Miami Palmetto High senior Gabrielle Rousseau has revived Sisters Helping Sisters, a community service organization started by her sister. Rousseau has collected school supplies and other items to help an orphanage in Jamaica.
Her sister ran the program for three years with a friend and was going to pass it to the middle sister when the orphanage burned down. Now that it’s been rebuilt and expanded, Rousseau restarted it.
She’s received care packages filled with toiletries to take to the island. Last school year, at least five different clubs at Palmetto collected toiletries and school supplies to send to Jamaica with her.
The drives ran every other month starting September 2019. The National Honor Society, Key Club, the Psychology Club and an Advanced Placement Art History teacher was collecting for Sisters Helping Sisters. She also had help from another teacher who gave extra points for donations.
Because of the coronavirus, Rousseau switched from a collection drive to fundraising so she can send money instead of goods.
“I started selling clothes in quarantine since I couldn’t be collecting,” she says. “I collected over $400 dollars. We are just going to send them the money, so they can buy things for themselves.”
She did visit last January for a family birthday party. She took three suitcases filled with toothbrushes, notebooks, and feminine products. Things stalled when school abruptly ended.
Rousseau’s community service includes two-and-a-half years of volunteering with achieve Miami. The program, which switched to Caribbean Elementary School, helps children improve their literacy.
“I would go every other Saturday,” she says.
She started volunteering at the end of eighth grade, when it became a popular thing to do.
She continued throughout ninth and tenth grade but soon after her junior year started, she revived Sisters Helping Sisters.
“I went frequently enough when we went to the old school, Goulds Elementary,” she says.
At Palmetto, Rousseau plays varsity lacrosse. She hopes they are able to play this year since she missed playing her sophomore year due to injury and last year the season was cut short.
When not on the playing field, she’s business manager of the yearbook. In that role, she deals with the financial side of the yearbook, including talking to the vendors.
“I want to study business in college. It has been great training,” she says.
The coronavirus has changed how they do business. Most online sales are being done through the student portal. Even with the abrupt ending of school last March, Palmetto did produce a yearbook that they distributed in July.
“Everyone had masks. We bought pens so everyone had pens to sign and take it home,” she says.
Work has already started on the new book. Students sent in tons of first day of school photos.
“We are going to have a book. It’s just going to be different,” she says. “My job has already started. I like to sell out by November.”
Rousseau is chair of the Special Events Committee for student council.
For fun, Rousseau likes to draw. She used to hand paint clothes and sell them. Friends would ask her for custom items, like their name or a snake, or something like the lips from the Rolling Stones logo.
“I wish I had more time,” she says. “I can look at something and draw it up quickly.”
She’s interested in majoring in business at Tulane, the University of Florida, or Southern Methodist University.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld