During the Spring 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, Miami Palmetto High School rising senior Ari Rolnick helped his mom with her diversion baking.
“My mom was making everything from banana bread, cookies, brownies, and challah bread,” he says. “And then I started to help her when she was baking because it’s a great way to pass the time.”
The family could only eat so much, so he started selling some of the baked goods to his friends when school began last August.
“They loved it,” he says. “It blew up. I would bring cookies to school every day and it would sell out.”
He continued to help his mom bake and kept selling her baked products.
“I do help her whenever I get the chance,” he says. “If I have any free time, it’s going to be helping her in the kitchen baking. I do make all the sales. Her friends will buy platters, but other than that, I make all the sales. I have teachers that buy at school. It’s a lot of fun.”
They have a Splendid Sweets by Susan Instagram page for the baked goods. The top selling items are the chunky chocolate chip cookies.
“Everything is made from scratch,” he says. “Everything is her own creation.”
In the middle of the school year, he had the idea that they should donate 50 percent of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of his grandmother’s memory. That required creating a fundraising team through the Alzheimer’s fundraising division.
“It took some time to set up,” he says. “Once May came along we were able to launch the fundraiser.”
By June, they raised approximately $500 to donate.
“I think it’s a project I will definitely bring back next year, probably in March,” he says.
He’s been volunteering at Friendship Circle since ninth grade. He participates in the Children’s Circle and the Teen Scene program which takes place every other Sunday morning. Rolnick says this past year was difficult because he wasn’t able to attend as often as he would have liked. One week he was in quarantine because of contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
He plans on continuing to volunteer through his senior year.
“I think it’s great that there’s a program for kids with special needs,” he says. “It makes them feel more involved in society even though they have these disabilities that hold them back from certain things.”
At Palmetto, Rolnick is an active member of the Jewish Student Union and a member of the National Honor Society. He’s also active in Key Club, a service club, attending most of the club’s community service events. He’s president of the Health Information Project.
“It’s a club at school that consists of juniors and seniors,” he says. “Every other week you go into the freshmen history classes. You talk to them about important topics like drugs, safe sex, and nutrition, as well as how to live a safe life, a healthy life. We take into account that you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, so we don’t push them to share their personal stories, but we let them know there are resources to help them and we share those resources.”
For college, Rolnick wants to study business and then go into law. He’s considering staying in state. His list includes the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami if he stays in state. If he goes out of state, he’s considering applying to Tulane, in New Orleans.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld
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