Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Environmental challenge by local company culminates in annual student symposium May 1 with guest speaker Fabian Cousteau

When given a challenge, many of south Florida’s youth rise to the occasion and students in Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) are no exception. After Wheelabrator Technologies asked three local schools to create a solution to an environmental or public challenge in their community, each school stepped to the plate to research and then conduct a year-long project. Their projects culminate in the Wheelabrator Symposium for Environment and Education to be held on May 1, 2012 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Sunrise. This is an annual event that finds its roots in a relationship with Partners In Education, a non-profit that focuses on getting businesses involved in education. Wheelabrator first partnered with BCPS 20 years ago and it was through this partnership that the symposium was developed.

“This year celebrates 20 years of our partnership with Wheelabrator, so I am really excited to be a judge at the symposium,” said Nina Randall, executive director with Partners In Education. “I am always amazed at the depth of the students’ research. This year, I am especially excited that students will have the opportunity to meet Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the famed oceanographer Jacuqes Cousteau.”

The Symposium brings more than 100 students to Sunrise from 10 middle schools representing districts from New Hampshire to south Florida. This year, three Broward County schools are presenting creative and flexible solutions to resource management.

Three local schools participating worked on diverse environmental projects:

  • Westglades Middles School has been certified by the National Wildlife Foundation as a School Yard Habitat.  This year the after-school Environmental  Club joined forces with the South Florida Audubon Society, the Institute of Wildlife Sciences and the Sawgrass Nature Center and Wildlife Hospital to improve the habitat of and include new homes for Screech Owls.
  • Thirty-four million tons of food is thrown away annually in the United States [and] less than 3% of the food waste is ever recovered or recycled. After further study, students at Sawgrass Springs Middle School learned that one alternative to throwing away food, which will ultimately end up in landfills, would be to compost.  In an effort to test the theory, a composting program started at school in conjunction with the Youth Environmental Alliance under the guidance of Kristin Hoss.
  • This year the students’ goal at New River Middle School is to promote sustainability.  Spring-boarding off of their 2011 project, the team will plant an additional 25 Sabal palm trees at John U. Lloyd State Park to increase the canopy buffer zone between the lighting of Port Everglades and the beach to decrease the mortality rate of the hatching sea turtles. They will also continue to grow mangrove seedlings for replanting to provide nurseries for juvenile fish. In addition, the team will increase recycling on the school campus. New programs: The student team is growing live rock (a $4M business in Florida) since live rock naturally filters water, especially in aquarium tanks.  The will also be creating PSAs/podcasts on environmental issues.

“We are an environmental company and it’s absolutely our culture to educate and work in the community,” said Linda Sapienza, Director of Community Relations with Wheelabrator. “I wouldn’t have been able to maintain a relationship with PIE as long as we have if not backed by the company. They encourage everyone to get involved– it’s their core value.”

April 20, 2012

West Broward Bar Association becomes business partner to Seminole Middle School; Golf tournament May 12 helps fund school law program

An accidental conversation was the spark for a solid business partnership and a May 12 charity golf fundraiser between the West Broward Bar Association (WBBA) and Seminole Middle School in Plantation.

“I was in the school, telling someone my goals to [grow the law program] and said I would love to get in touch with the Broward Bar when a nearby mother, who happened to be a lawyer overheard me,” said Mell Rupp, law teacher and department head at Seminole Middle explaining how the parent got him involved with the Bar. “At the time the West Broward Bar was just forming, so I went to a luncheon and met a lot of local judges.”

That luncheon led a strong partnership with the association, with Mr. Rupp focused on creating interactive learning opportunities for students in the Seminole Middle law program.

“Building a partnership like this takes a lot of hard work and I commend Mr. Rupp for his focus on finding this opportunity for students,” said Nina Randall, executive director of Partners In Education (PIE), a local non-profit that has helped develop thousands of school/business partnership. “At PIE we strive every day to help Broward County Public Schools learn how to develop these important relationships with the community and I am proud to see Seminole Middle take the initiative in creating this partnership with the West Broward Bar.”

The Department of Enhanced Communications and Law program, or DECAL, at Seminole Middle, gives students opportunities to push themselves to earn early high school credits in addition to taking advanced languages, math and communications such as Spanish, Speech, Debate as well as law classes.

Through the West Broward Bar Association, students have had tours of the courthouse, conducted mock trials and have spoken with local members of the legal community. Howard Finklestein with Channel 7’s Help Me Howard, Michael Satz, Broward state attorney and juvenile judge Elijah Williams, among others, have all taught the middle school students simple legal procedures.

“The West Broward Bar partnership is really a great fit, and this year, the West Broward Bar Association approached Seminole Middle about (expanding our relationship by) having a charity event that benefited the school,” added Rupp. “The Bar Association usually does charity events and they decide to do it for the school since they knew we were struggling with cuts.”

The West Broward Bar Inaugural Golf Classic will be held May 12 at the Plantation Preserve Golf Course and Club  (7050 W Broward Blvd., Plantation). The Classic will raise funds to buy computers and materials for the law students at Seminole Middle School.

The Seminole Middle School DECAL program is the only active non-magnet school government and law program in Broward County. WBBA President Michael Rajtar said that the legal organization is partnering with the law program to benefit the next generation.

The tournament is open to the public and will begin with registration and lunch at 11:30 a.m. followed by shotgun start at 1 p.m. After the event, cocktails will be served from 5 – 6 p.m. followed by an awards dinner, silent auction and a raffle. Players will include attorneys, judges, and parents of Seminole Middle School students.

Tickets are $100 per golfer and several sponsorship levels are available starting at $250. For more information or to register online, go to (

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April 6, 2012

Clueless a great success this year!

Whoever would have thought a murder would become a fundraiser on the streets of Fort Lauderdale? In a case of whodunit, sleuths from all over South Florida helped raise $19,500 for the non-profit Partners In Education while trying to solve a fictional murder mystery during this year’s ClueLess on Las Olas: “Till Death Do us Apart.”

For two hours, locals scoured the streets, buying hints from snitches and grabbing clues from the shops, all to find out who murdered Hillary Smith, the bride-to-be of the well-to-do Hawthorne Hatchett. Found dead in her room, the list of suspects included friends, former girlfriends of her fiancé Hatchett, a pushy boss, and even the escort/male dancer for the bachelorette party.

More than 450 amateur sleuths were seen weaving in and out of shops trying to solve this whodunit, which eventually revealed escort Taj Gupta as the murderer. As an annual fundraiser for Partners In Education, the event also featured a raffle and silent auction.

See Answers to Clues and Hints here. More photos here.

Sponsored by Wheelabrator Technologies among other business partners, the event raised money for Partners In Education. PIE works to improve student achievement by cultivating and integrating business, community and school resources for all students in Broward County Public Schools. All Broward County Schools are available for new partnerships. Businesses may make commitments of time, financial resources or other support, based on the need of the school and the type of business. In the 2010/2011 school year there were more than 2700 school partnerships that contributed $3.14 million in added resources to schools through cash and in-kind donations and the value of volunteer services.

For information about the program, please contact Nina A. Randall, APR, Executive Director at 754-321-1974 or or visit the PIE website at

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