Winter Haven-Native Donates Land to Winter Haven Christian School in Honor of Munir P. Benjenk
Official Press Release Below:
Winter Haven, FL -- What does a 1950s agriculture project in southern Italy and a recent donation of land to an Agriculture Academy in Winter Haven, FL have in common? Until recently, these two events had seemingly no connection. From one point in time to the next, however, and with the precise nurturing reminiscent of a grower’s hands, a story has unfolded— one of planting the seeds of learning in others. And the man that links them both: Munir P. Benjenk.
As a landowner in Winter Haven and longtime friend of Benjenk’s, David McBrayer had development plans for a one-and-half-acre plot of land behind Winter Haven Christian School. That is— until he got the idea in his head to donate the land. “Mr. Jim Durham approached me about the school buying the property, and after some thought, I decided to donate it in Munir’s honor,” he said. “It means a lot to me that my friend knows what a difference he’s made in my life, and the lives of so many before me. Donating the land to further the education of others in his honor is just one way I would like to show my gratitude.”
Born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1924, the seed of learning would be planted in Benjenk at an early age. Throughout his life, Benjenk would devote his time and attention to the betterment of society through his work. During the early part of his career, he worked for the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) as director of a technical assistance project on the island of Sardinia, southern Italy. During this project, he would work to help local farmers develop modern methods of agriculture. “We were concentrating on adult education,” said Benjenk. Years later, he would be working for The World Bank in many capacities and across multiple countries. While there, the seeds he planted would go from few to many, as he operated under many titles and roles: technical assistant officer in the Development Services Department, 1963-1965; deputy director in the Africa Department, 1965-1967; deputy director of the Europe, Middle East, and North Africa Department, 1967-1970; director of the Europe, Middle East, and North Africa Department, 1970-1972; vice president of the Europe, Middle East, and North Africa Region, 1972-1975 and 1976-1980; and vice president of External Relations, 1980-1984.
On March 18, 2016, at the WHCS Ribbon-Cutting Celebration, McBrayer put pen to paper and signed over the land to Winter Haven Christian School. The private institution will utilize the land for the high school’s Agriculture Academy. As a hands-on learning elective course, students of the WHCS Agriculture Academy will be able to learn about agri-technology, agri-business practices for livestock and other farming operations, as well as how to successfully grow different crops. “We are so appreciative of the donation that Mr. McBrayer has given the Agriculture Academy,” said Brandi Fountain, the WHCS Agriculture Academy instructor. “The agriculture students will gain so much knowledge about the different types of agriculture as a result of the property.” The advanced skills that students obtain during their four years of high school will better prepare them for success in an agriculture-related field of study at a university, and their career beyond a college degree.
“We at WHCS are extremely excited and thankful for the donation of one and a half acres just east of our property,” said Jeannette Williams, the WHCS Middle School/High School Principal. “The addition of the land will make it possible not just for the expansion of our Agriculture Academy, but for the addition of an outdoor classroom, which will be utilized by all students of WHCS K3-12th. We were honored to meet Mr. McBrayer and Mr. Benjenk and hear their life stories. God is opening doors of opportunity for us since the addition this year of five academies,” she said. “Next year, we will be adding a STEM Academy. Our goal at WHCS is ‘Equipping Students, Changing Lives, Impacting the Community.’ The donation of this land will help us realize these goals.”
At the celebration, Benjenk recalled a private audience he once had with the Pope John Paul II. “I told him that our mission at The World Bank is not to give people fish, but to teach them how to be fishermen.” This mentality is the same mission that drove his efforts in Sardinia, Italy to educate local farmers, and it will continue to drive the future success of Agriculture Academy students at Winter Haven Christian School.
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ABOUT WINTER HAVEN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
WHCS is an independent, interdenominational Christian institution serving children from K3-12th grade, which was founded in 1965. The private school recently added five academies, which include the Agriculture Academy, Computer Technology Academy, Creative Arts Academy, Criminal Justice Academy, and Ministry and Teaching Academy. For more information, visit whcsonline.org or call (863) 294-4135.