Senior Cristina Fonfria is Palmetto High School’s Silver Knight nominee in Foreign Language. Fonfria has completed Advanced Placement Spanish Language and AP Spanish Composition. She is also president of the Spanish National Honor Society.
She speaks unaccented English although she moved from Venezuela only five years ago.
“I was in a bilingual school,” she says. “I was taught the grammatical rules. We never spoke it. When I was here, since I was exposed to the language, I picked up on the accent.”
Still, she struggled with speaking English, although reading was not a problem.
“The first month I did not communicate with anyone,” she says. “I did not hold a conversation with anyone.”
With time and effort, she finally became brave enough to speak. Initially people couldn’t understand what she was saying but she was able to overcome the language hurdle.
“I was so shy, then I picked up on it pretty fast,” she says.
Her family left Venezuela because of the turbulent political climate and terrible economic conditions there.
“It was getting too dangerous,” she says. “We couldn’t live a normal life. We couldn’t walk down the streets. It was unsafe. It kept getting worse and worse. They would cut the electricity and water.”
When she moved to Miami, she wanted to help those she left behind.
“I felt I was abandoning my country,” she says.
She began SOS Venezuela to collect diapers, baby bottles, powered milk and baby formula to send to hospitals that desperately need the supplies.
“There it is provided to newborn babies and their families that don’t have the resources to provide for these kids,” she says. “It took me a while to actually come to into contact with people who would take it to the hospitals.”
She chose to send baby supplies to the hospital because the hospitals were experiencing shortages of baby formula and diapers and babies were dying.
“I thought it was a good idea to ask around my school and my community to help,” she says. “And it became a project.”
Although she no longer needs to collect for the Silver Knight project, she isn’t stopping her charity work.
“It’s an on-going project,” she says. “I’m still collecting supplies from my school and community, friends and family members.”
In the fall, she had 400 diapers and 34 baby bottles to send and wants more. She talks to clubs at school about helping her out and those who donate receive community service hours for the donation. She plans to keep it up as long as possible. When she goes away to college, she plans to pass it along to her brother, who is currently a freshman.
Fonfria is still undecided in terms of a major but thinks she’d like to go into a STEM field, or maybe, medicine. She’s applied to the University of Florida, Florida State, Indiana University or Boston University.
She’s involved in extracurricular activities at Palmetto. She’s secretary of the National Honor Society, business manager of the yearbook, staff appreciation chair for the student council senate and a member of Key Club.
Outside of school Fonfria is a member of Twenty Little Working Girls.
The past two summers, she’s interned at an advertising agency in Wynwood, doing social media and writing articles for the blog.
“I was in charge of running the social media on their own website and for clients,” she says. “I also wrote articles for their blog and helped translate from English to Spanish and vice versa.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld