unsustainable.

     This is a crisis which mirrors the debt crisis seen in Europe and is one that can be prevented if acted upon now, according to Ryan. He is calling our national debt the most predictable crisis we face in this country with a president that doesn't have any clear solutions to solve.

     This sentiment was reflected by members of the audience even before Ryan took the stage.

     “Running up the national debt is the number one issue facing this nation, we are adding $10 million per minute in unfunded liabilities and around four and a half billion dollars every day,” said William Breazeal, an Iraq war veteran and colonel in the U.S. Army reserves.

     As part of the town hall aspect of this event Ryan soon took questions from the audience, addressing with confidence on every issue, stating numerous figures and examples to further defend his positions.

     Several times the issue of retirement benefits and Medicare reform were addressed by Ryan who stuck to his statements in the recent past that Obamacare presents the greatest threat to Medicare.

     The day before this rally in Orlando, Ryan was booed at an AARP convention in New Orleans when he attacked the president's policies located within Obamacare. The crowd at UCF vigorously cheered when he mentioned similar statements about the repeal of Obamacare at Saturday’s rally.

     This issue is sure to play an ever present role in all the upcoming debates scheduled to take place throughout the month of October.

     “Every point he made was right on the money; first and foremost was what he said about Obamacare, that’s going to destroy my Medicare as well as everyone else if we don’t get it stopped,” said audience member and retiree Pat Annunchani.

     One thing that remains certain is with around 40 days left until the upcoming election, both parties will stress the political arguments they feel best reflect their ideology in a presidential race.

By James Tutten

(Published: Sept. 26, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 2.)

(Photos by Inocencio Correa -

Documentry 'Opening Our Eyes' enlightens peace

     Continuing a tradition of inspiration through moving cinema, Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Initiative partnering with the Global Peace Film Festival, let the fires of peace burn bright after sharing the personal stories of kind hearted heroes from around the world.

     “I think peace day is a reminder that we can choose to live peacefully in our lives today,” said Rachel Allen, a professor of humanities at East Campus and one of the main organizer for peace day events at Valencia.

     The peace day events took place across multiple days and multiple campuses at Valencia including last on Thursday Sept. 20. The evenings event was centered around the screening of the inspirational 2011 documentary film entitled “Opening Our Eyes” which looks at people working to create a better world for those in need.

     The film follows the stories of 11 exceptional individuals that use their time and energy in the service of others that are often overlook by society as a whole.

     There is Maggie Doyne who founded Kopila Valley Children’s Home in Surket, Nepal, an organization that helps underprivileged and or abused children get an education in a safe environment. Another notable subject from the film is Dr. David Mar Naw who founded Where There Is Not A Doctor, that provides desperately needed free medical care to hill-tribe communities in Northern Thailand.

     Those in attendance for this film screening were openly moved by the stories of sick children and others facing hardship around the world. This can be jarring to some, but altogether received a warm welcome from attendees that openly expressed their love for its overall message.

     “I was struck by the diversity of the students in the room and also the diversity of the subjects in the film,” said Ann Puyana, who taught English as a second language and work for Valencia College administrations for the last 10 years of her educational career.

     To finish off the evenings events students and other volunteers stood in an open field holding lit candles to form a glowing human peace sign to commemorate the message of International Peace Day.

     “It was so inspiring seeing so many people around the world helping others, and this was a lovely way of cementing the day in light,” said Penny Villegas.

     Peace Day means something different to individuals depending on their political views or ideology. There is certainly a political aspect because it ties in with the United Nations International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, which works to have one day in which all countries of the world go one day without violence and bloodshed. The day was officially started in 1982 and sadly has never been fully realized due to ongoing conflicts and tensions ever present around the world.

     So in general the goal of peace day is to help drive home the message of helping others and working to make the world a better place by spreading the ideals of love and compassion for everyone of earth.

     To find more information on the Peace and Justice Initiative at Valencia you can visit their website at or by liking their Facebook page at for daily updates.

By James Tutten

(Published: Sept. 26, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 3 and 4.)

(Photos by James Tutten) 

Runners help hospital working miracles for babies

     Over 3,500 dedicated supporters and athletes came out to Lake Eola Park in Orlando on Saturday, Sept. 22 to support 14 years of “Miracle Miles” and the inspiring work of the Alexander Center for Neonatology at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Children.

     “All we take care of is babies, babies who are sick, babies who need both clinical and intensive care,” said Dr. David Auerbach, the director of the Neonatal Intensive Care (NIC) unit at Winnie Palmer Hospital.

     “The babies--many of them born prematurely--need the support we offer to get them through issue of infections, lung diseases, birth defects and a whole scope of other issues,” said Auerbach.

     He has worked in Orlando for over 27 years and has partnered with Dr. Alexander over that time to see the successful growth and continued success of the NIC during that time. He has also played a personal role in the yearly “Miracle Miles” events since its inception.

     “Miracle Miles” is coordinated through the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation and Winnie Palmer Hospital. The Alexander Center for Neonatology is one of the largest Neonatal Intensive Care units in the United States. Since it open in 1975, more than 28,000 high-risk babies in need of care have been successfully treated.

     Auerbach has noticed a rise in premature birth over the years with national averages now reaching from 12 to 13 percent of children. The development of new technologies and other medical breakthroughs has allowed for the care of ever smaller babies at an increasing successful rate of treatment.

     “The hospital does a lot of good work and people go there because they know they are good with high-risk births,” said runner Dianna Campbell. “I know it’s a good cause so I’m happy to support it.”

     There were multiple races during Saturday’s event including both a 5 and 15K race, as well as a kid’s fun run. The 5K race wasn't timed and participants were reminded to check the clock when they crossed the finish line to keep track of their times.

     The 15K race (9.3 miles) was timed by radio frequency markes with over 1,600 runners competing for the best times in a multitude of age brackets. The first place overall finisher was Mike Hensley, 26, from Bonita Springs, with an average pace of 5 minutes and 28 seconds per mile and a total time of 50:48.

     “I’ve seen so many families here that rely on the work of this hospital, so I’m glad to support an organization like that,” said runner Shellane Demarese.

     The vigorous 5 and 15K races were supported by over 200 volunteers with words of encouragement and refreshing treats along the way. Exasperated runners cooled down and refueled after the races with donated ice treats, fresh fruits and as much water as they could drink.

     Runners who didn't win their age brackets or break their personal records still found pride in supporting a notable cause. Be it first hand experience with sick children or word of mouth, the momentum of support for the Alexander Center for Neonatology shows no signs of slowing down.

     More information on Winnie Palmer (NIC) can be found at and detailed results from Saturday’s race can be found at

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'Oleanna' set to address issues of cruel intentions

     David Mamet’s heated play “Oleanna” about the abuse of power and sexual exploitation is sure to strike up a strong debate when it’s presented by the Valencia College humanities speaker series this week.

     The piece will be presented in partnership with talented actors John DiDonna and Samantha O’Hare from the local performance group Empty Spaces Theater Company, along with directorial assistance by Valencia College professor and theater program chair, Julia Gagne.

     On the difficulties faced in this production, adept actress Samantha O’Hare said, “This was the first one in which the ethical issues in question, or the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of the character was difficult to figure out.”

     A shifting power struggle between a college education professor and a young student form the backdrop to this production. The audience will overlook a searing series of events leading to accusations of abuse threatening to change both characters’ lives for the worse.

     After the performances the actors and audience will have a moderated discussion about the issues addressed during the production. Not only does the play promise to provide a unique experience--one not typically found with live theatrical performances--that will hopefully lead to a thought provoking exchange on the ethical issues questioned by the play.

     “More than the actual performance, I’m looking forward to the interaction with the audience,” said O’Hare.

     This play will be free to all Valencia students and faculty members with only two scheduled performances. The first show premiers at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 and the encore show follows at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28.

     Both plays will be performed in the black box theater located in building three of Valencia College’s east campus. The seating for this event will be limited so arrive early to ensure accessibility.

