Owls Speak Up For Kids is on a mission to aid foster children and teens

This university chapter works to advocate on behalf of foster children through donations, toy drives, and more.


Owls Speak Up for Kids Members Image via Owls Speak Up for Kids Website

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

On a mission to be a voice for the voiceless, one club has taken a stand to assist an unheard community.

Owls Speak Up for Kids is a college chapter extension of Students Speak Up For Kids of Palm Beach. The organization was established in 2020 and maintains a core initiative of advocating for every child and teen in the foster care system of Palm Beach County.

President Sarah Meyer Bertheau said that her work in the club is significant due to its impact on the lives of foster children.

“This organization has helped raise awareness and advocate for those children within our Palm Beach County community, which is home to over 1,500 foster children,” Bertheau said. “My perspective of life has completely changed by observing how small actions performed by each individual in a group of college students can have a lasting impact on many children. This opportunity has been immensely fulfilling and has given me a sense of purpose beyond simply focusing on myself.”

Vice President Zavala explained that the club works alongside other organizations to maximize its efforts to aid foster children.

“Our chapter works side by side with Students Speak Up for Kids of Palm Beach County. Their parent organization is Speak Up for Kids of PBC, which works with the Guardian ad Litem Program and Foster Palm Beach. We aim to support each other through projects, donations, and educating ourselves about the foster care system,” Zavala said.

Despite the pandemic, the club remains committed to its advocacy work as members were able to participate in both virtual and in-person activities. From in-person, socially distanced card making for foster children to virtual meet-ups to write letters to Guardian ad Litem (GaL) volunteers, the club members participate in activities to showcase their passion for helping those in need.

“Guardian ad Litem is a volunteer who speaks on behalf of a foster care child’s best interest in court hearings and other legal decisions,” Treasurer MaryAnn Singer said. She explained that joining the club has made a profound impact on her life and the lives of others she has connected with along the way.

“As a member of this chapter, my most memorable experience is when a fellow officer and myself personally delivered donuts and a thank you card to the GaL office. This small gesture went a long way, and it meant a lot to me that I had the opportunity to participate in giving back to the wonderful Guardian-Ad-Litems who always have the foster care child’s best interest in mind and at heart,” Singer said.

Zavala noted that despite currently being in a leadership position, she was initially hesitant to take on the role due to being a full-time student at the Jupiter campus. However, her doubts subsided once she was able to make connections with members who were just as passionate about supporting one another.

“I find it extremely rewarding when you find people that want to help each other, and I found that in this organization. Over this past year, the officers and I had our ups and downs that every starting club has at the beginning, but we came out of the tunnel stronger than ever and I’m very grateful for that. We learned a lot,” Zavala said.

Owls Speak Up for Kids President Sarah Meyer Bertheau at Toys-For-Joy event (Fall 2020) Image via Owls Speak Up for Kids Website

Bertheau said that her work in the club heavily influenced her future career aspirations. She detailed that their efforts furthered her initiative to continue to help others in a meaningful way.

“Thanks to the life-changing impact that this organization has had on me, I hope to become a Pediatric Surgeon and one day lead a non-profit organization aimed at helping children in third world countries as well as the foster children within our country. Doing volunteer work along with Owls Speak Up for Kids has been a truly inspiring and fulfilling experience. It makes me truly joyful when I know that I am helping make a child’s day brighter and happier,” Bertheau said.

When asked about why she originally joined Owls Speak Up for Kids, Zavala remarked that it was the goal of helping foster children in need that motivated her the most.

“I chose to join the club because children and the concept of childhood are very important to me. A large part of who we are is based on our childhood, and I believe children only deserve the best and our future most definitely depends on them. Many people take this for granted and believe kids won’t remember things or are too little to understand things,” Zavala said. “And although that may be partially true, our minds are sponges as we grow and children may be wiser than we may think they are. In a world full of stress and anxiety, we need to show more compassion and love to those who need it most. I hope this chapter can take away at least some of the stress the foster care system can have on kids and bring a little more happiness to their lives.”

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].