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Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship Winners

Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship Winners
Wellington Community Foundation Presents Annual Scholarships To Three Talented Students

Story by Deborah Welky  |  Photos by Denise Fleischman

The Wellington Community Foundation’s Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship recipients were named at this year’s Thank You Soirée held Thursday, May 12 at the Boynton Financial Group offices in Wellington. This year’s winners are Ryann Bierman, Miles Wang and Isabella Whedbee — three outstanding candidates, noted scholarship chairs James Seder and Joanna Boynton.

The foundation created this scholarship to serve those in need who can benefit from a helping hand in order to become one of tomorrow’s leaders. The scholarship is awarded annually to Wellington students who either live in or attend high school in Wellington.

The scholarship was named in honor of former Palm Beach County Commissioner Ken Adams and his wife Arle Adams. Longtime Wellington residents, Arle and Ken Adams made great contributions to the growth and development of the Village of Wellington, dating back to the late 1970s.

Key figures in getting Wellington incorporated as a municipality in the 1990s, there are few aspects of Wellington’s story that cannot be attributed to some kind of involvement or assistance from Arle and Ken Adams. The foundation voted to create this scholarship in their honor to ensure their legacy lives on.

Ryann Bierman recently graduated from Wellington High School with a grade point average of 3.9. She will be attending the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she plans to major in geology — at least that’s the plan for now.

“It may eventually change,” Bierman said. “I’ll have to see how much I like rocks once I start studying them full time.”

She may even check out UF’s new Gator Glaciology Lab, where Associate Professor of Geological Sciences Mickey MacKie, together with a team of undergrads, use machine learning tools to study the conditions under glaciers to better understand movement and melting in order to help ascertain the impact of the world’s glaciers on rising sea levels.

“Once I get my degree, I can work in the paleontology field, although I may have to go beyond my bachelor’s degree to get there,” Bierman explained. “I’d like to go out and find fossils. I think that would be an amazing thing to do, although not forever. Eventually, I’d like to work in a museum or in labs on research projects.”

If her love of rocks does dim while in school, Bierman said she may pivot to a major in anthropology or archeology.

Providing the impetus for her all-round love of science is Bierman’s mother.

“First and foremost, it’s my mom,” she said. “My mother was in the science field during her career, and she’s the one who got me interested in it. Then dad pushed me to pursue what interested me.”

Bierman wants younger students to share her drive.

“Keep working on it,” she offers as advice. “If you’re having trouble with something, ask for help. At the end of the day, you’ll get to where you’re going if you keep trying — and that’s the most important thing. I was told this myself when I entered high school: ‘Have fun but work hard.’”

Receiving the Wellington Community Foundation’s Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship was not something Bierman had anticipated.

“When I first got the call, I was completely surprised,” Bierman said. “It truly means the world to me. It’s going to help me so much to reach my dream.”

During the check presentation, Bierman got to meet the other two winners. “They are lovely people,” she said.

In addition to the $2,500 she received from the Wellington Community Foundation, Bierman also has a few more applications pending, not that she’s dwelling on that. She’s already looking ahead to college.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and being in a new place — being out of my comfort zone,” Bierman said.

Miles Wang graduated from the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts with a 4.0 grade point average. While there, he majored in communications and joined the debate team in his sophomore year. By his senior year, he was serving as captain of the USA Debate Team for the National Speech & Debate Association.

Now, he’s packing his bags and heading to Harvard University.

“I loved growing up in Florida and attending Dreyfoos, but I also realize it’s a bubble of people formed by their environment,” Wang said. “I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of new people from every background and place possible — people who are passionate about whatever they are interested in.”

While Harvard offers more than 3,700 courses in 50 undergraduate fields of study, Wang has chosen to focus on applied mathematics as well as economics, part of the university’s quantitative social sciences program.

It seems like a perfect fit. Harvard’s economics program begins with the premise that individuals have goals and that they pursue those goals as best they can. Wang will learn the behavior of social systems such as markets, corporations, legislatures, and families, ultimately being able to make recommendations that will serve to make people better off.

“Harvard University is very well known for their well-renowned economics department, their economics professors and the resources they direct there,” Wang said.

And, although it’s a bit early to make a final decision, Wang has a few ideas on how he is going to put his education to use. “I’m looking at the fields of either politics, technology or finance,” he said.

While a Harvard education can cost upward of $50,000 per year before financial aid or scholarships, Wang is going to have a lot of help, including the Wellington Community Foundation’s Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship.

“I’m so grateful for it,” Wang said. “I’ve grown up in Wellington my entire life, attending the Little Place and Binks Forest Elementary School, and to have some of my hefty college tuition supported by the scholarship, I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

Wang has also received a Coca-Cola scholarship, a Kovner Opportunity scholarship, a U.S. Senate Youth Program scholarship, a George Snow scholarship, a Community Foundation of the Palm Beaches & Martin County scholarship, and a National Merit scholarship, some of which are renewable.

“My parents and family were always pushing me,” Wang said. “They loved, encouraged, and supported me. I have a brother, Michael, who is five years older than me, and he has been a great mentor and role model. It takes a village to raise a child.”

Wang recommends that future graduates focus on what they enjoy.

“Pursue activities that you are truly interested in, that you’re truly passionate about,” he said. “You’ll do better at them, and it’ll be better as far as helping you get into college.”

Isabella Whedbee recently graduated from Palm Beach Central High School with a 4.0 grade point average and will be attending the Burnett Honors College at the University of Central Florida.

The college was designed to attract and challenge students who demonstrate an ability to achieve academic excellence and prepares them to enter the best graduate and professional schools. It offers a small college experience within a large research university.

There is also a two-to-four semester program, Honors Undergraduate Thesis, which allows UCF juniors and seniors to conduct original and independent research under the supervision of a faculty committee, culminating in a thesis or related creative project.

“I submitted a separate application and was fortunate enough to be invited to attend,” said Whedbee, who needed to list her volunteer activities and test scores as part of the process. “I’m looking forward to the smaller class sizes and working with a more-connected group of students.”

Whedbee plans to major in communications or advertising and credits a former teacher for steering her in that direction. “I had a high school newspaper teacher named Ms. Joanne Biferie,” Whedbee said. “I was one of her editors on the paper, and she inspired me to continue writing and growing my knowledge of world events.”

After college, Whedbee’s chosen path is clear.

“I would love to manage or own an advertising agency that is able to help businesses and nonprofits that help serve the community and underserved students,” she said. “I’d love to intern during college with a nonprofit or advertising agency and work my way up to help manage it over time.”

Receiving the Wellington Community Foundation’s Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship was a memorable experience for Whedbee. “It was a great moment,” she said. “It is amazing that they selected me, and an empowering feeling to be noticed by such a prestigious nonprofit as the Wellington Community Foundation. I’m very grateful.”

Whedbee is also grateful for having received the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, which will cover her tuition.

For those college hopefuls still working their way through high school, Whedbee has some advice.

“Block out all the noise and really try to focus on what you can help the community with,” she said. “Colleges will really appreciate it, and you’ll have a new sense of gratification for what you were able to have in your own life.”

The Arle & Ken Adams Scholarship is just one of the many ways the Wellington Community foundation continues to provide support to Wellington students to help them achieve educational success. Again this year, the foundation will be providing 650 new school uniforms and 650 backpacks filled with much-needed school supplies.

If you would like more information about the foundation, or this ongoing initiative, contact WCF Chair Tom Wenham at (561) 333-9843, or visit to become involved and help “build a stronger community.”



Personalized Learning For Students

Personalized Learning For Students
Local Private Schools Provide Students With A More Individualized Educational Experience

By Mike May

When it comes to education options in Wellington, parents have many choices beyond traditional brick-and-mortar schools. In Wellington, there are several private schools that specialize in providing an individualized educational experience for parents and students looking for this type of learning environment. Among these schools are #1 Education Place, Score at the Top and the Wellington Collegiate Academy.

#1 Education Place

The driving forces behind #1 Education Place are Judy Blake and Anita Kane. Together, they started this private school more than 20 years ago. They began as tutors with clients from the equestrian world. Now, they operate a full-fledged private school with clients from all walks of life.

At #1 Education Place, located in the original Wellington Mall, the teaching model is not what you find at regular schools. “We are a Montessori school,” Blake said. “And we are open 12 months a year.”

The “big picture” focus at #1 Education Place — which teaches children in grades 1 through 12 — is to emphasize independence and executive function.

According to Blake, when students are taught executive function, they learn organizational skills, personal responsibility, how to organize their day and how to master life as an adult. They also learn all the core subjects taught in conventional schools. At #1 Education Place, there’s a major focus on core communications. “We have a big emphasis on writing, especially in high school,” Kane said. “We also focus on cursive writing, penmanship, grammar, spelling and English comprehension.”

Rather than a teacher-directed environment, like in traditional schools, #1 Education Place implements a student-directed educational atmosphere.

According to Kane, teachers at the school encourage each student to follow his or her interests and passions. The teaching environment is peaceful and filled with purpose.

“We have all open spaces, no closed doors and there’s freedom of movement for everybody,” Blake said. “Here, students are interested in doing, learning and accomplishing. There are no rewards or punishment, but plenty of positive reinforcement. In many cases, we provide a few minutes of instruction and then let the students do the work.”

At #1 Education Place, homework is not a regular occurrence. “Our students have a life outside of school,” Kane noted.

The school also offers flexible arrivals and departures for students. According to Blake, flexible schedules are important for students who have serious interests in other endeavors, such as tennis, golf and equestrian sports that require unique travel and practice time.

For the elementary school and middle school students at #1 Education Place, they do get 30 minutes of recess every day and occasionally go on field trips.

#1 Education Place is located at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 23. For more info., call (561) 753-6563 or visit

Score Academy 

Score Academy, the private school component of Score at the Top, with a location on State Road 7 in Wellington, is also an option for families that require flexible scheduling because traditional schools don’t work for them. Score Academy teaches NCAA-approved core courses and is a SACS (Southern Association of Colleges & Schools) and SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school.

“We are your pathway to academic success, virtually or locally,” said Maggie Alexander, the center director and head of school. “You don’t have to be in Wellington to attend Score Academy.”

At Score Academy, you can learn on site or remotely. According to Alexander, one of the appealing aspects of Score Academy is that many classes are one-on-one with a teacher, and no class has more than four students. Some classes feature a student connected via Zoom, who is joined by a student and teacher in one of Score’s classrooms. “Our classes are live, synchronous and face-to-face,” Alexander said.

Many of the students at Score Academy are serious equestrian competitors — hunters, jumpers or dressage riders. Many other students are tennis players, golfers, water skiers, figure skaters and dancers. Because of different and changing schedules, students who compete in equestrian pursuits are enrolled at Score Academy for classes throughout the day.

The academy accommodates a significant number of international students, as the school has the ability to provide I-20 visas for students who want to study and reside in the United States.

Besides catering to full-time students, Score at the Top also provides SAT and ACT prep workshops, as well as tutoring in all subject areas. You can also register to take a regular, honors or AP class at Score Academy, even if you attend a different school.

The emphasis at Score at the Top is to provide each student with a quality education. “99.9 percent of our students have been accepted to their top choice colleges and schools,” Alexander said.

For students looking for this type of program, Score Academy is worth the investment.

Score at the Top is located 1035 S. State Road 7, Suite 118. For more info., call (561) 333-8882 or visit

Wellington Collegiate Academy 

The students at the Wellington Collegiate Academy (WCA), located in the original Wellington Mall, currently range from kindergarten through eighth grade. However, the school will soon be educating students through 12th grade. Beginning this fall, the WCA will add one high school grade each year.

Right now, there are 90 students enrolled at the school.

“We offer traditional and innovative ways of learning,” said Juan Carlos Valdez, WCA co-owner and principal. “We try to cater to the specific needs of every student. We encourage students to progress at their own speed.”

According to Valdez, who operates the school with his wife, Jessica, the teacher-student ratio is low, which guarantees that each student gets plenty of attention.

“We have eight to 12 students per teacher,” Juan Carlos said. “There’s a great deal of relationship building between students and teachers. Our students know that they have the support of their teachers.”

At the WCA, there is a significant emphasis on the arts. The arts are the specialty area of interest for the Valdez husband-and-wife team. He’s a professional animator, while she is an opera singer.

Once a year, the WCA’s students conduct an acting or musical performance.

“This year, our students performed “The Wizard of Oz,” Juan Carlos said. “In recent years, our students presented Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. In December, we have our Christmas concert.”

When it comes to music education, that’s Jessica’s specialty.

“I oversee all the music classes,” she said. “We want them to experience all forms of music, which includes music from the 1960s, 1980s, jazz and Mozart.”

One of the biggest musical opportunities for WCA students will take place in June 2023 when a school choir will be traveling to England to perform during the London Band Week.

Every year, WCA’s musical troupe performs at Walt Disney World, and there’s a reason that they are invited to return annually. “When people hear us sing, they stop and listen,” Jessica said.

A key aspect of WCA’s approach to education is connecting the textbook with reality. For instance, the students learning marine biology are taken on a field trip to the Miami Seaquarium. The school also takes students on educational field trips to the Kennedy Space Center, St. Augustine, the Palm Beach Zoo, local farms and the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.

“It’s one thing to learn about a place from a book, and it’s another thing to see it live and in person,” Juan Carlos said.

The school also understands the importance of recess and physical activity breaks for its students during the school day. “Giving students recess breaks helps support their imagination and helps create innovation,” Juan Carlos said.

The Wellington Collegiate Academy is located at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 14B. For more info., call (561) 784-1776 or (561) 701-3462, or visit



Top In Science, Math And Engineering

Top In Science, Math And Engineering
American Heritage Schools Leads The Nation In STEM Education

As the world continues to advance technologically, American Heritage Schools keeps pace with the global shift by integrating a culture of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) into its comprehensive and rigorous curriculum.

Founded in 1965, American Heritage Schools is a nationally ranked college preparatory school with two 40-acre campuses in South Florida for grades Pre-K3 to 12. The 4,800 students represent more than 60 different countries, and more than 70 percent of the faculty holds a post-graduate degree. The student to faculty ratio is 5 to 1.

AHS alumni are notable leaders in their fields, who are generating positive differences in the world. Dylan Cahill graduated from American Heritage Schools’ Palm Beach campus in 2014, from Dartmouth College in 2018, and he is currently a medical degree candidate at Harvard Medical School. “American Heritage prepared me for college academics,” Cahill said. “Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the study strategies I developed in challenging classes at AHS helped make my transition into the demands of college life much smoother.”

Ranked among the top private schools in Florida in STEM according to Niche, a leader in digital searches for the best K-12 schools and colleges, the students at American Heritage recently earned high honors in STEM, including No. 1 in Florida at the state science fair, No. 1 and No. 2 private school in Florida in math competition, and event champions in robotics competition.

The American Heritage Science Research Institute for select students in grades 6 to 12 enables students to conduct research on real-world problems, and in turn, they have earned international recognition for their findings.

Emilin Mathew researched digital phenotyping of the autism spectrum and earned first prize in the world at the 2021 International Intel Science & Engineering Fair.

“I’m really grateful for the support I got in pursuing my commitment to overcome healthcare inequities for people of color,” Mathew said. “Winning first place in the world was the most empowering experience that reaffirmed my aspiration to be a scientist-activist who helps underserved communities.”

She is just one of the many students at American Heritage empowered to make a big difference in the world.

The range of equipment in the science lab is unlike any other high school — fluorescent and inverted microscopes, UV/Vis plate reader (a spectrophotometer), a carbon dioxide incubator, a minus-86-degree freezer, a liquid nitrogen cryogenic tank and a scanning electron microscope, just to name a few.

“When our students graduate, they are equipped with a level of research knowledge they would not normally have without the opportunities presented in our program,” said Dr. Iris Thompson, director of science research at American Heritage Schools’ Palm Beach campus. “This sets them apart from their peers when applying to college or graduate school.”

The mathematics departments at both campuses are equally strong. Starting in Lower School, advanced courses are offered, including the Stanford University math program for accelerated math students in grades 4 through 6. This early learning enables the students to perform extremely well at math competitions. They earned the ranking of No. 1 elementary school in Florida and No. 2 private elementary school in the United States in math competition, and many of those students advance to the high school level with great success.

