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Literacy is personal for Grown Up Spelling Bee participant

September 10, 2015 on 10:24 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Amanda Lundergan, 32

Attorney Amanda Lundergan has faced her fair share of pressure as managing attorney for Ice Legal in Royal Palm Beach.

Attorney Amanda Lundergan is a board member of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach county and a participant in the organization’s annual Great Grown Up Spelling Bee, which this year is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Attorney Amanda Lundergan is a board member of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach county and a participant in the organization’s annual Great Grown Up Spelling Bee, which this year is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Lundergan has argued hundreds of foreclosure, complex litigation cases, trials, depositions and appeals. At age 26 she was one of the youngest attorneys to argue a case before the Florida Supreme Court. Soon she’ll face another, somewhat more manageable challenge – The Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County’s 24th Great Grown Up Spelling Bee which will take place on Oct. 15, at the Harriet Himmel Theater at CityPlace in West Palm Beach.

“Some teams take it very seriously,” said Lundergan. “The first time it was pretty intimidating when we went in there.”

A veteran of the Bee, Lundergan will be back for her third try.

“Every year we just hope that we’re not the first team eliminated,” said Lundergan. “If we’re not the first team eliminated we know we’ve made a good showing — we’re good.”

For the 32-year-old Lake Worth resident, who also sits on the board of the Boynton Beach-based coalition, literacy is something she takes personally.

“When I was in first grade I struggled with reading and almost wasn’t moved on to second grade,” said Lundergan. “That summer I worked with a tutor and skipped two grade levels in reading. Ever since, reading has become a passion not just in my profession but my free time. Being able to provide that opportunity to families and individuals who may not otherwise have the access is really a wonderful thing.”

Lundergan grew up in Corning, N.Y., south of the Finger Lakes. She received a B.A. in political science from Saint John Fisher College, graduating magna cum laude in 2005. She earned her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law, graduating with a certificate in environmental law. She also received a certificate for volunteering over 125 hours of community service to Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity.

She joined Ice Legal in 2010.

“What drew me to Ice Legal is that they’re very much into giving back to the community.”

Lundergan took that spirit and ran, spearheading the firm’s pro bono efforts by holding an open house on a Saturday. The firm interviewed people all day and took on 25 cases, gratis.

“During the height of the foreclosures, I would be in court and saw a lack of representations. The majority of the people couldn’t afford an attorney. They were getting railroaded.”

Representatives of the firm would approach people at court on the spot and offer free service.

“We’d literally have five minutes to get up to speed and be prepared to represent them.”

Lundergan was fresh out of law school when Ice let her argue a preeminent foreclosure case, of Pino v. Bank of New York Mellon, before the Florida Supreme Court.

“It was the first oral argument I ever did. Tom (Thomas Erskine Ice), the owner of the firm thought I’d do a good job. I had argued hundred of trials and motions. I got to run with it. It was a phenomenal experience. I was terrified. When we walked out the stairs were covered with reporters.”

Like a scene from a great court drama, Lundergan walked in to a packed courtroom and faced the opposition, ten lawyers.

“It was a David versus Goliath atmosphere, I was hoping I wouldn’t throw up,” she said.

Recently promoted from administrative attorney to managing attorney, Lundergan focuses mainly on appeals and civil litigation.

For more information on the Grownup Spelling Bee and The Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach visit, www.literacypbc.org; or call 561-279-9103.

Q&A

What are you reading now?

I read a lot of highly technical documents at work so at home I tend to read for fun. Right now I’m reading James Patterson’s “Women’s Murder Club” series, I’m on book five.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I am a terrible flier. But I love the show, “When Plane’s Crash.” I can’t get enough of it. It cannot be healthy for my fear of flying.

What’s you favorite junk food?

It’s really not a junk food but I love pickles. It’s a weird family trait. We all do. We actually gift jars of pickles to one another as presents. Last year I bought everyone pickle ornaments for our Christmas trees. My family is going to be so embarrassed I’m telling people this.

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

My family! They are all in upstate New York and I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like so having them around for dinner would be great. Plus I wouldn’t have to cook.

Who do you admire most?

I admire people who are really passionate about what they do. You can always tell because they light up when they talk about it; whether it be their career or a hobby.

What music do you listen to?

I listen to my parents’ generation of music, CCR, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I saw the Steve Miller Band not too long ago, which was a great concert but my boyfriend and I were probably the youngest people there.

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

Sunscreen, a good book and a toothbrush. I would go crazy not being able to brush my teeth.

What is your favorite movie?

“Fried Green Tomatoes”

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

People think I’m an only child, probably because I grew up as an only child, but they’d be surprised to know I’m really an older sister to my brother Riley and sister Sarah who are both in elementary school!

Animal-loving couple volunteers time to help shelter animals

August 27, 2015 on 3:07 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments
MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS: Lorrie Browne, 46; Tim Chance, 43

Lorrie Browne and Tim Chance of Wellington run a business together and keep busy with their four furry friends — 12-year-old Weimaraners Roxie and Gunther; Cash, 3, a border collie mix; and foster dog, Tasha, 7, a mixed breed — all while spending time volunteering for Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control.

Animal lovers Lorrie Browne and Tim Chance volunteer with Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control. With them is foster dog Tasha.

Animal lovers Lorrie Browne and Tim Chance volunteer with Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control. With them is foster dog Tasha.

The couple met online on match.com 12 years ago. Chance lived in Orlando and Browne in Wellington. After talking on the phone for two months, they felt they knew each other pretty well.

After that things began to slide into place.

“I had been running my business (Lorrie Brown Interiors) for 10 years when I met him,” said Browne. “He was in sales when we got married then he went back to grad school. When he was done my business had grown so much.”

Browne needed a hand, and Chance was the perfect applicant.

“I’d never found anyone that I thought would add value and connect with my clients until I met Tim and he was a natural,” said Browne.

It also seemed to fit their different personality types. Browne’s more the introverted artist working quietly in their home office, handling client relations, finance and the design. While the more extroverted Chance handles vendor relations, project management and customer service.

But what may have sealed the deal was a certain animal attraction. Browne knew Chance was the one when he passed the Emma test.

“I had a Weimaraner named Emma I had gotten before I met Tim, the only guy I ever dated that she loved, so I knew he was good,” said Browne. “When she passed away suddenly seven years ago, the house was way to quiet. Tim gave me the space to see when I would get a new dog.”

Together they adopted another Weimaraner, Roxie, from a puppy mill in Kentucky who would have been euthanized if she not been rescued. Apparently she was no longer a productive breeder.

This proved to be an eye-opening experience that prompted the couple to learn more about animal welfare and they decided to become more involved. Browne spent the next three years volunteering at a local limited admission shelter learning about rescue. She helped introduced an ordinance in Wellington that banned the retail sale of dogs and cats that passed in January 2014.

Last year Browne began volunteering at Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control and Chance joined her in January. The couple, along with other dedicated volunteers helped make a play group program that had been newly implemented at the shelter a more regular part of the dogs’ enrichment.

“It’s a program started by Aimee Sadler called Dogs Playing for Life (dogsplayingforlife.com), said Browne. “Basically the concept is that if you let shelter dogs play together they’ll learn socialization, they’ll burn energy off, they’ll be less anxious — it helps them become more adoptable.”

Chance has become such a believer, he went onto become a play group leader and is now helping the folks at Peggy Adams develop play groups there.

“The benefits we’ve seen in the last seven months at Animal Care & Control is really incredible,” said Chance. “You’ll see a dog that is shy and unsure of himself and after two to three play groups then becomes very adoptable.”

Chance explained that some dogs that are considered to be a little too aggressive for play group are actually isolated but in an area where they can safely watch the play group. Then they are brought into play group, where other dogs basically teach socialization skills to their peers. Because of this, somewhat anxious, anti-social dogs can become socialized and therefore adoptable – a life saved.

The couple has also become Adoption Ambassadors where they take a dog from Peggy Adams and bring it into their family, further socializing the dog. Chance said that it speeds up the adoption process. When the couple takes it out in public places, the dog wears a vest letting people know that it’s up for adoption.

For Browne it’s a win-win. They not only find a home for the dog, but usually it’s through some connection, through friends or on social media.

“We get to choose the home,” said Browne. “We’re having a conversation with the adopters, meeting them in person and allowing them to interact with our foster dog, sharing their habits, their personality. The last two dogs were adopted by friends of friends. Afterward they friended us on Facebook and we get to see the dog in the new home.”

So far they’ve found homes for three dogs in three months.

The couple’s latest effort is a big push to help make the Second Annual Countdown 2 Zero event achieve its goal of being the biggest one day adoption event in the County – the goal: finding homes for 500 pets – dogs, cats and guinea pigs.

The free event that takes place on Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.

Countdown 2 Zero brings together dozens of local animal rescues to save lives. Last year’s event found homes for 300 animals.

For more information about the event, visit www.countdown2zero.org.

Tim Chance

Q&A

What are you reading now?

“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Listening to ’70s soft rock

What’s you favorite junk food?

Chocolate chip cookies

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

Steve Martin

Who do you admire most?

Malala Yousafzai

What’s playing on your iPod?

Acid jazz classics

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

Water, food, tent

Lorrie Browne

Q&A

What are you reading?

“The Road to Character” by David Brooks

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens.”

What’s you favorite junk food?

Chocolate chip cookies

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

My grandfathers who both passed before I was born.

Who do you admire most?

The Dalai Lama

What’s playing on your iPod?

George Ezra station on Pandora

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

Rope, flint stone, knife

Fire-rescue veteran turns to CrossFit to unlock his, others’ potential

July 2, 2015 on 7:00 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

What do superheroes do when they take off their capes? They fight for other superheroes. That’s what firefighter/paramedic, John Lupoli a 13-year veteran of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, plans on doing this weekend when he kicks off his fitness challenge War Games to benefit veterans charities 22 Until None and I Am Adaptive.

John and wife Ellie. ACES (Athletics, Community Service and Education) Student Leadership presented John with an award for Servant Leadership and Patriotism in April.

John and wife Ellie. ACES (Athletics, Community Service and Education) Student Leadership presented John with an award for Servant Leadership and Patriotism in April.

War Games will take placeSunday at the Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, and pits the four branches of the military against each other in a CrossFit-style competition. Civilians can also get in on the fun participating in their own divisions: Civilian Elite Athletes, Average Joe’s and Adaptive Athletes.

John and wife Ellie. ACES (Athletics, Community Service and Education) Student Leadership presented John with an award for Servant Leadership and Patriotism in April.

The prize: bragging rights and dollars earned for a two good causes.

“22 Until None’s mission is to raise awareness and diminish and eliminate soldier suicides,” said Lupoli. “We lost 4,000 in Iraq. We’re losing 22 a day to suicide, that’s over 8,000 a year.”

I Am Adaptive helps people with prosthetics, neurological deficits, traumatic brain injuries or paralysis gain inclusion into all aspects of sporting ventures.

John Lupoli working out at CrazyTrain CrossFit, West Palm Beach.

Lupoli himself comes from a long line of superheroes stemming back three generations, including his dad, John Edward Lupoli Sr., who served in the Navy during the Vietnam conflict; his grandfather, Philip Francis Tighe, a chaplain and medic during World War II; and his great-grandfather, George Howard MacDonald, quartermaster second class on the USS Isla de Cuba during the Spanish-American War. His father’s cousin, Albert Francis Lupoli, a sergeant in the Army, was killed in action.

Lupoli has a deep respect for the armed forces.

“People take this country for granted,” he said. “They have no idea the freedom we were born into that was not given to us without a cost. To maintain this freedom requires sacrifice. That’s what these guys do for us.”

By day, the mild-mannered Lupoli, 40, spends time taking care of the community; in his off time, he’s committed to his gym, CrazyTrain CrossFit in West Palm Beach.

“If I’m not running calls at the fire department, I’m at the gym coaching or working on bettering the community. Any free time I have is dedicated to my amazing wife, Ellie, and two boys, Knox, 6, and Juda, 4.”

The Loxahatchee resident has always been athletic.

“I grew up in Cooper City. I attended Cooper City High School. I played football and wrestled,” he said. “I went to Florida State University where I received a BA in English literature.”

But 13 years in fire-rescue takes a toll on the body. Lupoli has suffered plenty of damage, including a herniated disk in his neck, two knee injuries, a laceration to his right eye and a heart procedure.

“CrossFit has given me my life back,” said Lupoli. “When I started doing CrossFit, it got me back in shape, restored my rage of motion, my energy level. I wanted my kids to experience that so I got my CrossFit certification.”

“I enjoyed it so much,” he said. “One day my partner, Jenny Carter, showed me a space downtown, it was so perfect. I had no intention of opening a gym.”

CrazyTrain CrossFit celebrated its first birthday in May.

“Unlocking a person’s potential and helping them find the ability to thrive is empowering,” Lupoli said. “Inside each and every one of us is a beast that is caged by frail and fragile bars.”

For more information visit, http://crazytraincrossfit.com/

 

 

Q&A

What is your favorite book of all time?

Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” or the Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Exotic tropical gardening. “When I’m home, I want to feel like I am somewhere else.”

Who do you admire most?

I’m a huge fan of Elon Musk. He builds platforms. The difference between a dream and a goal is “doing something about it.”

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

Leonardo da Vinci

What three places do you want to travel to?

Cinque Terre, Italy; Madagascar; Bali

Glades Central valedictorian eyes politics as way to help community

June 11, 2015 on 3:47 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

Karen Benitez has been on a roll of firsts lately.

As valedictorian at Glades Central High School, Benitez is first in her class, which came as no surprise as she was notified in her junior year that she held the top spot.

Karen Benitez is the 2015 valedictorian of Glades Central High School.

Karen Benitez is the 2015 valedictorian of Glades Central High School.

“When I found out I was really the valedictorian, I did feel a sense of relief,” said Benitez. “I was so worried about being passed that I even considered taking a few extra AP classes online.”

Benitez and the salutatorian, Oralia Monroy, were the first in the school to receive Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program diplomas. AICE was implemented at Glades during her sophomore year.

Besides tough AICE classes Benitez had a mix of Advanced Placement courses and was dual -enrolled at Palm Beach State College, earning 13 credits by taking four classes. She finished with a 3.86 GPA and an HPA of 4.96.

Along with a rigorous academic schedule, Benitez managed to squeeze in some extra circular fun. She was active in student government serving as president for both her junior and senior class. She was a member of the National Honor Society, and participated in the Leadership Academy Migrant Program which offers leadership development and services for students in the migrant community. She was on the yearbook committee, and a participant of POPS – the Professional Opportunity Program for Students, teaching students basic job hunting and life skills like budgeting money.

This summer the 18-year-old Belle Glade resident will mark another first when she becomes the first in her family to attend college.

Benitez applied and was accepted to the University of Florida, University of South Florida and Florida State University. She chose FSU in Tallahassee, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the state capital. She sees this as an opportunity to learn about government and maybe garner an internship that will help her achieve her ultimate goal – congresswoman.

“I love American government and history. I want to go into politics after I get my undergraduate degree, attend law school and become an attorney.”

Benitez knows where she comes from, and understands that helping her community means changing immigration laws.

“In my town I hear stories about illegal immigrants going to the local gas station and cashing their checks,” said Benitez. “Thieves come in, they know they’re illegal and they rob them. They feel they have no rights, they’re scared of the police. I feel so bad, I wish I could do something. As a congresswoman, maybe I can find a way to help.”

Benitez’ own parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico when they were 15 years old. She watched both work their way up. Her mother Maria Camacho worked in the fields, today she’s a custodian. Her father Jose Benitez has worked in the sugar cane industry for 20 years.

Benitez is well aware of how others see Belle Glade.

“Many people outside my town see it as a gateway to the NFL. Sports are a big thing, they don’t value academics. I wanted to show people that yes, I am from Belle Glade, we are more than sports, my town creates more than sugar cane and NFL athletes. I wanted to inspire my fellow graduates and tell people outside our town that we’re much more than that.”

At graduation, she spoke from her heart about her community, peppering the commencement address with the word potential.

“Not many people from my town believe that they can be someone. They feel stuck, but I wanted to inspire my community that they do have potential to grow and succeed, all they have to do is recognize and use their potential. Belle Glade has the potential be as successful as any other big city such as West Palm, New York, Miami, Los Angeles.”

Q&A

What are you reading now?

“The Orange Houses” by Paul Griffin

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching reality TV shows

What’s your favorite junk food?

Cheetos Hot Fries

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

Liam Neeson

Who do you admire the most?

My mother. She is a very hardworking, intelligent and independent woman.

What’s playing on my iPod?

I listen to just about everything. Hip-hop, rap, country, pop, Latin etc. However, my favorite type of music is hip-hop.

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

A multi-tool pocket knife, matches, and a tent.

Wedding Day Bliss

June 8, 2015 on 9:06 am | In As Seen In..., PBG Lifestyle Magazine | No Comments

If there are visions of big white dresses dancing in your head, you must be in the throes of wedding planning. Typically the five-hour expensaganza takes months to plan and is sadly over in just the blink of an eye. It’s bound to discombobulate any blushing bride.wedding-day-bliss

Keep calm and carry on – PBG Lifestyle is more helpful than your diva tribe of bridesmaids. We’ve taken all the legwork out of wedding planning and compiled some of the best vendors around. We’ll show you who can get you camera ready with a polished-to-perfection complexion, a pearly white smile and the most breathtaking gown, while carrying just the right bouquet down the aisle – not to mention the perfect photographer, who will snap the two of you in a timeless pose that you’ll treasure forever.

Summertime is family time in Palm Beach County

June 8, 2015 on 9:02 am | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

Summertime: the living is easy and the days are longer, giving us all a little extra time. The breakneck pace that accompanies our usual mornings now slows down, the kids are out of school, there are no lunches to pack or buses to catch.summertime2015

With time now on our side we have the luxury of choosing how to spend it.

But what to do?

Palms West Monthly has unearthed some true local treasures – including some hidden gems. We hope readers find some truly fun summertime activities to spend precious family time together without putting a huge dent in the wallet.

Time management key to success for Lake Worth High co-valedictorian

June 4, 2015 on 6:08 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

The Moise family may have set a record over Lake Worth High producing the school’s last two valedictorians.

Lens Moise, co-valedictorian of Lake Worth High for 2015, played basketball for the school in his freshman, sophomore and senior years. This year the team finished as runners up in the district championship.

