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

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As a Southridge Spartan, I remember longing to be in our band at Miami Southridge High School. 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 also 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 a totally different – and not so pleasant – tune for them to dance to. Clearly, there is a strong  correlation between positive school-sanctioned activities and a student’s ability to succeed.

Studies have shown 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 data is congruent with common sense – I’m just saying. 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. It also indirectly provides an overview of the concept of legacy. All these things are vital in shaping an individual into a productive citizen, which is so desperately needed in our community.

In a stunning effort aimed at saving the youth in our communities, Miami-Dade County District-9 Commissioner Dennis C. Moss succeeded in taking a seed of an idea from 20 years ago and finally making it happen. With the help of The Children’s Trust, the Miami-Dade County, the Miami-Dade School Board, community leaders, and other qualified individuals, the idea to present the Nation’s very first Optimist Club Summer Youth Band Camp came to fruition right here in our back yard at Richmond Heights Middle School, with the able assistance of Principal Larhonda M. Donaldson!


Yes, that’s NATIONAL baby!


The Optimist Club Summer Youth Band Camp was an eight-week program free for kids between the ages of 10 and 14. The prestigious Dr. Julian E. White, former Band Director of Florida A&M, was brought in to coordinate this historic extra-curricular program for our community. Who better than the HBCU legend to impart such musical wisdom and experience.

In an interview with Dr. White, he expressed 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.

Dr. White went on to explain 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 – given the common alternative among youth to “beef” or engage in senseless gun violence.

This program is responsible for making our neighborhoods great again by providing quality cultural programming and by supporting families in need.

In preparation for the first Optimist Club Fall Marching Band Program, we hope the Summer Band Camp successfully sets the stage for communities and parks all over the county – perhaps even nationwide – in an effort to reintroduce the village approach: Making our elders and community alumni accountable for passing on their knowledge by any positive means possible.

The bigger picture is that the baby-boomer generation is the type of stock our youth are starving for. On that note, I wish to thank all the professional community veterans and music professionals who participated in this program funded by Commissioner Moss and Children’s Trust.

Let’s continue to work together to provide quality community-based extracurricular  programming. So when I ask, “what’s bigger than beef,” know whole wholeheartedly that it’s your dreams, goals, aspirations, talents, family, legacy, and our first-ever Optimist Club Summer Youth Band Camp, as well as the upcoming Optimist Fall Marching Band.

Look for the Youth Marching Band to perform at our 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’shunBurns-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 940-263-1156 or 786-972-8695. Also visit

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