Incoming Palmetto High School senior Eli Graff has been co-treasurer of the Class of 2020 since he was a freshman. This spring, he won the Tulane Book Award for his academic achievement and community involvement. Previously, he won the Palmetto Core Values Award and the Panther on the Move Award.
Since freshman year, Graff has been a part of the Achieve Miami program.
“We go to underserved elementary schools and we help the students read and write on Saturdays,” he says. “This year I was appointed to be a junior advisory board member.”
As a member of the advisory board, he participates in additional meetings where they brainstorm how to better the programs.
Some of the issues include getting new books, branching out, and how to publicize the program better.
Most of the elementary school children in the program are reading on a second-grade level.
“Some are advanced, too,” Graff says. “I have read Magic Tree House with a couple of them.”
The teens have the elementary school children read to them and answer comprehension questions.
“One week I’ll read a book with them, the next week, if I’m with them again, I’ll pick a higher level,” he says. “It’s nice to see them progress each week.”
The program in the south end of the county began at Goulds Elementary but recently moved to Caribbean Elementary. When the program left Goulds, the teens went to Fredrick Douglass Elementary for a while until Caribbean was available. The high school students go every other Saturday.
Achieve Miami also has a summer program. Graff will be participating for a couple of weeks at Fredrick Douglass.
At Palmetto, Graff is a Peer Health Educator for the Health Information Project (HIP). He joined HIP because he liked having the peer educators come to teach the program when he was in ninth grade.
“I like speaking and interacting with younger people,” he says.
Graff is a member of the member of the Psychology Honor Society, the Jewish Student Union and the Spanish National Honor Society where he was recently appointed as chief of communications.
“It’s going to entail me publicizing the events,” he says. “Maybe manage social media.”
He’s the incoming president of the National Honor Society.
“I’m hoping to integrate Achieve Miami into our school,” he says. “Palmetto doesn’t have an honor society that publicizes Achieve Miami so I’m hoping to get this done.”
As class co-treasurer, he sells tickets for class sponsored events. He expects to be much busier this year because there are more senior class events.
Now that he’s a senior, college is on his mind. His college list includes Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Northwestern and Florida.
While he hasn’t decided on a major, he does know he wants to go to law school. He’s interested in becoming a personal injury lawyer.
Outside of school, for the past two years, Graff has coached fifth, sixth and seventh grade boys in the Beth Am Basketball League.
“That’s been great. I’ve loved doing it,” he says.
He plans on coaching again next year.
The last couple of years, he’s been on the board that organizers an annual poker tournament on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. The tournament is held at Bet Shira. The money raised goes to the Advocacy Network on Disabilities. The money is used to buy new wheelchairs for people.
Graff is one of six students that organize the tournament that raised $6,000 this year.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld