Palmetto High School senior Wendy Lau has accumulated more than 700 community service hours. Most are from volunteering at the Miami Jewish Health System nursing home. She goes there year round.
“Every Sunday they have a program called Family Fun Time which is musical entertainment and ice cream,” she says. “We bring the residents over and we pass out the ice cream. We get to bond with the residents.”
Lau found out about the program from her mom, an acupuncturist who takes care of residents at the nursing home.
“What’s really impacted me is that many of the residents suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia,” she says. “I have two friends that I volunteer with. One plays piano and one plays violin. One patient suffers from Lou Gehrig’s, so we sang for her and played the piano and violin. I sing.”
Because of her involvement with the patients, Lau has created a non-profit called TLC (for Tender Loving Care).
“We raise awareness of this terrible disease and we raise money through yard sales and snack sales at the beach,” she says.
Lau and a friend go to Matheson Hammock to sell the snacks and talk to people about Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“It’s not really the money we raise; rather it’s the increased awareness. Some people don’t know about Alzheimer’s and others share their stories about how Alzheimer’s has affected their family and friends; it gets emotional.”
By the end of her junior year, Lau and her friend had raised more than $1,000. The plan was to donate the money to a nursing home to fund programs that enrich the lives of the residents.
“Recently we found out that MJHS brings the residents to Fairchild Tropical Gardens through the plants and people program. It brings the residents to the gardens. It’s important for them to have environmental stimulation,” she says. “It aids the treatment of brain dysfunction. We plan to extend the program so that not only the residents go visit Fairchild, but that the garden is brought to them; volunteers and staff from Fairchild will visit the home.”
Lau says they plan to expand the program this summer and bring more students to visit the nursing home.
“We want to build a butterfly garden to develop interaction between visitors and residents,” she says.
Lau also volunteers at Fairchild.
“I’m really interested in pursuing a career in science,” she says.
She is on the Palmetto varsity badminton team and is a GMAC badminton mixed doubles champion. She and her partner placed first in the juniors division for mixed doubles at the Sunshine State Games Badminton Tournament.
Lau competes in the Fairchild Challenge through the Science Honor Society. She began competing in her freshman year when she had to build a model for a green roof and green wall, which is eco-friendly architecture. She won first place.
In her sophomore year she also competed, but this time the contest dealt with landscaping and storms.
“I had to build another model that had landscaping to protect the building during hurricanes,” Lau says. “I got a special merit award.”
Last school year she participated in the Envirothon competition instead of the Fairchild Challenge.
Until recently, Lau attended Chinese school and participated on the dance team which performs at Chinese festivals.
Now that she’s a senior, she is considering her college options. Duke and Emory are two schools that she has interest in attending and she is considering studying the genetics of Alzheimer’s.
By Linda Bernfeld Rodriguez