Marissa Gittelman

Marissa Gittelman

When chosen as a VolunTeens Spotlight, Marissa Gittelman was an 11th grade student at Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale. Her younger sister, Katrina, was a 9th grader at the same school. Throughout high school, they have volunteered their time to lead a local chapter of the Best Buddies organization. Best Buddies is a program that was developed to enrich the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by “buddying” them up with
volunteers and giving them an opportunity for a friendship. Gathering teens from their school and local areas, they have a committed group of students who dedicate their time to helping disabled people.

This program not only has been inspiring for them, but has also taught them the value of giving back to their community. We interviewed Marissa and some of the other VolunTeens in the Best Buddies program, and they shared their thoughts with us:

“At my lower school, there was a day devoted to doing services for the community. They brought Best Buddies as one of the programs for the day and got an enthusiastic response. Best Buddies became a yearly program where the students and the Buddies would have lunch, cookies, soda, clowns and smiles all around. We began to make connections with those who would come back year after year,” said Marissa.

“My younger sister, Katrina, and I took on Best Buddies as our own community service project two years ago. She promised to continue the program on a monthly basis and I decided that I would try to recruit people from Pine Crest to start a chapter there,” continued Marissa. During the school year Pine Crest now sponsors Best Buddies on one Saturday each month. “We do different projects each time. Sometimes we make picture frames so that they can carry the group picture with them, or we make paper rings to decorate their rooms, and sometimes we read to them or they read to us,” said Marissa.

“The one-on-one interaction and the opportunity to enhance the lives of my Buddies is the best part of the experience,” said devoted VolunTeen member Natasha Keynejad. She remembered, “The moment I felt most connected to my Buddy is when I made her laugh.” “I’ve learned that everyone needs a friend and that our Best Buddies deserve to be treated as equals,” said Zack Purdo, another committed VolunTeen. “The greatest part of working with the Buddies is making them feel comfortable and making them feel good about who they are,” added Purdo. In closing, Marissa remarked, “we create our memorable bonds through laughter, song, and lots of hugs.”

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My name is Alex Heatzig, and I am the President of VolunTeens. I am a rising Senior at Saint Andrew's High School in Boca Raton, Florida, Florida. I am excited about making this website more useful than ever! If you are visiting this website from outside the Palm Beach and Broward County that we are currently located in and would like to make a difference in your community, contact me for a great opportunity!

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