The Effects of Gun Violence in our Community

The vast amount of violence across our nation is heart-wrenching, and our hearts ache with the nation, as so many more mainstream Americans are now experiencing the same devasting impact of gun violence. Unfortunately, our communities of Overtown and West Homestead have endured the epidemic of gun violence for many years.

Many of our staff members, including our CEO Jason Pittman, Vice President Trina Harris, Spiritual Formation Director Amanda Knight, and Office Manager Brittney Jackson, are long-time Overtown residents and have experienced the horrors of gun violence. They have witnessed the devastating and lasting impact gun violence has on families through the loss of loved ones and the financial hardship, trauma, and associated mental health issues that accompany these incidents. 

For instance, a few months ago, for three consecutive days, there was a shooting in the housing projects across the street from our Overtown location. In addition, one of our staff members experienced the thunderous sounds of gunshots in the parking lot of her nearby home on lunch break. Consequently, we have invested in deep and meaningful relationships with the youth in the community, only to see some lose their lives at an entirely too young age; many were innocent and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have attended way too many funerals, candlelight vigils, and collectively, our staff has grieved while supporting others in the grieving process. We have been listening to countless children and teenagers who have witnessed the horrors of what can only be like warfare. We saw countless youth and adults killed with minimal media coverage of these losses.

As part of a community effort to see gun violence cease in the Overtown community, many local organizations have gathered to speak up. During a live interview with Michael Putney, Senior Political Reporter with Local 10 News and host of “This Week In South Florida,” 

Trina, our Vice President, addressed questions and provided feedback and strategies to push for large-scale changes to combat violence. Her petition to local government officials is to address the violence at the community level with community partners directly.

We are proud of TML’s work with children at a young age with our current resources and programs. However, it is time to add a new model that starts with the understanding that we have a public health crisis of gun violence and work to see community and cultural norms on violence change.

TML High School Graduates 2021

In the past 25 years, TML has walked alongside so many youth as they progressed through our program from elementary school to high school.  We are so pleased to share that 97% of our participants have graduated from high school in the last 12 years, and 85% go onto college.  We are always proud of our graduates, but this school year, in particular, our seniors have proven resilient and have overcome so many challenges that could have deterred them from graduating. We are delighted to be a significant part of their journey to success.

We are so excited to present our 2021 high school graduates and hear directly from them about their experiences at TML.

Harri-Anna Derolus, Valedictorian – Howard University

TML impacted my life in ways I could have never imagined. Even things like the weekly cookouts during summer camp and the volunteers who used to come down changed me because it made me want to serve my community. At TML, I loved spending time with our friends from other schools, and I also liked how the environment helped create positivity in a community that is always known to be negative. Currently, in my journey toward college, TML has been extremely helpful. Over these past few years, I have received their support, even just in the form of a phone call. As I move forward in life, I know I can continue to look forward to my TML support team calls. Even the simple things like encouragement and people like Ms. Trina and Mr. Jason asking if they can help in any way have made this journey easier.

Auilalei Granger – Valencia College

TML has impacted my life because they really supported me academically. I was in a comfortable space to get my school work done. I was also given many chances to volunteer. What I love the most about TML is the staff; they are always very interactive. A particular memory that stands out for me at TML is when I had a [mock] interview to get a job as a summer intern. It felt very real and really prepared me for an actual interview.TML has helped me in my journey towards college with The college tours with Ms. Jeanette really helped me see what college was like. TML also helped me create and develop my resume.

 

Zykeria Rolle, Cum Laude Grad – University of Central Florida

TML has given me resources and opportunities to explore the world and learn more about how to help my community and better myself.  It’s given me many friendships, family, and good times. What I love the most about TML are the people and relationships.  How their different ideas, personalities, and experiences help us learn and grow and make us see that we can do so much in the world. A particular memory that stands out to me of my time at TML is the Kickball games during the summers during middle and high school.  The competition and laughter. TML has helped me in my journey towards college by providing so many networking opportunities to giving me access to internships, jobs, and different volunteer experiences to build my resume.  All the reading and literacy skills have really helped me grow.