Lens Moise, co-valedictorian of Lake Worth High for 2015, played basketball for the school in his freshman, sophomore and senior years. This year the team finished as runners up in the district championship.

Last year Marc Moise graduated top of his class, this year his younger brother Lens was co-valedictorian, sharing the title with Chidera Nwosu, who skipped her junior year.

“They have a younger brother, Jason, and right now he’s in the top ten of his class, but he’s only in his freshman year,” said Terence X. Hart, assistant principal. “I think it’s amazing – back to back years, it could be a record.”

What are his parents, Jeannot and Marie Moise, feeding those kids?

“Just regular Haitian food like rice and beans and spinach and so forth,” said Lens Moise. “My parents are very proud,” said. “My mom tells me all the time that when she goes out to the store people see her and say, ‘hey, that’s the lady who has two valedictorian sons in consecutive years.’ That makes her very proud.”

Moise himself has a lot to be proud of finishing up with a 3.98 GPA and an 4.85 HPA. He was dual-enrolled at Palm Beach State, taking eight courses and earning 25 credit hours.

“I didn’t want to go too hard,” said the 17-year-old Lantana resident. “You’re only in high school one time.”

For this one time thing, Moise immersed himself fully, taking on tough Advanced Placement, Advanced International Certificate of Education and college classes as well as a full load of extra-circular activities including basketball during his freshman, sophomore and senior years. This year they were runners up in the district championship. He ran track in his junior year. This year he was treasurer of the Wall Street Society, a club that teaches kids about the stock market. He was also president of the Haitian Honor Society.

How did he do it? Time management.

“Basically you have to budget your time wisely,” said Moise. “You can’t spend too much time goofing off. You have to make sure you do your work first and your extra-circular activities next – basically it’s about prioritizing your life.”

Apparently it worked. Moise was accepted to Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University and Howard University. This fall, he’ll be heading to FSU in Tallahassee.

“I chose FSU because I like the campus. It’s one of the oldest, best universities in Florida,” he said.

Moise said he fell in love with the school when he took part in a winter break basketball tournament there.

“I got to see the campus … I got to see all the hills. I knew it was the place that I wanted to spend the next four years at.”

Moise plans to major in biomedical science and wants to become a physician, he’s just not sure what kind of doctor he’d like to be.

“Right now I’m leaning toward neuroscience,” he said. “There’s a whole lot we don’t understand about the brain and I want to explore that further and help people.The mind is such an enigma. We don’t understand how to find a cure for the mentally disturbed or challenged. I want to research that and one day find a cure for Alzheimer’s, cerebral palsy – illnesses like that.”

Q&A

What are you reading now?

Currently I’m reading the Bible and in the book of Romans.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is watching this forensic show called, “I (Almost) Got Away with It” – basically on how criminals escape justice but get caught in the end.

What’s you favorite junk food?

Buffalo chicken wings

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

Barack Obama

Who do you admire most?

I admire my mother the most.

What’s playing on your iPod?

I have old school rap playing like Slick Rick, Warren G, 2Pac, and Biggie.

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

My phone, my basketball, and my Bible.

Lake Worth High co-valedictorian eyes life as pediatric neurosurgeon

May 28, 2015 on 6:18 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

The police escort out of history class and down to the assistant principal’s office at Lake Worth High School might have been a little over the top for 16-year-old Chidera Nwosu.

Chidera Nwosu, the 2015 co-valedictorian of Lake Worth High School, with her awards at the Senior Awards Ceremony.

Chidera Nwosu, the 2015 co-valedictorian of Lake Worth High School, with her awards at the Senior Awards Ceremony.

“I thought I was in trouble, said Nwosu. “I was concerned. It was during history, seventh hour toward the end of the day – when I got to his office, he told us about being co-valedictorians.

Nwosu was so excited she immediately called her dad.

Co-valedictorians – Lens Carlin Moise, who finished first in their class through four years of high school; and Nwosu who did it in three years.

“In all honesty, I feel that we both deserve it,” said Nwosu. “We earned it. It was actually decided by the district and principal I believe. Since I had skipped the 11th grade and jumped into the val position, it was unfair to the young man that had been there for the entire four years.”

Nwosu finishes up with 4.0 GPA, an HPA of 4.9 and 39 college credits to her name.

Nwosu said she’ll graduate with one full year of college under her belt. She did it by being dual-enrolled at Palm Beach State College.

“I took summer classes at the college and throughout the school year I took college at night from 6 to 10 p.m. once a week. Sophomore year I worked to the max. Actually there was no time to breathe — there were college classes and Florida Virtual School (FLVS) as well as AP (Advanced Placement) classes.”

This may be why she skipped the 11th grade all together. She also skipped the third grade.

Nwosu is sure that it’s this kind of dedication and work ethic that will see her not only through undergraduate college but medical school. She wants to be a pediatric neurosurgeon.

She applied to Florida State University, University of Florida, University of Miami. As for out of state, she applied to Boston University, University of Chicago, Syracuse University and New York Institute of Technology and was accepted into all seven schools with full scholarships.

This fall, Nwosu will head south to UM.

“Actually I’ve been looking at it since my freshman year,” said Nwosu. “Their neuroscience department is remarkable – what drew me in is that you’re able to merge different college degrees. I have varied interests – neuroscience, molecular biology, microbiology, and a minor in health management and U Miami will let you merge these and let you finish in four years.”

Although one would think someone so science-oriented would be all about the left brain, in Nwosu’s case, you’d be wrong, her right brain has also taken her places.

“I prefer science,” said Nwosu. “Even my art often correlates with abstract ideas of the scientific world – but I love writing poems.”

Nwosu has had three poems published: “It is a Sin” published in Great Poems of the Western World (2014); “Tally Marks,” Eber and Wein Publishing (2014) and “A Blank Mind” which will be featured in American High School Poems, My World.

Q&A

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching re-runs of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and Bill Cosby on Youtube.

What’s you favorite junk food?

Soft baked pretzels

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

Thomas Jefferson

Who do you admire most?

My mother – Helen. She has a heart of gold.

What’s playing on your iPod?

Mr Probz … Kenny Rogers,

Indian rock, R&B.

