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:
- Encourage positive relationships between staff and students.
- Link to the school-day staff.
- Support and train program staff.
- Engage family members.
- 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!
The doors are always open to the students, families, and community of West Homestead. As the site of our Touching Miami with Love programs to children, youth, and families our West Homestead Site also hosts an office for Catalyst Miami and a satellite office of Wellspring Counseling.
Thanks to funds from the Home Depot Foundation along with a volunteer team led by Mike C., we were able to replace several doors at our West Homestead Site to keep the doors open for all. Our entire 5,000 sq. foot center was built by volunteers over the course of several years in the early 90’s, so it was very fitting that Home Depot required that the installation of the new doors be done by volunteer labor. Our BIG thanks to the Home Depot Foundation, Mike C. and his volunteer team for helping to keep the doors open in West Homestead!
All the way from Anchorage, Alaska three faithful volunteers came once again to serve in our spring break camp at TML. One key way they impacted everyone at TML was through the power of prayer. Ron and the entire team prayed with our children’s program coordinator several times for the events of the week, and for our staff and volunteer teams. Nancy spent time everyday praying for each of our children and staff. There were several times during the week when there was a notable change in the atmosphere of the classroom space, a renewal in our staff team, and a joy in our children.
A second key impact was through the ongoing engagement of the volunteers. Each day, the team led enrichment and visual arts times that provided children pictures, stories, and even tastes of new foods that introduced Alaskan culture. The team sang with the children during worship times, drove to a field trip to play with the kids, and made crafts side by side with children daily. Many children immediately remembered the volunteers from last year.
Last, the daily devotional led by the team to explain the good news of Jesus Christ was powerful. Mr. Ron explained part of the gospel each day, and the team created a special opportunity for all children and staff celebrate communion. It was wonderful to see how it all built on what our March and April TML devo time has been doing to introduce the gospel. There are daily opportunities opening up to remind individual children of the good news of Jesus. We believe it’s because of the powerful impact of the prayers, caring engagement, and truth boldly shared by the Alaskan volunteer team. We are so thankful for Ron, Linda, and Nancy’s presence with us last week.
During spring break this month, our students will be attending OASIS Camp in Central Florida sponsored by our partners at Branches. We are so excited for this opportunity for our youth. Please be in prayer this month not only for our middle and high school students from Touching Miami with Love Overtown and West Homestead sites, but also for students from all over South Florida. Our youth staff is asking our TML supporters to be in prayer for all of those going to OASIS:
- Students—to hear clearly from God
- Staff—to represent Christ and show unconditional love and support
- Worship Teams—to honor God in all they do
- The camp speaker—that God would speak through him
- Safety—as students and leaders travel from South Florida to Central Florida
We also ask that you continue to pray for our students when they return home. Many youth become close to God at camp, some for the first time, but struggle as they return home because their friends and surroundings are often not supportive of their new life choices.
The theme this year is “Woke” and during OASIS, the youth will be encouraged to be consciously aware of what is going on in the world and invited to join in working against the injustices happening in the world. Along with a lot of fun in the outdoors with sports, canoeing, fishing, swimming, and more, students will choose to participate in many sessions, some of which include:
- Eracism—Racial Reconciliation
- Global—Around the World Issues
- We the People—Know your Rights
- Get Lit—Surviving without drugs and alcohol,
- Down in the DM—Uncover the Secrets of Social Media
- Flawless—Attacking the Lies of Society About Beauty and Image (Females Only)
- Champions—(Men Only)
- Lifeline—Suicide Prevention
- Vibes—Music and Its Influence
Thank you to our friends at Branches sponsors of OASIS Camp.