TML Alumni Serving our country

Touching Miami with Love (TML) is proud of our Alumni, Quadrell, Artrisha, and Jahnya, who make a difference in the world by bravely serving in the U.S Military. TML is honored to have impacted their lives and helped prepare them for their journey by empowering them to explore and develop their gifts and talents during their time at TML.

Quadrell has always been a jovial young person with a big personality, powerful charisma, and great humor.  During his time at TML, he learned to expand his mindset by engaging in different assignments that prepared him for his military journey.

Quadrell often led activities because of his natural leadership capacities, which he now uses in his Human Resources position in the United States Army.

Quadrell highlights that his time in the Military has allowed him to travel across the U.S. and even live in South Korea. He currently lives in Hawaii, serving as Staff Sargeant (E6), and he continues to lead his life and career with excellence. 

Artrisha had a charismatic personality, was always curious, and had a positive attitude during her time at TML.

She describes TML as a safe and steady place that propelled her to grow and be herself. She accredits her mom’s efforts and key relationships with our TML staff that allowed her to thrive and stay away from negative influences in the community surrounding her.  

Artrisha is in the United States Marine Corps, and as a result of her dedication and hard work, she has been promoted several times while pursuing her degree in Zoology.

She loves to take care of animals and looks forward to becoming a veterinarian after her military service.

Jahnya is adventurous and believes that the lessons she learned in TML’s youth program and as a TML intern prepared her to be a better leader. She gained skills that have allowed her to transition into her military career successfully and provided her with leadership capabilities that she uses daily working in her team.

Jahnya serves in the U.S. Navy, and she recently was on the CVN78 Gerald Ford aircraft carrier that performed the shock trials bombs, televised on national news, which was a thrilling experience for her. During the trial, she was stationed with fire prevention that required her to wear Firefighter gear.

She is looking forward to finishing her degree in business administration and applying her business knowledge to her career in the Navy.

TML’s Impact – Adult Literacy Program

In September, we launched our new Adult Literacy Empowerment program in West Homestead, which incorporates educational elements that will help our adult population who struggle daily due to illiteracy and poor computer skills.  We are thrilled that our adults have begun to dive into our literacy workshops this month, where we incorporate introductory computer skills. Digital literacy is part of the secondary effort to reduce disparities and promote economic mobility in the community of Homestead.

Our Instructor found 100% of adults participant surveyed expressed a high need for work purposes, furthering their education, assisting their children, applying for services, and leisure. The content covered throughout the first workshop included learning the parts of a computer, turning a computer on and off, logging in, utilizing the Google search engine, connecting to the internet, accessing the control panel, changing to the preferred language on websites, keyboard definitions, and uses and settings.

At first, many adults were overwhelmed and expressed their struggles; however, their patience, determination, and focus allowed them to learn things they had never known before. Towards the conclusion of the class session, the participants expressed how thankful they were and how they are looking forward to more computer literacy classes in the future.

We know that this opportunity will have a lasting impact on our community; therefore, we will continue to host literacy classes to help new learners gain skills and confidence to increase their capacity for economic and social mobility.

You can impact a child’s life through Give Miami Day 2021!

Theresa is an inspirational, intelligent, and independent young lady who is constantly striving to better herself. Nevertheless, at the beginning of her journey at TML, she shared with her instructors that she struggled with self-confidence and at times felt like she wasn’t good enough. As the oldest of 4, Theresa always wanted to be an example for her siblings, which created a lot of pressure because she didn’t want to disappoint her parents.

Many teenagers experience similar feelings as they strive to develop a sense of identity and purpose; therefore, good role models are essential at that stage in their lives.

TML instructor has become that role model for Theresa as she has worked with Theresa by investing daily in her by encouraging, celebrating her accomplishments, giving her feedback, and increasing her sense of ownership.

The change in Theresa was evident as she began to see herself differently. She is confident about herself and no longer feels that she needs people’s approval. She has become an inspiration for her classmates, helping them improve their self-esteem and encouraging them with their school work.

Confidence is one of the primary characteristics of a thriving teenager.

Would you join us in helping teenagers like Thereas thrive?

