Palmetto High School senior Meryl Kornfield is the longest serving member of the Pinecrest Youth Advisory Council. She has been on the council since she was in the seventh grade.
“We meet monthly and discuss global issues that affect local youth,” she says. “We try to make a difference by creating events, like Earth Day.”
Kornfield says the Earth Day celebration that the youth advisory council sponsors is special and unique.
“It’s created by the young people in the community,” she says. “Climate change will affect young people the most and they should be educated about it. And because of the high level of environmental awareness in Pinecrest, we have many programs established. Like the Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO Institution).”
Kornfield says when the Earth Day event started, she ran a “green” fashion show that was significant to her. However, when she entered high school, she realized that fashion was not primary interest.
“Since then, I volunteer for CLEO when the Earth Day Festival comes around,” she says.
The youth advisory council also tries to influence the Village Council on areas that are important to the kids. Examples include the request for a dog park and the Pinecrest Mover that started a few years ago.
“It came from kids in school that wanted a ride to the community center,” she says. “It turned out to be a safer, cleaner way for them to get there. If fewer people are parking their cars, then there are less greenhouse gases emitted.”
Kornfield is on the CLEO Youth Task Force and hopes to get more young people involved in saving the environment.
Since environmental issues are important to her, Kornfield has participated in two of the Fairchild Tropical Garden Challenges. She has taken part in the environmental debates and her group scored top honors one year and placed second last year.
Kornfield also worked on an information paper that suggested environmentally responsible ways to renovate Palmetto High School. The study won a special merit award.
As a member of the youth advisory council and as co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Panther, Kornfield says she hopes to have a voice on the renovation of the school, which is in the early planning stage. An architectural firm is slated to be hired next year for the project.
Until then, Kornfield and her co-editor, Samantha Rosen, have big plans for the paper.
“We’re changing the design to a news magazine,” she says. “In full color and different dimensions. There will be big changes in design and the copy. We want it to be something that kids will want to read and still be educational.”
She says there might be some changes to the sections in the paper, but the changes will include additional pages, while reducing the height and width.
“The changes will be implemented with the first issue,” she says.
Last year, as editor-in-chief of the online Panther, Kornfield redesigned the website. To do that, she had to teach herself how to code.
“I thought I could copy and paste coding. You can’t do that,” she says. “You really have to learn each element on your own.”
Kornfield is also involved with the English Honor Society and she was in the debate club until this year. Her community service includes two years as co-captain the Pinecrest Youth Advisory Councils team.
“I’ve volunteered at Relay For Life for several years and it is one of the most inspirational events I participate in,” she says. “It is a reminder of how resilient human nature is. I meet survivors who are so happy to participate in the activities there.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld