With the world focusing on Washington, DC, as a new administration settles in at the White House, The Children’s Trust is maintaining a steady gaze inward toward the children and families of Miami-Dade County who depend on the programs and services the organization supports.
From funding parenting programs and youth employment opportunities to promoting literacy initiatives and safe places for kids to learn and grow when they are not in school, The Trust is dedicated to doing everything it can to make sure families have the resources they need to survive and thrive.
That’s a huge relief for moms like Nicole, who didn’t know where to turn when her son, Grady, began acting out in preschool.
“He was really struggling with paying attention in class,” Nicole said. “He’d hum and walk around the room all day with his head in the clouds. We thought, maybe he’s just immature. We held him back from kindergarten, but the complaints from school kept coming.”
For 18 stressful months, the Coral Terrace family suffered through frustration and worry over Grady’s well-being, until a referral to The Trust-funded Summer Treatment Program at FIU began to turn things around.
A school readiness program for preschoolers experiencing behavioral and social difficulties in an academic setting, STP staffers also teach parents how to manage their children’s behavior — many on the autism spectrum or diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — at home.
“I can’t say enough good things about it,” said Nicole, before proudly sharing that Grady, now 6 and attending a mainstream kindergarten, received all A’s on his first report card. “The program is life changing.”
Mirzaydi’s life-changing Trust moment came when her 7-year-old son took part in Summer Reading Explorers, going from below grade to grade-level reading in just six weeks.
“I heard about the program at my son’s school and right away I knew I wanted him to enroll,” the Hialeah mom said softly in her native Spanish. “I always read to him at home, but in my language. I was concerned that could hurt my son’s chances of doing well in school.”
Targeted literacy programs like Summer Reading Explorers — which provides small-group instruction for children and workshops for parents on furthering their child’s literacy — work in tandem with the literacy component maintained by every program The Trust funds, as well as its Read to Learn initiative, which distributed more than 187,000 free books to children across Miami-Dade County in 2016.
For thousands of other parents, it is knowing their child attends a school with an on-site Trust-funded health clinic that helps them breathe a little easier. Or a lot easier, as was the case with a student at Southwest Miami Senior High School.
When the 17-year-old came to the clinic complaining of muscle aches, she thought they were the result of an overzealous workout. Adam Fader, RN, and Kristine Baluja, LPN, knew better. Suspecting something far more serious, the two persuaded the girl to seek advanced medical attention; their diagnosis was confirmed and she was admitted to the hospital.
“She came very close to dialysis and permanent kidney damage,” Fader said.
Today, the fully recovered student often stops by the clinic in between classes to say hello.
More than 195,000 students at 145 public schools received assessments, diagnoses, treatment, counseling and referrals at a Trust-funded school clinic last year. Staffed by a nurse or nurse practitioner and a social worker, these invaluable health resources are for many children and youth their sole access to medical care.
After taking part in College and Career Readiness, a youth enrichment program funded by The Trust through Homestead’s Mexican American Council (MAC), Rocio’s life has changed, too.
“Coming from a farmworker family, I never thought college was an option,” said the 18-year-old. “But now I’m a freshman in an honors program at Miami Dade College. The program at MAC has opened so many doors for me.”
Trust-funded youth enrichment programs help thousands of young women and men boost academic achievement, expand their horizons and contribute to society in meaningful ways. Last year alone, the organization provided more than 213,000 hours of programming, with 23 percent of the recipients served living with disabilities.
“Our work is often measured in numbers, but it’s the people served by the programs and initiatives that we fund, the faces behind what we do, that tell the whole story,” said Children’s Trust president and CEO James R. Haj. “And it’s because of those stories that we’re constantly renewing our commitment to the children and families of Miami-Dade County.”
Visit The Children’s Trust at www.thechildrenstrust.org and see for yourself who they are and what they’re doing for the community.