Both the Broward and Palm Beach math teams at AHS ranked No. 1 and No. 2 private school at the Florida Association of Mu Alpha Theta statewide math competition. The Palm Beach campus earned five first-place awards in Geometry, Matrices and Vectors, Statistics, Statistics Bowl and Computer Competition.

Justin Sun is a senior at the Palm Beach campus who has competed on the AHS Math Team since he was a freshman. His strength is in statistics with an interest in data science.

“One day I want to be the CEO of my own corporation using data to solve major issues in the world, such as climate change and the tumultuous political environment,” explained Sun, who attributed his success in high school to his teachers. “American Heritage does a great job of making sure the students are comfortable in class and understand the material, and I feel that only comes with experience of the teachers, who make sure the students have the proper tools to achieve the goals they want.”

Sun will be attending Carnegie Mellon University in the fall.

In the field of robotics and engineering, the AHS Ninjineers Robotics Team at the Broward campus qualified for the World Robotics Championship in Houston over the summer. The team also won NASA’s Regional Engineering Inspiration Award, which celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school or organization and community.

Senior Krishna Sorna was a top student in the American Heritage Pre-Engineering Program at the Palm Beach campus and will be attending Princeton in the fall.

“American Heritage has played a major role in my early acceptance to Princeton University by providing a great educational environment unlike any other high school,” Sorna said. “The Pre-Engineering Program allowed me to learn through several engineering classes, participate in internships with major engineering companies, and design and create products in the engineering and robotics lab to get real-world experience, which inspired me to choose a major in electrical and computer engineering and a career at an engineering firm.”

American Heritage Schools in Palm Beach is No. 2 in National Merit Scholars out of all schools in Florida. American Heritage Schools’ combined students from both campuses comprise 9 percent of all National Merit Scholars Semifinalists throughout the 2,227 public and private schools in Florida.

“We are very proud to have our students win prestigious honors for their various accomplishments in our STEM programs,” said Dr. Doug Laurie, president of American Heritage Schools. “These students are model ambassadors for American Heritage Schools. Each of them embodies our values of knowledge, integrity and compassion, and their hard work and dedication to their educational pursuits are admired.”

American Heritage is open all year at both campuses. It also provides an extensive summer program from June to August for children and teens ages 3 to 17 from all over the world. The offerings include traditional day camps, specialty and sports camps, the Summer Institute, available in-person and online with more than 100 courses designed for every student interest, and 1-on-1 tutoring. This comprehensive summer enrichment ensures students are prepared or ahead for the next school year and gives them a competitive advantage to succeed.

American Heritage Schools will continue to set high standards for growth and learning and prepare the next generation of global thinkers and problem solvers to succeed.

American Heritage Schools’ Palm Beach campus is located at 6200 Linton Blvd., just east of Jog Road. For more information, call (561) 495-7272 or visit


Protecting America’s Vulnerable Horses

Protecting America’s Vulnerable Horses
The Equus Foundation Works To Educate People On The Importance Of A Horse’s Life Both In And Out Of The Show Ring

By Sydney Jones

The lives of horses are not only measured by how high they jump or how many ribbons they win. There comes a time when a horse can no longer compete and is in need of a next chapter or deserving of a long-term, relaxing retirement life.

Unfortunately, many horses don’t get that chance, which is where the Equus Foundation steps in. Founded in 2002 by Lynn Coakley, the foundation exists to place emphasis on horse care both during and post competition.

Driven by a mission to safeguard the comfort and dignity of America’s horses throughout their lives, the Equus Foundation focuses on empowering equine charities to operate at the highest standards for horse care and service, inspiring horse lovers to become horse protectors by simulating advocacy and volunteerism, and by educating the public on the value of horses through stories of their achievements and contributions.

Coakley founded the Equus Foundation after realizing a staggering statistic. “Over two million horses have been shipped across our borders for slaughter, most of which were young, healthy and had untapped potential,” she explained.

The transition period between competing and retirement is when the horses are most vulnerable. It’s a time when their owners can no longer care for them, so the foundation helps to provide financial support to ensure these horses go to a good home and live out their lives.

“The Equus Foundation has awarded over $5.2 million in grants to equine charities nationwide that rescue, rehabilitate, retrain, re-home and retire horses, and charities that partner with horses to improve the well-being of people,” Coakley explained.

The foundation also prides itself on education about the significant impact of horses. The foundation does this through several initiatives to help spread awareness about horse care both in Wellington and nationwide.

This year, the Equus Foundation initiated its 2022 “Stepping Out for America’s Horses’’ campaign to coincide with the Winter Equestrian Festival and held two major events in Wellington this season.

The campaign provides the opportunity for horse lovers to directly impact the lives of horses at the Equus Foundation’s Guardian charities by selecting a horse from a list of 120 horses to fundraise for. The fundraiser provided the opportunity for equestrians to share their “Stepping Out” page with their family and friends, furthering the reach of the foundation.

The foundation will also be supporting America’s Wild Horses through the Stepping Out Campaign. On March 30, the foundation held an exclusive live screening in Wellington of the documentary The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses, produced and co-directed by Steven Latham. The Equus Foundation has vouched to match the first $25,000 raised during the campaign. There are more than 80,000 wild horses on federal lands and more than 50,000 in government corrals.

Another prestigious event held this season was the Robb Report’s Horsepower Gala, which took place March 31 at the farm of Helgstrand Dressage in Wellington. The event was created by the Robb Report to increase awareness surrounding the issues of horse abuse, neglect and slaughter and support the mission of the Equus Foundation. The foundation was the beneficiary of the live auction, receiving more than $110,000 to go toward protecting America’s horses.

Aside from the fundraising initiatives and financial support that the Equus Foundation provides, many well-known riders have stepped in to support its mission and serve as athlete ambassadors throughout the country.

“The Equus Foundation Athletes program recognizes equestrians who demonstrate that success is measured not only by winning but by making the quality of life of their equine partners paramount,” Coakley said. “They serve as inspirational role models in the world of equestrian sport to help raise important awareness on behalf of the horses we all love. These athletes exemplify that the horse should always come first — and what happens to them after their sport careers are over is just as important.”

Two local top-level riders, Catherine Tyree and Victoria Colvin, have taken a stance alongside the foundation to be a voice for America’s horses both here and nationwide. Colvin is proud of her work as an Equus Foundation athlete ambassador.

“I am proud to support the Equus Foundation as an athlete ambassador and support the work they do in bringing awareness to the abuse horses face across the world,” she said. “We are privileged to work with and rely on such incredible animals for our careers, so it’s important to me to give back in any way that I can and champion organizations like Equus that are making such a big difference.”

Tyree agreed. “Working with Lynn and the entire Equus Foundation has been a wonderful experience,” she said. “We are all fueled by one thing: our love for the horses. What Lynn has built is truly special. The foundation’s commitment to making sure each and every horse has their forever home with the proper love and care is admirable. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with such a special group to give back to the animals that give us so much on a day-to-day basis.”

Moving forward, the Equus Foundation wants to continue to spread awareness about abuse and neglect to America’s horses and provide financial and educational support to help keep horses an important part of American life.

“Informed giving is more important now than ever before — which is why we ensure donor dollars are invested in programs that have the greatest impact. We believe boundless opportunities exist for thousands of horses to contribute positively to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being of all people,” Coakley said. “There are 61 million people in the United States with disabilities, yet only 69,000 are benefiting from the powerful healing ability of horses. Many more at-risk and transitioning horses could be serving people with disabilities. We need to embrace a fundamental shift in our attitude toward horses — from the horse as a commodity to the horse as an athlete, companion, teacher and healer.”

Learn more about the organization at


Take A Journey To Sardinia

Take A Journey To Sardinia
Zona Blu Brings The Unique Cuisine Of This Mediterranean Island To Life

Story and photos by Melanie Kopacz

Dare to be enlightened through an exploration of flavors from the Italian island of Sardinia in a culinary journey at the new local restaurant Zona Blu. The Sardinian style cuisine features an eclectic magic that makes for delectable culinary art with Mediterranean seafood, fresh-baked breads, unique cheeses and imported ingredients.

“We love our island,” co-owner Debbie Marras Bautista said. “We wanted to do something that reflected our cuisine in Sardinia, our culture.”

The restaurant is celebrating that uniqueness with the grand opening at its new location on Okeechobee Blvd., following a thriving first location in Broward’s Weston community. Sisters Debbie Marras Bautista and Sheila Marras David partnered with the menu’s creator, co-owner and Corporate Chef Andrea Fadda.

“The common thread for all of us is that we’re from the island of Sardinia, and that was Andrea’s vision. After traveling the world as a chef, to have these dishes unique to the island on our menu, and that’s what sets us apart,” Bautista said. “We seem to have tapped into a niche. We’re not your typical Italian.”

This is a cuisine that originated from a place in the world that’s so unique, it’s considered a “Blue Zone.” Sardinia is one of only five designated places in the world deemed by researchers as an area where people are known for their longevity, living 100 years and older.

“The food that they eat and the wine that’s made from grapes that are grown in Sardinia that have antioxidants,” Bautista explained. “They have benefits attributed to the longevity of the people who live there, so we wanted to incorporate that into the concept, and that’s why we named it Zona Blu.”

The illuminating and tranquil blue hues throughout the dining room set the tone, reflective of the Mediterranean Sea where Sardinia is situated above Sicily, making for a serene dining experience. An extensive outdoor patio is complete with blue shade awnings. Sardinian wines and varieties from around the world fill racks around the restaurant.

“Our maître d’ is from Sardinia and is basically our sommelier,” Bautista said. “He selects all of our wine, so we have an extensive wine selection from Sardinia, but also all over Italy, France, California, Washington. On Wednesdays, we have 50 percent off our wines that are up to $100.”

Paintings by a Sardinian artist are spaced around the restaurant portraying the people of the region, giving a feeling of who these recipes represent and the fishermen who reel in the fresh catch.

Like Octopus alla Griglia, for starters. The crispy grilled Mediterranean octopus is presented atop arugula salad and aromatic roasted potatoes.

A must-try is the Soufflé al Pecorino. It’s the signature appetizer — a creamy delight made with pecorino cheese from Sardinia with truffle sauce and mushrooms topped with a crispy traditional flat bread.

To help navigate the menu is a knowledgeable staff that helps make the culinary experience one to savor. Also on board is Executive Chef Nico Zallu, who not only loves being in the kitchen, but he also loves singing to the customers.

A huge tableside flaming cheese wheel is also an interactive favorite and a tasty experience.

“They prepare the pasta in the cheese wheel and scrape the cheese from the aged big wheel onto the plates. People love the show, and it’s delicious,” Bautista said. “They have all this fresh cheese. It’s something that’s not on our menu, but we have it, and it’s very popular.”

Another experience for the senses is the Spaghetti al Cartoccio with mixed seafood, fresh tomato sauce and pasta covered in a pastry dough baked in a wood-burning oven.

“It comes out as a big puff of pastry, and then they open it in front of the guest, and all they have is the aroma of the fresh seafood,” Bautista explained.

Freshly served Salumeria comes displayed on authentic Sardinian cork serving trays. “One of the main resources is cork, so when you drive around the island, you see all these trees, where the bottom of them is bare because people shaved the cork, and it grows back, and artisans use the cork to make shoes and purses. We wanted to bring that to our restaurant,” Bautista said.

The Salumeria platters come with a choice of meats, including Prosciutto Crudo and Salame Felino, and cheeses like Pecorino Semi Stagionato, with sprinklings of fresh olives served with a side of jam and giardiniera. “It’s a beautiful presentation and very unique,” she said. “People always ask us if they can buy the tray.”

Another plate with a beautiful presentation and full of flavor is the Fregola Sarda ai Frutti di Mare — a Sardinian couscous-style pasta with mixed fresh seafood.

You can pair any dish with a drink from the stocked bar, and happy hour is daily from 4 to 7 p.m. Zona Blu even has signature drinks specially created for them by a mixologist from Bacardi with a Sardinian twist. “We use a liqueur called mirto, and it’s grown only on the island, kind of like a licorice,” Bautista said of the spirit that comes from myrtle bushes growing wild all over the island.

One of those is the bestselling Wild Sardinia Martini, made with Wild Sardinia gin and mirto. Another favorite is the Cora Sardu, which means “Sardinian Heart.”

An array of desserts makes it hard to choose, including pistachio sorbet coated with pistachio crumbles and a tiramisu layered dessert dusted with cocoa powder. The most popular is a family secret recipe.

“Our parents are from Sardinia, and they’re the ones who make the traditional Sardinian dessert Seadas con Miele Sardo, a homemade puff pastry filled with sweet cheese, lightly fried and drizzled with Sardinian honey. I don’t think my mom will ever give up that recipe,” Bautista laughed.

It truly is a family affair, right from the beginning when their uncle, a restaurateur from Michigan, suggested the sisters help Chef Andrea Fadda find a location for his talents in Weston. The sisters used their expertise in marketing and advertising to create a concept that has since exploded with community support. “It’s not only that we work well together, but we’re also having fun,” Bautista said. “Andrea is like a brother, and we’re so excited about this second location.”

In true Sardinian style, Zona Blu does stand out like an island of its own.

Zona Blu is located at 8170 Okeechobee Blvd., Suite 1, just west of Benoist Farms Road. For more information, call (561) 323-4799 or visit


Luxurious Mediterranean Estate

Luxurious Mediterranean Estate
Custom-Built Home And Property Includes High-End Details And Amenities Throughout

Photos courtesy Renee Goodemote/Keller Williams

This luxurious Mediterranean estate is located in the heart of southern Wellington’s equestrian community. It boasts more than 10,000 square feet under air and is set on 5.2 lush, masterfully landscaped acres with three gated entrances. No expense was spared in the details of this custom-built home and property, offering its own pond with a dock, gorgeous gardens and numerous tropical fruit trees. As you enter through the gated drive, you are greeted by a circular driveway leading to the front portico. Once inside, you will be captivated by marble floors, soaring ceilings and extravagant chandeliers throughout. The chef’s gourmet kitchen features a center island, 42-inch cherry cabinets, high-end appliances, a breakfast bar, double ovens and an ornate tiled back splash. The home includes nine oversized bedroom suites, each with a walk-in closet, kitchenette and private entrance. A large, dedicated office with built-in cherry cabinets overlooks the serene backyard. A private theater room doubles as a safe room or a 10th bedroom. The palatial backyard offers an 18-foot-deep pond stocked with koi, catfish and other exotic fish, nestled around a magnificent 20-foot waterfall. An ideal home for entertaining, it is located just minutes from Wellington’s famous equestrian venues and all else that the Palm Beach area has to offer. Other features include impact tinted windows and doors, two solar-powered water heaters, an eight-foot hand-dug wishing well, bidets in all main level en suites, several gazebos, recreational areas, walking trails and a playground.


Fostering A Love Of Learning

Fostering A Love Of Learning
Principal Dana Pallaria Is Proud Of The Unique Dual-Language Program At New Horizons Elementary School

Story by Deborah Welky  |  Photos by Denise Fleischman

New Horizons Elementary School opened in 1988 as the second elementary school serving the fast-growing community of Wellington. Today, the school on Greenbriar Blvd. is led by Principal Dana Pallaria.

Wellington takes pride in its top-rated schools, and that includes New Horizons, which features a unique dual-language Spanish program. The school has been ranked third in the United States as a Dual Language International Spanish Academy, and Pallaria aims to take it to No. 1.

“In the three years since I have been here, I have been successful in growing our dual-language program by adding two VPK dual-language classrooms,” Pallaria said. “This has allowed me to open up the opportunity to begin a bilingual and biliterate journey for our three- and four-year-old students. Ultimately, I’d like to take the program through eighth grade. Our students have an advantage over most because my goal is to provide a program that fosters a love of learning, a love of learning about other cultures, and the opportunity to learn two or sometimes three languages. English-speaking students will continue their education learning Spanish, and Spanish-speaking students will be able to maintain their native language and enhance their English into middle and high school.”

Pallaria herself didn’t have the same opportunity growing up. In fact, elementary school was a bit of a challenge for her as her family moved through several states.

“I went to kindergarten in Glendale, California; moved to New Jersey for first and second grade; and onto Long Island, New York, for third through sixth grade,” Pallaria recalled. “I finally landed back where I was born, in New Hartford, New York, for sixth grade through high school. I struggled with learning slightly due to moving, but I always had great teachers and the support of my parents. I thank them all.”

By fifth grade, Pallaria knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students and foster a love of learning,” she said.

Pallaria earned a degree in English with a minor in elementary education from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and began pursuing a master’s degree at the State University of New York at Oswego. In 1992, Pallaria started out teaching science at a private school in New York, then taught third grade at a public school in Syracuse.

In 1998, craving the warmth of the Sunshine State and wanting to be near her relocated family, Pallaria took a job teaching second grade at Jerry Thomas Elementary School in Jupiter. Eventually, she moved on to teaching fifth grade and becoming the ESE contact, helping students with special needs.

It was then that Pallaria realized that she wanted to make a bigger impact and earned her educational leadership degree at Florida Atlantic University and became the learning team facilitator at Berkshire Elementary School in West Palm Beach. After one year there, she went on to become the assistant principal at Grassy Waters Elementary School, remaining there for five years.

“I reached my goal of principalship in 2019 at New Horizons,” Pallaria said. “In that time, we have grown from 700 students to nearly 800. Some of New Horizons’ highlights, I believe, are the partnerships we hold with the Norton Museum of Art and the Ministry of Spain. As only one of three Dual Language International Spanish Academies in the Palm Beach County School District, we work very closely with the Ministry of Education in Spain to support our program. They recruit Spanish educators to come work in our school and share their experiences with our students, staff and the community. I believe being bilingual is very powerful and, when students learn about other cultures and learn the language at such an early age, it is so beneficial to their academic and personal success.”

As with education worldwide, the pandemic took its toll.

“Although I have had a challenging first three years, I feel the biggest success I have had has been building positive relationships and a trusting partnership with our community, staff and students. We are very close-knit,” Pallaria said. “The biggest challenge has been maintaining morale and ensuring my staff is safe with all the challenges they themselves and the students in their classrooms have faced. We principals have had to handle things that we were not schooled on how to handle. As for the students, they have gone through some life changes that students in the past haven’t gone through. I believe every student needs support from both their family and their school, but today’s students and families need more support now than ever before.”

Personally, Pallaria has always had the support she needed.

“My mom has been the biggest influence in my career,” she said. “She has always supported me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams and goals as a future woman leader. My mom answered the phone at all hours of the day and night. If I was struggling with completing work or studying for a test, she was there to provide me with extra moral support and encouragement. She often said, ‘One more test, one more month. You got this.’”

Pallaria has played that forward by providing her staff with inspirational quotes and messages daily.

“There has never been a day in my life where my parents weren’t there the minute I needed them,” she said. “I firmly believe that, to be successful in your career and in life, you have to have a support system. My family has been there through the easiest and hardest times in my life. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my mom and dad. They taught me to have grit, be kind, be patient, set high expectations and never give up. I can’t thank them enough for their unconditional love and continued support to help me achieve my goals, even as an adult. As a leader, I work to provide my staff with the same support, passion and dedication.”

Pallaria’s own children, Isabella and Peter, are both graduating from college this year, one as an engineer and one as a doctor of physical therapy. Both attended Palm Beach County public schools.

While Pallaria loves her job at New Horizons, she is always up for new challenges.

“I love to learn and be challenged, so I hope to have the opportunity to become a leader of a middle school or high school, and then, potentially, an instructional leader coaching future leaders,” she said.


Providing The Best Possible Fit

Providing The Best Possible Fit  
Nettecha Rheingold Began Achette’n To Give Women Access To Top Quality Mastectomy Bras And Prostheses

By Deborah Welky

If you or someone you love needs a specialty mastectomy bra or prostheses, Achette’n offers clients the best possible fit. The firm features a wide range of medical-grade breast forms, mastectomy bras, compression garments and lingerie, measured exactly to fit the client’s body.

The company, founded in 2020, is the brainchild of Nettecha Rheingold.

For 15 years, Rheingold owned assisted living facilities, providing support and encouragement, together with housing, for those needing help with their day-to-day activities. In that role, she was attending a medical equipment trade show when it hit her — there were very few products for women.

“It jolted me,” Rheingold recalled. “I had been dealing with women for a long time, many of whom had had breast cancer, and there was nothing for their needs.”

Still, Rheingold remained focused on the job at hand — walkers, canes, things to help seniors in their everyday lives — but when she went back the following year and experienced the same dearth of women’s products, she opened her mind and began considering possibilities.

Rheingold did some research and found that, in Palm Beach County, there were very few places that post-surgical women could go to be fitted for — and buy — a specialty bra. There were also very few specialty bras and protheses to be had. “I was surprised,” she said.

So, in 2020, she sold her assisted living business and began work on Achette’n (a take on a backward spelling of her name).

“There are a lot of regulations — a lot of insurance requirements and so on, but I found a location and opened a store,” she said. “I wanted to provide services and products. I wanted to fit these women and make them feel confident and good about themselves. They have needs like everyone else, and many do not even realize what is available to them for post-surgical issues, much of it paid for by Medicare or private insurers.”

Located on Ocean Avenue in Lantana, Achette’n carries a wide assortment of bras culled from the top vendors in the country in different styles, colors and sizes, as well as a variety of protheses.

“Everyone is different,” Rheingold said. “I fit my clients based on the shape, size and form of their breasts, but the first thing for me is treating them with care and compassion. Many women are depressed after a mastectomy, and feel they’ll never be the same again. But their life is not defined by having had breast surgery. They can get back to looking like they were before. They still can be beautiful. They can be their best.”

With Rheingold’s help, a recovering mastectomy patient’s life can be made a lot more comfortable. She can even help identify their concerns before the surgery takes place.

“I may be able to anticipate their concerns,” she said. “And then I can share as much knowledge and education as I can give.”

Rheingold emphasizes that having had a mastectomy is not a requirement for getting a fitting or access to the perfect bra.

“Many women have their favorite bra, and that’s the one they wear,” she said. “I am able to communicate with them. Sometimes I have to tell them that their bra’s band doesn’t fit, or the straps are making a dent in their shoulders.”

Whatever the issue, Rheingold addresses it honestly, fits the customer for the perfect bra, then offers a selection of styles and colors. When they’re happy, she’s happy.

Patients planning for or recovering from surgery or reconstruction are invited to call and schedule an appointment with one of the certified mastectomy fitters at Achette’n.

Achette’n Specialty Mastectomy Bras and Prostheses is located at 114 E. Ocean Avenue in Lantana. For more information, call (561) 557-7978.



Generational Women

Generational Women Understanding Motherhood And The Bond Mothers, Daughters & Granddaughters Share!

Generational Women, our focus this month, explores how the unique familial bonds that are shared can extend into successful business partnerships.

Many people have their mom as the top person on speed dial when the good, bad or ugly happens in life. And this is for good reason. There is scientific evidence pointing to the incredible bond between mother-daughter relationships, which trickle down to granddaughters as well.

Moms are likely to understand where you are coming from when faced with life’s challenges, as she has experienced a similar journey. She is also less likely to pass judgment.

Mothers and daughters know how to get on track and stay on track, easily taking a disagreement to a laughing frenzy in moments — and their unconditional love for one another stays intact. But it is a big leap taking this unique relationship into the business world.

On the following pages, you will learn about three unique families, and how they prove that mother-daughter teams can work! Whether it is within the equine industry, lifestyle or the beauty world, learn how it all began and how their success continues through the strength and determination of Generational Women. Who better to build and capitalize on then your mom?



A Strong Foundation

A Strong Foundation Kristen Hamel Tackles Motherhood & Her Family’s Foundation With Grace

By Sydney Jones

It’s not always about what you have, but what you can give. In 2017, Kristen Hamel and her husband Jim set out to make a difference by providing financial support to organizations that help their local communities, as well as the education and well-being of disadvantaged people through their own Hamel Family Foundation.

As a mother and new grandmother, Hamel has always made it a priority to teach her children to help others and be active in their communities.

Although Hamel and her family are based in Richfield, Wisconsin, she has always spent a lot of time in Wellington for the Winter Equestrian Festival. Growing up on a farm, she developed a love for animals, especially horses, at a young age. Fostering that love in her daughter Sydney became a way for their connection to grow and for their ties to the horse world to deepen.

“It has always been a dream of mine to own a barn here in Wellington,” Hamel recalled. “We purchased the barn in July of 2020 with the intention of me being here more often. However, the pandemic actually allowed my husband to work remotely, so we bought a home here as well, to allow the family to visit more often. Through the horse world, I’ve met a lot of really great people, so my network is here. My animals are here. It just fits us.”

Although the Hamel family is constantly moving in many different directions, the foundation provides an outlet for them to come together throughout the year and discuss their ideas.

Hamel’s two older sons, Nickolas and Jacob, are both married, while Sydney is currently attending Scripps College in California.

Along with their children, Kristen and Jim come together to decide which organizations they are going to focus on that year. “We do it as a family. We discuss who loves what and what research they have done. We put it all on the table and take a vote on who we feel could best benefit from our support. Not only has it been great for our kids to be involved with giving back, but it has allowed Jim and I to learn what they’re really passionate about as they grow up,” Hamel said.

The Hamel Family Foundation takes pride in the organizations it supports. “We follow along with the charities that we support to keep up with what they’re doing,” Hamel explained.

The family dedicates their time to organizations that are consistent in their efforts and that maximize their donations for the true cause of the organization.

“We support a charity in Wisconsin called Family Promise. This organization sets out to help battered and abused women who need life’s essentials: housing, clothing, food, etc. They work through several churches and apartment buildings in the area, and I feel really strongly about it,” Hamel said. “Another organization that we are especially passionate about is Casa Guadalupe. This charity was brought to the table by Sydney, and it places emphasis on supporting the Hispanic communities in our area by providing them with the resources to become citizens, receive medical care, get an attorney, etc. We feel that especially in the last couple of years, everyone needs help, and we are grateful to make a difference where we can.”

For Kristen, supporting the equestrian community also weighs heavy on her heart. The foundation proudly supports the National Horse Show with the Hamel Family Foundation 3’3” Equitation Championship, as well as a scholarship through the United States Hunter Jumper Association. “I’ve always loved supporting the sport. I love watching the equitation championship at the National Horse Show because it’s a little mix of everything, and it’s such an important stepping-stone in junior riders’ careers,” she said.

The USHJA scholarship is also an important piece of the puzzle for the Hamel Family Foundation.

“Education has always been very important to Jim and I. It started with our kids; we didn’t care what they wanted to do, as long as they were educated in it. So, we started the scholarship with the intention of helping out whoever needed it, whether they were extending their education or just starting out,” Hamel said.

Hamel’s heart for giving has been passed down to her daughter Sydney.

“It’s a great feeling to have the opportunities that I do to give back,” Sydney said. “It’s a little nerve wracking to take on decisions that have the power to change lives, but it’s great to be able to help people who need it most. I love that we get to connect with different charities and actually see a difference happen through our donations.”

The Hamel Family Foundation is a family affair, but Kristen wouldn’t want it any other way.

Learn more about the foundation at