You can help us continue making a difference for over 1,000 adults, children, and youth in Overtown and West Homestead communities just like Theresa by becoming a fundraiser for TML during Give Miami Day this year. Help us reach our goal of $75,000! Follow the steps below to become a TML Fundraiser.

Donation of Two Facilities: Thank You Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida!

Touching Miami with Love is grateful for the long-lived partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida (CBF FL). Throughout the years, their support has been a strong foundation that has helped TML grow and impact the communities of West Homestead and Overtown through Inspiration, education, and empowerment.

As an organization now over twenty-five years old, one of our greatest joys is to watch our children mature through adolescence and transition successfully into adulthood. We walk alongside our children by educating, inspiring, and empowering them to reach their potential.

We do this by providing extensive education services to help children strengthen their cognitive abilities and succeed in school. We aid in children’s development of confidence as they successfully navigate social relationships and giving them the social skills to succeed. Their character grows as we inspire them to make a difference in their community and cultivate their spiritual development. As they enter adolescence, staff aid in selecting youths to serve as junior interns in our children’s program, which allows them to gain needed on-the-job skills and learn to care for others.

Throughout their high school years, we empower youth to begin to live into their God-given gifts, and we get a chance to inspire them to be all that God has created them to be. Then, as seen in the stories later in this newsletter, we experience the joy of seeing these same young people thrive as adults.

Similarly, Touching Miami with Love has matured and grown over the years, and CBF FL has been with us along the journey since the beginning. As one of the founding partners of TML, it was CBF FL who spearheaded a fundraising campaign and purchased a building for our use in programming. When the first building did not suit our growing work, CBF FL sold it to buy a different building for TML for our community-based work as our Overtown Site.

During the same period and in response to the needs of the under-resourced in southern Miami-Dade County after Hurricane Andrew, CBF FL helped secure land and built a building for Open House Ministries, which later became our TML West Homestead site.

CBF FL support did not stop at just providing the two buildings. They also provided the funds for utilities, building renovations, and maintenance on the two properties. Just like the children and youth we serve, as TML has grown, we have been able to slowly take on more of the responsibility of the operating costs of the two buildings.

Now, as a mature twenty-five-year-old nonprofit, CBF FL is supporting our organization by donating the two properties to us, the Overtown and West Homestead Site. This incredibly generous gift will allow us to continue to impact our communities for years to come. CBF FL continues its commitment to the critical work of TML. The countless children who have grown up in our programs and are now thriving as adults testify to the power of partnership.

Thank you, CBF FL, for the years of support and your generosity in supporting future generations of TML children. – Jason Pittman, Touching Miami with Love CEO

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.

The Success Of Our Kids Is Our Heartbeat

For over 25 years, Touching Miami With Love has significantly impacted many children’s lives. From alumni graduating college and succeeded in the workforce to others deciding to be part of our staff at TML, it’s a joy to be a part of their success.

Our commitment and dedication to our families are our utmost priority, especially during these challenging times. The pandemic’s ongoing impact affected our community the most. Parents who lost their jobs faced a tremendous financial burden, often affecting life at home. It is for this reason that we were glad to open our doors once again.

*Amy, a sweet and bright girl, was one of the first students that joined our day program. Unfortunately, Amy struggled to settle in, and for weeks, she cried almost every day, expressing that she missed her family. Her challenges included difficulty identifying letters and sounds, command of the English language, and computer skills, making it difficult for her to work independently.

Despite her difficult circumstances, TML’s instructors worked patiently with Amy, helping her gain confidence and making her feel at home. With love and dedication, Amy began to show progress every time her instructors interacted with her. After a few months, her progress was undeniable; even with the virtual barrier, she continued to show an exponential amount of growth day by day.
As we fast forward seven months, we are proud to say that Amy is doing fantastic and is one of the best students in her class. She developed a love for education and quickly learned her letter sounds, leading to significant gains in her ability to read and speak English. She has also learned basic computer skills, works independently, cooperates with tutors and teachers, and has developed new friends.

The impact made on her life is inspirational! TML’s programming served as a vehicle for her academic improvement and gave her new possibilities for her future. She inspires us every day, and it is an absolute honor to have her as part of our program. Like many of the children that have walked through our doors, we are confident her future is bright, and she is an example of hard work and perseverance. Her success is proof that nothing is impossible with the right opportunities, resources, and hard work!

*The child’s name has been changed to protect her identity

A new role for Angel Pittman

As Touching Miami with Love (TML) celebrates twenty-five years of faithful work in 2020, it’s a great time to celebrate our impact while also taking a glance forward towards the future. Since 2005, Jason and Angel Pittman have served in leadership at TML through the support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). Working alongside each other, they have brought their unique gifts and educational backgrounds to allow TML’s growth to serve more children and youth in more impactful ways for fifteen years.

No matter what role Angel has held at TML, her motivation has always been to support students holistically. From her first years at TML serving as Overtown’s Children’s Director to moving towards fundraising and organizational leadership, it has always about helping students get the support they need. Her passion for students is what has made her so skilled at developing new programs and projects for TML and made her an effective fundraiser. Whether in a personal conversation, a written story, or a grant application, it’s not hard to miss Angel’s love for the students at TML. Angel has also worked hard to shape the culture of TML from building a strong sense of family within the staff to the students at TML. Both staff members and TML participants have both created fond memories over meals and games in the Pittman’s home in Overtown for many years. Through her efforts, Angel has supported TML’s strategic plan by helping the organization grow exponentially, and her impact has gotten her notice. She was named a “Miami Leader” class of 2017-2018 by the Miami Foundation, a “Woman to Watch” by Global Women, profiled by Baptist Women in Ministry in “This Is What a Minister Looks Like” and named AXA Advisors 2013 Businesswoman of the Year, in the Non-Profit category.

Angel will be transitioning out of her role at Touching Miami with Love and is excited to continue her eighteen years of service with CBF as she begins to advocate for students more broadly as an Educational Advocate. This multi-faceted role will include supporting students in Miami, building capacity for local advocacy efforts, and working on behalf of public-school children on a state level all to reduce educational inequities. She will also have the opportunity to use her experience at TML to support CBF’s national educational programming efforts.

While her departure is undoubtedly a loss for TML, she’s excited to step aside to allow Trina Harris to become Touching Miami with Love’s next Vice President. Trina brings her eleven years of leadership at TML, along with a fantastic set of skills, gifts, and passion for our communities, to this new role. While her duties will be different from Angel, her work will be vital for the continued growth of TML’s impact. Angel begins several months of transition from July to September to ensure a smooth and successful conversion. You can learn more about Angel’s new work HERE.

Spring into STEM and Camp Oasis!

As we gear up for Spring Break, nearly 400 students are continually being served in Overtown and West Homestead at Touching Miami with Love.

Thanks to great supporters we have a new and engaging STEM curriculum and during Spring Break we’ll be enforcing different skills and topics! Last month Brave Church provided items necessary for the upcoming STEM projects and assembled the kits!  Supplemental to our STEM activities, is “Structured Free Choice” where our students play to reinforce the skills they’ve learned throughout the day. For example, after learning Human Anatomy, their structured free choice will be playing a game of Operation.

volunteers creating kits     

In addition to STEM activities, we will offer a fun approach in our Children’s devotional, fitness, visual arts, social skills, and literacy. Another fun addition to our Spring Break week is the opportunity to explore Zoo Miami. At the zoo, we will enforce previous lessons about animal habitats, differentiating between predators & prey, and really giving them a hands-on experience.

The children don’t have all the fun, it’s Camp OASIS time for our middle and high school youth! During Spring Break, our youth will embrace a change of scenery in Central Florida where they will get to connect with one another and grow spiritually. This years’ theme is “Disrupt” and coinciding verse is Mark 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

During this spiritual retreat, the youth get a chance to disconnect as they have no access to their cell phones, allowing God to “disrupt” the normal day-to-day hustle and bustle. Some of the activities available to our youth are swimming, archery, boating, and crafts. Being exposed to different activities really opens up the youth’s mind as they learn more about themselves and what they enjoy.

Looking back at past Camp Oasis pictures has us excited for what’s to come!

archery sunset girls fishing