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

Tent, non-perishable foods, an encyclopedia

Pahokee valedictorian wants to make a difference in kids’ lives

May 21, 2015 on 4:11 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

Abigail Calderon was just going through the motions of senior year at Pahokee Middle Senior High School, gearing up for graduation and meeting with her guidance counsellor for a final check in.

Abigail Calderon is the 2015 valedictorian of Pahokee Middle Senior High School.

Abigail Calderon is the 2015 valedictorian of Pahokee Middle Senior High School.

“I went in to see my guidance counsellor to see if I had all the requirements for graduation and as we were going through it, she told me the news – I knew I was at the top of the class but I didn’t know that I would be valedictorian of my class.”

The 18-year-old Belle Glade resident did it!

“I was surprised at first, but then I was very happy because I saw how much my efforts came through in the end,” Calderon said.

And this was no small effort. Calderon was part of Pahokee’s International Baccalaureate Programme, which is designed to prepare juniors and seniors for the academic rigors of college.

Calderon finished up with a GPA of 3.69 and an HPA of 4.73. Along with her challenging coursework she participated in the National Honor Society, the Spanish National Honor Society and was secretary for the Pahokee Dreamcatchers Club, an organization that takes students to local nursing homes to visit with seniors.

“I saw that this simple act brings so much joy to them,” said Calderon. “You don’t really realize until you’re in those situations — until you see the smiles on their faces from having you there.”

You might say she’s a people person. Especially little people, that’s where Calderon sees her future, making a difference in children’s lives in some way – she’s just not exactly sure which way yet.

She’s interested in two paths – either becoming a neonatal physician or elementary education.

She found that love of kids first in her own home.

“I have two younger siblings closer in age (Henry and Ashley Calderon) I’ve always cared for them and always been there and interacted with them,” said Calderon. “I think it’s really interesting and I want to make a difference in the younger generation.”

And then through doing volunteer work last summer at the Bridges at Pahokee.

“Working with kids was rewarding because I got to see them progress throughout the whole summer and it also felt very natural being in that environment,” said Calderon. “What I like about working with kids is being able to help them prosper and learn new things as well as have them get out of their comfort zone.”

Calderon will start down that path this summer when she heads to Tampa to attend college. She was accepted to University of Florida, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida and Florida State University, but chose USF.

“They offer so many programs,” said Calderon. “If there was ever a time that I was unsure of what I wanted to be, I know I could find it.”

Q&A

What book is on your nightstand?

“The Importance of Being Earnest”

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching “Once Upon a Time” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

What’s your favorite junk food?

Lays original chips and Oreos

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

Princess Diana

Who do you admire most?

My parents Juan and Manuela Calderon

What’s playing on your iPod?

It’s very diverse since I enjoy music from all time periods.

What three things would you bring with you to a deserted island?

A survival guide, a medical kit, and a trustworthy/smart companion.

5 sweet treats in Savannah

May 15, 2015 on 4:58 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

Just a hop, skip and a six-hour car ride from South Florida is heavenly Savannah, a perfect weekend getaway to a very walkable city.

Savannah is laid out with 22 squares, each surrounded by boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, museums and homes — some famous, some infamous, like the Mercer-Williams House, scene of the murder of Jim Williams’ assistant, Danny Hansford, a story made famous in John Berendt’s novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Keeping cookie lovers happy since 1924, these tiny cookies come in a variety of flavors including, Lowcountry Cheddar Biscuits, Peach Coolers, Red Velvet and Black & White packing a flavorful punch. The cookie jars are overflowing with free samples to try before you buy.

Keeping cookie lovers happy since 1924, these tiny cookies come in a variety of flavors including, Lowcountry Cheddar Biscuits, Peach Coolers, Red Velvet and Black & White packing a flavorful punch. The cookie jars are overflowing with free samples to try before you buy.

Walk the city and absorb the semi-eccentric culture, where old southern charm mixes with hip young art students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). It’s all overshadowed by the city’s haunted reputation, whispers of apparitions from a city literally built on its dead.

You can check out where Forrest Gump sat on a bench in Chippewa Square, recanting “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Kinda like Savannah.

Old Town Trolley Tours: Savannah is a walkable city, but it’s a long walk. The trolley makes a loop of 16 stops at main attractions, and you can get on and off all day. Best of all, the friendly tour guides offer interesting tidbits on all the famous places in a southern drawl so sweet and slow, you’ll crave a mint julep.

Old Town Trolly Tours: www.trolleytours.com/savannah

Jones Street: USA Today chose Jones Street as one of the Top 10 prettiest streets for a stroll. If you go, don’t miss lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room at the Wilkes House. The line starts forming around 10 a.m. and winds around the block — the wait can be more than two hours for this all-you-can-eat southern spread featuring fried chicken, sweet potato soufflé, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins, sweet tea and banana pudding.

The Wilkes House: Lunch is $20 per person and half-price for children 10 and under. Cash only. 107 West Jones St., 912-232-5997, www.mrswilkes.com

Broughton Street: Shop till you drop. Enjoy a honey tasting at the Savannah Bee Company. Try tutti frutti ice cream from the inventors of the flavor — Leopold’s Ice Cream, serving up the sweet stuff since 1919.

Savannah Bee Company: 104 W. Broughton St., 912-233-7873, www.savannahbee.com

Leopold’s Ice Cream: 212 E. Broughton St., 912-234-4442, www.leopoldsicecream.com

Go on a Ghost Tour: Savannah is one of America’s most haunted cities. Meet up in Chippewa Square and stay up late prowling the city’s most haunted haunts. Tour guides won’t disappoint with ghost stories that will give you goosebumps — some guides carry laptops to share photos, newspaper articles and sound clips. But be prepared to find out that the nice little bed & breakfast you’re staying at is also haunted.

Blue Orb Tours: 912-665-4258, www.blueorbtours.com

City Market: City Market is known as the Art & Soul of Savannah. In the Historical District, it’s a favorite destination for locals and tourists. Watch artists create works right in their galleries — more than 20 of them on two floors. Don’t miss the Savannah’s Candy Kitchen — Willy Wonka would’ve surrendered upon arrival. Step in and sample hot out-of-the-oven pralines while you watch them dip giant candy apples. Leave in a sugar haze, stumble a few doors down to Byrd’s Cookie Company — tiny cookies, big flavors from Chocolate Chip, Key Lime Coolers, Scotch Oatmeal to Jalapeño and Vidalia Onion.

