Melissa Ross

Host/Producer, "First Coast Connect"

"First Coast Connect" host/producer Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting. 

As executive producer of "The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State," Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the documentary category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. "The 904" examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital.

WJCT’s "First Coast Connect" has received multiple national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. for best call-in program.

Prior to joining WJCT, Melissa spent three years in the corporate communications field at Jacksonville’s Dalton Agency. During her stint at Dalton, she was cast in the HBO film "Recount" playing — what else? — a reporter!

Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Communications. She also writes for the Florida Politics blog. 

Ways to Connect

Hurricane season is in full swing, and Florida's homeowners are among the most at-risk in the nation should a major storm surge our way.

Now is the time to scrutinize your property insurance policy and find out what is - and is not - covered.

Random House

In the market for a great beach read this summer?

Here are some suggestions from the First Coast Connect Book Club, courtesy of  local book blogger Stacey Goldring.

FSCJ (Florida State College at Jacksonville) is planting "seeds" of economic empowerment through an innovative program in partnership with Georgetown University. It's the only program of its kind in Florida.

Florida Times-Union

A national organization that has a presence in dozens of American cities has picked Jacksonville as its latest site.

City Year partners with challenged schools and young people, uniting them in the cause of providing hands-on help to struggling students. 

And that help is needed, because there is a dropout crisis in this city - statistics show one in three students in Duval County don’t make it to graduation.

The 5 & Dime Theatre Company goes behind the veil in its provocative new show, staging in the CoRK Arts District this month.

Hala Cafe Facebook Page's "Hidden Gems" is a new web-only series checking out some of the great places in Jacksonville you may not know exist.

It's tucked away in a nondescript strip mall on University Boulevard. There's not even any signage as you drive by. But the locals know it's here, and they keep coming back.

Back in 2011, three UNF/FSU students envisioned a non-profit that would supply much-needed clean water to third world countries.

Today, after visioning trips and well-water building experience, Water for All Nations is operating with a global board of directors, and co-founder Ryan Winter is moving from Jacksonville to Tanzania later this month to begin implementing its mission.

It’s an ambitious effort from one of the biggest change agents in town.. to change the system for girls.

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is up and running. Its focus is girls in the juvenile and foster care systems. And the Center will be run by a national standout in understanding the complex needs of girls.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says it's ramping up efforts to get illegal guns off city streets by publicizing its five-year-old gun bounty program. 

Here's how it works: anyone who tips authorities to the whereabouts of an illegal firearm earns a $1,000 reward - no questions asked.

"We've confiscated more than 300 illegal guns since 2006 with this program," says Sheriff John Rutherford. "And it's never gone away, but now we're marketing it so more people are aware of it and call us with information."

It's an incredibly moving film, and one that's actually now in the record books.

Honor Flight is a documentary about communities coming together to show their thanks to living World War II veterans, before it’s too late.  The film dramatically shows volunteers racing against the clock to fly every local WWII veteran they can to the WWII memorial in Washington, DC.

Local citizens will be joining hands on Saturday, May 18th,  at the St. Augustine Beach Pier to stand in solidarity against offshore drilling – in Florida and throughout the world. 

It's part of the annual global event, Hands Across the Sand.

Girls' Rights Week is an annual celebration of girls, advocating for their rights and positive change in the field of gender equity.

The week is being observed here on the First Coast with a special exhibit. The Girls Inc. PhotoVoice JAX 2025 Vision Project gives girls across the city cameras, and asks them to take pictures of where they see both themselves, and the city of Jacksonville, in the year 2025.

It's the nation's most common type of diagnosed cancer, and sadly, more and more teens and young adults are falling prey to the disease.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and America's dermatologists have a message for kids obsessed with tanning: don't.

It's Hollywood's fourth attempt to capture the magic of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic as Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby opens this weekend to much fanfare (and mixed reviews).

But those who've loved and studied the novel for decades say the fact that Jay Gatsby is once again getting the Hollywood treatment is not surprising.

"Fitzgerald was saying something about class, about the romantic American idea we hold of the self-made man," says Dr. Julie Sloan Brannon, Professor of English at Jacksonville University.

Jacksonville University

He's a widely quoted expert with decades of insight into America’s political scene. Now, Dr. Stephen Baker, professor of political science at JU, is preparing to step down from the post he’s held at the campus since 1985.

He'll continue part-time teaching, though, at the university's Public Policy Institute.