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Preparing for The Big Day

June 1, 2016 on 4:36 am | In As Seen In..., PBG Lifestyle Magazine | No Comments

You’ve been dreaming about wedding dresses and cake toppers since you were in practically in pre-K, but this is the real world and real decisions have to be made real fast.

Since the average engagement lasts about 16 months, you’ll need to hustle, and unfortunately there’s just no stress like wedding-planning stress, which can turn any blushing bride into a bridezilla.

Thankfully, PBG Lifestyle Magazine is here with a variety of vendors that offer the area’s very best in style, selection and personalized service.


On the next few pages you’ll find out where to get the latest fashion trends from jewelry, gowns and tuxedos to services that will help you get organized, get a glowing smile, tone and tighten up that body, along with a few magical places to say, “I do,” that will serve as the perfect backdrop to a photo op coordinated by an expert photographer.

The Tux Shop
Let’s face it: In the whirlwind of wedding planning, the groom is often overlooked. Not so at the Tux Shop, widely known as a bridal shop for grooms, where he’s the star of the show.

“I have created a rental atmosphere that resembles a retail experience,” said Owner Susan Damon.

Just as a bride is catered to when shopping for her gown, grooms are perfectly fitted with complimentary alterations on tuxedo rentals. Grooms look exquisitely tailored in a custom-fitted tux that you won’t find at any other rental shop.

“The fit I can offer our clients is cutting-edge and in the forefront of industry trends. If it’s the classics, my store caters to that look,” Damon said. “If it doesn’t exist, my staff and I can create it – that’s simply unheard of for the big box chains.”

The Tux Shop is located at 4550 PGA Blvd., Suite 105 in Palm Beach Gardens. For more information, call (561) 626-8899 or visit www.tuxshoppalmbeach.com.

Bacio Bacio Bridal Salon
Wedding trends may come and go, but one thing the staff at Bacio Bacio knows is that good service never goes out of style.

This boutique bridal salon believes in a one-stop-shop approach where you can find your gown, shoes, veil and accessories, then put them all on and experience a true “Cinderella” moment.

With sage advice from the experts, Bacio Bacio offers the latest styles and trends.

“Feminine, simple gowns and two-piece looks are super trendy this season,” said Lenyce Boyd, operations manager. “We’re seeing more dramatic ball gowns with layered organza, tulle and combinations of fabrics – sheer, detailed backs and glamor are in and everywhere.”

The boys will appreciate their fully loaded tuxedo and suit rental department. As well, a new resortwear department offers everything you’ll need for the honeymoon.

Bacio Bacio Bridal Salon is located at 9160 Forest Hill Blvd., in the Kobosko’s Crossing Shopping Center in Wellington. For more information, call (561) 792-6111 or visit www.baciobacio.com.

Borrowed & Blue
If you live on Pinterest, Borrowed & Blue is the wedding site for you. Fusing inspiration and planning, users dream in stunning images, choosing color, theme, season and market area to target vendors who can bring their visions to life.

“On the web or through our mobile app, couples can discover local wedding vendors through real-life examples of their work,” said Co-Founder/CEO Adam Healey.

Vendors basically interact with clients by showing off their wares; the more content they submit, the more likely they are to be discovered by a couple researching in their market.

“Couples love our deeply researched, fanatically local content,” said Healey. “They also love our trustworthy approach: real couples, real weddings published on the site, providing vendor reviews for the most reliable, authenticated feedback.”

For more information, visit www.borrowedandblue.com.

Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa
If you’re looking for the ultimate in VIP treatment, host your wedding at Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s beachfront playground, Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa in Vero Beach, where it just doesn’t get any more exclusive.

“We execute only one wedding at a time, so each bride and groom get our undivided attention on their big day,” said Kasie Parsons, executive meeting manager. “From our kitchen to our beaches, each team member at the resort dedicates their time to ensuring each wedding goes off without a hitch.”

The natural beauty of the area coupled with the resort’s Miami-inspired art-deco chic style will make your wedding photos pop.

“The Treasure Coast makes it gorgeous,” Parsons said. “We make it easy.”

Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa is located at 3244 Ocean Dr. in Vero Beach. For more information, call (772) 562-9919 or visit www.costadeste.com. 

Beautifully Composed Photography by Erica Hernandez
For wedding photography, capturing the moment is critical, but having the photo actually express a couple’s personality and love for each other is sheer artistry – that’s the magic that Erica Hernandez makes.

“Conveying the couple’s personal style is a must,” said Hernandez. “What are words that describe the both of you? Fun, energetic, romantic, silly, adventurous, or whatever it may be, I want to make sure that each photo is conveying who the both of you are.”

Hernandez’ expert eye is keenly aware of lighting, color and composition. From posed photos to spontaneous candids, her shots will bring your wedding day back to life every time you look back at your photos.

For more information, visit www.beautifullycomposed.com or email beautifullycomposed@gmail.com.

Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry
When it comes to a style campaign, nobody trumps Ivanka Trump, who continues to up her game with her signature jewelry collection.

Ivanka’s latest inspiration comes from the artsy side of Paris; the Montmartre Collection evokes classic romance with old-world sophistication. With a nod to the Art Deco era, the collection conjures up images of quaint cobblestone streets, with a mixture of different sizes and shapes woven throughout.

Brides will love this classic look that’s also thoroughly modern. The pieces are versatile enough to go from day to night and can be worn whenever she’d like to make a statement.

The 14 pieces in the collection would make thoughtful bridesmaid gifts and could help you score big points with your future mother-in-law.

Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry is sold locally at Betteridge Jewelers, located at 236 Worth Ave. in Palm Beach.

Davidoff Studios Photography
Things have been happily clicking away at Davidoff Studios, where they have been capturing memories in stunning pictures for more than 50 years.

The Davidoff family has been synonymous with photography since patriarch Bob Davidoff was a house photographer at The Breakers Hotel as well as the Kennedy family during the Camelot years. His son Daryl Davidoff has been telling love stories with his camera for 30 years.

On the big day, Davidoff relies on his experience and instincts.

“I have an eye for composition from my days in the darkroom making prints,” Davidoff said. “It helps me to convey the couple’s personal style. I can usually tell if they want posed shots or want to cut loose and have some fun with it.”

The results are timeless treasures.

“I go the extra mile to make photos perfect. I take every shot personally.”

Davidoff Studios is located at 136 Greenbrier Dr. in Palm Springs. For more information, visit www.davidoffstudios.com or call (561) 655-1164.

Loews Don CeSar Hotel
On her wedding day, the bride should feel like a princess, so why not get married in a palace?

The Loews Don CeSar Hotel, commonly referred to as the Pink Palace, is just the place. Reminiscent of an era of romance and elegance, you’d expect Gatsby himself to be perched at the bar.

“With its storied past, beautiful architecture, striking color and grandeur, The Loews Don CeSar is an outstanding wedding venue because it exudes a class-meets-comfort vibe,” said Lauren Jones, associate director of catering and conference management.

The location may draw couples to wed at this oceanfront icon, but it’s the commitment to service that makes their day magical.

“Couples love having their wedding at The Don because they are confident in our team’s execution and first-class service.”

The Loews Don CeSar Hotel is located at 3400 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach. For more information, visit www.loewshotels.com/don-cesar or call (727) 363-5042 or (800) 282-1116.

Gardens Dental Spa
There is no beauty accessory that outshines a beautiful smile; it’s time to get yours.

“What better way to complement a wedding gown or tuxedo than with a beautiful, bright white smile?” said Dr. Heather Kaufman, who noted that cosmetic options at GDS range from teeth whitening to full-mouth porcelain veneers. She suggests coming in two months prior to the big day to get your smile camera ready.

Dr. Kaufman and Dr. William Strauss, along with their dedicated staff, strive to earn their patients’ trust and smiles, whether they are seeking general, restorative or cosmetic dental services. And if four members of the bridal party buy Zoom whitening, the bride gets hers free!

