Palmetto High School senior Alexis (Lexie) Barkow has been volunteering for Friendship Circle every other Sunday since she was in the seventh grade.
“I started doing it as a community service project,” Barkow says. “I needed a bat mitzvah project. I fell in love with it and I just wanted to continue it.”
Barkow and a partner would go to the homes of the children they worked with. They would play with the child or children to give parents a two-hour break from their child care duties. At the home sessions Barkow says they tried to foster activities that took the children away from the computer and helped them focus on interacting with other kids.
“I remember that one of the girls we worked with had cerebral palsy, so the most we could do with her was play on the floor with toys,” she says.
Today Barkow goes to the chabad and participates in group sessions. The group sessions have specific activities for the children who attend.
“We have a teen circle, tween circle and a children’s circle,” Barkow says.
Barkow attends training sessions at the beginning of the year and in December there are workshops for the volunteers.
Friendship Circle may be Barkow’s longtime volunteer activity, but it is not her only one. This year she put together a team of 10 to 12 walkers for the Susan G. Komen Walk in honor of her mother who has battled breast cancer. Last year, she participated in the Pinecrest Relay For Life walkathon.
“We did it through our BBYO youth group chapter,” she says. “We took pictures of guys our age in joke costumes. We sold them to people in our school and to people in our group. It helped us raise money for the American Cancer Society. We also got donations.”
BBYO also raised money by selling tee shirts emblazoned with the legend Miami Region Thinks Pink. “We sold it to people in our region, from Kendall to Aventura and Miami Beach,” she says. Barkow is vice president of the BBYO region. She has been on the chapter board for four years as secretary, is the head of recruitment and was vice president before running for vice president of the region. She attended an international BBYO conference in Pennsylvania in June.
At Palmetto, she is the vice president of service for the National Honor Society and a member of the English Honor Society. She is also a peer educator for HIV/AIDS.
“We teach ninth graders about reproductive health, nutrition, exercise, mental health and drugs and alcohol,” she says, adding that she will serve in that program again this coming school year. She is also in the Jewish Student Union as the underclass representative in her sophomore year and as historian last year.
This year she will serve as vice president.
“We have a lot of students and sometimes the rabbis come and talk to us about holidays,” she says. “It’s a good way for Jewish students to come and meet other Jewish students and socialize and learn about the culture.” This year, Barkow will be the co-sports editor for the school newspaper and it will be the fourth year that she has played on the varsity lacrosse team.
Barkow is already considering prospective colleges to attend. Her preliminary list includes Florida, Maryland and Tulane. She says she will apply to about 10 schools.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld