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Shelter fosters growth in garden and teens

Starting Right, Now is a program for homeless teenagers.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gardens are a place of beauty and peace. But at Starting Right, Now, a new garden is also a place of learning.  

Starting Right, Now or SRN  is a shelter and mentoring program for teens who can’t live at home.  

“They’re usually couch surfing, going from friend to friend,” explains SRN founder Vicki Sokolik. “Or they’re sleeping in cars or on the streets."

SRN provides shelter, mentoring, and a path to higher education.  

“It’s life changing,” said 18-year-old Nick Sonetirot about his experience in the program. “You can be the worst person and it will flip you around.” 

This spring, the teens spent hours each week tending to a garden.  They grew vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  

And while they learned how to nurture and care for plants, they also learned how to care for themselves and grow a healthy lifestyle.   

“Tending to the plants…it roots you,” said 17-year-old Aurianna Castor. “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve grown as a person.”  

A $5,000 grant from 10 Tampa Bay and the TEGNA Foundation helped establish the garden.  

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Java Ingram is a New Orleans native/ Texan and is excited to call Florida home! Prior to joining Great Day Live in 2019 as host, Java served as Host of a lifestyle-entertainment show in Birmingham, AL. She also woke up dark and early, weekday mornings to help drivers make it to their destinations safely as a traffic anchor.

Java started her on-air broadcast career in the birthplace of Elvis Presley, Tupelo, Mississippi. In Tupelo, she served as morning news anchor, producer and reporter.

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After graduating with a degree in telecommunications, Janelle worked in markets across the southeast. She has had just about every job in television news over the course of her more than 15+ year career. She anchored evening newscasts in Sarasota, Winston-Salem and Charlotte, NC and even helped people get around town as the morning traffic anchor right here in the Tampa Bay area. She’s covered big stories and small ones, rode out hurricanes and traveled on presidential campaigns. But by far, her favorite part of working in television is telling your stories. She’s thrilled to be able to do that every day on Great Day Live

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