Elevating Our Communities Takes Commitment: Bank of America Supports Touching Miami with Love

Some South Florida communities continue to falter when it comes to financial growth and economic mobility, despite the overall recovery of the U.S. economy. The situation may be getting worse. Barriers to economic success are growing in South Florida with all wage earners seeing an income decline, except for the top 5 percent, a report from the FIU Metropolitan Center reveals.

Furthermore, United Way of Florida’s latest ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report reveals that 21% of households in Miami Dade live in poverty and an additional 27% are one emergency away from financial instability, meaning more than half of all households in our community struggle to make ends meet.

It’s clear that effective solutions are needed to close this growing economic disparity in South Florida, now one of the largest such gaps in the United States. Bank of America recognizes that low-income individuals and families face a variety of challenges, have diverse needs and may qualify for multiple services, so they support nonprofit organizations providing supportive services that will enable individuals and families to move forward.

The invaluable nonprofit organizations that provide a safety net for individuals and families are central to the success of these efforts. To this end, we are proud to announce the Bank of America Charitable Foundation has named Touching Miami with Love a recipient of its 2017 Workforce Development and Basic Needs grant. Touching Miami with Love will use the funds to support our Bridges Program in West Homestead. Growing up in West Homestead is difficult, many children are underperforming academically, struggling with behavioral issues that leads to trouble in the classroom, and suspensions further impede their academic progress and their chances of exiting generational poverty.

Touching Miami with Love’s Bridges program provides wraparound services in conjunction with our Tomorrow’s Leaders Out of School Children’s Program Monday to Friday afterschool and all-day on most Teacher Planning Days, Spring Break, and six week of Summer Programming. Children meet with our Case Managers in sessions within the afternoon program hours to doing social emotional learning individually and in small groups. Our Case Manager visits the children’s school every day in the midmorning hours to meet with teachers and talk with administrators to track the progress of students in her caseload. Through our strong partnership, our staff is also able to check in and encourage the students at school as well. We are grateful for this partnership, because it means helping more of our children get the necessary support to succeed.

Touching Miami with Love is also indebted to all of the volunteers, including Bank of America employees, who continue to demonstrate how incredibly invested they are in our community. They generously share their time, passion and expertise to improve the quality of life of their neighbors and people they have never met in many ways every day.

Quality Afterschool Learning at TML

Over the course of five years, the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning conducted a research study in which experts visited fifty-three high-functioning afterschool programs across the United States that reported student academic gains. The study concluded that “the benefits for the students who attend them: better attitudes toward school and stronger school engagement; stronger school performance; higher rates of school attendance; fewer behavioral problems; and lower dropout rates.”  They identified the specific strategies for building supportive relationships as the following:

  1. Encourage positive relationships between staff and students.
  2. Link to the school-day staff.
  3. Support and train program staff.
  4. Engage family members.
  5. Collaborate with community organizations.

These five elements remain the core of our children’s out of school program, Tomorrow’s Leaders Children’s Program.  We are blessed with committed staff who are passionate about creating a positive environment for students.  Ten of our children’s program instructors are graduates of our programs, so they know the impact a positive role model can make in children’s lives as each of them are living proof.

Our Children’s Director and Case Managers are in the schools of the children we serve literally every day.  Talking with teachers, sharing lunch with students, and linking parents to the school through attending and advocating at teacher-parent meetings and Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

Touching Miami with Love places a high value on quality training.  That is why we dedicate one week at the beginning of the school year, full days throughout the school year, and one week before summer programming to staff training.  We designed our weekly program staff meetings and monthly all-site staff meetings to encourage, inform, and equip our staff to give their best to the students every day.

Our partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools in our Parent Empowerment Project engages families in our meetings and activities twice a month.  The many Community Outreach Projects we do: Back to Back, Christmas Store, Community Cookout, and Easter Party keep our families connected to the larger TML family.

All of this would not be possible without the incredible support of our partners—churches, community organizations, and partner schools’ support.  Each Tuesday middle school youth with a passion for art are bused to the Perez Art Museum for a special art class and our top readers each month enjoy a meal with our partners at Bubba Gump Restaurant. Our K-6 graders enjoy learning about nature, art, and God each month in our multi-year partnership with Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church and School. We could go on and on about how many are pouring into the lives of our children and youth each day in partnership that is helping our students succeed and your support is part of that partnership too—thank you!