Palmer Trinity senior Melinda Klenk has devoted her Saturdays and her summers to helping disadvantaged children gain a step in school.
“I work for Breakthrough Miami over the summer and during the school year,” Klenk says. “I taught English and I was a fifth grade English teacher.”
The experience was fun for her, although tiring. She says the kids were sweet, but they weren’t afraid of giving her a hard time. Still, she said they were fun to be around.
“The coolest thing was that I taught an elective as well as English,” she says. “I looked forward toward that (drama) class every day. I had one girl who loved it, she loved performing.”
That student asked Klenk how she got into drama and Klenk explained that she was in the drama program at Southwood Middle School. The student tried out for the Southwood Performing Arts program at Southwood and was accepted.
“She performed the same song I taught the kids over the summer,” Klenk says. “It was amazing to see her on stage. It seemed small to me when I talked to her about it. The smallest things you say and do, other people run with them.”
Klenk taught at Breakthrough through her 10th grade year and that summer. She had to stop teaching in her junior year because her academic load was too heavy to allow her to continue with an activity that took so much time.
This summer Klenk worked for Palmer Trinity in the communications and development department, so she could not work at Breakthrough, although she says she hopes to get back to it this year.
Klenk is in the drama program at Palmer Trinity. The department puts on three shows a year; one is a dramatic play, one is for the middle school and one is a musical. “We also compete in regional competitions and state competitions,” she says.
“We go to One Act festivals.”
They also compete in individual events performing monologues, they act in scenes with two and three people and they sing. When Klenk competes, she is on the technical side of things, entering in the playwriting category.
“I won a Critic’s Choice at regional level and I had a superior at state competition,” she says.
The judges give awards for Good, Excellent and Superior performances. Then they pick one piece from each category to give the Critic’s Choice.
“I’m really interested in psychology and how the mind works. When I sat down to write a play, I thought about the expressions, about smiles,” she says. “The play I wrote can really mean a lot of things; how we automatically assume one thing when it could be so much more. Some people smile when they are angry.”
Klenk usually takes major lead roles in the straight plays (non-musical). She had the lead in last year’s The Skin of Our Teeth. “It’s about one family and the members basically go through a bunch of natural disasters — flood, ice age, war – and how the family progresses and deals with it,”
Klenk says. “I played the maid; she’s the one common figure and she narrates the stories. She’s the one that stays the same.” Klenk says her voice isn’t as good as she would like, so she is not normally in the lead and plays secondary characters. In her free time, she likes to write. She does try to keep busy so she volunteers each year on the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Mitzvah Day.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld