Circus performer working toward public health degree

This was originally posted in the Digital Bullpen.

When Ivo Georgiev moved to the United States from Bulgaria in 2000, he never expected to find himself performing in a traveling circus.

Georgiev, a shy 33-year-old public health major at the University of South Florida, has competed in hundreds of acrobat competitions all over Europe. He has won five gold medals, as well as the title Master of Acrobatics as a professional trampoline acrobat, all by the age of 22.

“As a little boy, when you jump in the air, you feel like a ninja,” Georgiev said. “Being an acrobat let me feel like that all the time.”

Georgiev’s talent was first recognized when he was only 7 years old. During a soccer game in Bulgaria he jumped a very high fence. When the coach of the soccer team saw him, he instantly recognized his talent.
“The fence was very high, six or seven feet,” Georgiev said. “When I jumped it, the coach pointed at me and said ‘You were born to be an acrobat.’”

After that he began taking lessons in acrobatics and competing. When he was old enough, Georgiev joined the sport battalion of Bulgaria’s Marines and continued competing while representing his country.

In 2000, Georgiev was preparing to go the Olympics to represent Bulgaria, but when he received an invitation to join Mondial du Cirque, a Spanish circus, Georgiev decided that would be a better opportunity. He worked with them in Puerto Rico for eight months then joined a traveling troop sponsored by Air Sofia that performed all over the United States with shows such as The Ringling Brothers.

He mainly performed a Russian Swing act, an act in which acrobats propel themselves into the air using three sets of swings and then dive down into water, as well as a comedic acrobatic act. In January 2000, Georgiev even got to perform in the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, with Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton and Enrique Iglesias.

“I am not the type of guy who wants the glory or to be famous. I chose to join the show because I thought it would pay off more in the end,” Georgeiv said. “I really loved what I was doing, but after 9-11, business went down. That’s when I realized I needed to focus on something else.”

In 2003, Georgiev began attending Hillsborough Community College and received an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine in 2007. He now works as a self-contracted radiology technician practicing with radioactive medicines at various hospitals around the state. At USF, Georgiev hopes to receive a bachelor’s degree so that he can move up in his field.

“With all the changes in the economy lately, especially with the health care bill, a bachelor’s degree will really help me,” Georgiev said. “I would love to be on the manager side of things one day.”

Until he graduates, Georgiev spends his time at USF working with the American Red Cross Club. He likes to attend their events and volunteers as much as his busy schedule allows.

“I love having him as a member of our club,” said Natalia Vandeberg, the public affairs chair of the club. “He is a great guy, very motivated.  I love having him in our small group.”

No matter where life takes him, whether he is a performer, a student or in the medical field, the lessons that Georgeiv learned as an acrobat will always stick with him.

“I could probably write a book on all the lessons I learned,” Georgiev said. “The two most important are dedication and discipline. When I start something, I will finish it. No matter how difficult or how many obstacles, I will finish it.”

Marine Corps sergeant finds passion in writing, teaching, counseling

This was originally posted in the Digital Bullpen.

 

When Gunnery Sgt. Steve Maynor Jr., a member of the US Marine Corps for 15 years, is not running Physical Training with cadets, counseling professors and students, or working on his own education at the University of South Florida, he focuses his time on his other passion: writing.

Maynor writes opinion pieces when he has time for the Charlton County Herald, which is produced out of his hometown Folkston, Ga.

“I started doing it about a year and a half ago,” Maynor said. “I wanted to tell stories from a different perspective. Some of the opinion pieces that were in the paper were talking about nothing of substance, so I decided to write. I always had confidence in my writing and I wanted to bring attention to some issues that get overlooked or that people just don’t want to talk about.”

Maynor has been enlisted in the Marines for 15 years, and has done quite a bit of traveling. He has been stationed all over the world, from Buford, SC, his first assignment, to Okinawa, Japan. His primary role in the Marines has been to maintain an aircraft logbook, which requires him to keep analyze and keep records of data from all aircraft maintenance, but he also has spent some time as a drill instructor in Parris Island, SC.

Maynor’s career has now sent him to work full time at USF’s Navy ROTC as the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor. His time at USF, however, has a dual purpose. Maynor is also a full-time student pursuing a degree in applied science with a concentration in leadership studies and a minor in Africana Studies. But it is sharing his writings with everyone, even those he works with at USF, that sets him apart.

