Florida International University

Miami’s NFL Youth Education Town in Gwen Cherry Park made out big from the Super Bowl’s visit last month, receiving a $500,000 gift from the National Football League, 27” televisions and a couple of thousand recyclable grocery totes.

The YET center, a project of NFL Charities, offers hundreds of local youth a place to do homework, as well as free tutoring, literacy courses and recreational activities.
“Youth are the nation’s future,” said NFL Charities manager Lynda Hamilton “This is an opportunity for us to leave a lasting legacy because a game only lasts a day. This will last forever.”

Robert Rose has a son who played football for YET and a 14-year old daughter who is a part of the organization’s dance program.

“This center is the backbone of our community and without this center, this community wouldn’t be much,” said Rose, “My son grew up coming here and he now plays football for Kansas State University.”

The NFL established the YET program in 1992 to benefit under-served youth. It currently supports 15 YET centers across the country and invests $1 million each time the Super Bowl comes to town. The Miami YET was established in 1989; Fort Lauderdale hosts a second center, and the two split the donation.

Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation, Communities in Schools of Miami and Boys and Girls Club of Miami jointly manage the local program, which occupies a 22,000-square-foot building with two computer rooms, a gymnasium, an arts and crafts room, offices for each and a library.

Miami YET serves between 500 and 600 local youth during football season, about 400 during the summer months and about 200 the rest of the year, publicizing its activities by distributing flyers at area schools, recruiting door-to-door and with the occasional radio ad.

The 2010 donation will pay for an expansion that will offer a brand new media room, rest rooms and larger office for the Boys and Girls Club, said Bobby Johnson, director of the Miami YET.

The program operates five days a week, from 2:15 – 5:50 p.m. Students can play Guitar Hero, learn to fence and take dance classes, but dance instructor Simone Buford insists that YET is not all about fun and games.

“Students receive an orange wristband before they get on the dance floor to let us know they have completed their homework” Buford said.

Dance students, known as the YET Dazzle Dancers, aren’t allowed to dazzle anyone with their moves unless their grades are up to par.

“I used to be a part of the dance team, but I got a bad grade on my midterm, so I can’t dance anymore,” said Tia Thompson, 13.

Thompson says she enjoys doing assignments in the gym when tutors are there because they will help her with homework in a relaxed environment.

“When the gym is quiet, I like to be helped with my homework,” the eighth-grader said, “The tutors and I are real close, we laugh together, but when we’re serious, we’re serious”.

For more information about Miami YET, call 305-694-4889.