Byrd’s Cookie Company: 213 W. St. Julian St., 912-233-8816, www.byrdcookiecompany.com

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen: 318 W. St. Julian St., 912-201-9501, www.savannahcandy.com

 

5 sweet treats in Savannah

May 14, 2015 on 4:00 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

Just a hop, skip and a six-hour car ride from South Florida is heavenly Savannah, a perfect weekend getaway to a very walkable city.

Spanish moss hangs thick in the oak and cypress trees overlooking E. Oglethorpe Avenue with the spring azaleas in full bloom. Contributed

Spanish moss hangs thick in the oak and cypress trees overlooking E. Oglethorpe Avenue with the spring azaleas in full bloom. Contributed

Savannah is laid out with 22 squares, each surrounded by boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, museums and homes — some famous, some infamous, like the Mercer-Williams House, scene of the murder of Jim Williams’ assistant, Danny Hansford, a story made famous in John Berendt’s novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

5 sweet treats in Savannah photo

Walk the city and absorb the semi-eccentric culture, where old southern charm mixes with hip young art students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). It’s all overshadowed by the city’s haunted reputation, whispers of apparitions from a city literally built on its dead.

You can check out where Forrest Gump sat on a bench in Chippewa Square, recanting “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Kinda like Savannah.

5 sweet treats in Savannah photo

Old Town Trolley Tours: Savannah is a walkable city, but it’s a long walk. The trolley makes a loop of 16 stops at main attractions, and you can get on and off all day. Best of all, the friendly tour guides offer interesting tidbits on all the famous places in a southern drawl so sweet and slow, you’ll crave a mint julep.

Old Town Trolly Tours: www.trolleytours.com/savannah

Jones Street: USA Today chose Jones Street as one of the Top 10 prettiest streets for a stroll. If you go, don’t miss lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room at the Wilkes House. The line starts forming around 10 a.m. and winds around the block — the wait can be more than two hours for this all-you-can-eat southern spread featuring fried chicken, sweet potato soufflé, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins, sweet tea and banana pudding.

5 sweet treats in Savannah photo

The Wilkes House: Lunch is $20 per person and half-price for children 10 and under. Cash only. 107 West Jones St., 912-232-5997, www.mrswilkes.com

Broughton Street: Shop till you drop. Enjoy a honey tasting at the Savannah Bee Company. Try tutti frutti ice cream from the inventors of the flavor — Leopold’s Ice Cream, serving up the sweet stuff since 1919.

Savannah Bee Company: 104 W. Broughton St., 912-233-7873, www.savannahbee.com

5 sweet treats in Savannah photo

Leopold’s Ice Cream: 212 E. Broughton St., 912-234-4442, www.leopoldsicecream.com

Go on a Ghost Tour: Savannah is one of America’s most haunted cities. Meet up in Chippewa Square and stay up late prowling the city’s most haunted haunts. Tour guides won’t disappoint with ghost stories that will give you goosebumps — some guides carry laptops to share photos, newspaper articles and sound clips. But be prepared to find out that the nice little bed & breakfast you’re staying at is also haunted.

Blue Orb Tours: 912-665-4258, www.blueorbtours.com

City Market: City Market is known as the Art & Soul of Savannah. In the Historical District, it’s a favorite destination for locals and tourists. Watch artists create works right in their galleries — more than 20 of them on two floors. Don’t miss the Savannah’s Candy Kitchen — Willy Wonka would’ve surrendered upon arrival. Step in and sample hot out-of-the-oven pralines while you watch them dip giant candy apples. Leave in a sugar haze, stumble a few doors down to Byrd’s Cookie Company — tiny cookies, big flavors from Chocolate Chip, Key Lime Coolers, Scotch Oatmeal to Jalapeño and Vidalia Onion.

Byrd’s Cookie Company: 213 W. St. Julian St., 912-233-8816, www.byrdcookiecompany.com

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen: 318 W. St. Julian St., 912-201-9501, www.savannahcandy.com

Santaluces valedictorian dreams of life as an editor

May 14, 2015 on 7:13 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

Shannon Lechon, loves a good book and dreams of one day becoming a editor for a publishing company, but for now the 17-year-old Boynton Beach resident’s own story is just beginning.

Shannon Lechon is the 2015 valedictorian of Santaluces High School.

Shannon Lechon is the 2015 valedictorian of Santaluces High School.

Her once upon a time began when she was called to the principal’s office at her school, Santaluces High School.

“I thought I was in trouble for something,” said Lechon. “But once I saw my other friend down there, who I knew was also in the top ten (of the graduating class), I put two and two together and figured we had gotten two spots, one and two.”

She was number one, the 2015 valedictorian.

“I was really surprised, the last time I had checked I was number three so to make the jump from three to one was a really big deal,” said Lechon.

It was a storybook ending, Lechon beating out the salutatorian by .003 of a point. Lechon said that her GPA was boosted by taking dual enrollment courses. She finishes with a GPA of 4.0 and an HPA of 5.113.

Along with a rigorous course load that included Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program courses, Lechon participated in extracurricular activities that nurtured her creative side.

She served as vice president of the National Honor Society and secretary of the Key Club. She’s also a member of the National French Honor Society, Theater Club and the Creative Writing Club, serving as its president during her sophomore year.

It was while participating in the Creative Writing Club that she discovered editing.

“We learned to critique each other’s work,” said Lechon. “Everyone would come to me. I found that I really honestly enjoyed it a lot — just as much I liked writing. I’ve read about editors online who are like the backbone of these writers and I decided that that is what I want to do.”

Participating in theater also gave her leadership experience.

“I first got involved freshman year, Theater Club is now big part of my life,” said Lechon. “I do a lot of things behind the stage — stage manager, lights, sound booth, and if anyone has a problem they come to me.”

But they won’t be coming to her for long, she’ll soon be off to college. Lechon was accepted to the University of Central Florida, Florida State University, Northeastern University in Boston and New York University. This summer she’ll head to Tallahassee to attend Florida State with a double-major goal – English language and psychology.