“He loves the writing that he does,” said Christine Borgia, staff assistant in the Navy ROTC office. “I am sure he would love to be on the other side of the interview.”

This year, however, will be Maynor’s last year in his position at USF. Once he graduates in the spring, he will go back to serving wherever the Marine Corps sends him. Once he retires in a few years, however, he plans to come back to teaching because it is what he enjoys most.

“I like the interaction with the students. I like teaching,” Maynor said. “When I retire, that’s what I plan on getting into: teaching and social work, just being involved with the students. Watching them come in as freshmen and develop into a mature adult is pretty gratifying. If I could stay here forever, I would.”

Many people in the Navy ROTC office at USF enjoy working beside Maynor.

“He is a great person to work with,” Lt. Steven Durst said. “He is just a great guy and brings a lot to this program.”

Retirement for Maynor also means he can put focus more on his writing, which is only a hobby for him now.

“I don’t do it quite as much now as I would like now because I am a full time student so that takes up a lot of my time,” Maynor said. “Going into full-time writing is a possibility when I retire, but my true desire is to teach and be involved in the guidance counseling aspect of school. I think writing is just something that I will do over time. I will always write. I will always have ideas and want to write about them.”

USF ROTC programs grow in size and competition

This story was originally posted in the Digital Bullpen.

All three divisions of the University of South Florida’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) have noticed a new trend this semester: competition.

The Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC programs have had an increase in the number of students interested in their programs. The recruiters say the poor economy and current lack of jobs has created more traffic to military careers. As the number of students applying increases, recruiting officers can be more selective as to whom they accept.Picture taken from Wikipedia

“We have seen an up shoot in the amount of interest, especially with the economy the way it is right now. People are taking a closer look at military service,” said Lt. Steven Durst of the Navy ROTC. “But on the flip side, what has happened now is that we are much more selective. When so many people are applying, we can afford to be more selective on who gets in and who doesn’t. The quality of our applicants, I think, has definitely gone up.”

The Navy ROTC at USF is not the only one growing. When the U.S Army Cadet Command, which oversees all the Army ROTC battalions across the country, deemed USF as a “Super Host” in March 2007, they set out to grow the program to twice its size. It had about 100 cadets. Now it has 260.

“We accomplished that in a little over four years. We actually almost tripled,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Stapel, the recruiting officer for the Army ROTC. “So now it’s becoming that, instead of just trying to find someone to be a part of our program that met those requirements, we are having to almost make it competitive, like if you were trying out for a team.”

At the Air Force ROTC, the competition is a little different. Students are not competing as hard to get into the program but to become an officer at the end of four years. Each year, the Department of Defense allocates how many students graduating from the program can become officers. For example, if 100 students are allowed to become officers one year, the top 100 students with the best GPA and physical fitness scores from all across the country will be made officers. These top nationwide spots are what USF students are finding themselves fighting for.

“The interest in the program is growing because when the economy is down, our business is up. We have a lot more interest coming into the program, but due to fiscal constraints we haven’t been able to produce as many officers as we have in the past,” said Maj. Michelle Moreno, instructor and recruiter for the Air Force ROTC. “The Department of Defense hands down the budget. Our fall out is instead of producing maybe 30 officers a year, we are cut down to maybe only producing 15 or 13. So it’s not that our program isn’t growing. The interest is there. It’s how many we are able to produce.”

According to Moreno, the semester started with 100 freshman students in the program, but they are now down to 50. For this year’s seniors, 18 spots have been allocated to USF for students to have the possibility to become officers. They have allocated only 12 for next year. Moreno said this number has been steadily going down, an indication of the growing competitiveness of the program.

Altogether, the ROTC department at USF has been growing in numbers and presence on the USF campus. With more and more students attending USF as a whole, it is only logical that these programs would be growing as well.

“I think USF really understands we are here because we are a very big ROTC program,” Stapel said. “Very big.”

USF Methodist organization increases interest with free food

This Story was originally posted in the Digital Bullpen.

