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

www.sheknows.com

In ancient Greece, the word "doula" meant "a woman's servant." But today, doulas serve as the modern-day social support for women during one of the most important phases of their lives: pregnancy and childbirth.

Indo American Medical Association of NE Florida

For the thousands of uninsured residents here on the First Coast, preventative health care can be hard to come by. 

www.fancypantspartyjax.com

If Caddyshack is your favorite film, rest assured you'll be in your glory at an upcoming event to help hungry kids on the First Coast. 

The across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration were never supposed to actually happen. They were designed as a deterrent to force Congress to agree to a long-term deal on taxes and spending.

But because warring lawmakers could not come to terms, the sequester went into grinding effect this year, and the painful cuts are already being felt in a number of ways.

Dining Out For Life

Some of the most popular restaurants in town are taking part in a special night of dining this week.

This Thursday, simply by going out for a quick bite, you can do your part to support the fight against HIV and AIDS. 

It’s the 2013 Dining Out for Life event, and there is plenty on the menu.

USA Today Sports

Jaguars season ticket holder Dave Uible didn't anticipate making national headlines when he sent an open letter to team owner Shad Khan recently.

City of Jacksonville

Sheriff John Rutherford says his police force is beefing up security for the city's inaugural One Spark Festival. It's a routine precaution in the wake of Monday's deadly bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The attack in Boston killed three and injured nearly 150 more.

Rutherford says to expect added police presence for One Spark, although he urges the public not to worry.

Food Network

She is Florida’s (the nation's?) cupcake queen. 

Hollis Wilder, the proprietor of the Sweet by Holly cupcake shops in Jacksonville and Orlando, became a three-time winner of the Food Network hit Cupcake Wars on Sunday, April 14th.

Wilder is the first cupcake baker in the nation to achieve triple-crown status on the popular program.

"It's incredibly thrilling!" she says.

Working parents know the drill. Every spring it's a scramble to find quality, affordable summer camps for their kids. The best camps fill up quickly, cost a lot, and it can be a logistical nightmare to try to schedule your kids in several different camps that fit their interests over the long summer break.

Will Dickey / The Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville's inaugural One Spark Festival is set spark up downtown next week, and no one's happier about it than financial backer Peter Rummell.

The former CEO of the city's St. Joe Company says he's hopeful One Spark will become synonymous with the First Coast.

"You think of the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, or SXSW in Austin, Texas," says Rummell. "This event has that same potential."

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Decades before a certain span in Alaska won the dubious honor, a bridge project in Jacksonville was  tagged a "bridge to nowhere."

The Mathews Bridge, which opened to traffic in the spring of 1953, was initially derided by skeptics, who said no one would use it.

Before the bridge was built, the Arlington neighborhood was accessible to many only by ferry.

This year’s City of Jacksonville Veterans Summit will focus on the growing problem of veterans’ suicides.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study, an American veteran commits suicide once every 65 minutes in this country - about 22 per day.

Here on the First Coast, about 25% of the population is either active or retired military, so this is a serious public health and policy issue.

It could be the financial windfall that keeps the St. Johns River Ferry running.

State Senator Aaron Bean and State Representative Janet Adkins have requested up to $1.5 million be set aside in the state’s 2014 budget to keep the ferry afloat.

The funds would be used for repairs and maintenance while the boats are in dry dock.

Hens in Jax

Advocates of urban agriculture in Jacksonville are pressing the City Council not to chicken out (author's note: I had to do it) and to legalize domestic hens in residential areas.

A group called Hens in Jax is leading the charge.

April is the "awareness month" for a lot of things. Autism, jazz appreciation, even Confederate history (only in the Southern states, of course.)

But April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the U.S., and since it's estimated 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, awareness is key.

We highlighted the topic on First Coast Connect by speaking with UNF criminology professor and author Dr. Jennifer Wesely. 

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