Palmer Trinity junior Gabriela Shaikh has a penchant for doing community service projects that are about education and education reform.
“I grew up with a family of teachers,” she says.
One of her projects deals with Nicaragua in conjunction with the organization Amigos for Christ. “Their mission is to get Nicaragua back on track,” she says. “I go on a mission trip every summer and build a modern bathroom. Because they don’t have clean water they suffer from terrible diseases.”
She was with about 80 people on that trip.
“We broke up into groups of 10 and got eight bathrooms done,” she says.
That included installing an indoor shower and toilet shower.
“We built the septic tank, the pipeline,” Shaikh says. “Their houses are in such bad condition, most people wouldn’t call it a house.”
During the trip, the others focused on teaching the villagers about hygiene while she focused on education.
“We had two days where we are able to go and visit the school,” she says. “I’m able to speak with them because I speak Spanish. We visited the kids twice in their school. We interacted with them and we played with them and we read books with them. We asked them how school is going.”
She doesn’t go to Nicaragua empty handed. Shaikh collected about 50 sets of uniforms for children to wear to school, as well as Spanish books. Those supplies were also for children who attend a school her greatgrandmother started. She is working on raising money to build physical education fields or an administration area at that school.
“I know the kids would love that and the teacher would love a teacher’s lounge,’ she says.
Most of her family is involved in the effort. They found Amigos for Christ through an aunt and now she hopes to help the organization expand.
“I’m planning on taking some of my friends and family members who live in Texas. Expanding instead of having only Atlanta mission trips,’ she says.
Shaikh is also heavily involved in Breakthrough Miami, the organization that helps disadvantaged students become college bound.
“It’s hard in public school (for a child) to obtain some of the resources if they are struggling,” she says. “I volunteer here at Palmer. About twice a month I’m here in the morning teaching an eighth grade history class and then a dance class.”
She was a breakthrough student and is now breakthrough College Bound student.
“In high school it helps you with college essays, helping you find the right major,” she says. “I usually either teach math or history. I’ve always enjoyed history. I think history is a way to tell a story. It is a story. I think it really helps you reflect about the future when you learn about the past. I love teaching math. That’s my favorite subject.”
Breakthrough helped her find out about Palmer and encouraged her to apply. She switched from Ammons Middle to Palmer.
Shaikh also tutors at Palmer’s Writing Center helping the younger students learn how to structure writing projects. She is also in Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society. She also tutors for that club. Her extracurricular activities includes cheerleading and dancing.
“Dancing, it’s always been one of my passions,” she says. “I think sharing your passion is something a student will never forget.”
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld