The enticement and welcome portal for Alachua County, Florida

For Teens


    Gainesville offers teens a vibrant and engaging urban scene with easy access to rural and wilderness areas. A network of urban and rural trails makes it easy to get around by bicycle. Off road bike trails and the skatepark offer more entertainment on wheels. County and city parks provide a full roster of recreational opportunities, including swimming, arts programs, athletics, gardening, heritage activities and more. The Alachua County Library System is another phenomenal resource, providing access to all types of digital media, homework help and many types of programs at branch libraries, from science to art classes. Gainesville has been recognized as the number one place in America to start a garage band, create a start-up company or be involved in sustainable ways to save the planet. Perhaps the best feature of Gainesville for a young person is the chance to get involved and make a difference.  Gainesville is large enough to have lots and lots of choices–join a sports team, build a robot, or have your very own booth at the Spring Arts Festival–but small enough that you can easily become a part of the community.

    Museums    |   Libraries    |   K-12 Education    |   Higher Education    |   Mentoring Programs 

  • High School Programs

  • Dual Enrollment Programs

  • Music

    Studio Percussion: a nonprofit offering all types of musical instrument and voice group activities and private lessons    website  |  facebook page
  • Jobs for Teens


    FloridaWorks is your starting place for opportunity. Job listings, job training and advising. Special youth programs. Have that entrepreneurial spirit: let FloridaWorks hook you up with local startups, mentors and resources.

    Welcome to Florida Trend’s NEXT your guide to life after high school in Florida. Our magazine has been created to help teens “Get Ready, Set and Go” for their goals and a successful future.

    Job Tips | Search for jobs by local ZIP code

  • Community Resources

    FloridaWorks lists a wide variety of community resources for teens and families: jobs, health, community agencies, guidance and more.

    UFHealth_2C_CMYKGrowing up is difficult, but we’re here to help! UF Health’s Adolescent/Young Adult Program at the Gerold L. Schiebler Children’s Medical Services Center offers primary care to youth ages 10 to 21. Providers address adolescent-specific areas of concern, including psychosocial evaluations, school problems, gynecological evaluations, drug and alcohol use and dietary needs. The center also can provide sports physicals.

    UF Health offers educational services on adolescent topics such as sexuality and adolescent development, vocational planning, social skills, eating disorders, nutrition and weight counseling, peer pressure, family problems and sexually transmitted diseases.

    For adolescents and young adults hospitalized with chronic and life-limiting illnesses, UF Health’s Streetlight program offers one of the most powerful sources of support: friendship. Streetlight’s 60+ college-aged volunteers focus on building friendships with patients ages 13-25 through peer companionship. The program offers movies, video games and a place to hang out while in the hospital. Dealing with a serious medical condition is a difficult journey, but teens and young adults don’t need to go through it alone.

  • Counseling and Help

    Youth Talk Hotline and Help

    CDS youth shelters, counseling and programs
    Spotlight on Youth: showcasing dazzling local youth talent


Global Gainesville

DSC08158Gainesville is a welcoming place. We love to meet people from other states, and especially other countries. My old elementary school, J.J. Finley, is the primary school for Alachua County students who need to learn English. (The program is called ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages. For middle school, Westwood has the ESOL program, and for high school, it’s Gainesville High.) 21% of the students at Finley are from other countries! “We are so lucky to have our ESOL population,” says Tami Delaney, ESOL coordinator at Finley. “We have a wonderfully diverse school where students learn at a very young age to accept people from other backgrounds. Students learn about the cultures of their classmates.”

That was definitely true for me. My family loved the annual international food festival, where the ESOL students’ families cook wonderful dishes from their homeland. Finley has students from Haiti, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Malaysia, China, Cuba, Costa Rica, Brazil, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Hungary, just to name a few. Over my years at Finley, I made several friends from China and learned a few Chinese words! I asked my friend Kevin Luo if he would be willing to share his experience for the blog. Here, you’ll see what great English he learned at Finley! Enjoy – and be sure to welcome the next English as a second language speaker you meet here in Gainesville!

Hi, everybody. I am Kevin, from China. Last December, I came here to meet my dad. When I arrived, I felt not only happy and excited, but also uneasy, because I could only speak a little English and knew nothing about Gainesville. In this city, I am just like an alien and curious about everything. This is the first time for me to come to America. I did not know anybody here except for my dad. I felt a little sad because I could not understand what other people said. Nor could I communicate with them. I thought I should improve my English.

After winter holiday, I came to elementary school and became a student of J.J. Finley Elementary School. This is a very good school. All teachers and classmates are very nice. They did everything to help me. When they talked about something with me, they spoke as slowly as possible, so that I could get it. In this school, there is an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Language) program. After lunch of each day, students from other countries went to ESOL room to learn English. Some ESOL teachers can speak Spanish. Sometimes, volunteers from University of Florida came to ESOL class as translators. They could give help in other languages. It is very convenient for ESOL students, particularly for the students who could hardly speak English.

