FORT LAUDERDALE — In an effort to bridge the gap between youth, parents and the community, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) last week invited families from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to participate in a new collaborative effort to obtain educational resource information while working together to create solutions to address local youth issues.
The first annual South Florida Youth Summit (SFYS), a series of workshop presentations, experimental educational activities, informal networking opportunities and training sessions, brought together more than 1,700 sixth- through 12th-graders for a three-day event March 21 through March 24.
SFYS founder Shevrin Jones said the summit was a culmination of 15 months of work that began with an outreach effort to 30 nonprofit organizations. His 13-member planning committee, he said, used social media networks such as Facebook to promote the event, as well as a “Call to Speakers” to which more than 100 potential lecturers applied.
“We were very strategic and it was a very tough process. We went through their applications and sought out individuals who were really going to be engaged with the students.”
The Summit began Thursday at FAU’s Boca Raton campus where youth participated in a lecture series with philosopher and civil rights advocate Cornel West. The following day there was a Youth Symposium and College Fair at Miami Carol City High School. The final session was held at FAU’s Davie campus.
The youths participated in workshops on healthy nutrition, healthy relationships, leadership and youth violence, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.), which was noted by several youths as the event’s best activity.
ONE ON ONE
“We got a chance to be one-on-one with them,” said Jones. “In the S.T.E.M. workshop, facilitators did an amazing activity with them that got their minds working, and science is not popular with a lot of students because they are not familiar with it. We have to show them what it really is. We have to present them something. Give them hands-on experience so they have the opportunity to be interested.”
Fifteen-year-old Antavious Walters, whose family drove from Homestead to participate in the final day, said he enjoyed the S.T.E.M. workshop because it was fun, interactive and heightened his love of science. “The best part of the day was the science class because it showed me how many things you can learn if you decide to go to college for science,” said Walters. “I like to use my hands and learn how to build things, so this was a cool way to spend my weekend.”
The organizers partnered with institutions such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., The Westin Diplomat Hotel and Florida A&M University, as well as elected officials such as Miami Gardens Vice Mayor Oliver Gilbert III, state Rep. Dwight Bullard and Miami Gardens Councilwoman Felicia Robinson. Jones stated that the event partners worked strategically to ensure students the opportunity to produce an initiative with results.
“We didn’t want to have a program, we wanted to have something that was moving to the students, something that was engaging and they would enjoy,” said Jones. “I think they are tired of having these “hoo-rah-rah” sessions and no follow up. We will keep the momentum of this event going because every month, we are going to have empowerment sessions starting June 2 at FAU’s Davie campus, and we look to cater to about 100 to 200 students.”
GETTING THE TOOLS
Juan Izaguirre, FAU’s director of Multicultural Affairs, said he was proud that the university’s participation allowed students to see different opportunities that lie within all types of South Florida educational institutions. “Ultimately it’s not just about getting a high school diploma, but going to college and getting the proper tools to define and better themselves.”
Photo: KHARY BRUYNING Photo/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES