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Nation’s First Accredited College for LD and ADHD Students Surging and Expanding in 2016



FLORIDA: Beacon College, the nation's only accredited 4-year institution for students with LD, ADHD, or other learning differences, takes its model to Washington, D.C. this week. Photo: Beacon College.

LEESBURG, Fla. (FNN News) – Beacon College, the nation’s first higher learning institution dedicated to serving students with learning disabilities (LD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other learning differences, has seen rapid growth in the last three years—48.6%, to be exact—and is using its newfound momentum to make an even greater imprint on the national landscape. “There’s no other school west of the Mississippi like Beacon,” Beacon College President Dr. George Hagerty said in a recent interview with FNN News. “Others are reaching out to us to learn Beacon’s model.”


Dr. Hagerty and other key Beacon College staff will travel to Washington, D.C. this week to present the Beacon College model to lawmakers so that other states may learn it and mimic its results. He is confident in the model based on its consistent results. He recalled receiving numerous calls from parents whose children attend Beacon College and return home new, and ask him with delight, “What have you done with my child?” noting that their son or daughter returned home more confident and happy.


The now twenty-seven-year-old institution, located in the quaint city of Leesburg in Lake County, Florida, was the brainchild of a passionate group of parents who wanted to see their children succeed. Beacon College touts an impressive 83.3% success rate of its alumni either entering into their desired industries or continuing education. Stringent admissions standards partly facilitate those numbers. “We only accept fifty-eight percent of applications,” said Dr. Hagerty, who joined Beacon College in 2013. “The student must be college-ready, and have average to high intelligence.” He elaborated that college-ready applicants are self-motivated, have a high school diploma, and show that they are able to do higher-level work.


The other more essential ingredient to the college’s success and current national attention is its groundbreaking curriculum model. According to the college’s website, “All Beacon faculty members are trained and proficient in meeting the needs of students who learn differently, with expertise in experiential learning, assessment design, and use of assistive technology and different learning models.” The Robert & Jane Weiner Writing Center, Center for Student Success, Math Lab, and Peer Tutor Program provide the students the additional individual attention they need to conquer their academic challenges. Students are groomed for success from year one with such available services as life coaching, occupational therapy, student health, and counseling to meet their physical, mental, social, and emotional needs. Because of the intimate community environment these services foster, Dr. Hagerty aims to limit the student population to 450 or less to allow students to bond with the faculty and each other, and increase their confidence.


And the model is working. Dr. Hagerty stated that 35% of enrolled students came from other quality higher learning institutions but did not receive the support they needed.


Dr. Hagerty identifies with the students’ challenges and unflinching determination. He has been legally blind for twenty years. “We have our “island of challenge,” he explained. “And we find the skills to work around it.”


Beacon College, a four-year school, currently offers Bachelors degrees in psychology, interdisciplinary studies, information technology, business management, hospitality, human services, and studio arts. Minors include English/literature, game design, entrepreneurship, history, and education. The school even offers a Travel Abroad and Cultural Studies Program, allowing students to have a life-changing global experience and perspective. Previous countries involved in the program include Spain, Russia, Sweden, Italy, and several other central and western European nations.


Each year of study builds on the previous year, and students have internship opportunities by senior year thanks to Beacon College’s partnerships with national companies like Disney World, SeaWorld, and SunTrust Bank. The school’s Career Development Program improved on its students’ workforce transition process in 2014 by adding “intensive career training, including job shadowing, networking, and participating in classes each year that are focused on self awareness,” according to the website.


According to Dr. Hagerty, over 80% of Beacon College graduates enter the workforce, and 15% go on to grad schools. In fact, the school recently made history: Graduate Rosalyn I. Johnson, Ed.D, who is an Advanced Clinician in Children’s Clinical On-Site Services at Leesburg LifeStream Behavioral Center, is Beacon College’s first to acquire a doctorate degree. Dr. Johnson returned to Beacon College to speak at the freshman invocation thereafter. Several success stories like hers can be found on the school’s website.


Dr. Hagerty beams with optimism for Beacon College’s future. The school is developing an Anthrozoology Bachelor of Science curriculum for students with an affinity for animals and nature. “I’ve never seen a more tightly knit group of students,” he said proudly. “I foresee a community that refuses to be self-satisfied.”


Beacon College’s next open house is Saturday, February 13, and Summer 2016 term registration opens February 22.



Jamaica-born author and freelance journalist Mellissa Thomas is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film.

