miami_service_corp_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

A community-based organization that started some 20 years ago to offer services to at-risk youth has so far catered to approximately 7,000 youngsters aged 18-23.

The Greater Miami Service Corps recently marked the milestone with the opening of a technology-based training center and handing out awards following a fundraising golf tournament.

“It’s a community of young people and we have staff members here that are like adult role models for youth who may not have that in their lives,” Executive Director Deborah Dorsett said in an interview. “When you are able to change the lives of young people who are either going down the right path or just need an opportunity, it is a blessing.”

The Corps began as an urban project pushed by the late Miami-Dade County Mayor Stephen P. Clark, who urged community leaders to look at national service and conservation core organizations and conduct a community assessment to determine the needs of Miami-Dade’s urban community.

The study pointed to a need for young people to receive service through a combined approach that included volunteerism, education and case management. It gave birth to the Corps, with funding coming from grants and federal dollars.

Over the years, the Allapattah-based organization, which has a branch in Leisure City, has partnered with agencies such as Youthbuild, Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center and South Florida Workforce to provide on-site technical training and hands-on development.
Dorsett made special mention of the Corps’ partnership with Baptist Health South Miami Hospital.

“Our students were able to work in patient care transportation, nutrition, ground maintenance and environmental services,” she said. “A lot of the young people who participated in the internship were able to get long-term employment with the hospital and become self-sufficient.”

The Corps has also obtained educational awards for some youth through a partnership with Americorp network’s Educational Awards Program and Volunteer Florida, she said.

Plans to boost technology training took a big step forward when the Corps collaborated with the national organization SIATech – School for Integrated Academics and Technologies – to open a SIATech center in August at its Allapattah location, 810 NW 28th St.

The curriculum includes reading, mathematics, science, social science, computer graphics and test prep classes.

The SIATech charter school currently has 55 students, said Principal Catherine Bonnewell. They have responded well to the “innovative setting” the school provides that allows them to work at their own pace, she said.

Dorsett pays tribute to those who have helped make the program a success.

“These days, it’s not easy to say you’ve been in existence for 20 years and have serviced so many young people with so many success stories to tell,” Dorsett said. “These people constantly strive for young people who they don’t see every day but find fulfillment in just knowing that the work they do behind the scenes has touched so many lives. We call them our silent champions.”