Special Features — 04 January 2014
Does private school make a difference?

Six graduates extol the virtues of their private-education alma maters 

By Dave Wieczorek


Parents make countless decisions regarding their children that can influence their lives into adulthood. Right at the top, and coming as early as the age of 5, is the decision that can determine a child’s path – personally and professionally – for years to come: Should I send my son or daughter to a private school?

The answer is yes for the parents of about 5.5 million students (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) who attend more than 33,000 U.S. private schools, according to the Council for American Private Education. City & Shore would like to introduce you to six graduates from some of South Florida’s renowned private schools who say the environment in which they were educated greatly influences who they are today and what they are accomplishing – and what they still want to accomplish.

From cutting-edge surgeon to Save the Children staffer in Ethiopia, these graduates likely would agree with Mindy Reinstein, assistant director of Government and National Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, who avows that her private-school upbringing is “part of my core.”

From David Posnack to Washington, D.C.

Mindy Reinstein attended David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie through seventh grade, then transferred to Pine Crest School for eighth through 12th grades, graduating in 2001. (Posnack’s high school opened in 1998.) At age 30, she already has an impressive resume. Her duties at the Anti-Defamation League in Washington, D.C., include promoting the ADL’s involvement in a variety of international, immigration and civil-rights issues. Before joining the ADL she was legislative counsel to U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL).

“I work with the federal government, Congress, the administration, the State Department and with the foreign embassies,” Reinstein says. “I love what I do. I have my dream job.”

She earned a degree in international studies with a focus on the Middle East and Africa from Emory University and graduated cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law, where she was recognized for her leadership and service to the community. She also spent a semester studying at Tel Aviv University, and today she is a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“David Posnack is still a very big part of my life. I work for a Jewish organization, and I attribute that to attending Posnack,” says Reinstein, whose parents were among the founding families of the school. “Because of my Jewish education, I decided to go on programs like March of the Living [from Auschwitz to Birkenau in Poland] and study the Holocaust.

“I was lucky to have great teachers, like Rachel Keller, my Torah teacher. She was incredibly influential in my life and in the decisions I made to go to Israel, to go to Poland, to get college credits when I was in high school so I could study more about modern Jewish history.”

Most of all, Reinstein “learned how to apply Jewish history to leading a good and ethical life – which is about tikkun olam, a Jewish concept about repairing the world, starting with my own community, and also committing myself to a life of social justice. That is totally at the root of my Jewish education from David Posnack.”

David Posnack Jewish Day School, 5890 S. Pine Island Road, Davie, 954-583-6100, posnackschool.org


From American Heritage to Harvard-MIT

“My goal,” says Jose Orozco, “is to be a research-focused doctor working at an academic institution.”

He’s certainly on the right path to accomplish that goal. Orozco, who grew up in Pembroke Pines and Plantation, graduated from American Heritage School in 2007 and Northeastern University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and mathematics. Today, he is a first-year med student in the Harvard-MIT MD/PhD program.

In another eight years or so, the Colombian-born Orozco will have a medical degree from Harvard and a PhD, probably in biochemistry, from MIT. He will then pursue a career in research and clinical work, most likely in oncology or endocrinology.

“There’s a practical side to this kind of program,” Orozco says. “You can combine the pursuit of science with medicine. You get the experience of having the clinical training that helps you be a better scientist, and so it’s easier to get a job.”

Recalling his days at American Heritage, Orozco speaks of his calculus teacher, Vince Schubert, whom he calls a genius. “He was a lawyer who retired and decided to focus on teaching math in high school. In his class was the first time I really came to appreciate academic pursuits. He was very strict, very particular, and had a high expectation of his students. That was the most lasting impression from my days at American Heritage.”

Schubert was just one of the teachers on a Heritage staff that expected – and still expects today – high achievement from students, according to Orozco.

