A project to transform a stormwater retention pond at Jupiter High School into a wetlands habitat received its final financial push during halftime at Friday’s football game.
The Perry J. Cohen Foundation presented the school with a $310,000 donation for the pond outside the Perry J. Cohen Wetlands Laboratory and outdoor classroom.
The environment was one of Cohen’s passions, his mother Pamela Cohen told The Palm Beach Post. The teenager was chosen to be a part of the Jupiter Environmental Research and Field Studies Academy at the high school, but he and another Tequesta teen, Austin Stephanos, disappeared after setting out on a boat from the Jupiter Inlet in 2015. It was about two weeks before school began.
“Every time he was at the beach he would bring home garbage and for many years he went to an environmental studies camp in Jensen Beach where he learned how important a role it is to take care of the environment, seining along with the care and love of the water and all sea creatures,” Pamela Cohen told The Post in an email.
She said she thinks the project would make her son “very proud.”
She told The Post that $210,000 comes from the foundation, and the remaining $100,000 is made up of contributions from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Miami Dolphins Foundation, Art Miami LLC and the Telvi Family.
This was a “dream project” for the academy that hadn’t gotten any traction until Perry’s parents got involved, said Jupiter High School Assistant Principal Suzanne Smith.
The outdoor classroom was built last fall with donations from U.S. Paverscapes, Yukon Construction and Supermix Concrete. Artist Shepard Fairey, known for the stylized “Hope” poster linked to former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and one of Perry’s favorite artists, donated his time to create a portrait of Perry. This project will be open to all Jupiter students and be able to “educate tens of thousands of children over its lifetime,” Pamela Cohen said.
At least 10 of South Florida’s ecosystems, like freshwater marsh and tropical hardwood hammock, will be represented by the plants placed in and around the pond for students to identify. The construction of a dock and boardwalk will also facilitate lessons.
Smith said they hoped to have the project completed sooner, but they expect it to be ready by the end of the 2018-19 school year, which she said would have been Perry’s graduation.
After giving the donation, Pamela Cohen told The Palm Beach Post how difficult the journey was to get to this point.
“I would trade everything in the world to have him here,” she said.