Palmetto High senior Rhys Leonard has more than a thousand hours of community service. He earned many of those hours as a volunteer at Shake-A-Leg Miami. At the summer program, he works as a mate and student mentor on the 40-foot catamaran power boat.
“I usually work six to seven weeks in the summer,” he says. “This summer I did eight weeks.”
As a mate, he’d clean the boat and do the lines. He’d take over if the captain couldn’t drive the boat and he also made sure everything was running on schedule.
“It made 15 trips from the dock to the bay or to the island,” he says. “In the morning we would drop off the kids to the island and pick them up.” They do one trip in the morning and one in the afternoon.
They’d go to a near-by sandbar and set up a swim zone for the kids.
“We’d teach them science lessons while on the boat,” he says. “It would relate to the Biscayne Aquifer, what could happen if we would use too much water or abuse the water in the aquifer and we’d get salt water intrusion.”
Leonard says the children came from underprivileged neighborhoods and many had never been on a boat before.
And some had never seen Biscayne Bay before.
“It puts it into perspective,” he says.
He started volunteering at the camp between his freshman and sophomore year. It’s a perfect situation for him because he loves sailing and being on the water.
At Palmetto, Leonard continues his volunteer work. He’s president of Panther to Panther, a mentoring program.
“We’ll pair eleventh and twelfth graders with ninth graders,” he says. “If a ninth grader struggles in science and math, we’ll pair them with an eleventh grader who tutors them in science and math.”
Panther-to-Panther is a new club. This is the second year and they have increased the number of participants. The club has found that they have a lot of upper classmen volunteering but not as many ninth graders.
“We might try reaching out to the teachers and have recommendations,” he says. “Based on last year, it really worked well once we got all the pairs together.”
Leonard is a member of the Palmetto Marching Band. He plays trumpet in the band and wind ensemble. He’s the band manager, so he deals with the logistics of a marching band. He’s also working on marketing the Palmetto Marching Band.
“We want to get our name out there,” he says. “We’re not a very well know program and we want to change that.”
He loves being in the band, even though it takes up a lot of time.He believes joining the band was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“We’re on to big things,” Leonard says. “The next couple years are going to be big years for Palmetto.”
He’d love to stay in Miami for college because he can continue to go boating and fishing. If he stays, his top choice is the University of Miami. Outside of here, he’s considering Tulane, the Maine Maritime Academy, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the California Maritime Academy. His major will be engineering and marine transportation.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld