Palm Beach County students bring hope to struggling families in NOLA

Joshua Berkowitz, Spencer Linkhorst and Andrew Taylor collect and sort canned goods at Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans. The second annual community service opportunity for Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Project Tikvah (Hebrew for “hope”), is aimed at making a lasting impact by serving those in need. Submitted photo

Twenty-one Jewish teens from Palm Beach County rolled up their sleeves to serve as they were immersed in the culture of New Orleans this week.

RELATED: How a trip to South Carolina gave Gardens teens a lesson in gratitude

Beignets were on the menu, but so too was packing food for the 1 in 6 hungry families in the area served by the Second Harvest Food Bank. The teens sorted donated Mardi Gras beads that will be sold by the Arc of Greater New Orleans to benefit its programs for people with intellectual disabilities. They worked on a building a house.

Palm Beach County high school students volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans as part of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Submitted photo

Hope Lerman, a 16-year-old junior at Dwyer High School, was inspired by meeting a woman who was helped by the home-building organization and told the group about the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, even 12 years later.

“It made our work very meaningful,” Lerman said.

The experience taught her to be content with what she has and make the most of it, she said.

It’s the second year for Project Tikvah, a hands-on service program named after the Hebrew word for “hope.” The teens’ trip was organized by the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Jewish Teen Initiative and new Jewish Volunteer Center, according to a news release.

Evan Josza, a 16-year-old junior at The Benjamin School, said he enjoyed sorting the thousands of pounds of donated Mardi Gras beads. The Arc also pay people with disabilities minimum wage or more for their work sorting and reselling the beads.

“I thought that was really impactful, because not only did it give those people jobs, it benefited their organization. All the money just keeps coming right back,” Josza said. “It helps them grow.”

The group ate at Cafe Reconcile, which helps young adults ages 16 to 24 learn hospitality skills. The fried oyster po’boy with spinach artichoke aioli, fries and bread pudding were a hit with Zachary Jacobson, a 16-year-old junior at Wellington High School.

Sorting the food at the food bank was Jacobson’s favorite service project. He proudly sported a sticker with the words, “I fed someone today.”

“I’ve learned not to take things for granted,” he said. “It really puts things into perspective.”

TONIGHT: Dwyer H.S. freshman to be featured on NBC Nightly News

Kayla Abramowitz, 14 of North Palm Beach, will be featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. You can watch with her at the Duffy’s on PGA Boulevard and U.S. 1. Courtesy photo

Kayla Abramowitz, a North Palm Beach teen who has collected items for children’s hospitals in all 50 states, will be featured on national news Monday night.

READ: North Palm Beach teen honored with national award

The William T. Dwyer High School freshman got the idea for her Kayla Cares 4 Kids nonprofit when she was just 11 years old after noticing a limited selection of DVDs during her own hospital stays for Crohn’s disease, colitis and juvenile arthritis. She founded the nonprofit in 2013 to collect entertainment and educational materials for kids like her.

RELATED: It’s more than business for this seventh grader

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will feature a large donation the charity made to Ronald McDonald House in Miami. Kayla Cares 4 Kids donated 31 DVD players – one for each family’s room, 100 DVDs and dozens of books, according to the organization. Support from the community, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures and Philomel Books made the donation possible.

Kayla’s family and supporters are holding a watch party starting 6 p.m. at Duffy’s Sports Grill, 11588 U.S. Highway 1, in the Oakbrook Square Shopping Center in North Palm Beach. The shopping center is at the corner of PGA Boulevard and U.S. 1. The segment runs at the end of Nightly News.

Abramowitz is in the finance program at Dwyer. In 2015, she was named the National Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Late drama teacher Duncan’s protégés performing Shakespeare for bash

Palm Beach State College professor Watson B. Duncan III with the two actors he discovered who became famous: Burt Reynolds, left, and Monte Markham, right.
Palm Beach State College professor Watson B. Duncan III with the two actors he discovered who became famous: Burt Reynolds, left, and Monte Markham, right.

Watson B. Duncan’s former drama students are giving the late Shakespeare fanatic a fitting birthday tribute at the Palm Beach Gardens school that bears his name.

