Palmer Trinity senior Osmel Alvarez spent a lot of time in his last two years of high school working to help underprivileged children supplement their education through Breakthrough Miami.
Breakthrough Miami provides educational resources under resourced children who attend Miami-Dade Public Schools.
Last year, Alvarez taught history and literature. He also tutored children who needed additional help.
“Also last year, I created and started my own piano class,” he says. “I had two small classes. I taught them theory and the basics, and the fundamentals of piano.”
This year, he was the vice president of the Breakthrough Miami Club at Palmer.
“It’s been a really great experience for me,” he says. “I think it’s the most important experience.”
Alvarez was also the vice president of Palmer’s French Honor Society. Club members sold croissants and macaroons for the school’s mission trip to Haiti.
“Last year they built a well for the people of a small village in Haiti,” he says. “This year they continued construction of a school house.”
Alvarez has also gone on one of the Palmer mission trips to Nicaragua. He went his tenth grade year.
“It was a small group, probably 15 students and a couple of teachers,” he says. “We started at a charity. We called it the ranch.”
The students helped build a small house in the suburb of Managua. The project was completed in the week that they were there.
“It had concrete floors, cinderblock walls and an aluminum roof,” he says. “It was very basic but better than what they had before.”
The house was small – only one room – and the interior was left up to the family. No bathroom facilities were built. They also donated some basic furniture like some beds. And some basic toiletries. There was no room inside the house for a bathroom.
“When we got there, we were able to see the living conditions before. In comparisons, it was a huge difference,” he says. “It was pieces of wood, pieces of aluminum arranged so it would give them some shelter.”
“Compared to any house you can find here in Miami, it’s tiny,” he says. “It’s quite shocking to see. It’s not a very rich country.”
He was moved by how grateful the family was for the small house.
“It kind of opens your eyes to everything we take for granted,” he says.
Alvarez is also involved in the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Tri M, the music honor society. He was Palmer’s Silver Knight nominee in music. As a member of the honor society, he helps with tutoring in certain subjects.
“For music, we have coffee houses and we play,” he says. “It’s basically a fundraiser. We have it at our music center. Parents, students, teachers, everyone is invited.”
With the money raised they bought instruments for several children here in Miami-Dade.
Alvarez was of two valedictorians featured at the Palmer graduation ceremony las month. He’s heading to Johns Hopkins University with plans to major in chemistry with a possible minor in history of psychology. He plans to continue on to medical school in order to become an ophthalmologist.
“Both my parents are doctors,” he says. “My mother was an ophthalmologist in Cuba. Not in this country. She used to work at Bascom Palmer as an eye nurse.”
When they moved from Venezuela to Miami, his mother studied to be a nurse and his father also went into nursing and is now a nurse practitioner. Both of his parents are working to become doctors again.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld