McDonald, student among local achievers

Published: Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 6:50 p.m.

Tia McDonald, a University of Florida senior majoring in public relations, has been crowned Miss Florida United States and will represent the state in the national Miss United States competition in Washington DC over the fourth of July weekend.

McDonald has individually raised more than $100,000 for people in need, not including the five cars given to families in need that have wheelchair lifts, hand-gas and hand-brakes. She has won the President’s Bronze, Silver and Gold award, The Governor’s Point of Light honor, a proclamation from the mayor and the Medallion of Excellence for her community service efforts.

Last summer, she interned at the Special Olympics, where she specialized in managing events and social media.

Ten years ago. McDonald, 20, started a pageant for people with special needs called “Our Shining S.T.A.R.S,” which to date has crowned more than 500 kings and queens..

At age 15, McDonald started a cheer team for underprivileged girls that won first place at state championships, three weeks after forming, along with forming a mentoring program for sixth grade students called “On Track” at New Smyrna Beach Middle School.


Allstate agency owner Judy Locascio received the Agency Hands in the Community Award for her commitment to helping others in the Gainesville community. With this award came a $1,000 grant from The Allstate Foundation to Girls Place where Locascio volunteers.

The Allstate Foundation awards more than $1 million every year to nonprofit organizations across the country in honor of dedicated Allstate agency owners who give back. To be eligible for nomination, Allstate agency owners must volunteer, mentor or lead a nonprofit of their choice.


The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and the UF Health Communications office have received Awards for Excellence, the highest honor in the Association of American Medical College’s 2014 Group on Institutional Advancement awards competition. The award, which is in the Electronic Communications category, recognized Animal Airwaves radio program during the association’s annual conference in March 27 in Salt Lake City.

Animal Airwaves features one-minute segments relating to animal health and a Saturday hourlong live call-in show.

The Group on Institutional Advancement awards recognize the most creative and effective approaches used to promote academic medicine in the United States through alumni, development, public affairs, public relations, marketing and communications.

Launched in 2011, Animal Airwaves airs on Gainesville’s public radio affiliate and focuses on animal health and behavior as well as patient care and research breakthroughs, pet owner tips and trends within the veterinary profession

Currently, the modules air internationally on the American Forces Network, which reaches military bases worldwide; nationally on WPSU in Pittsburgh; and on WGCU in the Fort Myers area as well as in the North Central Florida primary coverage area.


The Florida Museum of Natural History Director Douglas S. Jones was elected president of the Association of Science Museum Directors at the association’s annual meeting held in March in Salt Lake City.

Jones, who was named interim director of the Florida Museum in 1996 and director the following year, has been a member of the museum directors association since 1998 and served on its board for six years. Jones also serves on the board of directors of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., as well as the boards of The Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences Inc. and the Florida Association of Museums. He also is a past president of the Florida association.

The organization has about 60 institutional members who represent the leading science museums and centers in the U.S. and Canada.


James Wnek, a local homeschool student- competed with mostly adults and won the Central Florida Class Championship and the Southern Class Championship. He received more than $1100 in cash. His chess rating has improved almost 400 points in the last year.


The Gainesville chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution had eight chapter members and three family members participating in the 7th annual Fallen Heroes 5K Run to memorialize those heroes who gave their lives for this country. The proceeds were split between the UDT/SEAL Association to benefit active and veteran seals and their family members, and the Gainesville Fisher House Foundation, which is set to open this month to provide lodging to veterans and their families receiving medical care at the local VA hospital. The Gainesville chapter members also raised more than $660 in donations for the Gainesville Fisher House. Participation in this event and fundraising for the Gainesville Fisher House were spearheaded by the chapter’s National Defense Committee.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top