Palmetto High School junior Nicole Rosario is a member of the teen leadership council at the South Dade YMCA. The council was started a couple of years ago, when the YMCA opened the new building.
“When it was rebuilt the directors wanted to start a teen program,” she says. “We put it together. We do outreach to our community.”
That outreach includes getting involved in community service programs such as fundraising walks and parades at the Falls.
“One time we organized a walk for kids with special needs,” she says.
The teen council also started the program Teens Teaching Tech, where teens teach senior citizens how to use modern technology, from smartphones to laptops.
“We have also gone to homeless shelters and delivered baskets of food to families that are less fortunate,” Rosario says.
The council started with five members and has grown to 15 members. The teens help out on Y-sponsored events such as Health Kids day.
They also host events such as Easter Egg hunts.
“The Y has events like Healthy Kids Day and we help them with those events,” Rosario says. “This year our council had an egg hunt for the kids. We have a meeting every Tuesday and every month we have a community service project.”
Rosario has her own community service project, one inspired by visiting the Jackson Pediatric Center, a place for children whose physical or health disabilities keep them from going to school.
She learned about the center when she participated in a toy drive in honor of her friend’s father, who passed away.
“We brought toys for the children and stayed and played with them,” she says. “We take our education for granted. All these children want to do is go to school, and they can’t. I decided I wanted to work with them. We also had a toy and art supply drive with our school and last year.”
Rosario brought in her Junior Achievement class to help with the project. “I’m going to do Adopt-A-Floor program,” she says.
“I’m going to raise money and purchase something for them that is going to have an impact for them for a long time.”
In the meantime, she is collecting art supplies and picture books that she will take to the kids. She plans to collect material until the end of May. Donations can be left at the security front desk or in the main office.
Rosario empathizes with the children because she knows what it’s like to deal with a medical issue that you can’t control. She was born with Poland’s Syndrome – a condition where you are born with the absence of a muscle.
“It usually affects the right side of the body in males,” she says. “I was affected on left side. I was born without a pectoralis muscle in my chest,” she says. “My body tried to compensate. I developed scoliosis.”
She underwent physical therapy with hope that she could strengthen her muscles enough to avoid surgery, but in the end she had to undergo surgery in her freshman year.
“I had to miss some school and have a lot of physical therapy,” she says. “So I was able to relate to the kids we work with.”
Rosario’s surgery was successful and she is doing fine today, but it took time for her to overcome her body issues.
Rosario is the president of the junior class and has been elected student council president for her senior year. Her twin sister, Elizabeth, was elected student council vice president.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld