shirley_gibson_web.jpgMIAMI GARDENS — Several dozen girls from Liberty City's Kelsey L. Pharr Elementary School recently were treated to a very special field trip — an outing that proved to be a first for many such as fourth-grader Ashley Carias.

“I was so excited,” she told her friends, “I could barely  sleep. This is my first time eating at Benihana and riding on a fancy bus. I feel like a princess."

The event was sponsored by The Embrace Girls Foundation as a component of its All Girl All Power! After School Academies based in several elementary schools throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties that offer daily after-school services to girls. Those services include homework assistance, individual tutorial sessions, social and life skills training as well as  special events  and activities much like the Valentine’s Day luncheon.

On this occasion the Benihana Japanese Steakhouse in North Bay Village was the  venue where the girls  formally demonstrated the  social etiquette skills previously introduced to them in a classroom setting.


“I am so proud of my work with this organization,” said Cherly Luma, site instructor at Kelsey  Pharr Elementary's Embrace Girl Power! After School Academy, adding,  “As a teacher, I have seen in the classroom, hallways and playground the positive changes in the girls. They are engaged and truly enjoy being here.”

The sentiment was echoed by Shirley Gibson, mayor of the City of Miami Gardens, where Embrace’s pilot after-school program was launched at Parkview Elementary School.

“This organization started in my city several years ago, so I am quite familiar with the quality of work they put out and the impact both academically and socially that they offer these girls and their families who absolutely love it,” said Gibson. “It's really rare that that happens when you have both the children and parents involved.

The group was joined by Yvonne Perry, the school’s principal, and Vincent S. Dawkins, director of the Miami Dade County Public Schools Office of Community Engagement, who observed the girls as they showcased their table manners, and introduction and social communication skills that they we were eager to share.

“We learned how to greet our guests, proper dining conversation and table manners in class last week and I practiced every night at home to get it just right,” said second-grader Kei'Aira Goldwire.

“It was such a pleasure serving them — this was an outstanding group of kids, beautiful, polite and very well behaved,” said Chef “Jay,” a hit with the girls as the only female chef of the day.



FLOWERS FOR THE LADIES: Embrace members Kei'Aira Goldwire, Goddess McClendon, Kayla Lafont and Kareema Latson receive roses from guest speaker, Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson, second from left.