Palmetto High School senior Clayre Benzadon takes time out of her busy schedule to participate in the Friendship Circle at the Chabad of Kendall.
“Right now, I’m working with a child who is blind in one eye,” Benzadon says. “She’s six years old, but she doesn’t talk. She has a lot of problems in social groups and she always has temper tantrums. I try to help her and calm her down.”
Benzadon says since the child is not very good when participating in group activities, so she usually plays her on a playground.
“I usually watch her to see how she behaves,” Benzadon says. “If she gets out of hand, there is an assistant to help me out. She gives me tips on how help the girl.” Benzadon’s commitment to Friendship Circle is longstanding. She has been participating in the program for six years.
“I actually learned about it from a family friend,” Benzadon says. “I love it. It’s taught me so many things. I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have and I have created a bond with these kids that I never thought possible. It’s also helped me become more motivated and confident. It feels good to help out.”
At school, Benzadon is a member of the Spanish National Honor Society. One of her responsibilities is to help other students by tutoring them once a week. She has taken many Spanish classes and this year is enrolled in Spanish Literature. She loves literature in any language and serves as president of the Palmetto Creative Writing Club.
We meet every week on Thursday and I’m the one who starts prompts,” Benzadon says. “We tell them what the prompt is and give them 10 minutes. It’s really fun to read out loud.”
While she works in all of the writing categories, Benzadon most enjoys writing poetry.
“I usually like to convey my emotions more than anything,” she says.
One of the most important things a creative writer needs is a strong grasp of language. Benzadon’s grasp is strong and, as a member of the English Honor Society, she tutors others in English.
“We help them with essay writing,” she says. “Usually there are a lot of grammatical errors.”
She is also involved in the Pinecrest Youth Advisory Council. The council is made up of high school students who come up with creative ideas to improve the Pinecrest community and encourage more kids to be active in the community. “We also get involved in a lot of community service activities such as Relay For Life,” Benzadon says.
This year, Benzadon had a new challenge – how to keep up with her school activities and Friendship Circle while also working at her mother’s new bakery in Aventura. The bakery only offers nondairy baked goods – something that became important to the family because Benzadon was born with a rare metabolic disorder called Galactosemia. That disorder means that her body does not have the enzymes necessary to digest dairy products. Next year, Benzadon won’t be able to continue with here program of helping others. She has been accepted into several universities, including Hartford, South Florida, Boulder, Boston, Northeastern, American, Maryland and Brandeis.
“I am most likely going to go to Brandeis,” she says.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld