Staff Report

MIAMI – Change Makers Academy, a nonprofit and community-driven youth empowerment platform that uses social issues as its catalyst, will host its first “Impact Weekend,” March 10-11, for middle and high school students.

The two-day networking and development event is designed to inspire and empower South Florida students to position themselves positively for the future. It is free and open to all students in grades six through 12.

Chic-Fil-A and Walmart are corporate sponsors for the event and will cater breakfast and lunch, respectively. Under the direction of Change Makers Academy founders Dwayne A. Stewart and Robert Stephens, a committee of South Florida professionals and community leaders have planned a series of networking, leadership skill-building and empowerment sessions for the weekend initiative created specifically for youth participants using the theme, “Developing the Leader in You.”

“The purpose of Impact Weekend is to challenge students to take ownership of and think more critically about the next phases of their lives, whether socially, academically or professionally,” said Stewart. “We are aware that our youth face insurmountable obstacles daily which are seemingly beyond their control, and for this reason, we are committed to providing events such as Impact Weekend to positively change negative narratives surrounding the youth of our community.”

The weekend will include an interactive networking event bridging experienced professionals with up-and-coming student talent and a leadership symposium.

Confirmed mentors and speakers include: Karen Pandy-Cherry, Chief Executive Officer, Bring Organics Back Inc./Refresh Live Café; Chad Cherry, Owner & Executive Chef, Refresh Live Café; Jessica Georges, Student Success Coordinator, SEED School of Miami; TobyAnn Griffiths Young, Founder & CEO, Pampered Roots; Joshua Simmons, Educator, Pompano Beach Middle School; Malou C.

Harrison, President, Miami Dade College – North Campus; Keith Fletcher, Vice President & Executive Director, City Year Miami; Merdochey LaFrance, Director of Government Relations, City Year Miami; and Benjamin Evans, Managing Director, BMe Community.

“Research has shown that children learn best by modeling people they see and identify with, and through Impact Weekend, we hope the lives of the facilitators and mentors will spark interest and challenge students to aspire towards greatness,” Stewart continued.

Change Makers Academy organizes several events and initiatives throughout the year to engage, empower and educate today’s youth through culture-shifting dialogues, opportunities and missions.

Last year’s programming included: the organization’s first month-long “G’s to Gents”

program created to change the societal perceptions of minority male youth; a student missionary trip to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew; and a week-long mission trip to South Africa, creating opportunities for cultural exposure and international community service.

“We are honored to have such prominent business partners and professionals from within our South Florida communities collaborate with our organization to create opportunities for our youth and leaders of the future,” Stewart said. “The response and support we’ve received in advance of this weekend’s event continue to encourage the growth and impact of Change Makers Academy’s mission, and we are extremely grateful.”

Registration for Impact Weekend is free and required for all middle and high school students who wish to participate. To register, please visit