She also helps CEOs and executives, advisors, coaches, consultants, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023



WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit or

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A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis



Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force held its introductory meeting on April 12, 2019 at the Board of County Commissioner Chambers. Photo: Orange County Government.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Orange County faces a growing affordable housing crisis, and Mayor Jerry Demings has taken notice–and action. Shortly after his inauguration, he formed Housing For All, an affordable housing task force to face the challenge head-on.

The Housing For All task force doesn’t meet monthly like the County Commission–in fact, their next meeting won’t be until October 4, 2019–but they do work when they’re not meeting. The task force is made up of three subcommittees, Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee and Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee. These three subcommittees meet twice a month to come up with ideas and plans to fix the affordable housing problem.

Each subcommittee has a specific focus on ways to help solve the problem of affordable housing. The Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee is focused on the design of new affordable housing projects, the renovation of current affordable housing that might need fixing and land development for affordable housing units. The Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee is focused on making sure affordable housing is accessible to the major economic zones of the city, develop partnerships with groups and focus on outreach in the county. The Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee is focused on finding ways to increase the supply of affordable housing and how to preserve affordable housing.

At their next meeting in October these subcommittees will update the county on what they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. For information from previous Housing for All Task Force meetings or the meeting schedule, visit the Orange County Government website.


Leyton Blackwell is a photojournalist and Florida National News contributor. |

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Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival



ORLANDO: Chickasaw Nation Biopic 'Te Ata' Sets Stage for Orlando Film Festival.

ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) – Orlando Film Festival kicked off at Cobb Theaters in Downtown Orlando Wednesday night. The red carpet came alive with excited filmmakers and actors ready to showcase their projects to the Orlando community and, in some cases, to the world at large, including Nathan Frankowski, director of this year’s opening feature Te Ata.

About Te Ata

Frankowski’s biopic feature chronicles the true story of Chickasaw actress and storyteller Mary Frances Thompson, whose love of stories and the Chickasaw Nation fueled her to share the Chickasaw culture with new audiences in the early 1900s, a time when the United States was still growing as a nation and clashed with Native American peoples in the process.

Viewers are immediately swept into the saga from the film’s opening scene with a voice-over folk tale told by Mary Thompson’s father, T.B. Thompson (played by Gil Birmingham). Ironically, though his storytelling places the seed of inspiration in her, it slowly becomes a source of friction between them as she ages.

What makes the film engrossing is the sprawling backdrop upon which Thompson’s journey takes place. While young Te Ata (which means “The Morning”) flourishes with each solo performance and eventually sets her sights on Broadway, the Chickasaw Nation is fighting to secure the funding due them from the U.S. government in the face of ethnocentrism and religious bigotry–to the point that the government passed a law forbidding the sale of traditional Native American textiles and creations, which caused further financial struggle for the Chickasaw Nation. Viewers even experience the Thompsons’ fish-out-of-water feeling as the Chickasaw people’s territory, Tishomingo, shrinks significantly to become part of the newborn state of Oklahoma.

The political tensions are counterbalanced with Te Ata’s experience. Te Ata does her first performances among family, but chooses to leave home for the first time in her life to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (known today as University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), despite her father’s wishes for her to find a job at home. Viewers immediately empathize with Te Ata’s awkward experience upon her arrival at the predominantly Caucasian-attended College, but cheer her on when that one connection is made, because all it ever takes is one.

Te Ata’s jumping off point occurs when she meets drama teacher Frances Dinsmore Davis, who encourages her to join her class and to share the Chickasaw stories for her senior presentation instead of the usual Shakespeare recitation. From there, Te Ata’s career blossoms from one serendipitous connection to another, taking her performances across the country. She eventually makes it to New York City, hustling to find her place on Broadway, and finds love in the process while performing privately for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was then Governor of New York. The heroine’s journey continues with well-placed highs and lows, keeping the viewer visually and emotionally engaged.

Te Ata is touchingly channeled through lead actress Q’orianka Kilcher who, like Te Ata, has stage experience, and brought it to bear in the role. Kilcher’s magnetic singing, with the help of the film’s sweeping score and indigenous songs, imprints the true Te Ata’s passion for her people onto the viewer’s heart.

Frankowski, who worked closely with the Chickasaw Nation in creating the film, honors Te Ata’s memory and legacy in a cohesive, sweeping tale that will edify audiences everywhere.



Florida National News Editor Mellissa Thomas is an author and journalist, as well as a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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