Welcome to Power of Parks, a podcast produced by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, where we share inspiring stories from people who have benefited from nature, parks and recreation.
Episode 10 features Rachel Stauffer, she’s a mom of three kids, a 7th generation Floridian and a children’s pastor who frequented parks as a child and with her kids. She reached out to PBC Parks for more information about opportunities for recreation to share with her community.
Since 2018, staff at West Boynton Recreation Center have been welcoming students from Park Vista High School to the facility to provide valuable job training experience. It began in August 2018 with an off-campus job training program, and has since transitioned to include ESE students from the school. The students range from ages 18 to 22 years old. The program currently has up to three students per day, everyday.
“The purpose of the program is for our students to have another ‘boss’ outside of the classroom… they get to experience employer expectations, interact with the community, and learn skills that cannot be taught on a high school campus,” said Melia Videtta, Park Vista High School ESE teacher. The goal is to not only help students get a feel for what it’s like to go to work, but also to raise their self-esteem and create a sense of excitement for the tasks.
“The students are excited to go to work,” said Ogden Powell, Job Trainer for the Palm Beach County School District. He recalled, “some students have mastered some tasks and are able to work without supervision.” The tasks include window cleaning, sweeping, mopping, and setting up rooms with tables and chairs.
West Boynton Recreation Center Maintenance Worker Carlos Jerez headed up the initiative. He trained the students, supervised, and assigned tasks when the program was at it’s initial stages at the recreation center. Powell recalled, “Mr. Carlos is great with the students.”
Overall, the experience has been welcoming and productive for all the participants. “Everyone is so nice, helpful, and patient with our students… the people at the Rec center are flexible and open-minded,” said Videtto. Travis McPheeters, manager of WBRC, expressed his gratitude for working with the students and faculty at Park Vista High School. “We are thrilled with this partnership we have forged with PVHS,” he said.
Lorraine DiFrancisco has been a volunteer at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens for the past four years. She serves as a general volunteer and is currently a docent-in-training at the facility.
According to DiFrancisco, being in the docent program with her fellow docents means she can give tours to school groups, clubs, and organizations. She has also been a greeter at the Yamato-kan and main museum, as well as a volunteer at annual festivals, like Oshogatsu and the Lantern Festival.
DiFrancisco’s favorite thing about volunteering at the Morikami is that it allows her “to meet and interact with people from all over the world,” she said. She loves sharing the things she has learned with others so that they can better understand and appreciate all that the Morikami has to offer.
Raptor Day for Photographers was held at Okeeheelee Nature Center (ONC) on January 18, 2020. Sponsored by Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center, this annual event provided 50 photographers with an opportunity to take close-up portraits of birds of prey. This year, ONC partnered with the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center (TCWC) to ensure a diversity of species for the participants to photograph. The birds displayed included two species of hawk, three species of owl, a kestrel, and a crested caracara. The birds are placed on outdoor perches so the photographers can capture images of the animals in natural light and in front of wooded backgrounds.
All of the raptors live at educational facilities under human care because they have an injury that prevents them from returning to the wild. Although many of the birds have visible imperfections, the talented photographers were able to bring out their best features and highlight their natural beauty.
ONC staff and volunteers were present throughout the event to provide information about the birds and answer questions. Participants were also given a brochure that included facts about the raptors and explained a little about each bird’s history.
Feedback from the participants was tremendously positive. Irwin Goldzweig wrote to share some of his beautiful photos and say, “Thanks to you, Heather, and your staff and volunteers. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Raptor Day. It was professionally organized and implemented which made it totally enjoyable for us as visitors. The staff and volunteers were wonderful, informative, and very helpful. We look forward to the next one.”
Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center sold out the event within two weeks, raising over $1,200. All proceeds benefit the programs, exhibits and animals at Okeeheelee Nature Center.