Six Palm Beach County Student Projects Are Philanthropy Tank Finalists
The idea for Tessie Goron’s Philanthropy Tank project was born in the toilets of colleges and high schools.
After seeing students vaping in the restroom, Goron started Drop the Vape.
This is a program that aims to reduce the number of teenage vape users in Palm Beach County by establishing a new educational course for students caught with vape devices in school.
“It’s great to be able to shine a light on the problem of vaping and to have the opportunity to implement a solution in my own community,” said Goron, a sophomore at Wellington High School.
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Drop the Vape is one of the finalists for the Philanthropy Tank of Palm Beach County this year. Fifteen students representing six projects will present their ideas in person to a group of philanthropic investors who can award each project up to $15,000 in funding to launch and implement the program.
The nonprofit organization has received hundreds of applications from eighth-grade through 12th-grade students across Palm Beach County. The app asks students – called “CHANGEmakers” in Philanthropy Tank lingo – to submit a philanthropic idea that directly addresses issues in their community.
The finalists will make their presentations on April 11 in a live recorded event that will be posted on the Philanthropy Tank website as well as on its Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn pages.
Another finalist is Growing Native Oases Made for Engagement (GNOME). This is a seedling project by 11th graders Mallory Thomas, Alyssa Jiggetts, Anna Jarvis, and FAU High School senior Elise Sigel.
GNOME was born out of the idea that being aware of nature and giving back to the community can benefit everyone who participates.
GNOME will create community butterfly gardens in underserved communities in Palm Beach County, and eventually expand to other public places. The project will also organize educational panels to raise awareness of environmental issues in Palm Beach County by hosting gardening classes and events.
Thomas started volunteering as a butterfly gardener at the Daggerwing Nature Center in November 2020 and realized the importance of community service and connecting to nature in her life.
“GNOME will establish community gardens, which has been shown to reduce stress levels for those creating them,” said Thomas, of Boca Raton. “Additionally, we could inspire younger generations to pursue environmental science. Planting native species in these gardens will also promote biodiversity in the South Florida region.
Other 2022 Philanthropy Tank Finalists
The four other projects being considered for funding are:
green clothes, Amelia Williams (Grade 11) of the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts: will educate students in Palm Beach County about alternatives to their current patterns of buying and using clothing that is harmful to the environment and wastes energy and natural resources. The project will raise awareness of eco-friendly alternatives and focus on recycling, reusing, repairing, repurposing and reselling clothing through an online store and at program events.
Share art, Shreya Srinivasan (Grade 12), Alyssa Jean Louis (Grade 12), Ave Goorbarry (Grade 11), and Nathan Goldin (Grade 10) of the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts aim to help low-income college students explore their interest in the arts by providing workshops, supplies and mentorship.
Travel comfort, Grade 10 student Karimah Khoram of the PACE Center for Girls notes that at any one time in Palm Beach County, there are approximately 1,000 children in foster care. Typically, when a child is removed from their home, they leave with the clothes on their backs and nothing else. Traveling Comforts is a program that aims to provide foster children with their personal travel/sports bag, a cozy blanket, a toiletry bag and a stationery kit to comfort them in transition situations.
Bridging the gap, 11th graders Duaa Ali, Sahil Bhandary, Jayantha Cantonment and Cooper Weisman of Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts plan to work with elementary and middle schools in Palm Beach County to provide school supplies to students in need . “We hope to close the education inequality gap through our program where not only do we mentor students in these schools, but with funding, we will be able to provide them with the supplies they need to truly succeed in their educational environment.”
As of 2020, Bridging the Gap has worked with two schools in Palm Beach County to provide their students with free tutoring. The CHANGEmakers soon realized they were only solving half the problem – the other half being that students are chronically lacking necessary school supplies, ranging from pencils to calculators.
“Students have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the gap that has for years left socioeconomically disadvantaged students behind,” Weisman said. “We are already seeing signs that the pandemic has held back students who were already falling behind. The Bridging the Gap initiative aims to address this issue – educational inequality – in Palm Beach County by giving students educational resources so they have a better chance of succeeding.
Weisman said Bridging the Gap has already spent a lot of time developing the idea and refining it, but he acknowledges that the real hard work will begin once funding is received and implemented.
This year’s philanthropic investors are Aisha Ali, Caroline Cummings Rafferty, Frances Fisher and Tom Vining. Students will also receive mentorship and support from these local leaders to help them execute their initiatives and increase their ability to make meaningful change.
“I’m happy to be chosen,” said Ave Goorbarry Jr. of Sharing the Arts. “It’s like being given a chance. Chances are all we have, they keep us going. Knowing that the event is back in person is good for the reasons it should. You are back among the people, you share this program that is close to your heart.
This is Philanthropy Tank’s seventh year in Palm Beach County. Its success led to the expansion of the program to Baltimore, now in its second year, with more locations planned for the future.
To date, Philanthropy Tank student-led programs in Palm Beach County and Baltimore have touched more than 300,000 lives; more than 1,000 students have participated in student programs; and over $700,000 in grants have been awarded to nearly 70 projects.
Thomas, for his part, realizes the gravity of GNOME’s selection for the finals.
“When I heard we were selected as finalists, I was thrilled because I knew the selection process was extremely competitive this year,” Thomas said. “The more we train for the final, the more confident we become and are ready to answer any questions investors have for us.”
For more information, visit www.philanthropytank.org.