When a devastating flood hit Trinidad in late 2018, Miami Palmetto High School rising senior Priya Mahabir organized a collection drive to help flood victims. She saw videos and pictures of the devastation and knew she had to do something to help.
She turned to her friends on the National Forensic League, the Palmetto debate club. She’s going into her second year as president; she’s been on the board for three years.
“Together with my club mates, I was able to create a flood drive,” she says. “We supplied different things such as bed sheets, paper towels, hygiene products such as tooth brushes and tooth paste.”
During spring break of 2019, she personally went to Trinidad and hand delivered the supplies.
“We took the supplies and made it into baskets,” she says. “We made around 100 baskets.
There wasn’t enough for each one but we tried to do as much as we could. A lot of people donated school supplies. We also did goody bags and gave them to the school children.”
She and her family took on the expense of shipping the supplies.
“We got a D sized container,” she says. “You can put a car in a D sized container.”
Until the coronavirus halted everything, as president of the Forensic League, Mahabir helped train members in how to compete. She also started new programs.
“I opened up a new initiative to teach debate to Palmetto Middle School,” she says.
She worked with adult volunteers who are attorneys. The middle school students learned the different aspects of debate. So, when they went to Palmetto, they would already be trained and ready to compete.
Mahabir is comfortable teaching children because she’s been doing it for years with Breakthrough Miami.
“I was a student, then I became a volunteer and I am now a teacher,” she says, adding she continues as a student.
When COVID-19 shutdowns stopped the Saturday programs, they switched to planning the summer program.
“I’m going to be teaching fifth grade math and sign language as my elective,” she says.
She has been taking sign language for more than two years and is treasurer of the sign language club.
“When I did research about sign language, I learned that only nine percent of Americans know ASL,” she says.
Issues of the hearing impaired are important to her. She wrote a report for her Advanced Placement Research class that showed that when hearing impaired people are being arrested, they are not given their Miranda Rights.
“It’s not being interpreted or given to them in a form they can understand, so they don’t what their rights are before being interrogated,” she says.
At Palmetto she is a president of the Palmetto Women’s Union, the secretary of Women of Tomorrow, public relations officer of Students Working Against Tobacco and a member of Model United Nations.
She has won Honorable Mention awards at Model UN conferences and she co-chaired the World Health Organization committee at the Model UN Conference for middle school students at Palmetto.
Mahabir is a member of the Children’s Trust South Miami-Dade Youth Advisory Council.
“We are working on a compost idea, where you will be able to compost different things in the school environment,” she says. “Because of COVID we postponed it until next year.”
She interned at an immigration law office because she’s interested in law as a profession.
In college she plans to major in either political science or criminal justice. She also wants to minor in teaching.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld