Monday, October 06, 2008

City Year Miami Lives!

From yesterday's Miami Herald:



Role models help young students


We grew up in Miami, so we know about the beauty of this city. But while the community can boast of gorgeous beaches and neon on Ocean Drive, we can get caught up in the superficial.


Recently, we saw the real beauty of Miami, where dozens of residents and local organizations used their passion and resources to bring City Year, America's premier service organization, to town. What's more beautiful than that?


With the launch of City Year Miami, 80 uniformed young adults have committed to serve our city, working full-time in Miami-Dade County public elementary schools, tutoring and mentoring children and giving much-needed help to overworked after-school programs, vacation camps and other aspects of overextended schools. They'll even be trained as emergency volunteers to assist when the next hurricane strikes. Think of it as a Peace Corps for the United States. The young adults' diversity and age -- 17 to 24 -- give them a unique ability to connect with the children they mentor and give these kids someone to look up to.


Is it any surprise that both Barack Obama and John McCain are supporters?


City Year corps members come from all walks of life. Irene, an 18-year-old from Boston, was admitted to Stanford. But she deferred her dream so that she could help children in Miami pursue theirs.


There's also Lucien, a 24-year-old from Little Haiti. He is returning to his old Miami neighborhood to serve. When he tells children not to make the mistakes he has made, they know where he comes from. And when he shows them the path he took to graduate high school and pursue a career, they know it's more than simple talk. Young people like Irene and Lucien inspired us to bring City Year to Miami. A few months ago, a national study ranked the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area dead last in the percentage of adults that dedicate time to volunteering. City Year Miami will help change that by giving young people the opportunity to serve -- and turning them into involved, engaged community participants for life.


City Year corps members -- in their bright red jackets -- also will act as reminders to the rest of us: If they can give a whole year, maybe we can give an hour, a day, maybe more. City Year isn't just for the kids -- it's for our entire city.


In our efforts to bring City Year to Miami, dozens of people told us it couldn't be done -- that the city couldn't support yet another public interest organization; that there wasn't enough funding to go around. But our schools are in a crisis, and our children and community suffer because of it. Miami-Dade County Public Schools' high-school graduation rate hovers at around 50 percent. And the school system has one of the highest drop-out rates in the state. In the face of these sad realities, how could we not act?


We are uniting as a community -- The Knight Foundation, The Children's Trust, Volunteer Florida, Bayview Financial, Comcast, CSX, Royal Caribbean, T-Mobile, and our own charitable foundation -- ready to work alongside City Year Miami corps members for a stronger community.


Everyone loves a hero, and in Miami, heroes aren't hard to find. Irene, Lucien and many others are dedicating a year to our city. They are building, for all of us, a stronger community. They are changing this world -- and changing Miami. That's what we call beautiful.




BRAD and CORI FLAM MELTZER, Miami


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