Watson B. Duncan Middle School has timed its 25th anniversary celebration to coincide with Duncan’s birthday Feb. 16. The party starts at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at the school’s courtyard, 5150 117th Court North. It is open to all, according to a news release from the Palm Beach County School District.

READ ALSO: Palm Beach Gardens students: Do you know who William T. Dwyer was?  

The “Live the Legend, A Star Glow of Tomorrow” event will feature guest speakers, a performance by Duncan students and a Shakespearean tribute to Duncan by his drama students.

Students will also celebrate with cake and activities during lunch next Thursday.

Duncan, a popular Palm Beach State College professor, taught for more than 30 years until the day he died in 1991. He called Shakespeare “the Big S” and often celebrated his birthday with cake and a costume.

Actor and Jupiter resident Burt Reynolds credited Duncan with turning his attention from athletics to acting. He once described Duncan as a “six-foot-four curmudgeon elf” with an engaging laugh.

Watson B. Duncan Middle School and Lake Worth Middle School both opened Aug. 26, 1991.

VIDEO: Palm Beach Gardens storm damage: What you need to know

After a night of fierce winds and strong thunderstorms, northwestern Palm Beach Gardens is waking up to damage. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Eastbound Donald Ross Road was closed at Alternate A1A because of downed power lines. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office citizens patrols were helping direct traffic. Workers were using the railroad alarm to alert drivers from the closure. Florida Power & Light trucks lined the road.

    Eastbound Donald Ross Road was closed at Alternate A1A because of power lines that came down in the storm.
    Eastbound Donald Ross Road was closed at Alternate A1A because of power lines that came down in the storm.
  2. Benjamin High School and William T. Dwyer High Schools were closed Monday because of the storm damage. Teachers, students and parents were discouraged from checking out the damage at Dwyer High. A police officer stood guard at the front gate of the school.Mangled metal from both schools’ sports facilities was strewn about. A piece of the bleachers from Benjamin High School appeared to be in the median of Central Boulevard just south of Donald Ross Road. Workers were surveying the damage early Monday morning. A small section of sidewalk near the school was closed near Grandiflora Road.

    Benjamin High School was closed Monday due to storm damage. The sports fields were damaged, and a piece of the bleachers ended up in the median of Central Boulevard. (Sarah Peters/The Palm Beach Post)
    Benjamin High School was closed Monday due to storm damage. The sports fields were damaged, and a piece of the bleachers ended up in the median of Central Boulevard. (Sarah Peters/The Palm Beach Post)
  3. About 740 Florida Power & Light customers west of Florida’s Turnpike were still without electricity as of 8:30 a.m. Monday. A restoration specialist will be dispatched as soon as possible, according to FP&L. Power should be restored by about 10:30 a.m., according to FP&L. Check for updates on the company’s outage map. 

Here’s how these Gardens students earned money for college

Alexis Simm, left, standing next to then-Mayor Eric Jablin, is pictured after winning third place in a 9/11 essay contest last year. She was awarded a Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation scholarship this year, along with Shannon.
Alexis Simm, left, standing next to then-Mayor Eric Jablin, is pictured last year after winning third place in a 9/11 essay contest. She was awarded a Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation scholarship this year, along with Heather Shannon.

Two Palm Beach Gardens students are getting some support paying for college from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation.

The foundation last week announced Alexis N. Simm and Heather E. Shannon as its 2016 scholarship recipients. Each will receive a $1,500 scholarship for her academic achievements and community involvement.

Simm is a William T. Dwyer High School graduate pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Simm also won third place in last year’s September 11th essay contest.

Shannon is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

Stephanie Mitrione, a member of the foundation’s scholarship committee, said in a news release it gets more challenging to choose the recipients with each passing year.

“It is truly impressive how these young adults manage both their community and academic lives,” she said. “So many of today’s youth promise to be great leaders in our community, and it’s the foundation’s privilege to help support their academic goals.”

The foundation program has awarded scholarships to nine students in the past four years. The scholarships totaled $11,500, according to the news release.