Position: Volunteer School: Crosspointe Elementary School
School District: Palm Beach Schools
City, State: Boynton Beach, Florida
About the Nominee: Update: June 15th, 2016 Ms. Peterman is a student volunteer and is not employed by the school. Although she is not eligible for the LifeChanger of the Year cash prizes, we recognize that her organization, Abbey's Angels, has made a tremendous difference in the lives of homeless and foster students at Crosspointe Elementary. We're creating a profile to honor her compassion and mission to help as many students as possible.
Abbey Peterman is a 17-year-old high school student who created a non-profit organization to help the homeless students that attend Crosspointe Elementary School, where her mother is employed as the cafeteria manager. Ms. Peterman noticed that there were 24 homeless students at the school, so she decided to start collecting small, gently-used rolling suitcases for them. Then, she collected donated items to put in the suitcases, including toiletries, books, school supplies and comfort items such as stuffed animals, blankets and small pillows. Every suitcase also contains a journal so the students can write down their thoughts and feelings. She wants each of these students to have “something of their own.” No matter where the students live, the suitcases are theirs to keep.
Ms. Peterman has delivered all 24 suitcases to Crosspointe, and the program was such a success she has begun delivering suitcases to other schools in Palm Beach County. There are over 2,600 identified homeless and foster children in Palm Beach County Schools right now. That’s a lot of suitcases and a lot of kindness being spread! Ms. Peterman believes that just because these students don’t have a steady home shouldn’t mean they don’t have something to call their own. She saw a problem and did not look away, but demonstrated empathy and came up with an incredible way to help thousands of children. She is one person making the difference in so many lives.
When delivering the suitcases to their new owners, Ms. Peterman often ends up in tears from the love and gratitude the families pass along to her. The more children she helps, the more she wants to help others. Through her kindness, she found a solution to help homelessness, one suitcase at a time.
Ms. Peterman wants Abbey’s Angels to soar to new heights to help as many children as possible, and she is already thinking about the next steps for the organization. After she is able to provide suitcases to all the identified students in Palm Beach County, she has started to look into providing larger suitcases to young adults who are “dismissed” from the foster care program. She has learned that when foster children reach a certain age, they are kicked out of the system and put onto the streets with nothing. Ms. Peterman wants to provide them suitcases to assist them in this very hard transition. This young lady is making such a huge difference, not only in the Palm Beach community, but to everyone she comes into contact with!