An actor, singer, comedian, playwright, composer and director, Nat Jacobs founded the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in December 1999. A graduate of Florida A&M University, Jacobs has directed, acted, and written many shows. His co-adaptation of Celebrating Greatness was featured on CBS's Street Stories with Ed Bradley. His original one-man comedy show, Aunt Rudele’s Family Reunion, was selected for the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Eatonville, FL, and the National Black Theatre Festival, and was performed in New York at PS-NBC’s “new comedic talent” event.
Jacobs works extensively in the community, training and mentoring youth in the performing arts. As a result of his outstanding contributions to young people, the Sarasota County Branch NAACP Youth Council recognized him as one of the 2012 “Men of Valor.” Jacobs was inducted into Sarasota’s Community Video Archives “Hall of Fame” in 2013. In 2015, he was named the Unity Award Arts winner by Biz(941) and La Guia magazines for being a champion of diversity and he was honored at the National Black Theatre Festival with the prestigious “Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award” for his contributions to Black and American theatre.
Matt Walsh is editor, CEO and owner of The Observer Media Group Inc. After starting the company in 1995 with the purchase of the Longboat Observer, Walsh and his wife, Lisa, have grown the company to include 12 newspapers, seven websites and two quarterly lifestyle magazines serving Sarasota and Manatee counties; Plant City; Palm Coast and Ormond Beach; Winter Garden, Windermere and Winter Park; Jacksonville and the Gulf Coast of Florida. Altogether, the company’s newspapers, websites and social media reach a weekly audience of more than 335,000. The company employs 130 people and has 12 offices around Florida.
Prior to founding Observer Media Group, Walsh served as editor of St. Petersburg-based Florida Trend magazine; Southeast Bureau Manager for Forbes; assistant business editor at the Miami Herald; and managing editor of newspapers in the Midwest.
Walsh is a native of St. Louis and a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Lori White grew up in Sarasota and is a product of Sarasota County Schools. She graduated from Florida State University with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Interrelated Areas of Special Education.
In 1977, she began her career as a special education teacher at Ashton Elementary School. In 1984, she accepted her first district administration position as an early childhood specialist. She subsequently served as an elementary supervisor, supervisor of curriculum, director of curriculum and executive director of curriculum. She was appointed associate superintendent in 2003 and served as superintendent from 2008 until her retirement in 2017.
During her tenure as superintendent, an independent study of the district’s effectiveness and efficiency by MGT of America concluded that the district is one of the best-run school systems the company has reviewed, citing high performance and innovative practices.
Currently the anchor of "Good Morning Suncoast" on ABC 7, Ray Collins has anchored the news on TV and radio for over 30 years in a variety of markets including Tampa, Ft. Myers, Richmond, VA, and his hometown of Buffalo, NY.
Over the years, Collins covered a Presidential Debate and subsequent inauguration, Ground Zero, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Sugar Bowl, the Super Bowl and hurricanes from Charleston to Honduras and all over Florida. He has hosted radio shows, appeared on C*SPAN and was a correspondent for a nationally-televised weekly tennis program.
The Associated Press honored Collins with an "Individual Achievement for Overall Excellence” award. In 2016, he covered the Republican National Convention, went with dozens of World War II veterans to visit the National Memorial in Washington, DC, and won "Best General Assignment Story" for an investigation of a Sarasota City Commissioner.
Ray graduated from St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York where he was inducted into the college radio station's Hall of Fame in 2012. His high school, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, inducted him into its "Wall of Honor" in 2016.
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