After thirteen years of faithful ministry, Wanda Ashworth-Valencia is moving to be closer to family in July. As we looked to hire a Spiritual Formation Director, one of the many roles she filled, we sent job requests to seminaries, partner ministries, and made online postings to seek the best candidate to lead this important aspect of our programming. We looked across Miami-Dade County and across the country for the right person to guide our children and youth. After numerous interviews, we found no one with as great sense of passion, understanding of the West Homestead community, and experience with youth as our very own Martin Villa.
As many of you know, Martin first came to Touching Miami with Love: West Homestead (formerly Open House Ministries) as a second grade student. During his time in the program, Wanda’s love had a profound influence on Martin. As he grew up in the program, Wanda encouraged him and challenged him to grow as a leader first through a summer position in high school and later as a fellow staff member. Martin has shared about his passion for TML and his West Homestead community in several settings. In 2015, he was asked about the students that he teaches, “I see my second grade self in them as I teach them and hang out with them. When they tell me their struggles, I see my struggles. I see the things I used to go through as a child with my family. I can feel them. My passion is in these kids . . .that’s what TML is for. For the teenagers and everyone else that I’m teaching now. This is their home. This the place they need to be.”
We are so grateful to Wanda the legacy she leaves behind in the life of Martin. Please join us in welcoming Martin into his new role as he leads the spiritual formation of West Homestead’s children and youth.
Martin with campers, Summer 2012
Touching Miami with Love kids know how to live and enjoy each moment. We were so pleased to be invited to be a part of Run51’s latest video release for their song “This Moment.” The moments we have to live, to grow, to smile, to enjoy, are not to be taken for granted. In this life there are challenges, trouble and hard realities we all face, but through Jesus and what he accomplished we can live a victorious life now. Check out Run51’s video and follow the story of one young boy as he journeys through a crazy world, but chooses to to take a moment to make the most of it, new friends that make the journey an adventure! Click below to watch and order your copy of Run 51’s EP HERE!
A recent 4-H National Youth Survey on Leadership of 1,501 students in 9th-12th grade gained their thoughts on leadership. Only one in three young people say they have the skills needed to be prepared to lead. “Survey shows American youth feel today’s leaders have a different agenda; they lack skills to lead themselves.” (2016, April 12 National 4-H Council). Students participating asked for 1) hands-on experience in leadership roles and 2) programs to build confidence and 3) regular encouragement to lead. We see the same requests in our work in West Homestead at Touching Miami with Love. Homestead’s historically low high school graduation rate, high poverty rates, and high crime illustrate the need for strong youth leaders to not only rise above these struggles, but impact change for the next generation.
Our solution to the need for Youth Leadership is to continue our successful project “West Homestead Youth Internship.” Through the continued support of Ocean Reef Community Foundation Touching Miami with Love will provide meaningful summer jobs to 10 youth with hands-on leadership training as youth take active roles in our summer programming, but also a comprehensive approach that includes lessons for leadership skill building. We are excited to announce our 2017 Ocean Reef Community Foundation TML: West Homestead Summer Interns-Irina, Edwin, Tiana, Eufemio, Christian, Travis, Jerry, Darrian, Luis, and Jessica. These students were selected to apply and interview for these coveted positions. Almost ALL of the interns we selected are frequent volunteers.
Our model for empowering young leaders is working! We recently expanded our children’s programming this year to include seventy-five more children served every day for a total of 150 students in K-8th grade in our Tomorrow’s Leaders program. Our need to increase our staff includes many young adults who grew up in our programming. This year we added Vanessa, Paul, Kennesha, Maria, and Celina to our staff ALL of which were formerly in our children’s and/or youth programs and many who are past TML Summer Interns. We are extremely thankful for the continued partnership of Ocean Reef Community Foundation to continue to make a measurable impact on our community through the lives of our young leaders.