In J.J Finley, there are many activities. For example, we have field trip programs. Last time, all the students of grade 5 visited Tampa Museum. We learned some interesting things about medical science, biology, electricity and physics. It was an exciting trip. All ESOL students in J.J. Finley are from other countries. So, our teachers gave us an International Food Festival. In that day afternoon, ESOL students and their parents brought their traditional food to school. In the campus, the flags of different countries were hung in the hallway. All the foods and the introduction cards were put on the long desks. The entire school including families had a chance to enjoy the delicious foods from all over the world.

Movie night is another fun activity. At that night, all students could come to school and enjoy the wonderful movie. Of course, they should be accompanied by their parents. Our teachers would also provide free popcorn and drinks. And don’t forget to bring sleeping bags! It is a very interesting thing to watch an open air movie in a sleeping bag.

I was a grade 5 student. This summer, we have a big graduation ceremony. All excellent students were commended. After that, we have an exciting party in the cafeteria. All teachers including our Principal took part in this party. Students had the chance to take photos with their teachers and friends. I think it is a good memory forever.

Now, I am a middle school student. But I always miss my J.J. Finley. It is a very pretty school. I also miss my friends and teachers. If you’re reading this blog post, you know how well they taught me English in less than a year!

Thanks to my friend Kevin, and, expect more posts! Will.

Recreation: Corn Maze

I highly recommend going to the Newberry corn maze. It is an awesome experience, especially as your first corn maze. It is pretty scary, but not too bad. There are two main things to do: the corn maze, and the haunted house. There is also zombie paintball and a mechanical bull. But, as I said, the main things are the corn maze and the haunted house. The corn maze is a cornfield with paths running through it. On the paths there are people wearing masks and brandishing chainsaws. I do not want to spoil the haunted house, but I can say it was very fun. Altogether the only thing that I disliked were the lines, especially for the haunted house; otherwise it is extremely fun.

It’s the Semester of Science

Who’s ready to get their science fair on? Wait a minute, you’re thinking – isn’t the science fair next year? Yes, the Alachua Region Fair is Thursday February 6th, 2014. But it’s never too early to start thinking about your project. Kids all over the county are already brainstorming with their teachers.

Alachua County loves the science fair, and a lot of local kids go on to the state level. My science teacher at Lincoln Middle School, Mrs. Adrienne Thieke, says that you shouldn’t think of an experiment, but a problem that will evolve into an experiment, because science is about solving problems, not making things blow up.

Lila Bernhardt, a student at Westwood Middle School last year, is a perfect example of that philosophy. She was one of several winners who moved on to the state level last year. But more than being a winner, she exposed a problem. Her project was on the nutritional value of kids’ meals at chain fast-food restaurants. Lila started out with the idea that youth obesity is a significant problem in the U.S. (This is also the problem my project is looking at this year!) Lila started with a study on food and drink advertisements on channels most watched by teens. She found that fast food and restaurant ads promoted the least healthy products. Next, she expanded her research to find out if the Kids’ Meals at the top 25 chain restaurants were healthy or not. Her hypothesis was that there would be more unhealthy Kids’ Meals than healthy.

I asked Lila if she would share her results in the blog, because they were really amazing! Here is what she reported:

I conducted an observational epidemiology study on the top 25 US chain restaurants based on annual sales by collecting data from their respective websites. Twenty of the 25 restaurants had Kids’ Meals. I entered the name and category of all available menu items into a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet along with the Calorie, Fat, Saturated Fat, and Sodium content for each item. I then created every meal combination from each restaurant, which included every possible combination of food choices without paying extra. There were 6,441 meal combinations and more than 38,000 data points. To test if the Kid’s Meals were healthy or unhealthy, I used nutritional standards for one meal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Restaurant Association. My nutritional standards for 4 to 8 year olds were 500 Calories, 19.3 grams of Fat, 5.5 grams of Saturated Fat, and 770 milligrams of Sodium; and for 9 to 12 year olds were 633 Calories, 24.4 grams of Fat, 6.96 grams of Saturated Fat, and 770 milligrams of Sodium. Meals were considered unhealthy if they exceeded the standards and healthy if they met or were below the standards.

I found that 15.2% of the Kids’ Meal combinations met all the nutritional standards for 4-8 year olds, and 21.9% met all of the nutritional standards for 9-12 year olds. Therefore, my hypothesis was strongly supported because there were far more unhealthy Kids’ Meals than there were healthy. I found that Dairy Queen and McDonalds had no meal combinations that met the standards for 4-8 year olds, while Subway and Burger king had the highest percentages of meal combinations that met the standards for both age groups. Simulation analysis to test the effects of removing some available choices found that removing fries and sugared soda from Kids’ Meals significantly increased the proportion of meals meeting the nutritional standards. Interestingly, only one Kids’ Meal, out of the 1,547 meals with fries, actually met the nutritional standards for 4-8 year olds.

