This past summer, George Uche, a senior at Palmetto High School, went to Haiti to help deliver musical instruments to an orphanage.
“I got so attached to the kids that I decided to adopt the orphanage,” Uche says. “We are working to find a bigger place.”
He went to Haiti with a Palmetto counselor to deliver the instruments donated in honor of Paul Smith, Palmetto’s band director who died of cancer. Uche says it was Smith’s dream to give instruments to kids in Haiti, so kids in the band, parents and teachers gave to the cause. The instruments were shipped there before the delegation from Palmetto arrived for a twoweek visit.
“I was taken aback by the condition of the place,” Uche says. “I’d never been to a Third World country. I was shocked that one is close to Miami.”
Uche says there were many children living in a small two-bedroom house.
“They got to know me, they got to like me from the beginning,” he says. “I got to know them a little bit. They sat down one by one and told their story to us. We sang songs, we colored pictures, we taught them math, we saw how they functioned and how they lived life.”
The group spent time talking about what more they could do to help. Uche says he desperately wants to help them because the children have already been rejected.
“It’s important for them to know there is someone who cares about them,” he says.
Since he returned to Miami, Uche has given speeches to churches and schools about the need to help the orphanage through donations.
“They can choose to sponsor one child at a time or they can donate to a pool that is for the orphanage,” he says, adding that they are also collecting funds to help the children go to college.
He’s also working on a return trip with some of his friends so they can do more to help the kids.
While on the trip, he taught the kids at the orphanage how to play basketball. Now that he’s back, Uche is going to basketball practice as a member of Palmetto’s varsity team. He plays power forward. Uche says he believes this year’s team can go far if everyone stays healthy. Last year they were district champs, but lost in the regionals.
While he loves to play and thinks he’s good enough to play in college, he’s not sure he would have the time to play and concentrate on academics. He may decide to try out as a walk on.
But his goal is to become a lawyer. He would like to go to a school like Stanford and study pre-law there, which means he would not have time for sports. He’s also looking at Cornell, the University of Chicago, the University of Miami and Florida.
His extracurricular activities include being president of DECA last year and he was recently elected CEO of the Junior Achievement class.
“JA is more business oriented,” he says. “It’s selling and marketing. You can buy and sell stocks. DECA is more learning about business.”
Last year he raised the DECA membership 25-30 percent, bringing the total to about 90 students.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld