At this year’s Thanksgiving Showcase, we had a packed house at our Overtown site as parents and relatives gathered for dinner and a show. We host this event as an opportunity to get to build stronger bonds with our families outside and bless our community with a memorable meal as Amanda, our Spiritual Formation Director leads the show each year.
Every class had a different song they performed, each with a powerful message on the love of Christ. Our students practiced for weeks, and when it came down to performing, they really rocked out! It was terrific seeing the crowd record the show on their cell phones, stand up and clap, and sing along. Not only could you see all the families beaming with pride, but you saw each instructors’ eyes light up watching their students perform.
One particular performance stood out –our 4th -5th-grade “Marlins” group. One minute into the song, the music unexpectedly stopped, the class looked over at their TML instructor, Ms. Ashley with concern on their faces. Ms. Ashley kept her cool and encouraged her students to keep singing and continue their choreography without the music. As everyone else cheered them on, the children belted out lyrics,
“In every circumstance
no matter where I am
I will trust you
I will trust in You!
It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus.”
At that moment, the words seemed to come alive for everyone under the sound of the students’ voices. Singing passionately, even amidst the technical difficulty, the children reminded us that no matter what the situation, God has everything under control. What could have been a disaster and awkward ending to their performance, turned into a great lesson of overcoming and victory. It was beautiful to see the teamwork and self-confidence we teach our students on display.
We are so grateful for everyone who participated at our annual Thanksgiving Showcase– from volunteers, staff, parents, and students. As we continue to celebrate the holiday, let us remember the real reason for the season and carry the lyrics within us – “It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus.”
At TML, we believe in sowing into our youth so that they bear the fruit of long-term impact. While it is no surprise to have students visit us after they’ve graduated from our program, it is always rewarding to see them return for a simple “hello,” others invest and become part of our staff team. If you’ve ever called our offices, then you’ve likely talked to Brittney. She gave us permission to share her story.
Brittney was in grade school when she moved to Overtown with her grandmother when she and her two sisters began attending our children’s programming. By the age of fourteen, Brittney was already showcasing her leadership skills and became one of our summer Jr. Interns are working alongside our children’s program. During the summer, our Vice President, Angel Pittman gave Brittney one of the most precious yet valuable opportunities to babysit her own children while she would debrief with summer teams. Not only had Brittney become a leader, but she earned trust as she always showed signs of love, loyalty, and commitment through her actions.
As Brittney matured into a young woman, she consistently proved herself as a calm and caring individual. After graduating from high school, Brittney began volunteering at TML, which eventually led to a regular position as a receptionist. Our programs grew and we discovered the need for a Program Assistant. Brittney was the obvious choice as not only had she first hand experienced our programs as a student but now her son would be joining as well. While serving as Program Assistant, Brittney discovered many things, from having more confidence in herself and how to communicate professionally and effectively with her colleagues. Five years later, we are excited to announce that Brittney has become our new Office Manager. While this role has more responsibilities, we firmly believe in her ability to continue to learn and grow alongside the rest of our staff.
Having Brittney transition from a child in our program to a staff member years later is another example of the tremendous work our teams dedicate themselves to. We believe in our students, even on the days, they don’t believe in themselves. We are confident in the leader Brittney has become and are excited for her as she takes on her new role.
It’s tough news for any parent, their child’s diagnosis of a disability. Parents are often unsure of where to turn or what to do. After the shock begin to fade, the panic, fears, and the distress begins to set in. For low-income families, like the ones served at Touching Miami with Love, it can feel overwhelming.
We are excited to announce that our partnership with the University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development has expanded. In February of 2018, we announced our formal partnership as University of Miami brought their impactful Parent Child Interaction Therapy to our two sites, read post HERE.
This winter, TML was asked to be among three community agencies to have staff trained in their Family Navigator Program. Five of our staff representing both our Overtown and West Homestead Site received the extensive training to be called a Family Navigator for the families served by Touching Miami with Love. The Family Navigator program was developed to ensure that children and their families receive needed services. The navigotors empower, support and educate families by implementing a system of care where Family Navigators work with families to help them get services for their children.
Our team of TML Family Navigators are equipped with skills to help parents identify family strengths, connect with needed services, advocate for their child, learn how to address school concerns, and help parents connect with other families of children with special needs or health care needs.
Touching Miami with Love is pleased to expand our partnership with the Mailman Center and are excited to continue working with Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, MD, PhD and his great team. Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, MD, PhD knows better than most about how important serving the whole child, and their family, is to their overall health. In a 2017 interview with Miami’s local public radio station WLRN following his appointment as Florida’s deputy secretary for Children’s Medical Services Dr. Brosco shared,
“A person’s health, and especially child’s health, is not just about their medical conditions. It’s also about their school, and their neighborhood, and their family, and violence in the community, and if there are playgrounds. And so we also have to think about the public health issues that inform child health.
Events that children live through, their environment, how they grow up—actually gets written into their biology, gets written into their bodies. If you look at the most important health issues in the United States, things like stroke and cardiac disease and cancer, almost all that starts as a child.”
As Touching Miami with Love continues to serve children through our wholistic programs, we are excited to now have five trained Family Navigators to assist our efforts, ensuring our families in Overtown and West Homestead have access to the support they need.
As we enter in a season that is known for giving, our middle and high school students have had a greater focus on Civic Engagement. The current civic engagement initiative is “Celebrating the Unsung Heroes.
Our first event in the series focused on Mrs. Gloria, our housekeeper at our Overtown Site. The TML youth worked hard and threw her a surprise “Appreciation Party.” In a very simple way, our students learned the power of selfless giving and the beauty of loving others in proximity. They learned that you don’t have to go far to show love and there are always people around you who deserve our appreciation.
Our second initiative was to honor our local firefighters. Our students baked and decorated cookies and delivered them to two local stations near our Overtown Site. The Miami firefighters from Stations 1 and 3 were grateful for their treats! The firefighters even took time to show us around their homes away from home. Making the time even more fun, they put some of our students to work a bit. It was a wonderful exchange of love in the community and a great way to teach our youth to have a giver’s heart.
Written by, Gary Francis Overtown Youth Coordinator