Recently, I was asked to return to my high school, Gulliver Preparatory (Miami, FL), to participate in a panel discussion about community engagement. It was truly a great panel including the President/CEO of the Miami Dolphins/Hard Rock Stadium and a bunch of other Gulliver alumni who are rockstars in their own right, and me.
With such a large outstanding panel, I got about 7 minutes to make the following points to 300 students:
- Leadership Palm Beach County GROW Program rocks!
- Do to my unique circumstances growing up, many people influenced my path. These folks came into my life at critical moments and either assisted me or gave me a vital piece of information that I needed to overcome whatever obstacle I was dealing with at the time. I gave the example of my drama teacher, Julie Armentrout-Peterson, believing in me and giving me the chance to direct a play I wrote which had never been done at Gulliver before. I explained that because she believed in me, I started believing in myself.
- The onus of mentoring and helping others as I was helped. The impact it makes to the mentor and mentee.
- Everyone has value. Everybody deserves respect. Demonstrate empathy. Be human.
I was most impressed that the entire 9th and 10th grade paid close attention for the entire hour we spoke. It was a surreal and nostalgic and I am glad I participated!
Official write up below.
Panel Experience Kicks Off New C.O.R.E. Program
To kick off our new Community Outreach Raider Experience (C.O.R.E.) program, students in grades 9-10 had the opportunity to hear from a group of alumni and parents who value and are heavily involved in community engagement efforts in South Florida and beyond.
Panelists discussed their individual leadership journeys and how each of them stepped up to take responsibility in their communities. They also stressed to students to take advantage of all the resources available to them, as well as the importance of becoming informed, engaged, and active citizens. The C.O.R.E. Program is designed to allow students to make a connection between their school work, and their experiences outside of school. The program will enable students across all divisions to see the relevance of what they learn in school as a means to better understand the local, national and global communities around them, and to participate in making positive differences.
Read more about our panelists below:
James “Woody” Beckham ‘07
James “Woody” Beckham attended Indian River College before he transferred to Florida Atlantic University to study Ocean Engineering.
In January 2011, while playing for his FAU rugby team, Woody was paralyzed making a tackle & suffered a complete C 5 spinal injury. He was treated by the “Dream Team” neurological doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he progressed rapidly through inpatient rehabilitation & therapy.
The Miami-based Beckham family formed the Woody Foundation, Inc., soon after the accident to giveaway free Woody Packs, increase awareness and raise funds for paralysis and other disabilities. The Woody Foundation has four annual events which support various groups/organizations. As the face of The Woody Foundation, his sheer determination and inspirational words give us all great comfort that he will indeed overcome his devastating injury and walk through the rest of his life as a champion.
Tom Garfinkel P ’22 ’24 ‘27
Tom Garfinkel serves as Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. Since his hire, Garfinkel has led the business turnaround of the Dolphins. Tom has spearheaded the continuation and growth of the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, which has garnered more than $32 million to date in donations for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami. Prior to working in sports, Garfinkel held different leadership roles in sales, marketing and branding with Miller Brewing Company and Texaco, Inc. Garfinkel serves on the board of the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, the National Football Foundation, the Gulliver School’s Board of Trustees and the Sports Management Advisory Board and Ross School of Business Advisory Board at the University of Michigan.
Garfinkel graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and earned his MBA at the University of Michigan.
Moderator: Saif Ishoof ’93 P ’24 ’26
Saif serves as Vice President for Engagement at Florida International University. Appointed in May 2015 by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, Saif leads a dynamic team in the Office of Engagement.
Previously, Saif served as founding Executive Director at City Year Miami, which provides 17-24 year olds an opportunity to serve one year in high-need schools as tutors, mentors and role models to address the opportunity gap. Under Saif’s leadership, the organization more than doubled in size and scope with an expansion from 8 to 18 schools and from 82 to 200 AmeriCorps members. Saif’s professional career includes being a startup technology entrepreneur and an executive in agricultural and engineering companies. Saif earned his bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law.
Ashley Moore ‘07
Ashley Moore is an experienced Marketing Director with over seven years in the non-profit sector. Ashley joined Farm Share in 2017 focusing on marketing strategy, community relations, and partnerships. Prior to her time at Farm Share, Ashley worked with professional athletes to develop community events benefiting nonprofit organizations. Ashley is a proud Howard University graduate with a BA in Communications.
Established in 1991, Farm Share is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to fight poverty and alleviate hunger and malnutrition by recovering and distributing fresh and nutritious food to those who need it most, Free of Charge. To accomplish this task, Farm Share partners with more than 2,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and other not for profit agencies throughout Florida to help feed hungry communities and individuals. Last year alone Farm Share distributed more than 74 million pounds of food to more than 18 million households residing in Florida’s 67 counties. Of the 55 million pounds of food distributed, more than 20 million pounds were fresh healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Stephanie Seriane-Consuegra ‘08
Stephanie is Senior Communications Manager at United Way of Miami-Dade where she leads communications efforts for community engagement initiatives, donor affinity groups and more. She serves as spokesperson for select initiatives, manages media at events and delivers training and coaching for United Way staff and volunteers. Stephanie is a graduate of Fordham University and Florida International University. Stephanie was recognized as a Top 20 Under 40 Professional by Brickell Magazine in 2019.
Since 1924, United Way of Miami-Dade has been an innovative force in the community, successfully responding to emerging needs and transforming people’s lives. Today our work is focused on education, financial stability and health – the building blocks for a good life. We invest in quality programs, advocate for better policies, engage people in the community and generate resources.
Eddie Stephens ‘89
Eddie is an equity partner in Ward Damon, PL, where he leads the family law department and manages community relations for the firm. Eddie is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney who specializes in high-conflict matrimonial law. He is the previous Program Chair of Leadership Palm Beach Grow Program which empowers high school juniors to understand the critical issues facing Palm Beach County while encouraging them to expand their leadership roles and build a foundation of involvement in their community.
Led by a team of dedicated Leadership Palm Beach County alumni, students spend nine months gaining real-life experience by having unparalleled access to leaders from businesses, government agencies, and civic organizations. The program coordinators encourage students to interact, learn and reflect on their future as community leaders, and build necessary skills, including public speaking and resume-writing to prepare them for future education and employment.
Original article here.