Senior Rachel Graff is Miami Palmetto High School’s Silver Knight Nominee in the area of Art. Graff’s Silver Knight community service project was called ThreadFlowers305. She began the project during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
“I would make these purses with a flower on it,” she says. “I brought the purses to churches in the inner city. Mostly for little girls.”
Graff says the purses were sturdy and she sewed a lining into each one. Most of the purses were made of denim.
“I learned to sew during the pandemic,” she says. “I ran a fabric drive. People donated old clothing they don’t wear. I cut out the useful part of the fabrics.”
Before tackling the purses, she made other items such as dresses and skirts. And then she tried making a purse.
“I liked it. I liked messing with the proportions,” she says. “It’s so easy to do that. I realized, it’s something you can make with recycled material. Clothing waste is huge. It made it more sustainable.”
Her dad helped her find the program that wanted the purses. The purses have much more than a decorative purpose. A purse allows girls to carry important items without worrying those items could get lost.
“And it’s denim,” Graff says. “It goes with everything.”
Each purse took almost four hours to sew. She earned almost 200 community service hours making them. It was labor intensive – there was a lot of fabric cutting involved.
In the fabric drives she collected 18 pairs of jeans and 10 button-down shirts. She used the button-down shirts for the linings.
As an art student, Graff loves art that is 3-D.
“I love crocheting,” she says. “I’ve made stuffed animals. I like the hands-on stuff. And ceramics. I sew all the time. I love Barbie movies. I love making the gowns. I make them my size. I love movies and shows. I love the outfits that people have on. It’s great to recreate them.”
Not only is she being creative by making the outfits, because she’s the one sewing them, she saves money on her clothes.
Graff took art in middle school and loved when they did fabric work but didn’t really learn how to sew until tenth grade.
Next year, Graff will attend Duke University. Her major is still undecided, but she’s leaning toward taking computer science.
At Palmetto, Graff is a member of Women in Technology.
“It’s a stress-free way for girls to learn how to code,” she says. “I’m the chief of activities. I design posters and art and flyers.”
She’s a peer educator for the Health Information Project, secretary for the Social Science Honor Society, and a member of the History Bowl team. She’s a member of the Art Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta.
Graff spent much of her high school career as Palmetto’s mascot.
“It started after the pandemic,” she says. “The activities coordinator gave me the costume.”
She wanted to help boost school spirit so she took the suit home and created a Tik Tok account.
Graff was Penelope Panther and a friend was Pawblo, the boy panther.
Outside of school, Graff was in BBYO. At one point, she was the recruitment officer.
“It’s just something fun that I do,” she says.
She’s also involved in Achieve Miami, the program that sends teens to underprivileged elementary schools to help children improve their reading and writing skills.
“We help them become more proficient in reading and writing,” she says. “They read to you to try and get better.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld