Gratitude and Giving Back: The Two Gs at Palmetto This November

Sara Paredes, Feature Editor

November: the month associated with fall, pumpkin spice lattes, Veterans Day and most of all, Thanksgiving. During this time, primary schools across the country prioritize educating kids on giving thanks. However, once in high school, these lessons shift as schools begin to prioritize students taking part in serving their communities. At Miami Palmetto Senior High School, teachers, club leaders and mentors emphasize the importance of participating in community service opportunities of all kinds. 

In the spirit of the giving season, MPSH’s Key Club — a chapter of Key Club International — has promoted various community service opportunities for the month of November, including gratitude grams, Thanksgiving food drives and letters to veterans. 

“Every board member pretty much contributes a lot of the projects and then they bring ideas [for service projects]. And we also get the members involved; last year we had a Padlet where members could write down all their ideas, what they want to see and members can always come to [the board] and bring projects they are involved in,” MPSH junior and President of Key Club Emily Prado said. 

Alongside Key Club, various other clubs and in-school organizations highlight their commitment to brainstorming creative and relevant community service projects year-round. Alliance Club, for example, recently completed a clothing drive in early November.

“[Alliance Club] had been approached by Interact [Club] to do a clothing drive for the ‘Out of the Closet’ thrift store. It was basically to help research and funding for HIV/AIDS and for the problem that instead of giving your clothes to Goodwill or something, you are giving your clothes to a cause and then they resell them, and when they sell them they are able to use that money to then fund treatment, fund research and things like that,” MPSH senior and President of Alliance Club Sophia Tomzack said. 

Not only do MPSH’s clubs and honor societies partake in school-wide service projects, but the school’s motivated and ambitious student body often produces independent service projects, targeting specific issues that may affect them or their surrounding communities. 

For MPSH junior Travis Gettinger, spending his weekends boating and near the water raised his awareness of a significant problem: marine littering.

“I wanted to make a project about the water because I go on the boat; I am a boater and water guy, so I wanted to make a community service project that had something to do with that,” Gettinger said. “So then I founded Clean Aqua over the summer, at the beginning of the summer. We sell shirts and stickers, all the profit goes to supporting ocean missions and brands that help clean up the ocean; we do cleanups, we have been to Matheson [Park Marina] and got 196 pounds of trash, we went to the C-100 canals; we got 87 pounds of trash. Then we went to Deering Point Park and got 175 pounds, and we have another one on Nov. 26 at Matheson from nine to 11:30.”

Gettinger aims to extend into all of South Florida and the Keys and collaborate with his mentors to expand his efforts. 

“I am doing an experiment with Mr. Q[uinteiros] where we take algae — the Miami River is very polluted with heavy metals — and we are seeing if it will help unpollute the Miami River so that we can help clean it up. So if it does help clean it up, hopefully, we can include that in Clean Aqua and clean up the Miami River,” Gettinger said. 

For more information and updates on the initiative, visit @cleanaqua2022 on Instagram. 

Following Hurricane Ian devastating Florida’s West Coast in early October, MPSH sophomore Olivia Greenwald worked alongside her sister to provide relief for those affected by the storm in her service project titled “Saving Southwest Florida,” @savingswfl on Instagram.

“My sister and I started by collecting goods and donations to purchase necessities for families in Fort Myers, Naples, Sanibel Island etc. Since my sister went to FGCU (Florida Gulf-Coast University) for college, she had contacts in the affected areas. Seeing the destruction of so many places and landmarks I visited when my sister was in college is what inspired me to start the project. Fort Myers was beautiful, and I wanted to do anything I could to help the community,” Greenwald said. “We raised a total of $1,265 that was put towards goods, supplies and gift cards. Then, we did a school supply drive and were able to stuff 30 backpacks with supplies and a Halloween costume for each child.” 

Greenwald’s experience not only allowed her to serve her community, but provided her with the opportunity to connect with her older sister and family.

“I am really grateful I had the opportunity to bond with my sister while we both helped communities we cared for,” Greenwald said. 

While getting involved in one’s community may seem like a difficult task, students at MPSH have taken it upon themselves to take initiative within their communities, while gaining leadership skills that last a lifetime. 

“I think it is important to do community service because one, it is team building. If you go with your friends and do something, anything you do with your friends is going to be fun, especially if it is uplifting others. Even just collecting food: it is not difficult, and it makes other people happy, so that is the most important part,” Prado said.