     More information on this and other upcoming productions at Valencia can be found at

By James Tutten


'No Easy Day' puts deployed troops in harm's way

      Osama bin Laden sealed his fate after masterminding the actions that lead to the horrible attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Now we see what amounts to corporate and personal capitalization of the actions that lead to his demise, which will undoubtedly lead to further antagonization of American forces overseas and a hindrance of further covert operations against leaders of terrorist organizations.

     The fascination with our military special forces, and war in general, is apparent in the media and in movies produced out of Hollywood. Nothing is more broadly intriguing than war, and the film industry has used the dramatics of war to its advantage in an effort to attract high box office numbers.

     “No Easy Day” is a novel written by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette under the pseudonym Mark Owen. He was part of the special forces team that participated in the attack that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011. Bissonnett said that he was second in line following the point man that initially shot Bin Laden. He later himself shot Bin Laden several times after receiving massive trauma from a gunshot wound to the head.

     Step-by-step accounts of the tactics used during the raid and the methods of gathering intelligence leading to this final confrontation are indeed intriguing; so much so that the book has ascended to the top of sales charts in recent days as the interest in the story has spread throughout the world.

     “The question that has to be asked is did this soldier put other SEALs and Armed Forces in the area at risk by revealing tactics and intel gathering techniques used in this mission,” said a former Army member who wished to remain anonymous for this story.

     “The morals of a soldier have to be brought into question when it becomes more about ‘his interests, first’ rather than ‘country interests, first.’” 

     The use of couriers to track targets, profiling of locations, organization of missions and finally executing actions are all current tactics used by the military.

     Submitting the book to the United States Department of Defense for analysis and clearance would have undoubtedly prolonged its release and allowed for an unknown amount of time to pass, therefore lowering public interest and overall sales.

     The fact that it differs from the government's report and goes against their will also commanded attention, which helped initial publicity prior to its release on Sept. 4.

     Despite the urge of Bissonnette, “No Easy Day” was written in honor of the work of servicemen and servicewomen and aims to set the record straight. The book still produces what the Pentagon considers a leak of classified information that can hinder future military actions by special forces.

     “The SEALS are technically considered what's known as direct action, meaning their target was an individual and they went in and got him, how they got him is immaterial,” said a retired Special Forces soldier who wishes to remain anonymous.

     Another former SEAL, Brandon Webb, has publicly reported that sources informed him that Bissonette wrote the book as a result of the poor treatment he received from the U.S. Navy following the raid and before he retired from military service.

     If this is true, it amounts to a vendetta against the U.S. government, which may partly explain the reasons for officials taking legal action against Bissonnette.

By James Tutten

(Published: Sept. 19, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 7.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Departed Orlando firefighter continues to inspire

      Former firefighter and Valencia College alumni, Tina Collyer, passed away in 2008. The donations received during this year’s “Tina’s Turn Out” event will be used to create an endowment in her name for students who meet the Valencia Foundation scholarship qualifications once the $25,000 goal is achieved.

     “Her whole life was about giving,” said Shannon Omark, best friend of Collyer. “She was all about helping other people.”

     Many people knew Collyer from her charitable work with nonprofits such as Central Florida Burn Camp and Dreamflight, which flies terminally ill children from Great Britain to Orlando, allowing them to spend a week at our local area theme parks.

     Her work and community service with the Orlando Fire Department also allowed her to take charge of the “Explorers” program for over 10 years. This scouting program started back in 1976 for boys and girls ages 14 to 21 years-old, allowed young people to shadow firefighters on the job and participate in meetings that would prepare them for careers as firefighters.

     “Once they stick with the program the Orlando Fire Department will sponsor them to get their fire standers, and after that to get their EMT certification,” said Explorers’ founder and retired Deputy Fire Chief, Randy Tuten.

     After receiving this training, graduates are provided with the opportunity to work as a firefighter anywhere in the state of Florida.

     Continuing Collyer’s work with the Explorers, Mark and others created a scholarship in her honor called “The Tina’s Heart EMT Scholarship” at Valencia. The goal of the scholarship was to provide financial aid to young Explorers students the means to finish their EMT training and certification while still attending classes.
     Before this can be finalized and students can take advantage of this charitable outreach, the fund has to reach an endowment of $25,000. A grassroots effort of charitable walks and yard sales has helped to raise over half this amount, but there is still more work to be done before this dream becomes a reality.

     “Tina’s Heart Walk” is the group’s largest event and the second annual fundraising walk to be held in her honor. This event took place at Lake Eola park on Sept. 15 with an enthusiastic gathering of friends and family coming out to show support and help raise money.

Though the level of local corporate sponsorship is gaining ground, the number of participants in this year’s walk was slightly less than in its inaugural year.

Collyer’s family and friends are undaunted and continue to focus on what this scholarship will do to honor her memory and continue her work for local children.

If it involved children she didn't just help out, she ran it,” said William Collyer, Tina’s brother.

She left a legacy of service and now it’s going into this scholarship, so her memory lives on.”

After she passed in her sleep at home Tina was found by her brother William, succumbing to a three-year ordeal of pancreatitis.

If you would like to donate to “Tina’s Heart” or volunteer for future events, information can be found at the Valencia Alumni Association’s website at

More information on the Orlando Explorers program can be found at

By James Tutten

(Photos by Alexa Rydelek / Valencia Voice)


Video Report: President Obama visits Kissimmee

     President Barack Obama stopped in Kissimmee, Fla. on Sept. 8, two days after accepting his parties nomination for re-election at the Democratic National Convention.

     Florida is one of the largest swing states and critical to this years presidential election. The president spoke on issues related to Central Florida and the nation as a whole during the rally.

(Click about to watch video)

 (Video produced by James Tutten.)

Ambitious young actors audition for 'URINETOWN'

     Auditioning for live musical theater can be a stressful and trying process, especially for those with little to no experience. Nearly 70 students of varying talent and experience levels at Valencia College came out on Tuesday Sept. 4, to earn a spot in this semester’s musical production, “URINETOWN: The Musical.”

     “I think this is the most people we’ve ever had come out for an addition,” said director Julia Gagne, who also works as an artistic director and theater department chair at Valencia.

     Actors who showed up for the addition were told to perform 16 bars of an upbeat and ballad musical number to display their singing ability. Catchy tunes were selected to mirror the silly style of “URINETOWN” such as, “Avenue Q,” “Book of Mormon” and “Spamalot” to name a few.

     The potential players performed in front of Gagne, dance captain Forrest Hershey, choreographer Lesley Brasseux Rodgers and accompanied by musical director Tim Hanes at piano. These four remained professional and courteous to all who tried out, giving only a simple nod and thank you to individuals at the audition.

     Actors young and old, with widely varying levels of experience, came out for this open casting call. You could see the disappointment from a first timer after a botched performance, and the dignified confidence of seasoned actors unphased by the judging process.

     “I haven't been in a musical for several years, so I’m a little nervous because I haven't been judged like this in a while,” said health services student Karla Madrigal.

     So much can be learned just from the addition process, and the list of do’s and don’ts can be a lot to contemplate for the inexperienced. Along with having a strong and supportive theater program Valencia offers actors with little to no experience a chance to see what’s really in store with the pressures of live performance. 

     It can be compared to personal relationships in life; they’re not always perfect and sometimes you need a few bad ones to get comfortable with yourself and learn what you truly need to find success.

     “Last year I performed Rocky Horror Picture Show at FSU and it was a lot of fun, this would be my first show at Valencia if they pick me,” said psychology student Megan Kuiper.

     The comedic aspects and upbeat nature of “URINETOWN” also address complicated real world issues. Problems of corruption and greed from politicians and fighting over environmental issues form a backdrop to this Tony awarding-winning production.

     To help drum up more attention for the play as it gets closer to opening week Gagne planes to email college faculty in the areas of political and earth sciences about the relevance of this play to their curriculum because of the tie-in with politics, environmental conservation, and other economic issues.

     Shows are currently set to run from Oct. 19 through 28, and Valencia Voice will have continuing coverage as the show gets closer to opening night. More information about this and other fine art programs at Valencia College can be found at their official website,

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)

Madison Gomez looks over her audition paperwork with the judges.

Beth Hall sings out during her audition for "URINETOWN: The Musical."

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