Robin Sussingham

Robin Sussingham is a reporter/producer and host at WUSF Public Broadcasting.  A native of Lakeland, she frequently reports on events and issues in Polk County.

She came to WUSF from public radio stations KUER and KCPW in Utah, has contributed stories to NPR and Marketplace, and has an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and online reporting. 

Robin majored in chemistry at Duke, and went to NYU for a Masters Degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting. She's reported on everything from the Olympics to the oil spill, but will jump at a chance to talk about food or books.

You hear a lot of bad news about Florida's agriculture industry. Competition from foreign markets, labor shortages, insects, the loss of farmland to development. And most seriously, the disease of citrus greening, which has devastated Florida's signature crop.

But surprisingly, young people aren't shying away from agriculture education in their schools. In fact, participation is at record highs.

 Two years ago the Florida High School Athletic Association, or FHSAA, passed a wildly unpopular mandate, requiring girls lacrosse players to wear head gear. The organization said it was responding to concussion risks -- but critics say policy and public perception of risk are getting ahead of the actual data.

Computer coding is the language that tells a computer what to do, but is it a foreign language? The Florida Senate has approved a bill saying yes; if it passes into law, high school students could substitute computer coding for required foreign language credits. It's an attempt to get more of the state's students into computer science classes.

College can be expensive, and most families need some help paying for it. To get that help, they have to fill out something called the FAFSA  -- "the Free Application for Federal Student Aid." The FAFSA is important. In 2014, Florida high school grads left unclaimed more than $167 MILLION  in federal grant money  -- which they wouldn't have had to pay back -- because they didn't turn in a FAFSA.

The Florida House of Representatives last week wrestled with key education proposals. 

 

Physics is the most  fundamental of sciences; it's an essential stepping stone for  careers in engineering or science. But around the country, fewer than 40 percent of high school students take a physics class. In Florida , that number is much lower -- only about a quarter of high school students take physics. Experts say that the trend affects the future earning potential of the state's students.

It sounded like a story guaranteed to irritate taxpayers: a national study out of Rutgers university says more and more public high school students are taking longer than four years to graduate.

Instead, they're in school for five or six -- or more --  years!

But Florida school officials say that's not a problem here. And experts say, they both may be right -- the difference may lie in some good news from the last several years.

There's growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.

Robin Sussingham / StateImpact Florida

At last count, during the 2013-2014 school year, the number of homeless students had risen to more than 71,000 in Florida's public schools. For many of these children, a brand-new school uniform may be out of reach, though school officials say it makes a big impact on their attitude. One longtime charity in Lakeland is quietly helping to fill that need.

As the Florida Department of Citrus turns 80 years old, the industry it represents is fighting for its survival. The insect-borne disease of citrus greening is devastating groves statewide.

David Steele, the Director of Public Relations for the Department of Citrus, spoke with WUSF's Robin Sussingham about the challenges that citrus greening poses to the state's iconic crop. Steele says that every aspect of the citrus industry is under attack because of greening, resulting in the lowest production levels in his lifetime. But there's always reason to hope, he says:

A decade ago, speculators in Florida were pumping up a huge housing bubble.

"You couldn't go wrong," Tampa real estate attorney Charlie Hounchell says. In that overheated period from 2001 to 2006, "you could buy a house and make $100,000 a year later by selling it," he says.

But the party ended in 2007 and the hangover persists. The state now has the highest foreclosure rate in the country, beating out Nevada for the first time in five years.

A decade ago, speculators in Florida were pumping up a huge housing bubble.

"You couldn't go wrong," Tampa real estate attorney Charlie Hounchell says. In that overheated period from 2001 to 2006, "you could buy a house and make $100,000 a year later by selling it," he says.

But the party ended in 2007 and the hangover persists. The state now has the highest foreclosure rate in the country, beating out Nevada for the first time in five years.

Experts say the legal process in Florida is the key reason for the sluggish pace of foreclosures there.