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Best of Florida Schools 2003
General CategoriesPage 6

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Best Student Group
Eckerd’s Rapid Response Rescue
In your dreams, “Baywatch” babes or hunky guys would bounce into the surf to “save” you. In reality, Eckerd College “lifeguards” on the Search and Rescue (EC-SAR) team sometimes do make the difference between life and death in the Gulf waters off of St Petersburg.

By volunteering in EC-SAR, Eckerd students serve the community, get leadership training, and receive technical instruction. “Traditional leadership training can be incredibly boring,” says Jennifer DeMik, EC-SAR coordinator. “We use the excitement of search-and-rescue to teach leadership skills. Those students are out there running the scene themselves.”

Founded in 1971, EC-SAR first helped ensure the safety of the college watersports activities, and then, in 1977, expanded to the entire Tampa Bay boating community. The team was one of the first to respond to the Skyway Bridge disaster in 1980 and has since grown to become one of the most respected search-and-rescue organizations on Florida’s west coast. Students get training in advanced crewing skills, emergency medical training, navigations, communications, and boat handling.

Students are on call just like firefighters or EMTs—when a call comes in, they leap into action, sometimes responding even more quickly than the Coast Guard. Although none of the volunteers wishes for accidents or bad weather, DeMik says those are the days her students remember. “Towing all the time in calm water is kind of boring, but the days that are a little more dangerous–those days are fun!” —JB

Contact DeMik at

Best Residence Hall
Rollins’ Quaint Campus Cottage
Wish you could live in the center of campus close to classes, food, and practically everything? You might be thinking, “Dorms? Yeah, right. Been there, done that.” But at Rollins College, the choice residence isn’t just any old dorm—it’s a beautiful 116-year-old cottage that pays homage to the Spanish-Mediterranean architecture of turn-of-the-century Florida.

The 20-bedroom Pinehurst Cottage actually is the only original building left on campus. “Over the years, it’s been renovated with all the modern conveniences like air-conditioning and internet connections,” says Ken Posner, associate director of residential life. “But it still has the old-style feel with ceiling fans in each room and more traditional furniture in the lounges.”

Not just anyone can live there, though. The Pinehurst Organization members decide who will earn a much-coveted spot in the house. “Pinehurst Organization is a very large service group that’s open to any student on campus,” Posner says. “You can be a member of the organization without living in the house.” However, to live the house, you have to be a Pinehurst member. Living in the house is a reward for the most involved members. The executive board interviews each applicant and judges who gets in based on projects they’ve been involved in and programs they’ve attended. Once chosen, students can live there the rest of their undergraduate careers. “The competition to live in Pinehurst is very fierce,” Posner says. —RGM

Contact Posner at

Best 9/11 Tribute
Ground Zero, the Performance
Once used as a hospital during World War II, the luxurious Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables again became a place of healing. On September 11th, 2002, Florida International University students produced a series of short performances as part of GZNY 2001, to help heal the hearts of the community. The production was a celebration of life and an opportunity to mourn those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The event began at 8:00 on the evening of September 11th and finished at precisely 9:11. “It’s not entertainment,” says Phillip Church, associate professor and director of the production. “It’s a tribute to those who died and a celebration of life. We need to make sure this story is passed down through generations.”

The cast was a mixed group of acting students and alumni, plus professionals and community leaders who wrote and performed short personal monologues. Among the crowd were two firefighters who were present at Ground Zero, police officers, flight attendants, soldiers, teachers, one of the original Biltmore candy stripers, and the mayor.

The performance included choreographed movement pieces, projection images on a large screen, and a 22-person choir. Five hundred audience members then lit candles and watched while the pictures of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks were placed on the walls.

The commemoration first was written and performed by FIU’s Introductory Theater Class on December 11, 2001. The series will be performed annually in different locations, incorporating members of each community, Church says. Next year, the production will go to New York City.

Church says the proceeds and donations from the event went to establish a theater production program scholarship for high school students. —CA

Contact Church at

Best Writers
FCCJ’s Pens and Pencils Unite

Get out your notebooks and scratch pads—it's time to write. O.K, maybe not, but for the talented and aspiring writers, they run with pens in hand to meet at the annual First Coast Writers' Festival sponsored by Florida Community College at Jacksonville.

Founded by Howard Denson, an English professor, the festival has grown so large that participants meet at the local Sea Turtle Inn.  "It brings writers from all over to talk to [student] writers to inspire them," says Bettie Hausman, student activities director at the Jacksonville campus.

The festival not only peaks the interest of FCCJ students but now is available to community members and writers outside of the Jacksonville area. A registration fee for the festival funds the numerous activities and workshops given during the festival.

Over the years, novelists, screenwriters, agents, editors, and columnists have addressed the festival; in fact, last year, 20 speakers led seminars and workshops such as novelist Robert Baily's session "Let's Talk About YOUR First Novel".

Aspiring writers submit their own work in the festival's poetry, short story, novel, and poster writing contests. The writers also receive recognition, culminating in a top $500 first place prize in the novel contest, as well as a chance to have a New York City publishing house consider it for publication.

Another festival held in the same area, the Book Island Festival, has grown in popularity as well, and will probably join forces in future years with the First Coast Writer's Festival. "With both festivals, they reach out to students to give an opportunity to learn from other writers," Hausman says. —LE

Contact Hausman at, or visit

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Copyright © 2006 Oxendine Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved

 Best Of 2003 Index

Best of Florida Schools 2003 Home

General Categories
117 categories of the Best of Florida Schools
Page 1 (magazine page 13)
Page 2 (magazine page 14)
Page 3 (magazine page 18)
Page 4 (magazine page 19)
Page 5 (magazine page 21)
Page 6 (magazine page 24)
Page 7 (magazine page 27)
Page 8 (magazine page 29)
Page 9 (magazine page 32)
Page 10 (magazine page 33)
Page 11 (magazine page 37)
Page 12 (magazine page 38)
Page 13 (magazine page 43)
Page 14 (magazine page 45)


Student Government
Recipe for a Great SG
Public Colleges & Universities

Private Colleges & Universities
Community Colleges


Public Universities
Private Colleges & Universities
Community Colleges

Web-Only Categories
Pages 15-22 in the General Categories section are the Best that didn't make it into print.
Public Colleges & Univ. (15-16)
Private Colleges & Univ. (17-19)
Community Colleges (20-22)

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Best Of 2003 Press Release

Best Of 2003 Winners List

Best Of 2003 Cover