El Sol leader will be presented award at White House

Updated Sept 11, 2013

Jocelyn Skolnik, a native of Guatemala and executive director of the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center, will travel to the White House Sept. 19 to accept a Champions of Change award.

“This will give El Sol strong credibility on the national level. I’m looking forward to telling others about our program,” said Skolnik, 29, who was named to her position at El Sol three years ago.

The White House names about 10 winners of Champions of Change each week and invites them to Washington, D.C. to make presentations about their programs. President Barack Obama might present the awards.

The non-profit El Sol started seven years ago to get workers seeking employment off the streets. The organization, which has an annual budget of about $307,000, rents a former church building from the town for $1 a year. El Sol now has education, finance and job training programs and a food bank. Dozens of volunteers help at the center and teach classes in subjects such as English, computers, finance and sewing.

The programs are open to everyone.

Strong leadership skills, the ability to be innovative and empathy with those who volunteer and seek help at El Sol are some of the reasons for her success, said El Sol President Ed Ricci.

“She works long hours to come up with solutions to problems,” Ricci said.

Skolnik came to Florida when she was 18. After graduating from Florida Atlantic University Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College with a liberal arts degree in Latin American studies and political science, she was hired at El Sol about seven years ago as an intern. She became a U.S. citizen in 2011. A West Palm Beach resident, she and her husband Jeremy have a baby daughter.

Skolnik remembers the days when protesters waved signs in front of El Sol, demanding the closing of the center at the southwest corner of Military Trail and Indiantown Road.

“Everybody doesn’t always agree. But when you are doing something you believe in, hard work pays off,” she said.

For information or to see previous champions, go to whitehouse.gov/champions.