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Jewish Community Teen among Finalists for U.S. Presidential Scholars


From left: Jessie Baldinger and Lillian Lesser

Jessie Baldinger – a local teen with heavy involvement in the Jewish community– is a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

Jessie, a Theatre Art Major at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, is among 60 teens nominated from over 11,000 program candidates nationwide. Of these, 20 will be selected and invited to Washington, D.C. in June to receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at a recognition ceremony.

The program is designed to identify, recognize, and encourage talented high school seniors who demonstrate excellence in the arts.

“I’m really involved with the theater department at my high school, and last semester I designed the set for our production of The Diary of Anne Frank,” said Jessie. “It was really meaningful because as a Jew, I know how important it is to tell this story and stories like it.”

Jessie’s involvement in the local Jewish community includes Panim el Panim, the Relationships and Decisions program at Federation’s partner Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service, and she is co-president of her school’s Jewish Student Connection club – funded by generosity to Federation.

“It is amazing to be able to connect with other people who share a Jewish identity, and that won’t happen unless we take the initiative to get involved,” she said. “Looking at it more globally, I feel a kind of obligation to stay involved. It is important that American Jewish communities remain strong, and that is really dependent on people my age.”

In the future, Jessie plans to attend Northwestern University to study her passion.

“I’m really excited to get involved with Hillel and pro-Israel groups on campus,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to joining an extracurricular group called Jewish Theater Ensemble, which produces a series of shows thematically related to Judaism.”


To learn more about being involved in Jewish teen programs, click here to visit Federation’s Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) website.

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