JUNE 28, 2017 5:50 PM
Save Our Sons teaches young men the basics to succeed in business world
The power to inspire others to excel is in each of us. As Mother Teresa famously said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
At the seventh annual Save Our Sons Youth Summit, young men spent a day acquiring skills in how to excel and better themselves through workshops, activities, an inspirational speaker, and communication with male mentors and role models.
They learned how to tie a necktie while talking about their interests at a workshop called “The Ties that Bond Us.” Every young man also received the gift of a tie.
At “The Game of Life” activity, they discovered how chess and the basic techniques of the game can be applied to everyday life. They studied robotics and rockets at a workshop that emphasized the importance of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills and its influence on 21st century careers.
The event was hosted by Alonzo Mourning’s Overtown Youth Center and was held June 3 at Jose De Diego Middle School in Miami. During the daylong mentoring initiative, representatives from AT&T surprised attendees by presenting OYC with a check for $25,000 to support its ongoing programming.
Keynote speaker Shawn T. Blanchard began the day by sharing his story and his journey to becoming an acclaimed author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and mentoring specialist.
He told of the challenges he encountered during his formative years from “being born a crack baby to selling drugs at the age of 11 and losing those he loved the most before adulthood.”
Blanchard talks about his life to groups across the country. He seeks to motivate youth to “help them to see their challenges as opportunities to propel them to something greater.”
He presented everyone with a copy of his book, “How ‘Bout That For A Crack Baby: Keys to Mentorship and Success” and awarded nine students and one mentor with a tailored suit from his private suit line. He also contributed a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior.
The Summit welcomed community leaders including Kevin Vericker, Service Officer from the office of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado; Lyle Grandison, president of Respect for Life Educational Services; and Stephen Marino, Overtown Youth Center’s board chairman.
“The SOS Initiative was designed to address issues that impact the positive trajectory of the lives of young men growing up in urban areas,” Marino said in a release. “Save Our Sons is one of my favorite events because not only is it designed to empower young boys but it provides men an opportunity to inspire and bond with each other.”
Cristal Cole of AT&T Florida-External Affairs said her company “believes it is critical for students to have access to the tools and support systems they need to graduate high school, and succeed in college and they enter the workforce.”
“We are proud to support community programming provided by organizations like the Overtown Youth Center, who help foster a safe environment where children can dream big and access the resources they need to be successful in life.”
To learn more about the SOS Initiative and see photos of the Summit, visit overtownyouth.org/gallery/2017-save-our-sons-youth-summit.
JUNE 24, 2017 7:00 AM
Dreary I-95 underpasses could get Miami-style makeovers with art and light
Beneath the scar tissue of the giant gash through the heart of Miami known as Interstate 95 are a series of dark and dreary underpasses.
These intimidating, wasted spaces, suitable only for trolls, could connect neighborhoods instead of dividing them if only they were enlivened with color and light.
Marcelo Ertorteguy and Sara Valente see four underpasses at Northwest 20th, 29th, 32nd and 35th streets as giant canvases for outdoor art, perfectly suited for a transformation from gun-metal gray walls into murals and abstract paintings.
“Massive infrastructure tends to build barriers between people,” Valente said. “We want to make it an experience for pedestrians and drivers when they pass through the space. Right now it’s a scary tunnel to be avoided.”
They hope “Art-95” will be the first of many Miami projects, a creative way to connect Wynwood and Allapattah. Just look what the Wynwood Walls did for the old warehouse district.
“It’s the right time and place to boost a sense of place in these neighborhoods where lots of changes are happening,” Ertorteguy said. “We want to contribute to the identity of communities by incorporating residents’ ideas and enlisting their help to make it something they own and are proud of.”
The “Art-95” proposal is one of three that seek to bring life to underpasses through the Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge, which awards grants to citizens with ideas for utilizing or beautifying the city’s neglected public spaces.
Natalia Martinez-Kalinina’s “Lighting the Way” proposal would install a colorful LED lighting scheme at Northwest 20th Street to make it more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly and safer at night.
She is general manager of the Cambridge Innovation Center Miami, 1951 NW 7th Ave., the main tenant in the building at that intersection.
“We’re looking at gaps in our immediate neighborhood,” she said. “We want to help engage and connect the health and hospital district, Overtown, Allapattah and the innovation corridor in Wynwood and Brickell. These worlds are in close proximity but very disparate. The underpass is a tangible way to connect them, but it’s a dingy, untapped space. Light is energizing and inviting.”
Martinez-Kalinina intends to get residents, students and employees of startup companies in the area involved in the design, installation and accompanying cleanup of the site, which will be followed by a celebratory block party. She also wants to place “Walk Your City” signs with distance and direction markers to encourage foot and bicycle traffic.
“For example, jump on a Citi Bike in Wynwood and grab lunch at Smart Bites restaurant near our corner,” she said.
About six blocks south, across the street from the Overtown Youth Center, the idea of the “Overtown ArtScape” proposal is to paint the pillars and cement embankment below the I-395 overpass at Northwest 14th Street.
“It’s drab and discolored,” said Djenaba Gregory-Faal, development associate at the youth center. She also wants to refurbish the fencing and adorn it with motivational words and phrases. Neighborhood kids would collaborate with local artist Alex Mijares, who made a mural inside the center’s gym.
“Make it a vibrant corner,” said Gregory-Faal, who is also planning to host pop-up youth art galleries under the highway. “Impoverished spaces make it hard for individuals to believe they can have an impact on their community. We want students to feel invested in the value of their community.”
Detroit’s Dequindre Cut serves as one model. The former railroad line has been converted into a greenway with colorful murals and graffiti painted on the bridge abutments along the trail.
Ertorteguy, who once created a giant interactive electric guitar inside a cargo container, considers underpass art a pilot project.
“It’s a long highway,” he said. “There are hundreds of possibilities.”
The gift will support Overtown Youth Center’s Save Our Sons initiative, which was created to develop and enhance the lives of young men.
MIAMI, FL — AT&T recently delivered a surprise check for $25,000 to the Overtown Youth Center’s 4th Annual Save Our Sons (SOS) Youth Summit.
“AT&T believes it is critical for students to have access to the tools and support systems they need to graduate high school, and succeed in college and they enter the workforce,” said Cristal Cole, AT&T Florida external affairs. “We are proud to support community programming provided by organizations like the Overtown Youth Center, who help foster a safe environment where children can dream big and access the resources they need to be successful in life.” (Sign up for our free Daily Newsletters and Breaking News Alerts for the Miami Patch.)
The nonprofit will use the AT&T contribution to support itsinitiative, which was created to develop and enhance the lives of young men primarily in the Overtown community.
The Overtown program links mentoring and training programs with an ultimate goal of creating lifelong partnerships that transform failing support systems for young men in urban communities.
Co-founded by real-estate developer Martin Z. Marguiles and NBA Hall-of-Famer Alonzo Mourning, OYC is a year-round youth development program providing in-school, after school and summer program services, a parent enrichment program and post-high school support to over 400 students in the Overtown neighborhood and surrounding areas. The program offers a full range of services including educational enrichment, recreational activities, mentoring, literacy initiatives, performing arts, prevention and life skills/training for at-risk youth. For more information, visit www.overtownyouth.org.
The gift was provided by AT&T Aspire, which is the company’s signature philanthropic initiative to drive innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear. The company has already donated $250 million out of a planned $350 million set aside for such programs between 2008-2017.
Photo from left: Lyle Grandison, president, Respect for Life; Stephen Marino, OYC board chairman; Cristal Cole, AT&T external affairs; Tina Brown, OYC executive director; Shawn Blanchard, SOS Youth Summit keynote speaker; Kevin Vericker, City of Miami mayor’s office. Courtesy AT&T.
With the help of teaching artists, the students utilized a non-traditional, but very familiar material – plastic yard signage. Typically utilized for political campaigns and advertisements, these young artists created visual messages inspired by public art and spaces.
Omni Park is a seven-acre public, green space that is equipped with a skate fixture, community event space, mobile library, and public art installation highlighting the community members and culture of South Florida. It is also host to live performances, the Boho Market, and other programs. With the help of the CRA, the once blighted and unused land is now a green, accessible playground. The Omni CRA is committed to the preservation and enhancement of property values, stimulating the creation of new job opportunities for residents, and improving the quality of life of those who reside within the redevelopment neighborhoods.
When Nicolaus Gelin started middle school at Young Men’s Preparatory Academy in Wynwood, he dreamed of being in the school’s music program.
“I saw them play at the pep rallies and I wanted to be a part of it,” said Nicolaus, 14.
The opportunity came in 2013, when the school’s former band director told Nicolaus there was going to be free guitar lessons after school twice a week.
“I went home immediately, asked my mom and I signed up the next day,” Nicolaus said.
The free guitar lessons were sponsored by Young Musicians Unite, a nonprofit organization that provides free music education to more than 70 students in areas of Miami such as Overtown and Wynwood. They are funded through grants from Citizens Interested in the Arts and Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs’ The Youth Arts Enrichment Program, and through partnerships with bands such as Arrowhead, Avalanche and Ripcord.
Young Musicians Unite was founded in 2013 and is led by Sammy Gonzalez, 31, a Miami Beach professional musician who learned to play guitar in the public school system.
“If the free music education I received while in school didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be a musician right now. Which is crazy because I work sometimes 80-plus hours a week doing what I love,” Gonzalez said. “It’s all possible thanks to the great mentors I had that were constants in my life while growing up.”
Gonzalez wanted to give back to public schools that lack financial support in the arts.
YMU started in partnership with the band Reckless Youth, whose members Gonzalez gave private lessons to. The funds collected at performances went directly to buying guitars for Young Men’s Prep Academy and to fund the after-school program.
“The parents of the band members had already a vision for me,” Gonzalez said. “The first shows Reckless Youth played, we donated the money to other foundations. Then the parents and I decided to keep the funds within what we are doing. We said, ‘Why don’t we go into a neighborhood that doesn’t have a great music program?’ ”
Almost four years later, YMU has expanded to provide music education to any student interested in learning from Young Men’s Prep Academy, Jose de Diego Middle School, Booker T. Washington High School and the Overtown Youth Center.
Students who participate in YMU become members of a classical guitar ensemble, a jazz ensemble or a student rock band.
Gonzalez joined forces with Allan Valladares and Juan Camilo Pelaez to mentor the students. All three are New World School of the Arts alumni.
“Sammy is very passionate about this cause,” Pelaez said. “Helping him and spending time with the kids teaching them music brings me great satisfaction because I feel I’m making a difference in their lives.”
After a year of learning guitar under Gonzalez, Nicolaus found his passion in playing the trumpet. Gonzalez helped him score a private lesson with New World Symphony fellow Aaron Norlund.
“I was shocked how good Nicolaus was. He was like a dry sponge ready to absorb as much knowledge as he possibly could in the time we spent together,” Norlund said. “Not only musically was I impressed, but in his ability to communicate. It’s really remarkable to see the support he receives from his parents.”
Nicolaus’ mother, Maryline Gelin, is a physical therapist and his father, Sonder Gelin, is self employed in the transportation field.
Nicolaus auditioned and got accepted to New World School of the Arts High School’s class of 2020.
“Because of Sammy, Nicolaus was able to get help,” Maryline Gelin said. “Sammy is doing wonderful work. The kids flourish through his program, it’s very effective. I appreciate the doors that have been open to Nicolaus.”
YMU students each get eight to 10 lessons a month. All students receive their own instruments, sheet music and other related materials.
Gonzalez hopes to bring YMU to every school in Miami-Dade.
“My vision is to impact as many kids as I can, change their lives, give them music,” Gonzalez said. “Some are just gonna play during our lessons and maybe never play again, but some are gonna make a career out of it and go on to better places.”