“Being an editor in a publishing company would be a dream come true,” said Lechon. But I know those jobs are really hard to come by so psychology is my back-up plan essentially.”

Lechon said she’s excited to explore big-city living in Tallahassee.

“It will be good to get out of the suburbs of Boynton, she said. “This is going to sound kind of weird, but it actually gets cold up there and I am really excited to have to wear a jacket.”

Q&A

What are you reading now?

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Absolutely awful horror movies. I think they’re hilarious. The more cheesy and unrealistic, the funnier I think they are.

What’s you favorite junk food?

Gummy worms, the sour kind.

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

Probably J.K. Rowling, of “Harry Potter” fame. I’m one of those crazy fans.

Who do you admire most?

J.K. Rowling. I love rags-to-riches stories, and I think she’s the prime example of it. Through hard work and determination she went from living in her car to being richer than the Queen.

What’s playing on your iPod?

I listen to a lot of Broadway musicals but I also like rock music a lot. I have a really eclectic taste in music.

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

My favorite book, my laptop, and a portable Wi-Fi hotspot.

Disc golf catching on in Palm Beach County

May 8, 2015 on 1:50 pm | In As Seen In..., Palms West Monthly | No Comments

You may live near a disc golf course and not know it.

While many of the nearly 5,000 courses in the United States boast grand vistas, glorious flora and some fauna, others are tucked along steep terrain and small creeks, providing a use for parkland not suitable for much else.

Local disc golf enthusiast and course designer Dan Rigg, of Wellington, sinks a “putt” on hole 9 – also known as the signature hole – at Okeeheelee Park’s 18-hole disc golf course in West Palm Beach. Photo by Robert Harris/Palms West Monthly

Local disc golf enthusiast and course designer Dan Rigg, of Wellington, sinks a “putt” on hole 9 – also known as the signature hole – at Okeeheelee Park’s 18-hole disc golf course in West Palm Beach. Photo by Robert Harris/Palms West Monthly

“Disc golf courses can be built on land that is sometimes deemed ‘unusable’ by other potential park amenities,” says Scott Keasey, general manager of the Watsonville, California-based Disc Golf Association Inc., a manufacturer of disc golf equipment. “We like trees and we like hills. All of that is used in our course development.”

Disc golf equipment often is inconspicuous on the course: The metal baskets for catching discs and the concrete or rubber pads for teeing off camouflage easily among the trees, boulders and tall grasses that provide obstacles.

Ed Headrick, who designed and patented the Frisbee for Wham-O Toys in 1966, later invented the disc-catching, metal-chain baskets that helped turn Frisbee tossing into the disc-golf sport. He established DGA in 1976 and also the Professional Disc Golf Association, based in Appling, Georgia, as the governing body for both professional and recreational disc golf. Headrick, listed as player No. 1 in the PDGA, died in 2002.

In disc golf, players tee off at each of nine to 18 holes (or more), trying to land their discs in a Disc Pole Hole (the basket) in as few throws as possible. Discs whip around trees and might even roll or bounce along the ground. The player with the lowest cumulative score wins.

And there are no golf carts.

Most of the courses are on public land; playing usually is free.

“Compared to traditional golf, it’s an infant,” says Keasey, who’s been playing the sport for 20 years. “But disc golf has some legs.”

The sport is growing fast, says Brian Graham, PDGA executive director; membership in the PDGA grew by 18 percent to 25,000 members last year.

Closer to home, Palm Beach County boasts three disc golf courses – and the number’s growing.

Currently, there is a 9-hole course at PGA National Park in Palm Beach Gardens and 18-hole courses at both Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach and Commons Park in Royal Palm Beach. Another course will open at West Delray Regional Park in Delray Beach in May.

All have been designed or redesigned by 56 year-old Dan Rigg of Wellington.

Rigg has been an avid disc golfer for 12 years and went pro six years ago.

In 2005, his disc golf league played on the outskirts of Okeeheelee Park where they put up temporary baskets and marked trees with yellow tape. In 2009, Rigg decided enough was enough, they needed a real course.

“I decided to go down to Parks and Rec and find out why we can’t have a course,” says Rigg. “I said, ‘I’m going to stay here until they say yes.’ Within six months all the issues were worked out.”

Rigg says parks are the perfect places for disc golf courses.

“You can put one in for about $20,000 and have a championship-style course with very little maintenance,” he says.

In October of 2010, the disc golf course at Okeeheelee Park opened.

You could say Rigg is the Pete Dye or Alister Mackenzie of Palm Beach County disc golf.

“The best thing to have to design a course is to be a good to above-average golfer. You design holes to do two things – make it easy enough for the beginner to play and yet hard enough for an experienced player to go there and be challenged.”

Rigg’s build-it-and-they-will-come approach appears to be working with Okeeheelee and PGA, as each averages about 300 disc golfers a week. About 100 players a week throw the discs around at Commons Park.

Rigg said the best thing about disc golf is that it’s for everyone.

“First, it’s free. You pay $20-$25 on a couple of Frisbees, but to play a round of disc golf you won’t spend a dime,” says Rigg. “It’s also great exercise. You’ll walk four to five miles and you don’t realize it because you’re out there having a good time.”

However, the range of folks these courses have attracted were surprising even to Rigg.

“After the first month I’d see mom, dad, grandma and grandpa with their grandkids,” says Rigg. “That a family can be outdoors playing together and they don’t have to spend money on it is great. ”

Ernie Wilkinson, 62, of Royal Palm Beach, is a relative new-comer to the sport. He’s been playing about a year and a half.

“I used to play Frisbee back in the early days with a regular Frisbee,” says Wilkinson.

After being introduced to disc golf while in Hawaii, Wilkinson was hooked.

“I heard we had a course at Okeeheelee and I went out there and ran into Dan and others. They gave me a couple of discs and a few tips on how to throw them and I’ve been playing ever since,” he says.

On days that aren’t sweltering, Wilkinson’s wife Celeste will join him on his course of choice – Commons Park.

“I don’t throw quite as far as the younger guys,” says Wilkinson. “If you can’t throw over the water, you can go around it, it’s laid out really nice. You don’t have to have a really strong arm.”

As for the future of disc golf, the sport continues to grow here in Palm Beach County.