Gardens Dental Spa is located at 11380 Prosperity Farms Rd., Suite 109 in Palm Beach Gardens. For more information, call (561) 799-7791 or visit www.gardensdentalspa.com

Centers for Health Promotion, LLC
Get your booty and body into sleek perfection to fill out that gown in all the right places with procedures to sculpt, lift and tuck.

“Simply put, if you are a candidate, it puts the curves where they aren’t,” said Dr. Dwight Reynolds of the Centers for Health Promotion.

Show off your best assets.

Reynolds added that “one of the hottest things women are doing today is suture suspension buttock lift with real sutures,” a procedure he pioneered.

With nearly 20 years of cosmetic surgery and more than 80,000 procedures under his belt, you’ll be in good hands with Dr. Reynolds.

CHP also offers ways to make your skin glow, your lips luscious and basically make you feel fabulous.

The Centers for Health Promotion is located at 915 Middle River Dr., Suite 305 in Fort Lauderdale and 1809 SE Port Saint Lucie Blvd. in Port Saint Lucie. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call (855) LIPODR1 (547-6371) or visit www.lipodr.com

Dreyfoos valedictorian aims to experiment with film technology

June 1, 2016 on 4:29 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Catherine Chen, 18

Catherine Chen found herself in a very different kind of meeting with the principal and the top 20 students at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Like David Letterman’s famous top ten list, the principal started a countdown to reveal their valedictorian — Chen.

At the conclusion, amid cheers and laughter, there was a celebration that included lots of ice cream.

“I kinda already knew for a while,” said Chen. “I was still happy, it was good. It made me feel really excited because at the meeting all my friends were there and they all started screaming.”

Then came the realization that she would be the one to give that speech.

“I think I felt a little bit nervous about it at first,” said Chen.

The visual arts major gave it some thought and saw just how to show her fellow students how life is a series of ups and downs.

“I wrote my speech about how life is a roller coaster,” said Chen. “We had a good time at my school, and these are memories that we won’t ever forget. But life goes on and it will be difficult, sometimes, but we can still get back up and keep going.”

Chen kept going and kept very busy.

Along with keeping up her academics, Chen was president of the Guild of Visual Arts, National Science Honor Society, and National Art Honor Society, co-vice president of Student Council, and historian of Spanish Honor Society.

She was dual-enrolled at Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach State College. At FAU, she participated in an intensive, immersive environmental series of courses through the Pine Jog Fellowship. One of her most memorable courses at PBSC was the Principles of 3D Animation that gave her hands on experience with Maya, a complex animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software program — there were only four students in the class. Chen finishes the year with a GPA of 4.0 and an HAP of 5.4675.

Catherine Chen from Wellington is the 2016 valedictorian for Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

Catherine Chen from Wellington is the 2016 valedictorian for Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

She had some heavy-hitter choices for colleges including: MIT, University of Southern California, Yale, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Rhode Island School of Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Florida and Florida State University and California Institute of the Arts.

Chen chose the one she thought was best suited to help her reach her dreams — the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, one of the country’s finest film schools where she will major in animation and digital arts.

“It’s academic curriculum and program fit me best,” said Chen. “It is also the school that can help me with my career the most. USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is the best film school in the world, so how can I resist?”

As a visual arts major Chen sees the world differently. The portfolio that she’s developed throughout high school is layered — a combination of visual and interactive artwork combining an earthy material such as painting as well as the ethereal – digital technology.

“I want to experiment with the technology of film while I’m telling the story,” said Chen. “I have to bring something new to the table. A lot of it is personal and time-based, time jumping, stream of consciousness, I don’t only want to tell stories in a linear order. I want to experiment with concepts and make people confused at first and then have them go, ‘oh that’s what Catherine is talking about,’ instead of being straight forward.”


What are your hobbies?

Soccer, ice skating and tae kwon do sparring. I also like to watch movies.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

I would sing, run around outside, jump, dance, and do whatever I want without anyone judging me.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Hayao Miyazaki (Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author and manga artist.)

What is the best advice you ever received?

My grandfather told me to be the sea which takes in water from many rivers. He means to be open-minded and take in positive influences from other people.

What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?

Since society in much of history has not been good to females or minorities, my options are limited. Instead I would like to witness an event in the future when hopefully pollution is decreased, when sexism and racism completely eliminated, and when nature flourishes. Hopefully then, I could see every star clearly in the sky.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Catching frogs and collecting snails, making up games, and drawing attempted graphic novels.

Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?

Hayao Miyazaki

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I love stream of consciousness and stories about time-skipping. I also like stories which confuse fantasy with reality, and I like to finish my dreams before waking up in the morning. My favorite video game is Okami, and currently I am playing Fallout 4.

What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

I would bring a house, sword and a working genie lamp.

John I. Leonard valedictorian wants to increase access to education

May 25, 2016 on 4:18 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Kristy Sanchez, 17

To say that Kristy Sanchez cried tears of joy when she found out that she was John I. Leonard High School’s valedictorian was an understatement, it was more like rivers. By the time she got home to tell her family, they were all crying together.

Kristy Sanchez is the 2016 valedictorian of John I. Leonard High School.

Kristy Sanchez is the 2016 valedictorian of John I. Leonard High School.

“I was sitting in class and got called to the guidance office, when I got there they asked me, ‘Do you know what this is about?’ then they said. ‘It’s about valedictorian and salutatorian, do you know which you are? You are the valedictorian.’ I started shaking,” said Sanchez.

The news was a little hard for her to absorb.

“I went to class and I paced for the entire class — for 45 minutes I didn’t do any of the work that day because I was in shock. I had told my dad that I was supposed to stay after for a club meeting, but I called and asked him to pick me up after school. He was worried that something was wrong, I told him it’s nothing bad, I need to go home.”

Sanchez couldn’t even discuss it in the car. When her dad pulled into the driveway she handed him the official letter from the school.

Then he started crying.

Before long the whole family was passing around the tissues.

It took a lot of work to get there.

The 17-year-old Greenacres resident was part of John I. Leonard’s magnet program, the Computer Academy, that gives students the opportunity to earn up to eight industry certifications. Sanchez is now a Microsoft Office Specialist for Microsoft Office Word 2010, Microsoft Office Word Expert 2013, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft Office Excel 2010. She is also an Adobe Certified Associate for Adobe Photoshop CS6.

Sanchez participated in the rigorous Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program that’s offered through the University of Cambridge in England. In her junior year she dual enrolled at Palm Beach State College completing six classes. She’ll finish the year with a 4.0 GPA and an HPA of 5.2.

In addition to academics Sanchez is vice president of her class and vice president of the mathematics honors society, Mu Alpha Theta. She also served as a representative for ASPIRA which means aspire in Spanish. The organization is dedicated to developing leadership in Hispanic youth, but Sanchez said at her school, it is open to everyone.

Her secret for success — never entertaining the notion of procrastination.

“I think of the big picture,” said Sanchez. “I don’t that about it too much, I just do it knowing it will be worth it.”

Worth it?

Sanchez was accepted to the University of Florida, University of Miami, University of Central Florida and New York University. This fall she’ll head off to Gainesville to become a UF Gator.

Although she has a knack for technology, Sanchez has a great interest in criminology and law, which she plans on pursuing in college.

After taking both government and sociology her senior year she learned a lot about wealth inequality.

“It made me more angry than I’ve ever been,” said Sanchez. “I’ve never felt more passion about anything before. I think my main thing is increasing the access that minorities have to education. I think education is the most important thing anyone can receive.”

Sanchez is thinking about a career that would help change that.

“I think I want to work for the government,” she said. “I want to focus on the legal system and politics. My ultimate goal is working for Congress.”

Q & A

What are your hobbies?

Spending time with family, reading, tweeting.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

Take a break from my responsibilities and relax for the entire day.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Sonia Sotomayor

What is the best advice you ever received?

“Just make a decision, it’s really not that serious” — from my sisters.

What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?

Women’s Suffrage Movement

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Long road trips with my family.

Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?

Malala Yousafzai

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I’m very sarcastic.

What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

Knife, survival guide, cooking pot.

Palm Beach Lakes top grad picks Brown to pursue dream of law career

May 18, 2016 on 4:13 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Ijahala Pottinger, 18

Ever since the fifth grade Ijahala Pottinger has had an answer to that nagging question adults seem to ask all school-age children: What do you want to be when you grow up?


For Pottinger her goals were lofty, supreme even.

“I wanted to have a career in law,” said Pottinger. “I’d like to eventually be a Supreme Court justice.”

So when it was time to go off to high school, the 18-year-old, Royal Palm Beach resident looked to the county’s choice programs and met her match.

Ijahala Pottinger, along with other members of the Florida Key Club district board, enjoying their last district-wide gathering together at the 2016 Governor’s Banquet in Orlando.

“It has the best law program in the whole county,” said Pottinger. “No other school seemed appropriate or fitting for me other than Palm Beach Lakes.”

Pottinger inches one step closer to her goals with the title valedictorian this year.

“I was in guidance office talking with my councilor about an AP (Advanced Placement) government course I took online,” said Pottinger. “While I was in there, my guidance councilor (Wanda Thomas) asked me, did you get a letter from the school? At first I thought she meant a letter from the college I was going to.”

What Thomas meant was the official letter from Palm Beach Lakes letting her know that she was the valedictorian. Thomas didn’t hold back and told Pottinger that she was the valedictorian.

“It was really unexpected,” said Pottinger. “I thought that I was going to end up being salutatorian. Four or five days later I got the letter. It was fancy, it had the school seal and it was signed by the principal.”

Besides taking a slew of rigorous AP, Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) classes, and being dual-enrolled in classes at Palm Beach State College, Pottinger was president of the National Honor Society and the Florida Law Honor Society as well as the Division 20A lieutenant governor of the Florida District Key Club International. She was also a member of the Spanish Honor Society and the mock trial team. But where she really found a home was in Palm Beach County Youth Court where she serves as the lead prosecutor.

“It’s unique to Palm Beach Lakes, we have our own courtroom on campus and we try cases on the first Monday of each month.”

The mock youth court is not so mock, it involves a real student who has already pled guilty to an offense and is being given a second chance. The students make up the jury, prosecutors, defense lawyers, bailiff and clerks. The kids argue the case in front of Palm Beach County judges who volunteer and adjudicate. The offenders are often given community service or rehabilitation.

Pottinger also works at Rapids Water Park and has gotten real world legal experience with an internship for the personal injury law firm Lesser, Lesser, Landy and Smith.

Pottinger ends the school year with a 4.0 GPA and an HPA of 5.1. She’s been accepted to Florida State University, University of Florida, Georgetown, Duke University and Brown. She was wait-listed at Harvard and Dartmouth.

This fall Pottinger heads to Rhode Island to attend Brown where she will take up a double concentration in history and economics.

“I know I’m going to law school, so as an undergraduate I want to become more intellectually capable, having a breadth of knowledge in a variety of fields. Economics will help my LSAT and I have a passion for history, it’s my all-time favorite subject.”

She says her speech at graduation “is about looking to the future with optimism as I know my school’s graduating class will accomplish great things in the future. I also discuss staying true to oneself and not letting a high school’s reputation define one’s success for the future.”


What are your hobbies?

Googling things, people, or events that I don’t know about and reading about it on Wikipedia, baking/decorating cupcakes, and taking afternoon naps — when I get the chance.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

Go to work (Rapids Water Park), get on the water rides with people, and tickle them the whole way down.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

What is the best advice you ever received?

“The happiest people in life are the ones who know how to build a bridge and get over it.” — My Uncle Rhondie

What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?

The Paris Peace Conference! I’d love to be there for the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Saint-Germain.

Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?

Not only do my 12-year-old sister and 15-year-old brother inspire me to become a better sibling, but they also motivate me to be the best person I can be.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I keep stashes of candy all around my room … And sometimes I forget where I put them so they go stale before I can eat them!

What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

Twizzlers – my favorite food; sunglasses – protecting your eyes from the sun is a must; Netflix – so that I can properly “chill”.

Santaluces valedictorian wants to give back, teach next generation

May 11, 2016 on 4:08 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments
If there’s one thing anyone can say about Afsana Chowdhury, she knows herself pretty well.

The 18 year-old Greenacres resident knew her ranking at Santaluces High School, so when the assistant principal called her into the office, she already knew what was happening.

Afsana-Chowdhury, Santaluces-Community High School Valedictorian

Afsana-Chowdhury, Santaluces-Community High School Valedictorian

“When I saw my friend there, I knew why we were both called in — because she was salutatorian and I was valedictorian — we had already known about our ranks.”

Knowing she took the top spot didn’t take any of the thrill away.

“I was proud of myself, also nervous,” said Chowdhury. “I know I have to give a speech.”

Never one to procrastinate, she already has written that speech.

“I did write it and went over it with my English teacher,” said Chowdhury. “I tried to include everyone so everyone could connect to it emotionally.”

For Chowdhury, leaving high school will be bittersweet.

“It’s been tough, a lot of work, but I’ve made meaningful friendships. I will miss it.”

Chowdhury finishes Santaluces with a 4.0 GPA and an HPA of 4.9554. She was a member of the Key Club and is a current member of the National Honor Society.

She credits her organizational skills to achieving good grades.

“It’s really hard, but time management is super-important,” said Chowdhury. “I always write down the things that I need to do, whether it’s in my agenda, on a piece of paper, or on a sticky note. I write every detail, down to the amount of time it will take to complete assignments and sometimes even what time of day — morning, after school, night — each thing will be done. I also try to take a nap every day after school to give me a boost for the rest of the night.”

As far as college goes, Chowdhury knew exactly where she wanted to go — Florida Atlantic University — and what she wanted to do, pursue a degree in elementary education.

But there are also some things she’s more ambivalent about, like not having a personal connection to professors in the same way she developed relationships with her teachers.

“I feel like when you really know your teachers, and when they really know you, it can make the learning experience so much easier, because you feel comfortable with them and won’t hesitate to ask questions.”

One thing she appreciates about going to FAU is the logistics.

“It was the only one I applied to, because I’ve known since the beginning that FAU was where I wanted to go. I can still live at home while I’m in college. Plus, it offers the major that I wanted to pursue, elementary education.”

Chowdhury credits Santaluces’ Early Childhood Academy with helping her to make this life choice.

“I’ve always liked kids, and I got a lot of experience working with kids, that’s why I would really like to be a teacher,” she said.

For Chowdhury it’s all about being able to give back, while looking ahead.

“I like the idea of raising the next generation and teaching them in an effective way,” said Chowdhury. “We need teachers to teach kids and help them grow and develop. We need more trained teachers especially in low-income areas and in Title I schools. I’d like to be a part of that.”

Q & A

What are your hobbies?

Sleeping, learning Arabic and learning more about Islam.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

Travel around the world for free — no plane tickets needed!

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

What is the best advice you ever received?

“We shouldn’t try to please people. We should try to please God.”

What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?

It’s not a single “event,” but I would love to have witnessed the time when Islam was first introduced and when it first started capturing the hearts of people.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Playing outside with my brother and cousin every single afternoon.

Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I have a terrible memory — I always have to write things down, or I’ll (most likely) forget them.

What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?

A copy of the Quran, my laptop, and portable Wi-Fi.

