Palms West Charter School Honored With National ‘Above And Beyond Award’

One of the creative cards sent by students.

As part of efforts to celebrate National Charter Schools Week (NCSW) held May 10-16, Palms West Charter School in Royal Palm Beach joined a select group of 10 schools from across the nation recognized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as “Above and Beyond Award” honorees.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Palms West Charter School assessed the needs of students, their families and the community, and quickly mobilized. The Above and Beyond Award was earned by schools that took the extra step to serve not only their own students, but also the broader community during the coronavirus pandemic, despite all the challenges that came with transitioning to online learning.

Knowing that social distancing practices are particularly affecting the elderly and those in nursing homes, the Service Learning Class at Palms West Charter School reached out to a local nursing home to offer some words of encouragement. Students sent heartfelt letters to residents, sharing how they spend their days and ideas for how they could pass time, such as coloring or reading their favorite books. These letters were written and sent to encourage, inspire and provide a moment of solace, and perhaps joy, to those who feel trapped and lonely during this time.

“Palms West Charter School has built its entire structure around educating the whole individual and helping each student understand that they are part of something bigger,” said Steve Epstein, the school’s principal. “Creating servant leaders, Palms West Charter School guides students to understand that in addition to their academics, they can become role models and leaders of today and tomorrow by serving some of our most vulnerable individuals. Our community is the classroom of all. As individuals, we are part of the whole, and each time we contribute to others, we strengthen ourselves. We are honored and humbled to be recognized as a national Above and Beyond Award winner. This shows our students that doing the right thing is always the way to go, even when they don’t know anyone else was watching.”

What started out with letters to senior citizens at one local nursing home grew to include cards to the nursing staff there and is now going to be implemented at another nursing home.

The National Charter Schools Week 2020 theme, “Above and Beyond,” speaks to the extraordinary work all charter schools are doing during the pandemic.

“When schools nationwide transitioned to distance learning, it became clear to us that charter schools were setting a model for the rest of the nation on what it looked like to step up and care for their communities in the face of a global pandemic,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “There are many public schools that served their students well in the face of COVID-19, but the exceptional work of our Above and Beyond Award winners embodies compassion and caring for people outside their school community who also needed help. Their work is a model of servant leadership for the rest of the nation.”