According to Rigg, both Okeeheelee and Commons are slated to each put in another 18-hole course within the next two to three years.

With this expansion, the county will have five 18-hole courses which will allow them to host a Professional Disc Golf Association World Championship, which can typically have 500-800 players.

“We do a big tournament every October where we usually get a few world champions to play,” says Rigg. “Most tournaments cap out at 95 players.”

Work-play balance key for Royal Palm Beach valedictorian

May 7, 2015 on 1:12 pm | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

When Zarin Islam got called to the principal’s office at Royal Palm Beach High School she was a bit taken aback.

Although her peers had been asking her if she would be their valedictorian, she was never sure.

“I could only respond with a shrug and tell them that we really never know,” said the 18-year-old Royal Palm Beach resident. “I’ve always felt life has a funny way of dealing our cards.”

When she got to the principal’s office her guidance counselor was also there — the smiles on their faces gave away what Islam had suspected. Yes, she was indeed the valedictorian.

“I felt really appreciated,” said Islam “It was really cool, they made a big deal out of it. After four years of working so hard, it was awesome to hear it was really rewarding, I was really honored.”

That hard work consisted of a rigorous academic schedule of Advanced Placement classes and plenty of extracurricular fun. Islam is co-president of the Science National Honor Society, secretary of the band program, and a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society.

She does it all by creating a balance of work and play.

“It’s all about finding the right blend that works for you,” said Islam. “I’m the type of person that, unfortunately, always wants something enjoyable going on, so it’s far harder for me to stay on-task or be willing to work without some sort of fun involved.”

Islam has been accepted to University of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Miami, University of Georgia and Wake Forest University.

This Fall Islam will head to Winston-Salem, N.C. to attend Wake Forest to pursue something in the medical field. Her interests include biology, pathology, neurology, oncology and radiology. Besides academics she chose the school for its commitment to community.

“Wake’s official motto Pro Humanitate (For Humanity) really speaks volumes about the priorities of the school itself,” said Islam. “The institution aims to make the world a better place through each one of its students. For me, empathy and creativity are essential and it has always been apparent that Wake shares the same values.”

As Islam heads out of state this fall, she’ll miss a lot of things about Florida, however one thing she won’t miss is her parents — they’re coming with her.

Islam will be packing up more than her books when she goes off to college, she’ll be taking her parents — mom, Reba, and dad, AKM Islam, with her. In a happy coincidence, just after she applied to Wake Forest her father got a job at a civil/structural engineer firm in Charlotte, N.C.

“He said, ‘All right, get packed and join me up here,” said Islam.

Charlotte is about an hour and a half away from the school — close, but not that close.

“They’ll be just the right distance away,” Islam said with a laugh.

Q&A

What are you reading now?

“Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I’m a huge Monster Hunter fan!

What’s your favorite junk food?

Burgers

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

Audrey Hepburn

Who do you admire most?

My mother, Reba Islam

What’s playing on your iPod?

“Yesterday” by The Beatles

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

An emergency phone, first-aid kit and a good book.

Wellington High valedictorian thrives under pressure

April 30, 2015 on 11:43 am | In As Seen In..., Palm Beach Post | No Comments

Although Brett Gileau has known since his junior year that he was going to be Wellington High School’s valedictorian, when he finally heard that he was the one, he breathed a sigh of relief.

“It was actually a relief because while I knew I was valedictorian at the end of junior year, it almost adds more pressure being valedictorian and having to hold on to it for a year,” said Gileau. “When you’re going for it you don’t have anything to lose, only to gain.”

Brett Gileau is the 2015 valedictorian of Wellington High School.

Brett Gileau is the 2015 valedictorian of Wellington High School.

It is that kind of pressure that the 18-year-old Wellington resident said he thrives on and it is one reason he wants to be an anesthesiologist — or as he likes to describe his future career in an anecdote told to him by a family friend who is an anesthesiologist:

“It’s pure boredom mixed with sheer terror,” said Gileau. “I’ve always worked well under pressure. If I’m not pressured to do something I’m not nearly as good. It’s just something I’ve noticed over the years.”

Gileau plans on majoring in biochemistry at the University of Florida this fall.

“I’m almost certain biochemistry,” he said. “I really like chemistry and biochemistry has really been a passion of mine. Biochemistry is a pretty good major if you want to go into the medical field.”

Gileau was also accepted to the University of Miami but chose UF for the opportunity for internships.

“I’ve heard from variety of people that if you go there you’ll be guaranteed to find a good summer internship. If you want to get into medical school you have to take the MCAT which is a horrible test and labs. Real world experience is really important.”

Gileau graduates high school with a little real world experience already under his belt.

In 2013 he did a summer internship at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter.

“I’d say that was the most memorable thing,” said Gileau in recounting his high school years. “Everyone there was in the top ten from various schools in the country. No more than two people per school. It was really fun to just be able to socialize with people that were similar to me.”

He also gained experience working in their lab.

“I worked in microfluidics – basically trying to make the research as inexpensive and efficient as possible, so that even on a strict budget you can run more tests,” said Gileau.

For now Gileau is once again under pressure, he needs to turn in that valedictorian graduation speech.

“I don’t want to be cynical, said Gileau. “l just want to emphasize that everyone has their own individual strengths. I’m the valedictorian so I’m strong in academics. They may be a dancer, singer, writer, painter there are artists out there and there are also neurophysicists — everyone has their own strengths.”

In the end Gileau graduates with a GPA of 4.0 and an HPA of 5.3. He also finishes up with 25 college courses already done — he can transfer half of the credits, 45, to the University of Florida.

Now he’s looking forward to the next pressure cooker, college.

“College is one step away from getting a job and I want to get out in the work force. While school is really important, school is not the end all. Getting a job, making an income is what I’m looking forward to — just getting out.”

Q&A

What are you reading now?

I just started the “Game of Thrones” series.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I like to watch way too much Netflix.

What’s you favorite junk food?

Cheap pizza

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

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Who do you admire most?

Michio Kaku

What’s playing on your iPod?

I listen to everything, except for opera and country. I’ve recently been enjoying more of the older music from the ’60s and ’70s.

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

Solar panel to charge an iPod — music is my life; a wilderness survival guide — let’s think practicality; and a series of books to read – “Game of Thrones.”

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