Pahokee valedictorian headed to Duke thanks to Gates scholarship

May 4, 2016 on 5:30 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Ashley Wilson, 17

Not many people can remember the grade they got in second grade for reading, or in sixth grade for science or as a freshman for history, but for Ashley Wilson, that’s easy, she’s been making straight As since she was in kindergarten.


So it came as no surprise that the 17-year-old Belle Glade resident is Pahokee High School’s valedictorian.

“Of course I was excited,” said Wilson. “But there was also a sort of confirmation and feeling of security.”

Wilson said that she’s not ‘all work, no play.’

Pahokee valedictorian headed to Duke thanks to Gates scholarship photo

“I find the balance and can enjoy being a typical teenager,” said Wilson. “I go to parties, have a huge sense of humor, love to have fun, and can connect with just about anybody. Most people don’t even realize that I’m the valedictorian, until someone tells them.”

Or until you see the list of schools she’s been accepted to — Duke University, Notre Dame, University of Florida and University of Miami.

Although Duke was her first choice, the hefty price tag would have prohibited her from attending, until she found out that she is the recipient of a Gates Millennium Scholarship funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“I felt pure joy,” said Wilson. “It was truly a blessing for my family and myself. Getting Gates means that all of my hard work has paid off and that people other than my family and people in my community believe in me..”

Wilson earned it. She took rigorous academic courses in the International Baccalaureate program and participated in Palm Beach State College’s dual enrollment program.

During her senior year she was both president of the National Honor Society and Student Council; was co-captain of the cheerleading squad; and played softball. She also participated in the Empowering Champions Program, which helps students polish up their job interviewing skills and work etiquette while providing experience.

Wilson finishes with a 4.0 GPA and an HPA of 5.1. Although she’s enjoying the accolades of being number one, it comes with the responsibility of being a role model to younger kids in her community.

“Some people think that the only way you can be successful is by playing football or athletics,” said Wilson. “I don’t want them to conform to that way of thinking.”

She cringes when successful people from her hometown are interviewed and say they’re from West Palm Beach.

“You should never forget about home,” said Wilson. “Belle Glade and the people here made you. I want people to know where I’m from. If necessary, I’ll explain its history and location. I’m proud of my community.”

“I think it’s my duty in a sense to show people in my community who look up to me that you don’t have to be who your aren’t or depend on one thing — you can rely on education. I want to help those kids. I want them to know that there’s someone in their corner showing them they can be who they want to be.”

Wilson hopes to be a trauma surgeon.

“I like that you never know what may come up or what you may encounter in any given day,” said Wilson. “In trauma you have to think fast and be on your feet at all times. I like the fast pace, it excites me in a way. I like a challenge.”


What are you reading now?

“The Importance of Being Earnest” by OscarWilde

What’s your guilty pleasure?


What’s you favorite junk food?


If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

President Obama

Who do you admire most?

My mother

What’s playing on your iPod?

Rihanna, J. Cole, Drake, Beyonce, Future

What three things you would bring with you if you were stuck on a deserted island?

Laptop with Wi-Fi (even though this may be impossible); unlimited food supply (including water); first-aid kit.

What is your favorite movie?

“Mean Girls”

Who is your favorite actor?

Morris Chestnut

Let Them Eat Cake – SunFest lights up with Steve Aoki’s brand of entertainment: dancing, crowd surfing and flying confections

May 1, 2016 on 4:24 pm | In As Seen In..., PBG Lifestyle Magazine | No Comments

Steve Aoki can’t actually be human; the 38-year-old DJ, electro house musician, record producer and music executive must be running on some endless supply of adrenaline as he moves through this world in a blur of constant motion. And forget about his onstage energy – that’s another story. 


Over the course of just 48 hours, Aoki has dropped a new single – a collaboration with fellow DJ Felix Jaehn and American Idol alum Adam Lambert called “Can’t Go Home” – wrapped up a tour in Asia and boarded a flight back home to Vegas, all while celebrating the 20th birthday of his own record label, Dim Mak Records.

Aoki will perform 24 shows between April 1 and August 27, crisscrossing the country from Amherst, Mass., down to Jacksonville and across to Las Vegas all before coming to play with us here at SunFest on April 29. As he eases into summer, he’ll hit Mexico, Switzerland, Germany and Spain. Aoki performs an average of 250 shows a year.

During Aoki’s whirlwind tour came the release of a documentary based on his life, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in mid-April.

With miles to go before he sleeps, Aoki touches ground in Vegas for a brief moment before trekking up north. In this small window of opportunity, he takes a few minutes to speak with PBG Lifestyle about his recent work.

“It’s really moving, it’s a great collaboration of three different worlds,” Aoki said of the new single. “Felix Jaehn is in a completely different world of electronic music. We worked months and months. Adam’s just about the best vocalist I’ve ever worked with.

“Fans have made this record a significant song for the country,” he added. “My fans surround a record and prop it up. It’s just incredible the amounts of fans that are supporting the record because of the collaboration. Now I get to see the full force of Adam Lambert fans, how they really can drive the ecosystem of music outside of radio.”

Ask why Aoki is the subject of the latest documentary by director Justin Krook and producers Matthew Weaver and David Gelb – the pair behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi in 2011 and Chefs Table in 2015 – and he can’t really give a definitive answer.

“The approach they took is [to] focus on this one guy and why they chose me, I can’t tell you,” Aoki said. “They followed me for three years. We went to Japan, they interviewed my family. We went through some personal stuff. The way they were telling the story, I was okay with it; they’re telling something that hasn’t been told.”

Delve into it further and Aoki explains the similarities of Jiro Dreams of Sushi and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. The former isn’t just about sushi, but rather about the 85-year-old sushi master’s relationship with his oldest son and heir apparent. The latter follows Aoki’s rise in the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) world but really, it’s about his relationship with family, especially his father, former wrestler and founder of the popular Benihana restaurant chain.

“For many people my life is very visible right now; my life is played out on YouTube,” Aoki said. “I have a series; people follow me 24/7 around the world. My life is on social media. The story they tell is less about that and something that I never really talk about, my father, my relationship with my dad, it’s in that direction. The EDM side of things is more of the background music. It’s my relationship with my dad which is good, and rocky – his name is Rocky. I love my father and I rebelled against him. It’s more that kind of story.”

As for the story of EDM, Aoki went into it full steam, recording his first demo at 16. He says he was obsessed. His collaborations read like a who’s who list in the music industry, including Iggy Azalea, Lil Jon, Afrojack, LMFAO, Laidback Luke and will.i.am.

His obsession has paid off, bringing in a slew of awards including Billboard’s Best Mix Album of the Year 2008 for Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles and a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronica Album for Wonderland. Last year Billboard Magazine named Aoki one of the 14 Most Powerful Artists in EDM.

“The 2012 Grammy nomination was a huge deal for me,” said Aoki. “I started to take music more seriously.”

Aoki’s 2014 release, Neon Future I and the 2015 Neon Future II is an epic series with a common thread: “It’s a story about my obsession with science and technology merging with humanity and singularity, where all kinds of different people are talking about the future.”

But it’s the music and high-octane energy wave that the fans want to ride at his live shows. Be prepared for plenty of fist pumping, jumping, dancing and champagne spraying. You’re also likely to see Aoki at the helm of a blow-up raft riding through the crowd, and leave room for dessert, because he’s known to pummel the crowd with giant cake – ice cream not included.

Wellington’s top student hopes to one day make technology easier

April 20, 2016 on 5:07 pm | In As Seen In..., General, Palm Beach Post | No Comments


It’s not every day that the principal shows up for English class.That’s when 17-year-old Wellington High School senior Davy Yue suspected something.

“Mr. Crocetti, the school principal, visited my second-period English class, made a small announcement congratulating me for becoming Wellington’s 2015 -16 valedictorian and gave me a formal handshake for achieving such an honorable position,” Yue said.

Davy Yue is the 2016 valedictorian for Wellington High School.

Davy Yue is the 2016 valedictorian for Wellington High School.

Yue has a 3.9 GPA and an HPA (honors point average) of 5.24; however by the end of the year both will get a boost because of the AICE courses that he’s enrolled in. Along with his rigorous academics schedule, Yue is dually enrolled in various classes at Palm Beach State College. He also made sure to include courses that sparked his interest, such as AP computer science, AP art studio: drawing portfolio, and AP psychology.

As president of the National English Honor Society for the past two years, Yue volunteered tutoring kids at New Horizons and Wellington Landings schools. He is president of the Math Honor Society, where he is involved in managing various math competitions.

Wellington’s top student hopes to one day make technology easier photo

In his downtime, Yue enjoys painting and admits to being a bit obsessed with origami. He became interested when he saw a friend take an ordinary sheet of paper and turn it into something magical.

He even started his own club.

“I founded and have been president of the Origami Club for three years,” said Yue. “In the Origami Club, I teach other students about how to fold mundane printer paper into fascinating three-dimensional objects.”

Not one to procrastinate, Yue has penned his graduation speech, and is a little relieved for a reprieve.

“It feel great having worked so hard for years and to be able to achieve a position that’s obviously the highest honor at my school,” said Yue. “It was sort of a relief knowing that it’s almost the end.”

For Yue, this is just the beginning. The Wellington resident has been accepted to Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Florida, however he will head to Nashville this fall to attend his dream school, Vanderbilt University.

“Vanderbilt provides the combination of both a challenging academic environment and a diverse, passionate community that would continue to impact me for my whole life,” said Yue.

It all seems to jive well with his favorite quote from Justin James “J. J.” Watt, a defensive end for the Houston Texans, who said, “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and rent is due every day.”

At Vanderbilt, he’ll pursue a degree in computer science. Yue hopes to end up at a big firm like Google, creating technology that makes life easier for people.

“I’ve always liked programs that ease the user’s ability to utilize technology for their own benefit,” he said.


What are you reading now?

“The Complete Book of Origami: Step-by Step Instructions in Over 1,000 Diagrams” by Robert J. Lang

What’s your favorite junk food?

Key Lime Pie Oreos

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Morgan Freeman, whose voice alone would assure me that all is well in the universe. He doesn’t even have to speak English; Pig Latin would have the same calming affect.

Who do you admire most?

Bill Gates

What’s playing on your iPod?

“Not Afraid,” by Eminem

What three things you would bring with you if you were stuck on a deserted island?

A pedal-powered boat, Usain Bolt, and a 4.2-pound bag of Ling Ling All Natural Potstickers — chicken and vegetable flavor.

Glades Central valedictorian wants to focus on environment

April 13, 2016 on 5:12 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments


Glades Central High School valedictorian Lauren Diaz wants every high school student to know that getting to the top isn’t necessarily just for the smart kids.

“I wasn’t always at the top of my class. I was a terrible student. I entered high school with a 1.7 grade point average and ranked in the lower 10 percent of my class. I even failed gym at one point,” laughed Diaz. “I hate to say it.”

Toward the end of her freshman year, Diaz decided enough was enough.

“I guess I had an epiphany,” said Diaz. “I was just sitting on my bed reflecting on my life, seeing everybody else I know succeeding. I thought, I’m better than that. I know I’m capable. I was just very determined to change my lifestyle and what people deemed my fate. For me, people saw how I was, assumed I was going to be stuck here.”

Instead the 18-year-old Belle Glade resident recommitted herself to academics. She enrolled in the rigorous Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program, took Advanced Placement classes and was the first in her class to be dual enrolled at Palm Beach State College. Diaz will graduate with a 3.7 GPA and a HPA of 4.7.

“I’m going to graduate valedictorian, I’m going to UF (University of Florida) in the summer and study environmental engineering and have a planned career.”

It’s that belief that you can do anything you put your mind to that she wants to relay to the student body when she gives that big speech at graduation.

“I want to mention in my speech that despite being at the bottom, despite your current struggles, you’re more than capable of graduating valedictorian of your class.”

Another value she wants to pass along is that it’s OK to be happy.

“Telling my peers to do whatever makes them happy,” said Diaz. “I’m a really big believer in that as long as you’re happy doing whatever you like, that’s success. If someone works at a laundromat and goes in everyday loving what they do, that’s success. It’s just as successful as someone who has their doctorate degree.”

For Diaz, happiness is environmental engineering. She got a taste of it taking an AICE environmental management class in high school.

“I very much care about environmental protection due to the way I was raised and where I live,” said Diaz. “Growing up my parents couldn’t offer me the latest gadgets and toys, instead most of my days were spent outdoors and being very imaginative. My community right now faces major threats to our water and air.

“Belle Glade is surrounded by fields for crops and sugar mills which is causing our water to fill with pesticides. Seasonal sugar cane burning also causes our children to grow up with respiratory issues. I want to help my community with those threats. I want to protect the world that not only gave me tremendous happiness, but also life.”

This summer Diaz will begin that quest at UF, the only school she applied to, her dream school.

“I hope to work down in the Everglades,” she said. “UF conducts research down there and I hope to find a way to get involved in that research. There are several threats that are hurting the Everglades.”


What are you reading now?

“Skeleton Crew” by Stephen King

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Shōjo manga/anime, Shōjo is Japanese animation and illustration targeted at teenage girls and typically consist of EXTREMELY cheesy love stories.

What’s your favorite junk food?


If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Harriet Tubman

Who do you admire most?

My mother

What’s playing on your iPod?

My music ranges from Judy Kuhn’s “Colors of the Wind” (a song from the Disney film “Pocahontas”) to A$AP Rocky’s “Angels”. But my current favorite artist is J. Cole.

What three things you would bring with you if you were stuck on a deserted island?

A machete, a solar-powered desalination machine and sunscreen.

Wellington Garden Club hosts garden tour

April 4, 2016 on 4:11 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

Spring cleaning is for the birds, so dump the disinfectant and sweep those dust bunnies under the rug – it’s time to get outside and enjoy the wonders of the season before the summer heat bears down.

What better way to surround yourself in spring’s lushness than by exploring some of Wellington’s very own backyard oases in full bloom? Thanks to the Wellington Garden Club’s upcoming biennial garden tour, it couldn’t be easier.

“Glorious Gardens” is a day-long tour of five Wellington residences, each boasting different styles, and takes place Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.garden_tour

If you miss it, it’ll be another two years until you have another chance.

And these are not your garden-variety gardens – all five gardens were chosen by the gurus at the Wellington Garden Club for their uniqueness.

“They’re selected on the basis of variety of plant material, interesting landscape design and interesting plants that many people may not have heard of,” says garden club member and  past president Twig Morris.

If you take the tour, you’re bound to meet some very interesting people along the way. Take Anne Hlasnicek, whose garden was also featured back in 2012.

Known to locals as the “Bromeliad Queen,” Hlasnicek’s garden combines a mass of fruit trees and flowers along with a well-tended vegetable garden into a serene setting that includes homemade artwork and wildlife that surrounds the entire home.

Hlasnicek says the inspiration for her garden was to disguise her average looking home.

“The original idea was to trim the house because this house is the most ordinary, most common house in the world, bordering on homely,” says Hlasnicek as she laughs. “The only way to turn it into something a little more special was to landscape it.”

The result is what the garden club labels an artistic treasure.

Lush with a variety of flowering plants, Hlasnicek’s home is a refuge from the mass of ordinary lawns dotted with plain old palms. There are fruit trees, peaceful patches of singing bamboo, a vegetable garden and yes, even a pair of roaming Rouen ducks.

Hlasnicek hopes to inspire visitors on the tour with her garden.

“I hope visitors on the tour get ideas to take home,” says Hlasnicek. “That’s what I do when I look at other people’s gardens. I hope they get solutions to problems that every garden has.”

