Gulliver Prep graduate Sharon Peng is the school’s Silver Knight nominee in the General Scholarship category. Throughout her high school career, Peng has volunteered her time working at a nursing home in the Miami Jewish Health System.
“I started doing it when I was a freshman and now I volunteer there every weekend,” she says. “I also volunteered every summer full time.”
In fact, Peng was the 2013 Miami Jewish Health System Teen Volunteer of the Year.
“I’ve always like volunteering, I volunteer with my sister and one of my friends,” she says.
“We went to a training session, and once I went to that I knew I wanted to do it. The residents really appreciate it.”
Peng went to the facilities near the Wynwood Art District and she worked in two residential buildings. In one area, they participated in Family Fun Days. The other area is the Special Care Unit.
“We wanted to have an independent fundraiser for them,” she says. “We built a butter fly garden. It was nice to have a garden there. It was something that was not gray.”
“We started the garden in the fall of 2013 and we finished in the winter of 2014,” she says.
The garden is unusual since it is on the second floor of the building. Because of that, they had to research what plants would live in that type of environment. Peng says the location was similar to a terrace.
“It was outdoors with walls on four sides and a net covering the area,” she says. “They don’t want birds to fly in and scare in the residents. That’s why we thought it would be a good place. We bought all the flowers and all the plants.”
The actual planting was a day-long project. Peng and her sister brought in some friends to help.
Last summer was a change of pace for Peng. Instead of volunteering full time at the nursing home, she enrolled in an intern program at the Bascom Palmer Institute through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The program focused on ocular neurodegenerative diseases.
“In a way, it tied in with what we had been doing at the nursing home,” she says. “The brain naturally starts to slow down and deteriorate with age. At the nursing home we were working with people who were suffering from degenerative diseases.”
Peng says they analyzed 400 human eye slides. For the research, they were looking at the correlation between the protein modification process and aging.
“I had a lab partner and I wrote a report with her,” she says. “We presented our project to other HHMI summer scholars and to the UM researchers. I really liked the experience.”
At Gulliver Prep, Peng was Key Club president.
“Last year, we went to Chapman Elementary and read to the kids with learning disabilities,” she says.
This year, the service club participated in several community events, including some fundraising walks and a run. Those included the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk.
Peng has been vice president of Mu Alpha Theta and is also a member of the Music Club, the National Honor Society, the Cum Laude Club and the Spanish Honor Society. She was also the violinist in the string ensemble.
“We took a trip last year and performed in New York City,” Peng says. “The whole music department went — the band, the string ensemble, the jazz band. It was awesome.”
Peng says playing in New York is the highlight of her young musical career.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld