Junior Achievement Raises Nearly $250,000 At Event

Flapper dresses and suits filled the ballroom at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts during the Junior Achievement of the Palm Beaches & Treasure Coast’s 14th annual Watch A Rising Star event on Feb. 13.

During the event, the nonprofit distributed more than $13,000 in scholarship money to the Rising Star finalists, while raising nearly $750,000 to support JA classroom programs in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Hendry counties.

The outstanding student finalists underwent months of rigorous rehearsals and live performances leading up to the dynamic vocal competition finale. The performers faced not only the judges’ table, but votes from the attendees as well. The final winners were Rising Star recipient and Jupiter resident Emily Rynasko from the Pine School. Winning Best Duet were Royal Palm Beach’s Celene Perez and Wellington’s Gregorio Umana, both of the King’s Academy. Other finalists were Jana Jackson, Dylan Jackson and Maxime Prissert, all of Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

Guests were met at the door by volunteers from Palm Beach Gardens High School, who gave them red carnations, pearls and “bathtub gin” for photo props. Attendees then participated in a silent auction before moving into the dining room. There, students from various schools treated the packed house to a high-energy, Roaring ’20s performance of the Charleston before Ken Cunningham took the stage. Cunningham thanked sponsors and board members.

With JA’s entire focus being on fostering students’ abilities to find success, the organization’s fundraiser also featured student emcees Ryan Fink of Palm Beach Gardens High School and Kelsey Kummerlen of the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. The duo kept guests roaring with laughter throughout the night.

While judges tallied the results, Justin Paul auctioned luxurious getaways. One of the auction highlights included an announcement of a $25,000 matching bid from Rick Stone. Final appreciation was given to co-chairs Karen Gonzalez and Shannon Materio and the judges for the evening, Monique McCall, Marilyn Mims and Donna Singer.

Sponsors include the Esther B. O’Keeffe Foundation; the Stiles-Nicholson Foundation; the Richard & Lesley Stone Family; the Sandy Hill Foundation; PNC Bank; the Weitz Company; Templeton & Co.; Arrigo Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram; Ellie & Bud Frank; the International Society of Palm Beach; and Guardians Credit Union.

For more information, call Development Manager Cristina Sotolongo at (561) 242-9468.

ABOVE: Finalists Emily Rynasko, Gregorio Umana, Jana Jackson, Dylan Jackson, Celene Perez and Maxime Pressert.