Palmetto High School senior Joe Largo is the student council’s community outreach chair. His job is to encourage school spirit at Palmetto.
The drive to increase school spirit included the pep rallies, which he helped improve by making them more creative and exciting.
“We had a glow in the dark pep rally,” he says.
That pep rally was such a huge success, Largo says he was told it was the best pep rally Palmetto in 15 years.
“It felt good to have the school be happy with what we put into it,” he says.
Among the various events tied to increasing school spirit, was the creation of a girl’s flag football contest.
“This is the first time Palmetto has done this,” Largo says. “We have tried to involve the entire student body.”
Largo coached one of the flag football teams.
“We won our one game, even though we had no expectations of winning,” he says. “Against the best team. But we lost in the semi-finals. But we were all really happy with our performance.”
Largo says the effort is paying off.
“I’ve become the face that everyone is comfortable with at school,” he says. “And they approach me with whatever ideas they have. I’m kind of the party planner of Palmetto at this point.”
He was recently asked to host an African-American Heritage show in February and to become a Big Brother to a freshman English class.
Along with his work at Palmetto, Largo developed a service project that he hopes will help victims of domestic abuse regain a sense of independence by being their friend.
After meeting with his counselor, he began thinking about what he should do. He also talked to the school resource officer about areas of concern before settling on helping abuse victims.
He decided he wanted to visit a domestic abuse shelter with other students.
“To make connections with people and show them that not all people are out to get you,” he says. “You can have friendships with men and girls.”
He and the students he recruited for the project went through a rigorous application process.
“We started this around the end of summer,” Largo says.
He usually has a group of 15-20 students going at a time. They spend time talking to shelter residents.
“We might have an ice breaker in the beginning and move on to open circle discussion,” he says.
At school, Largo is vice president of the psychology club.
“Our goal is to keep our title of Club of the Year from last year,” he says. “At our last meeting, we brought bead, peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches. We made over 300 sandwiches.”
Those sandwiches were delivered to the Camillus House in downtown Miami to help feed the homeless.
Largo volunteers for the South Florida Foster and Adoptive Parents Association.
“We normally have a toy drive and a back to school drive,’ he says. “We give free haircuts to foster kids and give each one a backpack filled with school supplies.”
They also conduct a toy drive for 200 kids for Christmas. He’s involved because one of his best friend’s mom started the organization.
“It was only natural for me to help them,” he says.
He also volunteers at his church, St. John Neuman. He works with students in the confirmation class. Every Sunday, they meet for the class and the youth group.
Largo recently won a Posse Scholarship to Hamilton College, where he plans to major in political science.
“I want to be a politician when I grow up,” he says.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld