Raising money to fund the Helen Marie Witty scholarship program is a top priority for Palmetto High School senior Kristina Perez. However, the fundraiser will not be the traditional walk this time around. Instead, they have scheduled a gala at Fairchild Tropical Garden on Feb. 20.
Perez says they decided to change to the gala because MADD already sponsors a walk to raise money and they wanted to do something different.
They are also sensitive to the fact that many theater students are interested in attending, but cannot afford a ticket to a gala.
“Usually we will have something called Witty Night where students perform,” she says. “We want to incorporate some of that into the gala. The students will perform cabaret style.”
The gala will feature a silent auction and Perez is excited because they have attracted many local artists to the project. She says the artists will create numerous butterflyinspired pieces because Witty loved butterflies.
“It’s all coming together and I really hope I’m doing Helen right by it,” she says.
The money raised will go towards funding the scholarships – one to a Palmetto student who is a member of Thespian Troupe 1298 and one or two more to students from District Eight. And some of the money raised will go to buying a memorial of some kind that will be installed in the soon-to-be-renovated auditorium and it will carry Witty’s name; perhaps an award case.
“So that she remains part of the school.” Perez says.
Perez is active in Thespians and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), which she says is a splinter group of Thespians. SADD was revived in her freshman year after a middle school girl died in an accident caused by a drunk driver. The president of the club passed the torch to Perez when he graduated. Since her election in May, she has been working on the Witty fundraiser.
“Most of my life is spent within the confines of the drama,” she says. “SADD and theater are my passions.”
Perez also volunteers at her church, operating the stage lights and helping with the audio system. She is also a Panther Theatrical Technician.
“Our job is to handle tech for all the organizations at school,” she says. “Our job is to make sure they look pretty and sound pretty.”
Her academic career includes participating in the Cambridge Capstone program.
“I just got my credential,” she says. “I had to write a group paper on the affects of the pressure to be beautiful in our society and how that can be detrimental to young girls. I also had to deliver a presentation on how gay marriage bans affect sexually transmitted disease. Places with gay marriage bans tend to have higher rates of depression and STDs are on the rise.”
In order to receive the credential the students also must pass three Advanced Placement classes outside the program. Those who receive their credential early enough can use the information for their college applications.
Perez says she has not decided where she will attend college or what will be her major course of study. A lot depends on the scholarship and financial aid packages offered by the schools that accept her. However, she is applying to Boston University, the University of Miami, University of Florida, Florida State University and Duke.
“That’s the million-dollar question” she says. “This week I think I’d like to go into medicine and maybe minor in theater.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld