South Miami Hospital CEO Lincoln Mendez recently presented the South Miami Alliance for Youth with a $3000 check to support the not-for-profit organization established in 1996.
President of South Miami Alliance for Youth Daisy A. Harrell said that the organization grew out of a need to help area youth by building strong foundations for academic and professional excellence. “There is not enough funding to meet educational and scholarship goals for students in the immediate geographic area and our organization grew out of a need to support the community,” she explained.
“Today we are able to fund summer camps, work opportunities and provide tutoring for children either before or after school,” Harrell continued. “The tutoring program is specifically designed to use existing teachers from area schools that students attend and help to give them that extra push so they can excel academically.”
What began as a dining room conversation among like-minded colleagues and friends, including former Mayor Julio Robaina, evolved into the South Miami Alliance for Youth some 15 years ago. “Mr. Robaina was critical in helping us get started and becoming a 501c3 not-forprofit,” said Harrell. “Over the years, we have remained small but have accomplished many big things.”
The Alliance is run solely by volunteers, has received grants from The Children’s Trust had seen nearly 100 successful students graduate from the tutoring and mentoring programs. However, intense challenges remain in serving the youth of South Miami.
“We have fought hard for everything we have accomplished here and there are many challenges ahead. Funding is down for all not-for profits and we are no exception,” Harrell said. “It was a blessing to receive the check from Mr. Mendez and the folks at South Miami Hospital, but we still need more help to serve our kids. Our mission is to help them improve their grades so they might get into college and ultimately come back to their hometown and give back their skills and knowledge to future youth.”
Although Harrell indicates that city officials have embraced the work of the South Miami Alliance for Youth in the past, today it is not so easy to rally support from officials. In particular, Harrell is distressed with the school board and the establishment of the J.R.E. Lee Academy for International Education Charter School.
“We sent letters to the school board about J.R.E. Lee’s future to no avail,” Harrell said. “The charter school was established before we even knew about it. I have lived and worked here my entire life and you don’t just spring up something like this in our back yard and surprise us with it.”
Although the new J.R.E. Lee is to be a hybrid charter school with the Miami-Dade County School Board still involved in operations, Harrell remains skeptical, as do many local officials. “They have to show me they are committed to the kids in our immediate geographic area as we have proven to be over the many years of our service. I have to see it to believe it,” she said.