Palmer Trinity School junior Janelle Mendez is president of the Students Fighting AIDS Club. She is working with the AIDS group at Senbrando Flores, a community in Homestead that helps people in poverty.
“Last year in October I organized a toy drive with the toys to be distributed at Christmas time,” Mendez says. “My family and I distributed over 400 new toys. And we received more than a thousand dollars in gift cards.”
The toys came from all over Miami. Mendez says they collected toys through church, family members and friends.
“It was a big marketing project,” she says.
Mendez decided to coordinate the toy drive after learning of the need and understanding what a difference a toy makes to the child.
“This year, with the Students Fighting Aids Club, I have a bunch of drives planned,” she says. “We’re in the process of getting everything approved, possibly even the toy drive again this year.”
Mendez says they want to collect rice because many in the community are in need of food.
“Hygiene baskets are something we have planned,” she says. “They don’t have the basics in toothpaste, toilet paper, detergent and bath soap. We put it all in baskets and make them look nice and deliver them to the community in Homestead.”
Mendez’ extracurricular activities include helping raising money for Palmer’s Operation Smiles Club. The money goes to help children with cleft lips receive surgery. She is also one of Palmer’s peer counselors.
“We help students, particularly middle school students, with any problems or if they want to speak to someone about any conflicts in school,” she says. “We’re pretty much someone for the students to talk to.”
Mendez says a teacher can refer a student to a peer counselor as a means of resolving an issue. Peer counselors deal with primarily social issues.
“If there are quarrels between friends,” she says.
She likes being a peer counselor because she enjoys helping others. That’s one of the reasons she plans to go on Palmer’s next mission trip to Nicaragua.
Her school involvement includes being a member of the varsity lacrosse team. She’s also played on the junior varsity basketball team. This year she is concentrating on academics, so she’s only playing lacrosse. She says the team is rebuilding, but will benefit from the addition of the ninth graders who had played on the middle school team.
“We’ve lost a lot of good players, but our season hasn’t started up yet,” she says. “Two years ago, we went to states and placed third. I’m not sure how we’re going to do this year. Bit, hopefully, well.”
Mendez is a member of Palmer’s Coral Lab, where students do research and take care of the salt water tanks. Mendez and her partner want to do experiments on seahorse breeding.
“It’s open to our entire school,” she says. “The people who show interest and continue to go become members.”
Outside of school, two years ago she spent a month of summer vacation volunteering at Larkin Community Hospital in the medical records department. She filed papers, ran errands and made copies of documents. This past summer she was a volunteer at the Alexander Montessori Day Camp. Although she volunteered at a hospital, she says she’s not planning to go into medicine. She’s more interested in engineering and building things, so she’s considering architectural engineering as a profession.