Hlasnicek’s love of digging around and puttering with plants started in her home state of New Jersey. Like many club members, when she moved to Florida, everything she thought she knew about gardening changed.

“The seasons are completely turned around down here,” says Hlasnicek, who had to relearn what to grow and when.

The tours are self-guided on average-sized properties and Hlasnicek, along with the four other garden owners, will be on hand to answer questions.

Plenty of plants are also available for purchase and the tour will feature a raffle and refreshments, including water.

“Four of the five gardens are not on big estates, they’re more typical of our gated communities,” says Morris. “Once you’re at each property you can take as little or as long as you like. People can talk with the homeowners, other garden experts and others on the tour to learn about plants and how to make beautiful landscapes.”

Other gardens featured this year include:

• Backyard Haven: Small spaces are no barrier to beauty in this garden that blends Buddha Belly bamboo, orchids and a special gumbo limbo tree that will leave guests chanting “Om.”

• Sensory Delight: Known by area gardeners as the secret garden, guests will cross through the arbor entrance and follow a path of Chinese perfume trees, a dwarf ylang-ylang tree, sweet almond bush and Milky Way trees – all while experiencing nature’s own aromatherapy.

• Succulent Showcase: It’s the unique rock garden along with a showcase of succulents that give this garden its edge. Visitors will come across terraced cacti, agaves, bromeliads, kalanchoe, cassia trees, bougainvillea, Gerbera daisies, roses and Phalaenopsis orchids, along with a koi fish pond beckoning at the front door.

• Lakeside Serenity: The stars of the largest garden on the tour are the trees, with several bamboo varieties including angels mist, giant bamboo, two varieties of black bamboo, a Buddha belly and golden bamboo stretching over an acre.

Guests will also enjoy Royal Poinciana, jacaranda and a rainbow eucalyptus tree.

There is also a koi fish pond as well as beautiful parrots overlooking a peaceful lake.

“You’d be amazed how beautiful these properties are – it’s not just grass and a couple of foundation plants,” says Morris. “One garden has no grass at all, its pebbles and stepping stones are surrounded by this wonderful variety of foliage.”

There is one trait that all five gardens have in common, however – the homeowners have invested time, energy, heart, soul and plenty of sweat.

“All of these gardens have been designed by the homeowners, some with advice from professionals – but they are not professionally landscaped properties,” says Morris.

Which is one of the purposes of the garden club: a gathering of enthusiasts who guide each other.

The Wellington Garden Club was established in 1982 to educate members – most of whom, like Hlasnicek, had gardens up north and moved down south only to find that gardening was very different here.

“We try to teach members and the general public the proper use of pesticides and how to use natural things instead of chemicals,” says Morris. “We go to different wildlife places or garden places. It’s more social, but it’s all still education.”

The biennial garden tour is one of the club’s most popular events and raises money to support programs including youth garden club programs, scholarships for environmental youth camps, Habitat for Humanity landscaping and community projects and college scholarships for horticulture and environmental studies.

Tickets are $30 on the day of the event, but can be purchased in advanced for $25.

“It’s our single biggest fund-raiser,” says Morris. “It’s a big undertaking.”

Garden Tour Information:

TOUR DATE: Saturday, April 9.

HOURS: The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

ADVANCE TICKETS: Advance tickets may be purchased at a discounted price of $25 until April 8 online atwellingtongardenclub.org.

Tickets may also be purchased at Amelia’s Smarty Plants, 1515 N. Dixie Hwy. in Lake Worth.

DAY OF ADMISSION: On the day of the tour, tickets will be priced at $30 and will be sold only at First Baptist Church of Wellington, 12700 W. Forest Hill Blvd.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more information on the tour or the Wellington Garden Club, emailinfo@wellingtongardenclub.org.


Break from the Everyday with these Extraordinary Escapes

March 28, 2016 on 4:16 pm | In As Seen In..., PBG Lifestyle Magazine | No Comments

There’s a wonderful quote from an anonymous source: “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” Any of us who have traveled across the globe or across the country can attest to it.

It’s no secret that travel soothes the soul, but according to scientific research, travel is also good for your health. You boost your immunity by exposing your body to different antibodies from a new environment, expand your mind by exploring new cultures, and keep fit by schlepping your bags and running after planes, trains and automobiles. It all does a body good.

If you’re looking for a great escape but don’t know where to start, the following list will provide you with destinations both near and far that not only delight, but downright dazzle – and we’ve even thrown in a trusted source to guide you on your journey.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there.

The Inn on Fifth
699 Fifth Avenue S, Naples
(888) 403-8778 | www.innonfifth.com

In real estate, they say that location isn’t everything – it’s the only thing. The same is true of the Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites; you’re in the heart of all the fun with 32 restaurants, 53 shops, the theater and the beach all just a hop, skip and jump away.

The Inn on Fifth is staying ahead of the Joneses by constantly reinventing themselves. New executive chef David Nelson aims to do that in the kitchen by matching the ambience of Avenue5 to the excitement that appears on your plate. The Inn also boasts a newly renovated 3,600-square-foot pool deck, and if that’s not relaxing enough, head up to the third floor and find Shangri-La at the award-winning Spa on Fifth, now with a completely redesigned interior and luxurious new treatment options, offering something for “every body.”

It’s no wonder that the Inn on Fifth’s Club Level Suites have once again earned a four-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide.

Park Hyatt Mallorca
Balearic Islands, Spain
+34 871 81 1234 | mallorca.park.hyatt.com

Park Hyatt, known for its sophisticated elegance and luxury all over the world, is set to dip its toe deep into the Mediterranean with a new resort in Spain, the Park Hyatt Mallorca, opening this spring in Spain’s scenic Balearic Islands.

As the first Park Hyatt Resort in Europe, Park Hyatt Mallorca features a 24-hour fitness center, wellness center and spa that offers signature treatments using therapies inspired by local minerals, fruits and vegetables. Guests can also enjoy alpine walking, horseback trekking, on- and off-road cycling and deep-sea fishing.

Being a member of the Grupo Cap Vermell enables Park Hyatt Mallorca guests access to the facilities of the adjacent country club, which include a sports field, tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a nearby beach club.

Dining will be an exotic experience, as a range of cuisines are presented in a village square setting. Dishes are prepared using the freshest local ingredients, sustainably caught fish, free-range poultry and farm-grown vegetables.(Photos provided by Park Hyatt Mallorca)

The Gates Hotel Key West
3824 N Roosevelt Blvd., Key West
(305) 320-0930 | www.gateshotelkeywest.com

If you’re looking for an effortless island getaway paired with an authentic Key West experience, look no further than The Gates Hotel Key West.

The Keys has long been known for its laidback, beachy atmosphere, and this ambience carries over to The Gates; it will feel less like you’re checking into a hotel and more like staying at a friend’s house, minus the meddlesome roommates.

Enjoy that home-away-from-home feeling as The Gates’ friendly staff steer you in the right direction, right off the beaten path. The hotel staff, all Key West residents, can provide some insider info and access to the best places that are uniquely Key West.

However, you really never have to leave the property to have a good time, as Rum Row, the hotel’s very own pool bar, creates its own magic fueled by drink specials and live local musicians. Then saunter up to The Blind Pig, the hotel’s onsite food truck, for a bite of “Conch fusion” cuisine inspired by the Keys’ Cuban, Bahamian, Caribbean and Floridian roots.

Palm Beach Gardens Travel Leaders
11360 N Jog Rd. Bldg. A, Suite 102, PBG
(561) 694-9696 | www.travelleaders.com/pbgfl

Palm Beach Gardens Travel Leaders performs miracles daily by transforming those few precious vacation days into uniquely tailored adventures, and in doing so, creating a treasure trove of memories.

“I personally specialize in love, adventure, romance and rejuvenation,” said Beverly Kelly, PBGTL’s honeymoon & destination wedding specialist. “Helping people escape everyday life for the perfect honeymoon, destination wedding, anniversary trip, spa or friends getaway doesn’t seem like work.”

This family-run business has been making travelers’ dreams come true since 1988 with the mission of taking the unwanted surprises out of travel and giving their clients peace of mind.

“It’s taking the extra step throughout the entire process that ensures our clients have great vacation experiences.”

For nearly 28 years, Palm Beach Gardens Travel Leaders has been designing custom vacations for ambitious globetrotters who want to explore the four corners of the earth as well as those planning family fun at Disney.

“The journeys we create for our clients are personal,” said Kelly. “We make them uniquely theirs.”

To continue reading this story please purchase the magazine. It can be ordered online or picked up at a retail location near you.

Loop the Lake co-chair overcame adversity, now helps others

January 27, 2016 on 4:45 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments


Acreage resident Liz Cayson speaks from experience when it comes to overcoming adversity.

This past June, the 45-year-old Acreage resident was honored with the 2015 YWCA Grace Dodge Award at the YWCA of Palm Beach County’s Purse & Passion luncheon at the Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach.

“I was surprised,” said Cayson. “I was invited to the luncheon but I didn’t realize that I was going to receive the award.”

Each year the award is presented to a Palm Beach County woman who has not only helped herself toward a better future but created opportunities that empower other women.

Loop the Lake co-chair overcame adversity, now helps others photo

It also meant facing an unpleasant reality.

“They do a lot of work with domestic violence,” said Cayson. “I had to share things that I did not want to share. I did experience some domestic violence personally.”

Growing up in the small town of Pahokee, Cayson was the only girl in a family of five children being raised by her father who worked as a welder at Osceola Farms and the U.S. Sugar Corporation.

Loop the Lake co-chair overcame adversity, now helps others photo

“When I was 9 my mother moved away. Unfortunately she had alcohol issues so my father ended up raising five kids on his own,” said Cayson.

“We lived happily. I had a normal childhood other than not having a mother.”

Cayson watched as her father become a strong patriarch not only to her own family, but to a community.

“Everybody that came into town he would find them a job, or food or whatever they needed. He would help out, he instilled that in us — we needed to give. I really believe that it’s better to give than receive. I really gravitated to that.”

“We learned so much from him, what he did made us happy. I was so happy, I was always the happy kid. We had good neighbors, everybody knew every everyone. They helped us, we never had any major issues growing up. It was a happy little town.”

During her high school years, life took a turn.

“I quit school and got married right out of high school,” said Cayson. “I didn’t finish my last year and had two boys and ended up divorcing when my kids were little, there were some issues with domestic violence with my ex-husband, but I persevered and went back to school, raised my kids on my own out there in the Glades.”

Cayson graduated from Barry University with a bachelor’s of science in public administration. She went on to receive her master’s in organizational leadership from Palm Beach Atlantic University and is working on her Ph.D. in health services from Walden University hoping to finish by December.

It’s no coincidence that she chose a career based on helping people.

“I started off working for the health department in health education – the majority of my career. I’ve been with the Health Care District for 21 years and counting.”

Today Cayson is married to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Trevor Cayson and is a government relations specialist at the Health Care District.

Cayson spends a lot of time serving the community in organizations including the Palm Beach County Commission’s Citizen Advisory Board on Health & Human Services and Emergency Medical Services, the Pahokee Rotary Club and the Belle Glade Lions Club.

Cayson also serves on the board of the Boynton Beach-based Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County and has been a board member since 2010. She is co-chair of Loop the Lake for Literacy one of the coalition’s annual ‘fun’raisers. The cycling event at Port Mayaca shows off one of her hometown’s natural beauties, Lake Okeechobee. Bicyclists can choose to do either a 14-, 34-, 68- or 115-mile ride. Last year the event raised $85,000. This year’s goal $90,000.

“Last year I did the 14-mile but it felt like 34,” said Cayson. “I am a native of Pahokee but I have never had been out on the lake that far riding. It’s joyful, peaceful a beautiful ride.”

For more information about the Loop the Lake cycling event on Feb. 6 visitwww.literacypbc.org or call 561-279-9103.


What are you reading now?

“The Light in the Ruins” by Chris Bohjalian, the Read Together Palm Beach County 2016 book.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching “The Big Bang Theory” with my husband.

What’s you favorite junk food?

French fries

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

Ironically, Donald Trump.

Who do you admire most?

My father, Antonio Fernandez

What’s playing on your iPod?

A mixture of country, ‘80 to ‘90s and Spanish music.

What three things you would bring with you if you were stuck on a deserted island?

My iPhone, a good novel and my lipstick!

What is your favorite novie?

“You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

Who is your favorite actor?

Denzel Washington

Supplying the teacher

January 26, 2016 on 5:05 pm | In As Seen In..., PBG Lifestyle Magazine | No Comments


Michelle's-blog-310The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County knows that sometimes, an apple for the teacher is just not enough, so they dug deep and came up with a way to help.

The Foundation recently opened their first pop-up store, Red Apple Supplies at Rosenwald Elementary in South Bay. The store is in the business of supplying teachers of Title 1 schools with the things they so desperately need to do their jobs – for free.


“When the Foundation was surveying teachers prior to our visit, we were devastated to learn that many teachers scrap entire lessons or projects due to lack of supplies,” said Laura Bessinger-Morse, program officer for the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. “Classrooms simply didn’t have what they needed to do the work. We heard stories about children who fight over pencils because there aren’t enough to go around.”

Teachers have the opportunity to shop, but nobody pays because all of the items are donated. The entire system operates through a network of partnerships, fundraising, volunteerism and support from the community. According to Bessinger-Morse, in a few years Red Apple may provide millions of dollars in support to Palm Beach County’s highest needs classrooms.

“We will continue the mobile operation to Rosenwald and Canal Point Elementary Schools in the Glades area so those teachers don’t have to cross the county to shop,” said Bessinger-Morse. “But our two other pilot schools, Roosevelt and UB Kinsey Elementary Schools, will be able to visit our new store location on Florida Avenue.”

The recently acquired facility on Florida Avenue in West Palm Beach will open for shopping days with their partner schools this spring. The goal is to be able to serve six to eight schools by the end of this school year.

Bessinger-Morse said that teachers are giving Red Apple an A+.

“Once teachers understood what the Education Foundation was providing, they told us this store is a game-changer,” said Bessinger-Morse. “They just want their students to be able to concentrate on learning – and not come to class worried about borrowing supplies or nervous to ask for a pencil.”

For more information, visit www.educationfoundationpbc.org or call (561) 434-7303.

Meet Wellington’s own paperback writer

October 31, 2015 on 4:19 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

The visitor was escorted through Florida State Prison’s first set of thick steel bars. One by one, the heavy metal doors swung open and then clanged loudly shut behind him.

He finally was deposited inside a small interrogation room with one small window. There he waited to meet the convicted serial killer.

Silence soon gave way to the sound of chains being dragged along the floor and some rustling with the door handle. The killer peered through the window to capture a glimpse of the waiting visitor.

In entered Gerard John Schaefer Jr., imprisoned in 1973 for murders he committed as a Martin County Sheriff’s deputy.patrick_kendrick-660x330

“The door opened and Schaefer shuffled in and extended his cuffed hands to greet me,” says author and Wellington resident Patrick Kendrick. “I took his hands in mine – they were pale and cold and I couldn’t help but imagine the many lives they’d taken. I had to push the thoughts away to continue with my task.”

Kendrick’s task was writing a book about Schaefer’s case, finally finishing the 700-plus page manuscript after years of research. As it turned out, Schaefer didn’t take very kindly to the finished product and sued Kendrick from prison until he was murdered.

“As a result, I promised my wife I wouldn’t write non-fiction anymore,” recalls Kendrick. “However, I took out that manuscript the other day and I’m thinking about breaking that promise.”

Schaefer would, however, turn up years later in another work of Kendrick’s, closely resembling the main character from his second novel, “Extended Family.”

With nearly 30 years working as a firefighter in South Florida, Kendrick has seen his own share of real-life horror, being called out on everything from accidents to crime scenes.

“There were fires, shootings, stabbings, assaults and vehicles mangled in 10-car pileups,” says Kendrick. “I started writing about those experiences as a catharsis. Newspapers loved them so I began doing freelance writing on my days off from the fire department. I was published in the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentineland Miami Herald. Then I branched out into national magazines like Reader’s Digest and fire service magazines, and finally to writing fiction.”

To date, Kendrick – who along with his wife Lisa have two teenage sons, Cooper and Jackson – has published four books, all thrillers. His first, “Papa’s Problem,” which put famed author Ernest Hemingway right in the middle of a murder investigation, was a Bronze Medal winner in the genre fiction category of the Florida Book Awards in 2008.

Kendrick followed that up with “Extended Family” in 2012 and “Acoustic Shadows” in 2015.

One common thread running through Kendrick’s first three novels is graphic violence. That changed with the publication of Kendrick’s fourth novel last month, “The Savants,” his first Young Adult book.

“After winning the Florida Book Award for ‘Papa’s Problem,’ I promised my two boys, who were just six and 12 at the time, that I would write something that they could read,” says Kendrick.

“While there’s violence in ‘The Savants,’ there is also a very positive message about accepting and believing in people who are different from you,” says Kendrick.

How does Kendrick come up with his story lines? Kendrick’s gut-o-meter tells him that he’s onto something when he absolutely has to write it down, as illustrated with the genesis of “Extended Family.”

“I was reading Schaefer’s diary and I was also watching “60 Minutes” about a doctor who, when he was in college, went to several sperm donation clinics,” says Kendrick. “He was exactly what they wanted: smart, Ivy League guy, good family medical history, affluent, good looks. So he donated his sperm to all these clinics and ended up having dozens of children.

“Some of these offspring started contacting him years later and a lot of them had become doctors, like 70 out of 100. So, I started thinking if behavior can be passed on, what if he wasn’t a doctor? What if he was a serial killer? I couldn’t get that idea out of my head.”

“Acoustic Shadows,” Kendrick’s third book, was inspired by the Sandy Hook shootings. “I thought, what if one of the teachers had a gun? What if these shootings weren’t random acts of violence?” says Kendrick.

Kendrick’s fourth book, “The Savants,” came from watching a documentary about these special people who have extraordinary gifts of genius but they often have difficulty fitting into society.

“I thought what if they could get past their challenges and work as a team? They wouldn’t be burdened with conventional thinking and that was exciting to me,” he says.

Kendrick’s fifth book will be the result of subcontracting work he’s performed with the Department of Defense, training soldiers in special rescue operations. One of those missions took him to a special training ground in Muskatatuck, Indiana.

The facility happens to be the home to one of America’s most haunted places, the now defunct Muscatatuck State Mental Hospital.

“It will be my first attempt at a ghost story,” says Kendrick. “I worked there training the army a couple summers ago and I can assure you it is haunted.”

Kendrick continues, “Truly one of the creepiest places you could ever go. It’s a place where I believe I actually saw a ghost and I don’t usually follow paranormal ideas.”

And what will his next book be titled?

“I don’t have a title yet but the main character will be a chief warrant officer assigned to watch for terrorist activity during a training exercise and he finds the real terror is there in the mental hospital,” says Kendrick.

One can only imagine the fun Kendrick will have scarring up those ideas.

To learn more about Kendrick, go online to talesofpatrickkendrick.com.

Need to make a difference led former corrections officer to teaching

October 1, 2015 on 1:10 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Terreca Mincey-Walkes, 39

Award-winning teacher Terreca Mincey-Walkes grew up in Pahokee, graduated from Pahokee High School and was Miss Pahokee 1994, so there was no question where she was going to bring her skills when she decided to become a teacher.

“I wanted to come back and instill my pride in the students,” said Mincey-Walkes.

Mincey-Walkes began her teaching career at Pahokee Middle High in 2008 as an ESE (Exceptional Student Education) teacher. In 2010, she became an Intensive Reading teacher, but the 39-year-old, Canal Point resident actually honed some of her skills working as a corrections officer at Martin Correctional facility in Indiantown.

Terreca Mincey-Walkes with author James Patterson, who visited her class in December 2013 and invited her and 12 students to lunch at his home in Palm Beach.

Terreca Mincey-Walkes with author James Patterson, who visited her class in December 2013 and invited her and 12 students to lunch at his home in Palm Beach.

“I was a corrections officer for ten years, seeing all of the young people coming in to the prison system, I just wanted a change. I wanted to be more of a positive influence to the young people coming up. I wanted to show them they could be better than what the system had for them.”

Mincey-Walkes had originally pursued a degree in elementary education, but then became involved in corrections. She also worked with kids, serving as a youth facility counsellor at a private facility affiliated with the Department of Juvenile Justice. Later she went back to Barry University to get her bachelor’s.

Her time spent working with prisoners gives her an almost sixth sense when it comes to kids and trouble, she said.

“I attempt to take the students that are labeled trouble makers under my wing and devote more time and attention to them. I try to get them to love to read. If they can learn to love to read I think that can deter negative interactions in the community.”

Her commitment to her students didn’t go unnoticed and Principal Michael Aronson nominated her for the Scholastic Outstanding Educator award.

“That’s how my name got in the pool,” said Mincey-Walkes. “It’s based on your students growth in Lexile scores, which measures reading ability, for the year. A lot of my students showed a large amount of growth in the Read 180 Program, which is a program for struggling readers. It helps them build fluidity, monitors their comprehension and tracks their Reading Counts Points, which they get by reading independently, book on their Lexile level.”

This past June, Mincey-Walkes was named a 2015 Scholastic Outstanding Educator. There are only four winners nationwide – one reading award each for an elementary, middle and high school teacher and another overall for math.

Mincey-Walkes got to spend four days at the Atlanta Marriot attending the Read 180 and System 44 Professional Learning Strand at the 2015 Model Schools Conference. She also received $1,200 and a Read 180 Xtra Collection for her classroom.

Mincey-Walkes said that she’s all about celebrating success so she used the money to spoil the hardworking kids with a pizza party and some incentives to keep reading – gift cards to those with the biggest leaps in Lexile Scores.

“You have to show kids plenty of love,” said Mincey-Walkes. “That’s one thing that helps to deter them from negativity, letting them know someone cares for them. As a teacher we’re there with them half the day. I make sure my kids know that every day. I’m conscious of that.”


What’s on your nightstand?

I am currently reading “Money Hungry” by Sharon G. Flake and “The Maximum Ride” series by James Patterson with my book club students.

What’s your favorite book of all time and who is your favorite author?

My favorite book of all time is “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett; my favorite author is Sister Souljah

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I enjoy sea glass hunting because of the thrill of finding unique and antique pieces of glass. I often feel guilty because of the hours of alone time and the serene beach setting.

What’s your favorite junk food?

I love the fried pickles from Buffalo Wild Wings.

If you could have dinner with anyone – who would it be?

If she was still with us today, I would have dinner with my mother. She was always making us laugh with a joke of the day. Oh my, such fond memories!

Who do you admire most?

My father is who I admire the most. His work ethics, dedication to family and values, helped to mold me into the person I am today.

What’s playing on your iPod?

I love gospel. Yolanda Adams is one of my favorite artists. I feel blessed when I hear her words of encouragement and praises of inspiration.

What three things you would bring with you if you were stuck on a deserted island?

A flint, water, a spile.

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