“The level of expectation in general at American Heritage is fairly high,” he says. “They expect every student, at the very least, to go to a four-year college – that’s the lowest expectation. I had an academic scholarship, so I was under contract and had to apply to five top national universities outside of Florida. I didn’t have to attend one of them, but I had to apply. So for me and other students on scholarship the expectations were even higher.”

Harvard-MIT? It doesn’t get much higher than that.

American Heritage School, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation, 954-472-0022; 6200 Linton Blvd., Delray Beach, 561-495 7272; ahschool.com


From Broward Prep to Ethiopia

David Friedman’s voice breaks up now and then, and he apologizes. He is calling from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and sometimes the long-distance connection provided free by Google is not the best. Even so, the point he makes comes through loud and clear.

“The biggest influence on me at North Broward Prep was my history teacher, Daisy Drews. She was very knowledgeable about current affairs and what was happening around the world,” Friedman recalls. “Sometimes she would just take a moment to say, ‘Let’s talk about this issue that’s happening right now. It’s important and probably is not going to get brought up on your local news.’ ”

Those moments, he says, “were very powerful for me because she was right. No one else was going to tell me that things were not as easy for other people in the world and that you had to address some difficult issues in addressing their problems. That influenced the way I saw things. I started thinking about issues that were bigger than me. Daisy Drews was quite a woman.”

Friedman, of Delray Beach, graduated from North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek in 2009 and from Duke University in 2013 with a double major in history and French. He hopes to attend law school after completing a one-year fellowship in June as a proposal coordinator for Save the Children International in Ethiopia.

“All of this ties back into my days at North Broward,” Friedman says. “When I was a junior, I got involved in the Model United Nations club, and that piqued my interest in international affairs. At North Broward I acquired a lot of the tools that I needed to succeed in college and beyond.”

In 2011 Friedman completed a summer internship with a micro-finance organization in rural Uganda. “That was an incredible summer, one of personal development and growth.”

The following summer he worked with a different program in South Africa, focusing on issues of gender, HIV/AIDS and human rights.

“One of the reasons I like history so much is that ‘history’ is very much a broad term, so at Duke I was able to carve out what I wanted that to be, which was a concentration in human rights and social movements,” Friedman says. “After spending time in Africa I knew that I loved something about this work.

“All this started at North Broward Prep and spiraled from there.”

North Broward Preparatory School, 7600 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, 954-247-0011, nbps.org



From University School to Napa Valley

When asked about the influence of a private-school education on his life, Neil Ellman immediately credits University School of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

“It was partially responsible for forming the character and person I am and the way I treat people, giving them the attention they deserve but don’t necessarily get,” says Ellman, a 1987 graduate. “I try to treat people in our company and the world in general very similar to the way I was treated when growing up.”

Ellman, 44, is the third generation involved in the family business, Fort Lauderdale-based Sherwood Bedding. Along with his brother, Lance, he also operates Ellman Family Vineyards in Napa, Calif.

With the mattress business doing well in the early 2000s, Ellman, who earned a degree in business administration from American University in Washington, D.C., said to himself: “I’m fortunate enough now to be able to do something I’m passionate about: collecting wine.”

After “a lot of due diligence,” he and Lance hired a winemaker and started making wine in 2007.

Ellman, a resident of Las Olas Isles, was born in South Africa and came to Florida with his family in 1974. He attended University School in first through 12th grades.

“University School was a very personalized, nurturing experience,” he says. “You get a lot of individual support, care and attention in that kind of environment, along with very good teachers who are still making an impression today. It’s the reason I wanted my kids to go to University School and experience a similar situation.” His daughter, Amanda, is in sixth grade, and his son, Jordan, is a freshman at the school.

“That experience was very good and meaningful to me, and it has carried on later in life, today and going forward.”

University School of Nova Southeastern University, 3375 SW 75th Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-262-4500 (Lower School), 954-262-4444 (Middle School), 954-262-4400 (Upper School); uschool.nova.edu.



From Pine Crest to the Super Bowl

Kevin Boothe is a 2001 graduate of Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, a 2005 graduate of Cornell University with a degree in hotel management, the owner of two Super Bowl rings as an offensive lineman with the New York Giants and the father of two toddlers. Oh, and one more thing: In January he received his MBA from George Washington University.

“This was my eighth year in the NFL, and my playing days will eventually come to an end,” says Boothe, speaking from his home in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, Rosalie, son Dante, 3, and daughter Bria, 1½. “I’m not sure what I want to do, but I figured by at least getting the MBA, I’d open some doors.”

Those doors could lead to a prolonged career out of cleats yet still in the NFL.

“The NFL office has asked me to come in whenever I want, and the Giants are starting an off-season program in which you’ll partner with a company for an internship,” Boothe says. “This is a learning process, and I want to see as much as I can while I’m still playing in order to make the transition effortless.”

Boothe, 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, worked on his MBA during the past two off-seasons, taking classes online and on campus in Washington, D.C., along with two-week sessions held at Columbia University in New York City and at UCLA in California. He also devoted considerable time to several charities and community projects, including Giants Coach Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund, a foundation that helps families tackle childhood cancer.

“The main thing Pine Crest taught me was time management and how much hard work is required to be successful,” says Boothe, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale.

“Obviously the academics at Pine Crest are rigorous and challenging. To be able to do that and to play sports you had to make the most of your time. That helped prepare me for my years at Cornell, where it was a similar atmosphere: balancing heavy academics with athletics. “The experience at Pine Crest set me up for the rest of my life.”

Pine Crest School, 1501 NE 62nd St., Fort Lauderdale,
954-492-4100; 2700 St. Andrews Blvd., Boca Raton,
561-852-2846; pinecrest.edu 


From Cardinal Gibbons
to the O.R.

Martin Roche’s father was a doctor, his mother was a nurse, four aunts were nuns, two were priests. So it would not have surprised anyone if he had known from the moment of his baptism that he would follow in the familial vocation of helping others. But confirmation of that didn’t come until his junior year at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale.

“In Europe,” says the Ireland-born Roche, “you make a decision in high school based on your grades whether you’re going to become a vet, a doctor, an engineer, whatever. In the U.S., we go to college and try to figure out what we want to do. The environment at Cardinal Gibbons, from academics to athletics, allowed me to mature and say, ‘I want to do this, to get into the medical field and help people.’ ”

Roche’s family moved from Ireland to Boston when he was 3 and two years later to South Florida. They returned to the Emerald Isle for a month every summer, and Roche returned for college after graduating from Cardinal Gibbons in 1984.

“I decided to go back and attend the University of Ireland in Cork,” he says. “They had a six-year program that included college as well as an accelerated medical school.”

Today, Roche is a renowned orthopedic surgeon. At Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale he has helped pioneer minimally invasive techniques for knee surgery.

“We were first in the world to do robotic knee surgery and first in the world to perform total knee replacement using embedded sensors,” says Roche, an associate professor at Florida International University and former consultant to the Miami Marlins.

Two aspects of his high-school experience have guided Roche’s life in and out of the operating room.

“The education I got at Cardinal Gibbons grounded me in terms of how I studied and in different ways of learning, so I didn’t feel intimidated going to the next level,” he says. “I had the foundation to handle the transition out of the U.S. education system into a pretty intense university system in Ireland.”

The second guiding principle garnered from his Gibbons experience was a dedication to service.

“In my family I was brought up around priests and nuns, who I got to know from the positive side as people, to see how they looked out for others. It was a very caring environment and similar to the parish setting of Cardinal Gibbons, where the thought process of giving out and helping others was always strongly driven.”

Chances are a second generation of Roches will be exposed to that thought process. His son, Devin, is in eighth grade, and his daughter, Kyla, is in sixth.

“We’re just discussing that now,” Roche says. “He’s an avid baseball player; she’s got the volleyball bug. We want them to have the right mix between academics and athletics. I expect them to be future Gibbonites.”

Cardinal Gibbons High School, 2900 NE 47th St.,
Fort Lauderdale, 954-491-2900, cghsfl.org



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