Urban League honors three members of Panther family
The Urban League of Palm Beach County honored three members of the Palm Beach State College Panther family for their outstanding leadership and service in the community.
George Elmore, founder and president of Hardrives, Inc. in Delray Beach, a PBSC Foundation board member since 2011 and PBSC donor for over 30 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., received the Trailblazer Award and Gabriel Gerig, a dual enrollment student who completed his Associate in Arts degree while at Inlet Grove Community High School, received the Youth Achievement Award. Gerig, salutatorian of his high school class, will attend Harvard University in the fall on a full-ride scholarship.
The Urban League presented the awards May 19 at its 48th Annual Equal Opportunity Day Awards Breakfast held at the West Palm Beach Airport Hilton. A total of six individuals were honored in five categories at the event, where U.S. Rep. Sheila McCormick was the keynote speaker.
Elmore established this heavy construction company in 1953. From its beginning as a small driveway contractor, Hardrives grew with South Florida to include construction of major highways and site developments, becoming one of the largest road construction firms in Palm Beach County and one of South Florida’s preeminent heavy construction firms. In partnerships with affiliates, he also developed major residential and golf course communities throughout the area.
He has a longstanding history of giving back to the community through his commitment to civic, education and cultural organizations in the Palm Beach County area. He has served on over thirty boards, including as president or chairman of some. In addition to the PBSC Foundation Board, he is still active on other boards today, including South Florida PBS, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and others.
Ava L. Parker
Parker will mark her seventh year at the helm of PBSC on July 1. As the College’s fifth and first female president, she has blazed many trails during her tenure.
The Urban League presents the Trailblazer Award to “an accomplished leader in education who has made considerable contributions to her respective peers and community and who has made great strides in promoting diversity, inclusion and equity, and has led efforts to support diverse organizations or groups.”
Among numerous achievements under Parker’s leadership, the College launched the Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Equity Institute in 2020 to improve retention and help close the graduation gap for minority students. Since the center’s establishment, the College already has seen gains in retention and completion rates. The College also has secured significant corporate donations, including a $200,000 grant from Bank of America to increase completion and job placement rates for underserved youth and an $800,000 FPL grant to strengthen diversity in STEM.
“One of the things that I am most proud of as the leader of this great institution is the extensive work, at every level, that goes into ensuring we are meeting the needs of all students. We provide a high quality academic experience to ensure the success of our students. If our students want to succeed we help them reach their goals,” Parker said. “It’s truly an honor to be recognized alongside George, one of our strongest supporters and partners, and our outstanding student, Gabriel.”
Gerig moved to West Palm Beach from Venezuela with his parents and younger sister in 2017 and started his eighth grade year of middle school not knowing English. He faced challenges, particularly with peers who deliberately gave him incorrect and embarrassing word translations. Despite that, he focused on learning the language and excelling in school.
He attended the Pre-Medical Academy at Inlet Grove High School for a fresh start with new friends. “I pretty much had to learn English on my own,’’ he said. “Thanks to God, hard work and dedication, I overcame that.”
In addition to being salutatorian of his senior class, Gerig is also senior class president, National Honor Society president, captain of the boys varsity soccer team and founder of the Multicultural Club. He is a 2022 Pathfinder Award winner for Community Involvement and earned a Coca-Cola Scholarship and a prestigious Carson Scholarship.
In 2020, the summer after his sophomore year, he began taking classes at PBSC to help seal his educational future by completing his A.A. degree. He graduated summa cum laude this month. Thanks to his academic achievements, community service and Harvard’s generous financial aid program for promising youth, he does not have to worry about funding his education. At Harvard, he plans to pursue either a path to becoming a neuroscientist or a career in economics.
He credits his opportunities partly to his parents, particularly his father, Jonathan Contreras, who was a lawyer in their country. As the main breadwinner, he cannot go back to school at this time to pursue that career in the U.S.
“My dad sacrificed so much. I would want him to go back to school once I’m established.”
To view more photos, visit the PBSC Flickr album.