 

Samaria Gibbs – Undecided

TML has impacted my life dramatically. Not only did I grow up within this program, but through TML, I formed friendships, mentorships, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a part of a community. These grounds have driven me to alleviate my community and become a TML youth intern. From leading activities for youth to tutoring them, I support the children in Overtown. One morning, a parent approached me to personally thanked me for looking after her daughter on our field trip the previous day. My eyes tearing up, I was honored to know that I had positively impacted the little girl and her mother. TML has propelled my education. Whenever I needed help learning a subject, there was always someone at TML to teach me. Whenever I needed to print something, TML offered me their printer. Whenever I was stressing over an assignment, TML gave me a snack and the reassurance that I could do it.

 

Omya Smith – Kyser University

TML has impacted my life in many ways. Since my grandma signed me up, TML always felt like a second home to me; even when I didn’t feel accepted in my own home, I always had TML as a second family! I learned many things at TML, and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.What I love the most about TML is that I always got treated like family and never an outsider! My best TML memory will always be the California trip we went on for a whole week to experience camping, and it was so fun! Everything about the trip was just fun and peaceful.TML has helped me excel in high school and has inspired me to go to college and major in something that will benefit me 100x more!

 

Kathyanna Jean Louis – Technical School for Business

TML helped me a lot in life! It showed me how to connect with God and become independent. I really love the staff; they were always very nice, very helpful, and caring.  I will never forget the youth program when we used to do activities, and anytime I need help with anything, there was always someone there to help me. I miss the bible studies, and I will never forget the field trips.TML helped me a lot through my journeys. I always got my homework done, and they provided me with the hours I needed to graduate high school!

 

Esmeralda JarquinMiami Dade College  

TML impacted my life by introducing me to people that have become part of my life daily. The thing I like about TML is JAM night! We do lessons regarding God’s love for us during Jam night, and we build great friendships and bonds. A particular memory that stands out to me about TML is our seven-day-long backpacking trip to Colorado, led by Big City Mountaineers. On this trip, we explored the outdoors, and I learned about the wilderness. TML helped my journey towards college by introducing me to resources, such as career training, college readiness, and career field experiences.

 

Summer Camp 2021

As we are coming to the close of our summer programming here at Touching Miami with Love, we reflect on the many triumphs, laughter, and learning opportunities our children and youth engaged in this Summer. After not being able to offer Summer Camp last year, we are glad to provide our students with live in-person programming in Literacy, Math, Science & Art. Offering Summer camp once again has tremendously impacted all students’ lives by allowing a safe space for them to learn and grow, especially those who only attended school virtually due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the lack of interaction throughout the school year left many students craving social interaction and physical activity. Therefore, our instructors diligently crafted fun, relatable, and hands-on activities for every subject to keep students engaged. Some instructors used Differentiated Instruction, a student-focused approach that tailors instruction to students’ different learning needs by teaching children phonological awareness basics through chants, rhythms, and movement. Our instructors worked hard to implement these approaches to retain students’ attention and teach them different learning skills throughout their lessons. These strategies help us bridge gaps and assist our students in making adequate academic gains. Additionally, we used Reading Rockets, Scholastics, readers Theatre, and Nearpod, which are essential resources and curriculums to reach various milestones.

Furthermore, we made sure to engage in daily transformative interactive learning activities, including investigations, solving math problems in escape rooms, making zip lines for dolls in our exploration of Brazil, and many more! And all this was possible because we had a great team of staff, certified teachers, volunteers, and community partners working together to serve our children.

In addition to our instructor’s efforts, we are thankful to the many partners who joined us to make Summer Camp a success; because of their help, we offered the best programming for our children and youth. We have received support from community partners like Florida International University (FIU). The FIU’S Reading Explorers team rekindled their partnership with us to work alongside selected students needing grade-level literacy assistance. The Children’s Trust Summer 305 Program assigned four certified teachers who spent one-on-one time with our children. The Children’s Trust provided grade-level standards summer success kits to assist our students in critical areas effectively o impact learning in the upcoming school yearly.

Finally, we included weekly field trips in our program, which has provided memories that will last a lifetime for students and staff. At Pinto’s Farm, the children had the opportunity to feed and pet several farm animals, including horses and cows, and enjoyed a pony ride, while our youth zip around a racetrack on an avocado farm. The day ended with a tractor ride and an extra-large bounce house, the perfect way to end a fun-filled day. Our students are still talking about their memorable day at The Venetian Pool, where they explored the caves, grotto, natural rock cliffs, and ventured through waterfalls.
Summer camp has come to an end, but our impact continues! We know that the tools we shared with our students will positively impact their success in the upcoming school year, and we are looking forward to having them back for after-care programming.