The School District of Palm Beach County loves its volunteers. Every year, more than 40,000 children, adults and seniors dedicate well over 630,000 hours to District schools and students; so selecting the three outstanding school volunteers of the year is never an easy task.
This year’s winners are a young woman who as the Chief Kid Officer (CKO) of her own nonprofit, has collected nearly 15,000 items to donate to children’s hospitals while also inspiring her peers to become business leaders and entrepreneurs.
The adult volunteer of the year has spent time helping five district schools establishing the framework for annual fundraisers that make more than $40,000 for the school each year, served on PTA, PTSO and PTSA board and as Five Star Coordinator for many years at each school – even when she didn’t have a child in the school.
These volunteers will now be evaluated by the Florida Department of Education for consideration of top recognition in the state’s five regions.
Kayla Abramowitz – Outstanding Volunteer of the Year-Youth
Kayla Abramowitz, a sophomore at William T. Dwyer High School, is the Founder and CKO (Chief Kid Officer) of Kayla Cares 4 Kids, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. She began the organization, at age 11, by collecting entertainment and educational items to donate to children’s hospitals in an effort to help children feel better.
The now 15 year old came up with the idea after extended hospital stays of her own, in addition to her 12-year-old brother Ethan’s numerous hospital trips due to chronic illness. Kayla has Crohn’s Disease, Juvenile Arthritis and Eosinophilic Colitis. Ethan has Juvenile Arthritis, Eosinophilic Esophagitis, and dysautonomia.
When Kayla Cares 4 Kids started in March of 2013, Kayla’s original goal was to collect 100 DVDs to donate to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, where she and her brother often go for treatment. Kayla started by handing out flyers securing help from her fellow students at Palm Beach Gardens Elementary School.
Kayla has now enlisted the help of Kayla Cares 4 Kids Ambassadors in 12 states, hundreds of student volunteers in Palm Beach County and beyond, and numerous businesses across the country, including Office Depot Foundation, Sony Pictures, DreamWorks Animation and Sam’s Club.
Kayla Cares 4 Kids has donated nearly 15,000 items-including DVDs, video game consoles, video games, DVD players, handheld electronics, books and arts & crafts- to 425 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
Kayla has spoken at numerous schools, Chamber of Commerce events and hospitals, sharing her message of getting involved in community service. She has been a source of inspiration to children and adults alike.
As an eighth grader at Watson B. Duncan Middle School, Kayla was the keynote speaker at the annual Future Business Leaders of America’s Fall Rally. She has won one international award; five national awards, including 2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and a variety of other recognitions, including earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award- Gold Level, four years in a row.
As a member of the Dwyer High School’s concert and marching bands, she has motivated so many to promote Kayla Cares 4 Kids’ mission of “Helping Kids Feel Better One Smile at a Time!”
Terri Priori – Outstanding Adult Volunteer
Terri Priori has volunteered in five different schools in Palm Beach County. Terri’s service began in 2000 at Binks Forest Elementary School. At Binks, she served for 14 years as a room mom, volunteered in the media center and as a chaperone and also served on the PTA Board as Secretary, Vice President and Treasurer.
She also served on various committees, such as School Advisory Council (SAC), parade float, book fair, Meet the Masters Program, Gove FCAT Boxes, popcorn Fridays, Box Tops, Food for Families, toy drive, and fifth grade parties.
She was the Five Star School Coordinator for 13 years. Terri was the founding member of the carnival, Holiday Hut, and Phantom Fundraiser committees that created the framework for these events that have become annual events raising over $40,000 a year for the school.
Terri also volunteered at Bak Middle School of the Arts for three years helping with annual haunted house and gift wrapping fundraisers along with Strings concerts. At Wellington Landings Middle School (FY09-11) she served as PTSO Treasurer for three years and served on the 6th, 7th and 8th dance committees and carnival committee. Additionally, she was the Five Star School Award coordinator for four years.
At Emerald Cove Middle School (FY15-17), Terri was the PTSA Treasurer for three years, Five Star School Award coordinator for two years. She also served on the fundraising committee, Box Tops and SAC. At Palm Beach Central High School (FY10-present) Terri has volunteered helping in Student Services and with quarterly blood drives for four years. She has been a SAC member for five years. She has been the Project Graduation Sponsorship Committee Chair, Project Graduation Chair, and Co-Chair of the Prize Committee.
Terri has served as Palm Beach Central High’s Five Star School Award coordinator for eight years – including two years when she didn’t have a child at the school. She has volunteered for annual Interact Dodgeball Tournament for six years and for the Volleyball Team.
Since 2010 Terri helped coordinate fundraising events for the Equestrian Sports Production Great Charity Challenge. The Great Charity Challenge is a horse jumping event at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that raises thousands of dollars for 11 Wellington area schools which are a part of 34 randomly drawn local charities.
Robert D. Miller, Jr. – Outstanding Senior Volunteer
Robert D. Miller, Jr. is a retired veteran who has volunteered his time at the elementary (Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, Westward, and Northmore), middle (John F. Kennedy, Roosevelt), and high school (Twin Lakes, Palm Beach Lakes) levels for more than 46 years.
As a school volunteer Mr. Miller has worn several hats. He has served on the PTA/PTO and the SAC for several of the schools in the county, raising money and giving money for school programs and trips such as the patrols trip to Washington, D.C. He has been a father and/or grandfather to many students in Palm Beach County. When his children attended school in Palm Beach County he accumulated tons of “adopted” sons and daughters by affiliation. Now that his grandchildren are in school, he has amassed many adopted “grandsons and granddaughters” along the way.
Those who needed lunch or field trip money could go to Mr. Miller. This generous volunteer has gone so far as to seek out meals for the families of school-aged students and deliver the food directly to their homes. Also, there is no such thing as not having a ride home around Mr, Miller. He makes it his business to ensure that students get home safely. Mr. Miller always has our students’ best interest and wellbeing at heart.
In terms of teacher supplies and needs, Mr. Miller has purchased pencils, copy paper, dry erase markers, hand sanitizer, three-ring binders, Kleenex tissue, and numerous other items for teachers during the first couple of weeks of school to assist in the learning process. In addition, as an Army Veteran, Mr. Miller has visited different elementary schools to share his experiences with students on Veteran’s Day. He serves as a mentor as well as a motivational speaker.
Furthermore, Mr. Miller is a staple at most Palm Beach Lakes High School athletic functions and activities. He volunteers his time selling game tickets and working in the concession stand for the boys and girls basketball programs. He is a chaperone for all of the in-and-out of county basketball games. Having been a player and coach himself, Mr. Miller mentors many of the players (boys and girls) and helps prepare them for intense rival competitions. He also rewards them for achieving their goals-on and off the court.
Probably most notable is his service as a school security and police aide. Mr. Miller spent many years, manning the Palm Beach Lakes school entrance (checking license plates and driver’s licenses) to ensure the safety of all students. He also helps with overall school safety by standing “on duty” during both school lunches. His presence has resulted in fewer student altercations on campus.