Palmetto High School junior Gabriela Aklepi has been working hard for the past few weeks putting together a Model United Nations Conference for area middle school students on May 23.
She and fellow team members have visited middle schools to convince them to send representatives. More than 100 students are expected to attend.
When Aklepi joined the Palmetto team, there were few members.
“I’ve been on the team competing since freshman year,” she says. “I’ve been on the board in my sophomore year and junior year.”
Now there are 74 members. Aklepi says they want to have the conference to show what the team has accomplished. Those accomplishments include Aklepi’s three honorable mentions at Model UN Conferences.
Aside from of the Model UN, Aklepi is involved in student government. Her role for next year includes taking over the Panther-to-Panther program.
“We pair up upperclassmen with underclassmen,” she says. “They pair up for the year.”
The upperclassmen help the younger students get acclimated to being in high school and help them get involved in school activities.
“What I’m trying to do, since I’m taking over the program, is to focus more on helpful hints,” she says. “Power point on study skills, power point on taking notes; we want to give the kids the best shot to succeed.”
Aklepi says not everyone has big sisters or brothers to help them through the transition from middle school to high school. “It’s a way to make them more comfortable. A counselor can say it’s time to take the SAT, but can’t just say join this club,” she says.
“It’s an important resource.”
Aklepi is also membership vice president of the service club Interact. Club members work on projects throughout the year like making Halloween bags and handing them out at Baptist Hospital.
“Last year we made dresses,” she says. “We got pillow cases donated. We cut them and tied them to make really cute dresses and sent them to India.”
She initiated a program to help club members start drives and collections for community service projects. “We advertise and we help them,” she says.
“We talk to teachers and put boxes in their classrooms.”
Aklepi is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Social Science Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society. Last summer, she went to Israel for six-and-a-half weeks and lived in a kibbutz.
“We stayed there mostly because we were taking classes,” she says. “We traveled to historic sites. We were able to see and be at the place we were learning about. It was a unique opportunity.”
She was there during the Israel-Gaza conflict that included numerous bombings, so she had to leave the kibbutz for another site on the Syrian border.
“Every minute you could hear bombs in Syria. It was intense,” she says.
Despite that, she loved the trip and wants to go back.
“There are programs you can go on in college,” she says. “There are good studyabroad programs at Israeli university. When I go back I want to stay longer than seven weeks.”
Aklepi is a member of the National Federation of Temple Youth. Through the organization she attended an international meeting in Atlanta where she was able to meet with friends that she has with in Israel.
Aklepi is interested in a medical career. She took part in a two-week program at Northwestern on medicine and health care. She attended lectures, went to laboratories and worked on a group program that created a public service announcement about skin cancer.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld