School news 11/14/19


Fleming Island’s Nieves Suarez’s essay judged award-winning

CLAY COUNTY – The lawyers and judges of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, and the members of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association selected the work of Fleming Island High’s Inez Anais Nieves Suarez as one of four winners of the 2019 High School Essay Contest.

She earned a $1,000 grant and Jason Poole earned a $500 grant as Suarez’s sponsoring teacher.

Nieves Suarez, a senior, wrote about United States v. Windsor, a 2013 landmark Supreme Court civil rights case that ruled denying federal recognition of same-sex marriages was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The contest attracted 112 entries from 22 high schools and one home school from five of the 12 counties in the Jacksonville Division – Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns.

Students who submitted essays in the contest were prompted to identify a historical or current event that exemplifies the concepts of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.” They were asked to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of a government whose powers are divided among each of the three branches of our government.

“I was kind of shocked to tell the truth,” Nieves Suarez said. “I wrote about something I’m very passionate about. I knew if I wrote something I wasn’t passionate about, it wouldn’t have won.”

The 2019 High School Essay contest is part of the Federal Court’s educational outreach initiative. “Understanding the role of the court in our system of government is critical to maintaining the trust and confidence of the public,” says Marcia Morales Howard, United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida. “Programs like the 2019 High School Essay Contest allow the court to engage young people directly in a dialogue about what courts really do and the important role courts play in our American government. They also allow the court to expose young people to a different side of the justice system than their life circumstances may have presented to them and perhaps encourage them to aspire to play some role in the workings of the justice system or the third branch.”

Nieves Suarez said she wants to pursue a career in international law. She’s already on Teen Court, the Mock Trial team and the Pre-Law Club.

Award winners will be recognized in an Awards Ceremony in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse in Jacksonville on Nov. 20, at 4 p.m. In addition, the student winners will be recognized at the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s Spirit of Giving Luncheon on Dec. 12, 2019, at noon.

Other winners included: Mark Mori and Ella Georgia, both of The Episcopal School in Jacksonville, and Marissa Ann Cochran Norton of Jacksonville’s Paxon School for Advanced Studies.

Funding for the 2019 High School Essay Contest comes from the lawyers and judges of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida through the Court’s Bench Bar Fund.


SONIC awards 12 local teachers to fund their school projects

OKLAHOMA CITY – SONIC Drive-In concluded its annual Limeades for Learning Fall Voting campaign in support of public-school teachers last month, and in partnership with nonprofit, the fast-food chain awarded at total of $13,618 to 12 Clay County teachers.

Between Sept. 30 and Oct. 27, with the goal of helping local teachers receive funding to support their innovative and creative learning projects, SONIC fans voted for projects they found the most inspiring at, ranging from pencils and paper to tablets and robotics kits.

“Our Fall Voting Campaign is a special time for us to celebrate exceptional public-school teachers who make a difference in communities across the country,” said Christi Woodworth, vice president for public relations for SONIC. “With the help of our fans, we donated $1 million for teachers to have access to different teaching tools that otherwise wouldn't be provided through traditional funding methods.”

As part of the annual fall voting campaign, the following were among the public school teachers whose projects earned funding for much-needed teaching resources to inspire learning in their classrooms.

Swimming Creek Elementary’s Courtney Holcombe (for her “All County Clinician” project) and Wilkinson Elementary’s Kathryn Wright (“All-County Clinician” and “TMEA Is Terrific” collected a total of $1,591.

Oakleaf-area schools were awarded $12,027 for the work completed by Oakleaf High’s Chad Robbins (“Copies for Band,” “Cymbals and Stands for an Amazing Band,” “March to the Beat of Your Own Cymbals” and “Project Our Sound”), Oakleaf Junior High’s Jeanette Burley (“You Mean I Can Write This Book?!,” Oakleaf Junior High’s Michael Summers (“Making Music in Charlotte,” “Making Music in Charlotte, Part 2,” “Making Music in Charlotte, Part 3”) and “Making Music in Charlotte, Part 4”), Oakleaf Junior High’s Tyler Dunn (“Journey to Charlotte, Part 1,” “Journey to Charlotte, Part 2,” “Journey to Charlotte, Part 3,” and “Journey to Charlotte, Part 4”), Oakleaf Village Elementary’s Alan Brown (“Science Hands on Activities and Labs!!!”), Oakleaf Village Elementary’s Mary Elrod (“We Need a Bus!” and “We Need a Bus, Part 2), Oakleaf Village Elementary’s Nicole Addie (“We Need a Bus!”), Oakleaf Village Elementary’s Michelle Levinson (“Reading in Art!” and “Adjustable Table for the Art Room!”, Oakleaf Village Elementary’s Paula Summers (“All-County Guest Conductor,” “Everything’s Bigger in Texas – Even the Music Convention!,” “FMEA Conference 2020” and “Symphony Orchestra, Here We Come!) and Oakleaf Village Elementary’s Tammy Taylor (“Literacy Games and Comfy Place to Play Them!”).

To view the full list of public school teacher projects funded through Limeades for Learning, visit

Since 2009, SONIC has donated $14,538,410, supported more than 17,570 classrooms, and provided necessary learning materials and teaching resources requested by teachers to impact more than 3,745,464 students in partnership with


SJCDS band students earn honors


ORANGE PARK – St. Johns' Director of Bands Michael Warren announced last week several students who have earned spots at county and state honor bands. "Honor bands and festivals

bring students from their respective areas to come together to make music together," he said. Typically, the time frame to rehearse is short – just two to three days – before they perform in

a concert, meaning a performer must be both an excellent musician and a quick study.

The following students have auditioned and been selected to represent St. Johns in upcoming ensembles:

All County Middle School: Torrin Heinrichs, Class of 2024: 1st Chair Alto Saxophone; Timmy Jackson, Class of 2024: 1st Chair Trumpet; Zach Dimmick, Class of 2024: 4th Chair Trumpet.

All County Upper School: Alex Dimmick, Class of 2021: 2nd Chair Alto Saxophone.

Tri-State Band Festival at the Florida State University: Joshua Soffler, Class of 2020: Tuba; Marshall Bustamante, Class of 2020: Trumpet.

Additionally, Jackson, of Fleming Island, successfully auditioned for the All-State Middle School Band, a rare and prestigious honor that is awarded after a rigorous audition that takes place state-wide, in which only a select few are chosen. This year there were 18 slots with 3,000-to-5,000 students auditioning.



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