Whenever Fairchild Tropical Garden has a festival, Palmetto High School incoming senior Emily Wu tries to volunteer at that event. She also volunteers annually at the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival in Miami Beach. “I help set up and I also help guide guests,” Wu says.
“I go in the morning to set up. During the day we check on stuff and tell people where they can watch the race, where they can sit and find something to eat.”
Wu likes to volunteer at the dragon boat festival because it makes her feel closer to her culture.
“It’s like a tradition and I really didn’t know about it, so I wanted to see what was happening,” she says.
Wu is spending much of this summer volunteering at the Better Living Medical Center. She hopes the experience of helping the doctors and seeing how they work will help prepare her for becoming a doctor.
The location of the clinic – in Kendall in the shopping center that features a Pollo Tropical — is familiar to her. Until recently her parents owned Chef Chen Chinese Restaurant located in that shopping center. She started working with the clinic the first week of July, after she returned from a sleep away camp in North Carolina. “I go the camp with my church,” she says.
“I go there to learn about new things.”
This year, Wu did the fun track, which included kayaking and playing paintball. When she is old enough, she says she may participate in the church organized missions that take place either in a different state or out of the country.
“You either want to go on missions and go to nursing homes or help fix up a house,” she says.
At Palmetto, Wu is involved in Key Club, Interact and Mu Alpha Theta. She is a member of the Honor Council.
“We help kids who have plagiarized or cheated on tests,” she says.
Wu is president of the Capstone Program board of directors.
“One of the goals that the teachers in the program have is to not only make it an academic thing, but to make it like a club and get the students involved in the community,” she says. “Next year our goal is to have community service programs every month or so.”
Last year, the Capstone board organized an ongoing community service project, a tutoring program at Perrine Elementary.
“We plan to continue that,” she says.
Wu hopes to help students who want to conduct collection drives by having the board sponsor the drives.
“I’ve been thinking about community service projects I want to start next year,” she says. “I think I want it to be part of Capstone so all the kids can be part of the project.”
Wu has finished with the classes in the Capstone program, but the teachers and students want to keep those who have finished involved in the program.
“I enjoyed the classes. It’s different than a traditional class,” she says. “We still have a teacher teaching us. It’s hands on. We have to come up with our own research project and we have to write a 4,000-word research project; you have to rely on yourself. You’re learning to be responsible.”
As for college, Wu is primarily looking at in-state schools such as the University of Florida, the University of Miami, Florida State and Florida International University. She is also considering Duke and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She plans to major in biology.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld