South Dade’s Optimist Club Band is in tune with community needs

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As a Miami Southridge High Spartan, I remember longing to be in our school band.

I eagerly signed up, only to be let down — all because my mom said we couldn’t afford it. With little to no extra money available for kids to participate in extracurricular activities, this scenario has become far too familiar in our community.

Soon, the school system would experience the same regrettable dilemma whereby budget cuts would take away art programs and other activities such as home economics and band. This paved a way for idle teens to take to other outlets that curbed their character, and introduced totally different — and not so pleasant — activities. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between positive school-sanctioned activities and a student’s ability to succeed.

Students who engage in extracurricular activities are more likely than nonparticipants to have consistent attendance, academic achievement, and aspirations for higher education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

This makes sense, because if you just think about it band, sports, chess, ROTC, FBLA, Bible Club, or any club provides an opportunity for young people to gain or sharpen a skill while adding self-worth and value. Such activities also introduce invaluable lessons regarding discipline, accountability, camaraderie, and personal development.

In an effort to benfit the youth in South Miami-Dade, Miami-Dade County (District 9) Commissioner Dennis C. Moss succeeded in taking an idea from 20 years ago and finally making it happen. With the help of The Children’s Trust, Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade School Board, community leaders, and other community members, the idea to present the nation’s first Optimist Club Summer Youth Band Camp came into being at Richmond Heights Middle School, with the assistance of principal Larhonda M. Donaldson.

The Optimist Club Summer Youth Band Camp was an eight-week program free for kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

Dr. Julian E. White, former band director of Florida A&M University, was brought in to coordinate this historic program for the community.

Dr. White says that music discipline leads to the value of academics, which establishes a new mindset to achieve the self-confidence necessary for young people to believe in themselves.

He explained it as “The Band Pyramid” — first, you learn how to play (again discipline), then you build confidence, and then, Step 3, is the music and the cornerstone, which is marching. His formula has proven to produce successful model citizens, which is exactly the outcome the community needs.

In preparation for the first Optimist Club Fall Marching Band Program, it is hoped that the Summer Band Camp successfully sets the stage for communities and parks all over the county — perhaps even nationwide.

Look for the Youth Marching Band to perform at local Optimist Club football games (both in Goulds and Richmond-Perrine), as well as special events such as the Perrine MLK Parade and Battle of the Bands.

Inaugural Band Camp Students: Naee Banks, Keyonne Bell, Jayden Jackson, Cameron Collins, Meara Cambridge-Rasul, Elijah Moise, Shakira Rolle, Lauren Delance, Ashanti Mc Cray, Brooke Mason, Jaylen Gibbs, Jayden Gibbs, Amari Woodside, Kaden Sanders, Keyteria Bell, Maniya Banks, Sarah Gonzalez, Orlando Galvin, Amari Sanders, Keith Thomas, Da’shun Burns-Fair, Delvin Fair, Davon Williams-Fair, Dakri Hill, Patrick Langston, Joel Vison, Kristen Delancy, Khaliyah Bryant, Errol Leandre, Jelani Morgan, and Jalen Knowlles.

Summer Band Staff: Coordinator, Dr. Julian White, and Band Camp directors Ahamad Newbold, Chad Norton and Elijah Thomas
Student Assistants: Jordan Ahmedi, Moses Avin, Anna Chadzanes, Jermisha Johnekins, Thaddeus Luces, Alexis McClendon, Ke’moni Moore, Kathrine Spears, Reinaldo Velez, and Tyrese Williams.

LaToya Byrd is an editor, educator, community activist, and transformation coach. She can be reached by calling 786-972-8695. Also visit

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