Positive People in Pinecrest

Christine Ellenberg

Christine Ellenberg

Palmetto High School senior Christine Ellenburg will go back to school after spending part of the summer volunteering with Kids Saving the Rainforest in Costa Rica and at Monkey Jungle’s Dumont Conservancy. “We wanted to volunteer with something and we like all animals and Monkey Jungle came up,” Ellenburg says.

Ellenburg, her sister Melissa and brother Kevin are triplets, so they wanted to find a project they could work on together. They fell in love with the monkeys, so they all incorporated their work with monkeys into scout projects. Christine and Melissa wrote books about monkeys. Although Kevin built a monkey cage for his Eagle project, he also wrote a book to donate to the Gold Award project.

“Mine was Nina’s Story and my sister’s was Let’s Save the Rain Forest and we put it together into one book, Two Monkey Tales,” Ellenburg says.

In Nina’s Story, Nina lived in the rainforest, but was captured and ended up at a circus. While at the circus, a tiger bit off her arm and then she became a pet.

“And after that she went to Let’s Save the Rain Forest,” Ellenburg says. “That is the organization you give to if you have to get rid of your pet.”

The Girl Scout troop presented the books to Palmetto Elementary, along with videotapes of the stories for those children who can’t yet read.

The Ellenburgs also went to Costa Rica for the first time the summer before their junior year. Christine says there they learned Spanish and volunteered with Kids Saving the Rainforest. Plans called for the triplets to go back again this summer to continue their work with monkeys.

“We had already started to write the books when we got go to Costa Rica,” she says. “I found the story about Nina online and that inspired me to write the story. When we got back, we finished illustrating the stories.”

The Ellenburg girls took a drawing class with the Girl Scout troop. Christine says the drawing lessons helped with the project.

At Monkey Jungle, she does the same type of volunteer work as in Costa Rica, making food for the monkeys and keeping cages clean. She’s happy that the three of them have been able to work together with the monkeys/

“We have so many different activities during the week, being able to volunteer together is fun,” Ellenburg says.

Those extracurricular activities include track and field, and cross country for her.

“I use cross country to prepare for track,” she says.

For track, she runs the 800 and takes part in the 4×800 relay.

She also runs the mile, but not as often as the other events. Ellenburg says she started in track in ninth grade and since then she has seen her times improve. She also has been involved in putting together the school yearbook and was events editor in her junior year.

“The Palmetto yearbook is really good,” she says. “I think that working on the yearbook lets me express my creativity.”

Now that her senior year is starting, Christine soon will begin submitting college applications. She says all three Ellenburg kids have the same three colleges on their preliminary lists – the University of Florida, University of Miami and Vanderbilt.

Emily Eckblom

Emily Eckblom

Palmer Trinity graduate Emily Eckblom is heading to Texas Christian University for college. She says that she originally listed her major as psychology, but she might switch at some point. She is interested in occupational therapy, but that’s not a major offered by TCU. She’s also considering education.

“I really like to work with children,” Eckblom says. “Any way I can help them is rewarding.”

TCU was her choice because she wanted to attend a medium-size school in the south.

“When I visited, I said this is where I want to be,” she says. “I haven’t heard one bad thing about it.” Eckblom was a top-tier athlete at Palmer and played volleyball, lacrosse and soccer. She says she didn’t play lacrosse as long as the other sports, but her goal was to play the sport and have fun. She did admit that she was a pretty good player.

Her volleyball career stretched over a few years. However, she sat out her senior season in order to concentrate on school. While she couldn’t play volleyball in the fall, she was able to play soccer in the winter and lacrosse in the spring. Eckblom has been playing soccer since she was a little girl.

She was happy to play soccer, especially since the team had a great year, going all the way to the state finals, losing only in the final game.

“It was a really good experience,” Eckblom says. “We lost really badly, but it was a great experience.” Eckblom had such a terrific soccer season that she was named to the second team All Dade squad. When she gets to college, she may play intramural volleyball because she likes to play the sport and she missed not playing her final season.

“It was hard not playing this year but I knew it was better for me,” she says.

Outside of school, Eckblom was on the board of Symphonettes, a community service group that raises money for music organizations such as the Miami-Dade Children’s Chorus. Some of the funds also go to buy musical instruments. Members are required to usher at musical venues.

Eckblom also has an artistic side and she stays fit not only playing sports, but as an Irish dancer.

“I’ve been doing it since third grade,” she says. “I just like it. I got involved in tap dancing and Irish dancing and I just liked it and stuck with it. We had a recital at school every year.”

The Irish dancers participated in Palmer’s International Festival this year as well.

At Palmer, Eckblom was a member of Operation Smile, a peer counselor and in student government. As a peer counselor, she helped fellow students who needed someone to talk to.

“It’s all confidential, but we help them out if they need it,” she said. “In a case that’s bad, we would tell the counselor and she would advise us what to do or she would handle it.”

The peer counselors are available to anyone from middle school to high school, but she says they usually work with the younger students.

“Usually it’s things like friend problems that they have,” Eckblom says. “They want to know what to do if they are in a fight.”

Matthew Friedland

Matthew Friedland

Gulliver Prep senior Matthew  riedlan  loves to play water polo. In fact, when he was 12 years old, he had the opportunity to play water polo in Spain.

“We had two kids on the teams here who were from Barcelona,” Friedland says. “We took a trip to Europe that year and to Barcelona. The coach wanted me to stay.”

However, Friedland’s parents elected to pass on that opportunity.

“It would have been really cool and I was really ready to go; that’s when I was truly in love with it,” he says. “It would have been cool to be at the Olympics.”

Friedland joined the team when he was in sixth grade and says that at the time there was only a varsity team. That team went to the playoffs, losing at the regional level.

“I would have made the state squad, but we didn’t advance that far,” he says. “The next year, my brother was the goalie. It was fun; in seventh grade we went to Chicago.”

Friedland had to sit out the beginning of water polo season because of a broken foot, sustained while playing a pickup game of basketball. That injury forced him to stay on the bench for a month, which drove him crazy.

“It was the hell month,” he says.

Friedland has healed and returned to playing the sport. He says he has a good sense of the game.

“I help my players,” he says. “I’ve been on the team longer than anyone else.”

Along with swimming for the water polo team, Friedland also competes on the Gulliver swim team. The 400 freestyle and the 100 butterfly are his individual events.

When he’s not in school or playing water polo, Friedland helps coach younger kids in the sport. Training sessions are either at Gulliver or in Coral Springs.

“This is something that USA Water Polo is doing to teach 5-8 year olds,” he says.

Friedland coaches twice every two weeks. One session is during the week and the other is on a weekend.

“It’s cool because my little brother does it, too; he’s a toddler and I help him out,” Friedland says. “That’s my dream, to coach my little brother for everything.”

At Gulliver Prep, Friedland is in the biomedical program. He says the three-year program will help him with his college pre-med studies.

“I want to be a doctor of some sorts. I might even want to be a vet,” Friedland says. “I think dogs are the greatest thing ever.”

Over the summer, Friedland was scheduled to go to Costa Rica to help build a school through the Rustic Pathways program. His community service at Gulliver includes participating in a Swim-a-Thon for paralyzed people.

“That’s where you get sponsors for every lap you swim. I’ve done it every year. The first place person got like $5,000.” Friedland secures pledges for about $1,000 whenever he takes part.

“It’s remained pretty constant,” he says. “The swim team and the water polo team usually do it in under 30 minutes.”

Peer counselors also address schoolrelated issues such as dealing with school work without getting overly stressed.


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