Florida City, Fla. – With the rapid increase in population, health disparities, and property development in southern Miami-Dade County, the members of the Iota Pi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. have developed a new initiative to empower South Dade residents to face these new challenges.

The Alpha fraternity’s Leads through Education, Advocacy, Development, and Service (L.E.A.D.S.) Project was developed to address a need for South Dade residents to become more engaged on matters pertaining to education, health, housing, and public policy.

The South Dade Alphas launched the environmental justice component of their initiative by creating a community garden at Avant School of Excellence, 777 West Palm Dr. in Florida City on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. The school-site garden will educate students on the benefits of organic farming, proper nutrition, gentrification, housing and environmental justice, advocacy, and career opportunities in the food science and agricultural industry.

The garden building materials were sponsored by Home Depot in collaboration with Teloi Services. At-large sponsors include the Iota Pi Lambda Education Foundation, Inc., Catalyst Miami, Blue Buildings USA Construction, the National Society of Black Engineers South Florida, and the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP.

During the spring and summer months, students will plant, grow, and harvest fruits, herbs and vegetables while exploring topics related to food production and urbanization.

"A direct, measurable impact of this project is to educate adolescent community members on the importance of diet and organic farming,” said Leslie Elus, president of the South Dade Alphas and Catalyst Miami Neighbors to Leaders Fellow. “We hope to inspire students to become environmentally conscious consumers and encourage them to purchase food products grown or raised locally.”

Elus added that another goal is “to equip youth with the knowledge necessary to combat obesity – a determent for the onset of metabolic diseases – through proper nutrition and inspire students to promote green strategies in the communities they live in."