Before COVID-19, Miami Palmetto High School senior Alexis Graesser would visit Haiti for two or three weeks at a time to see family. There, she and her sister participated in a community service project called Hope on a String.
The girls taught Haitian children how to read music, play musical instruments or how to sing.
“I sing for them and I teach them how to sing,” she says. “My sister teaches them how to play the cello.”
When they started, they worked with 10 or so children but the last time they went they had 30-35 children attending.
“They started to get more funding; they were able to get more instruments,” she says.
“Now we have drums and a bunch of other things where before we had very little.”
The organization was started by a friend of the family and Graesser’s mom helped get it off the ground.
“I was probably 11-12 when I first started working with them,” she says. “Gradually I started doing more.”
Here in the states, Graesser mostly sings for herself. She used to sing with the Kendall Conservatory of Music. And she hoped to use her musical talent in the Palmetto theater program. However, she had to stop due to time constraints.
“I didn’t have time to dedicate to theater, but I do miss it,” she says.
Occasionally she performs at weddings, including her dad’s.
“I’m trying to find the time to enjoy it instead of it being a job,” she says. “I want to find more time to do it and have fun. It’s something I like to do. I’m hoping during college I can find a way to incorporate my music.”
This past summer she took an online workshop from Broadway collective.
“They were holding free classes with people who have been on Broadway,” she says. “The first week was dancing. They performed a piece from Newsies. The next week was singing – a piece from Oklahoma.”
For acting, everyone was given a different monologue.
While anyone could sign up for the workshop, participants were selected by the organizers.
Since it’s her senior year, Graesser’s been trying to decide on a college major. She’s considering majoring in sociology or criminology.
“Since I was young, I’d watch live crime shows,” she says. “We’d sit and watch all the shows. In my spare time, I’d watch and still watch documentaries from different cases.”
She’s applying to the University of Maryland, Tulane, George Washington University in D.C., Penn State and Howard University.
At Palmetto, she’s a member of the Future Educators of America. Through that club, she did a lot of volunteering at Palmetto Elementary School. She worked at their field days and their Saturday Fun Days. She also participated in the FFEA competitions.
She’s a member of French Honor Society and Key Club.
When in-person classes resumed, she went back to school full-time because she finds online classes harder for her.
“It’s weird and nerve wracking but it’s nice to be back at school,” she says. “I’m learning more even though waking up early in the morning is hard.”
This past year, Graesser worked on putting together her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She wanted to rejuvenate the kayak launch area at Bill Sadowski Park and build two park benches. Although she put a lot of time into planning the project, she and the troop leader concluded because of COVID and other circumstances, the project could not get done before her birthday deadline. Graesser hopes to complete the project before she leaves for college, but not for her Gold Award.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld