Aug. 31, 2020
Miami associates Valentín I. Arenas and TerryAnn Howell graduated from the 41st Class of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Miami Program in August. Although COVID-19 shut down some of the face-to-face opportunities, both Miami associates participated in community service activities to improve the lives of children and youth in their community.
The program requires each participant to attend focus sessions once a month where they learned about different aspects of Miami-Dade and the roles different organizations play in the community. The field work included, but was not limited to, attending Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce events, visiting and learning about different areas and organizations in Miami like Good Will, participating in community fundraising events, or even attending a Miami Dolphins or Heat game. In addition, the main feature of the program requires each team to partner with a nonprofit to develop a long-term, sustainable project to benefit both the organization and the Miami-Dade County community.
TerryAnn served as a co-leader of Team 1: Identity Miami. For her team project, TerryAnn worked with the nonprofit Motivational Edge (ME), which uses the arts to engage, educate, and empower some of the most under-served and at risk youths, primarily those in foster care.
Her team raised funds for ME to conduct much-needed interior and exterior renovations crucial to meet demand for programming at their campus in Allapatah. Team 1 also provided students with a financial literacy curriculum designed to equip them with the skills they need for success now and in the future. Through improvisation and acting, students also practiced social emotional learning skills with the goal of building character, confidence, work ethic, and passion. She also assisted with ME’s family fun day barbecue once a month. There, she got to meet and interact with the youths from the program and their families while volunteering to man the grill, the bounce house, and other programs for the day.
“Being selected to join Leadership Miami was an absolute honor, and the process was even more rewarding. I learned more about the county and the amazing organizations that serve it during this one-year program than I have in the last nine years living and working in Miami-Dade County. It is well known that giving back to those in need and my community is a part of who I am and the legacy I want to leave behind. Leadership Miami helped me do just that, while meeting and working with some amazing professionals and organizations. I would strongly recommend everyone to participate in this program and others like it as I guarantee you won’t be disappointed and you’ll leave an impact.”
Valentín’s team, 4WRDMIA, of which he also served as co-leader, focused on childhood education and development. 4WRDMIA’s objective was to move Miami’s next generation forward with a holistic approach to education through wellness, recreation, and development.
To accomplish this, 4WRDMIA partnered with A Better Foundation (ABF) Learning Center in Homestead, Florida. ABF strives to educate children through a culturally enriching process that uses traditional classroom curriculum as well as holistic learning to provide students with a rich, stimulating learning environment. Its services include daycare for infants and toddlers; preschool; voluntary pre-kindergarten; and full-time kindergarten, first, and second grades, as well as an after-school program benefiting students from a nearby elementary school. ABF currently serves approximately 100+ families, the vast majority of which benefit from government-subsidized programs. ABF primarily serves families from the Homestead Air Reserve Base, as well as nearby shelters and transitional housing communities for the homeless and those battling addiction.
By reimagining and revitalizing existing spaces, 4WRDMIA brought mindfulness, creativity, growth, and playfulness to the students and staff of ABF. By ensuring staff received training to incorporate mindfulness into daily activities — whether it be learning, play, gardening, yoga, or reflection — 4WRDMIA left a lasting legacy that will help move this and future generations of ABF graduates forward. Research overwhelmingly speaks to the benefits of mindfulness practices to any person, but especially to the unique population of students that ABF serves. Over the past nine months, 4WRDMIA (i) revamped ABF’s outdoor area to provide a more creative, engaging, and open play area, and (ii) created and implemented a curriculum to kickstart ABF’s mindfulness, meditation, and yoga programs.
“Despite the difficulties we faced as a class due to the pandemic, Leadership Miami surpassed my expectations,” Valentín said. “The program opened my eyes to the issues in our community that go unspoken and helped me develop skills necessary to make a lasting difference. I am excited to see where the valuable lessons learned and my extended professional network of fellow graduates take me as I continue my involvement with the Chamber.”
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