Since Jennifer Smith was hired as the executive director of the University of South Florida’s Crosswinds Wesley Foundation in January 2007, she has developed the non-profit organization by transforming a dormant building into a place where students are reaching out to other students by offering free weekly meals.

The Crosswinds at USF on Sycamore Drive is a branch of the United Methodist Church and is just one of the several denominational groups on campus. It holds student-led groups every night of the week that study various things about the Bible, but the most popular event is the Monday night dinner that feeds anywhere from 80 to 100 people each week. Several Methodist churches in the area support Crosswinds by providing the food for the Monday night dinners. They all take turns to either prepare homemade meals or pay to have the dinner catered by a variety of local restaurants.

Not long after arriving at Crosswinds, Smith came up with the idea of a free dinner to get students in the door.

“When I got here, I kind of had to start from scratch,” Smith said. She and a small board composed of student leaders are in charge of coming up with new ways to reach out.

“When you walk in this place, our desire is that you are treated with such hospitality and such love and kindness that you can’t help but to know that this place is different,” Smith said. “We are showing students that God cares about them on a practical level by giving them free food with no obligation, no strings attached. It’s just a place to bring your friends, come hang out, and just do something fun.”

Jennifer Bruce, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, is one of three interns working at Crosswinds this semester. As an intern, Bruce is responsible for cleaning up the facility before and after events as well as promoting the upcoming events around campus.

“Every Monday at 7:15, we all eat dinner,” said Bruce. “It’s a warm, home cooked meal. We’ve had anything from baked ziti to BBQ chicken to breakfast to, well, anything. I like the fact that we have almost a steady stream of new students at least trying Crosswinds, at least coming in and listening to worship, even if it’s just once. We are here to feed you and show you love that way.”

Danielle King, a junior mass communications major, started faithfully attending events at Crosswinds a year and a half ago when one of her roommates invited her.

“I love the community and hearing God’s word spoken,” King said. “It’s such a loving and friendly environment.”

Smith and the student board at Crosswinds are constantly coming up with new ideas to reach out on campus. She now plans to expand the free dinner operation by bringing food to students instead of waiting for the students come to her.

“In a couple weeks, we are actually going to one of the dorms and bringing over homemade lasagna just to meet some other new students and show them kindness in a practical way,” Smith said, “so keep an eye out for that.”

Tampa Bay Strong Dogs use wheelchairs to put new spin on basketball for USF students

This story was originally posted in the Digital Bullpen.
 
The Tampa Bay Strong Dogs wheelchair basketball team allowed USF students to experience playing the game from a new perspective.

The team, which is one of about 200 that compete in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, held an exhibition Sept. 27 in the USF Campus Recreation Center to promote disability awareness.

Several USF students went to Campus Rec to watch the team warm up with three-pointer and layup drills. When practice was over, some students joined the Strong Dogs on the court using spare wheelchairs provided by the team.

“I loved being able to actually go out there and play with them,” said Christine Miller, a USF student and Resident Adviser in the Andros campus dorm. “It definitely gave me a new perspective on people in wheelchairs. The experience was really awesome and inspiring.”

When not traveling, the Strong Dogs play at the All People’s Life Center in Tampa. The coed team, coached by Wayne Bozeman and Christina Garcia, is comprised of players ranging from wounded veterans to those born with birth defects.

Ronald Richardson, whose leg was amputated in 1993, has played with the team since it was created in 2008. He plays several other wheelchair sports, but said basketball is his first love. Richardson said finals give him a thrill.

“It’s a great feeling to know that if we train, we can do this and make it to the playoffs,” Richardson said. “We went to the playoffs the last two years in Denver, Colo., and that was awesome. It’s awesome just to go some place outside of Tampa. That’s one of the things about wheelchair sports: We are getting to see America in situations where we ordinarily wouldn’t.”

But for Garcia, the games aren’t the only thrill.

Garcia began volunteering at the All People’s Life Center when her younger brother, who has cerebral palsy, began attending its after-school programs.

She was working for the facility and Bozeman when the team was formed.

“People with physical disabilities have always been a part of my life,” Garcia said. “Plus, it’s fun and I love sports. It’s just a good group of guys having fun and playing ball.”

Richardson said the players provide constant inspiration.

“One player was born with mostly no hands,” he said, “but boy, can she still shoot.”