News Stories/ Halpern Announces New Student Support Center


By C.S Gillbert


Local attorney and developer Michael Halpern, well-known and awarded for his support of less advantaged residents, especially youngsters, has done it again.




He announced this week the establishment of the Michelle Keevan Halpern Center for Learning, in memory of his late wife, who died in 2011. The center will “provide free tutoring and teach learning skills to students in danger of dropping out of high school,” he said. The training is provided so “the students don’t fall so far behind they feel dropping out of school is the only alternative.”




Halpern’s announcement was a highlight of the Key West Performing Arts third annual Martin Luther King, Jr. dinner in the Cabaret of the Tennessee Williams Theater on Saturday, Jan. 18. The evening was coordinated by Veronica Stafford, emceed by Mia Castillo and hosted by Florida Keys Community College President Jonathan Guerrera, who noticed that the event had outgrown Casa Antigua, the venue of previous celebratory dinners, and offered use of the college space.




To be located on Flagler Ave. a block from Key West High School, the Center for Learning has moved beyond design and is now in the permitting phase, Halpern said.




The local philanthropist is the first attorney in the state to win the Florida Bar Association’s award for pro bono work twice, first in 1993 and again in 2011. Pro bono is “for the public good” in Latin and is most often translated to mean “for free.” In presenting the most recent award, the association noted that over ”80 percent of Halpern’s cases represent work done for free for those who cannot afford a lawyer” and that he volunteered about 4,000 hours in 2006-2010 alone.




A local attorney since 1975, he worked as a public defender from 1976 to 1977 and then went into private practice. He is financially able to do pro bono work due to his prior business success in developing Duval Street in the 1970s and 1980s, he said in previous published accounts.




But for the students, a high school diploma is not the only prize.  “If they get through and graduate, there’ll be a college scholarship for them from  Michelle’s Foundation,” he said, adding that Michelle’s Foundation is already an established entity that “currently has 15 students on full scholarship.”




The Center for Learning will be providing academic support services to both middle and high school students, Halpern said.

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