In conclusion, the vast majority of meal combinations available on Kids’ Meals at the top 25 US chain restaurants are unhealthy. Based on these findings, it would be very difficult, and in some cases impossible, for children to eat a healthy Kids’ Meal at the top 25 chain restaurants. Restaurants should consider ways to increase the number of healthy choices available and future research should explore ways to encourage people to choose healthier options.

Lila’s teacher, Mrs. Sara Charbonnet, who is the science fair coordinator at Westwood, said students from Alachua County consistently do this level of work! Science projects are not required in the high schools, but the high school students who do them also consistently place at the state, national, and international levels.

All middle school students, including homeschoolers, can enter the Alachua County Science Fair. Winners can move on to the regionals, and then to the state science fair, but unfortunately, middle school students cannot go past the state level. To learn more about our county’s science fair, and contacts and everything else you need, click here.

So put your science-thinking cap on and hope to see you in February!

Until then, expect more posts! Will.

Mapping G-ville

You’ve probably looked up Gainesville on Google Street View. A new project lets me show you the city on Will’s View. Some of the basic things on my map are my school and my house. I like to go east. Sweet Dreams Ice Cream is my western-most limit. When I go east, I find my school, my rowing lake  (Newnans), and my favorite pizza place called Satchel’s.

My parents suggested I put where I was born and where they met, but all I care about is the pizza.

On the map there is also my favorite Mexican place, Tijuana Flats, which has a hot sauce bar with a ton of different hot sauces. Are you brave enough to try the “Insanity” sauce?

Ready to make your own map of Gainesville? Here is the website ( to download your map and directions for turning it in. I hope lots of people do this. I can’t wait to see everybody’s perspective of Gainesville!

Expect more posts,


Gainesville Beach

This past Labor Day weekend my family headed to the beach. Since Gainesville is in the middle of Florida we can go to the Gulf Beaches, which are in driving distance, or the Atlantic Beaches, also in driving distance. When you are never more than two hours away from any beach you can never get bored! The beach is always special. I went to the Atlantic side to a place called Neptune Beach. We were staying in a beach house that our friends told us about. The Atlantic side has excellent waves for boogie-boarding and other water sports. The Gulf side is great for fishing, kayaking, and scalloping.

This time we saw a lot of people stand-up-paddle-boarding in the surf. We went surf-fishing and caught a shark! There are a huge number of beach towns near Gainesville. A lot of Gainesville kids go to Crescent Beach which is close to St. Augustine. I think it is cool that you can go to the beach in Crescent then go to St. Augustine and see the Castillo de San Marcos which is a huge fort used in many different wars.

I see a lot of my friends when we go to the beach. This time, my old friends Van and Ty happened to be standing at the street corner right in Neptune Beach! So I went boogie boarding and fishing with them the next day! (Here they are in the picture with their mom and dad, and our cast net for finger mullet.)

For a place without beaches of its own, Gainesville sure is special beach-wise!

Expect more posts,


Introducing Will, your 12-year old guide to Gainesville

SuwanneeChrist1Let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Will Hoover, and I’m your 12-year-old guide to Gainesville. I just started 6th grade at the Lyceum magnet program at Lincoln Middle School. In Gainesville there are a lot of great schools that offer some amazing magnet programs.

I am, surprisingly, not a Gator fan even though I live 8 blocks away from the stadium, but Gainesville is a great place to go if you love college sports. Also, despite the loud teenagers, living in a college town has its benefits. My favorite thing about it is that you get UF homecoming off from school! On homecoming weekend there is a huge parade! They have a ton of cool floats! I have always wanted to be in the homecoming parade!

I also like that while it’s not a polluted or overcrowded city, it’s at least somewhat urban. We even have cellphone service! I think it achieves perfect balance. It also has plenty of fun stuff. There’s a skating rink, bowling alley, and 3 WONDERFUL public pools! The pools have water slides, diving boards, and one even has a climbing wall that you can climb over the deep end and fall in! They really come in handy in the hot summer heat. There are also some amazing nature experiences. There are beautiful springs that stay 72 degrees year round! There is also a huge prairie with bison and horses! You can go tubing on the nearby Ichetucknee River and canoeing on the Suwannee River — with rope swings! And of course who can forget all the theme parks within a couple hours’ drive of us! There’s Disney World, Universal, and Sea World just to name a few. Gainesville is a GREAT place to live! I highly recommend it. Expect more posts from me and some other kids on various Gainesvilleriffic topics.