Overtown Youth Center Awarded Program Of The Year
Try to break down the "invisible walls of a community" that limit those within it. In spite of the many challenges and financial worries families face in Overtown, students at OYC can dream big. The annual awards are presented by Miami-Dade County's largest funder of after-school and summer programs, known for its quality standards, results-based programming, and strict reporting and financial requirements. OYC was founded in 2003 by local real estate developer Martin Z. Initially designed as a safe haven for children in the neighborhood, almost 20 years later, OYC has expanded far beyond its founders' imaginations. The organization strategically delivers resources to the community to inspire and empower the families who live there. The center is composed of various programs that focus on select age groups. She shared details of the educational supports OYC offers, and made special note of the exposure to arts and sciences that it provides to youth. "I am most proud of the exposure opportunities we provide for kids," Brown said.
An Overtown Youth Center staff member passing out school supplies during a pandemic drive-through event. Raenikqua James is just one of OYC's many success stories. "I am so happy to be back here now, to be able to give back to the kids, as so much was given to me," she said. Eleven-year-old fifth grader Eric Natheniel has been in the program five years. During the pandemic, OYC went above and beyond to hold down its struggling community. "We knew then more than ever that we needed to shift and provide the support that our community needed," Brown said. That it did, providing food distributions as well as virtual programs. OYC also made sure that their kids had the technology and internet access they needed to complete virtual learning. Brown said these efforts were a must "to make sure that our students knew that no matter what the situation was, we were there to support them as educators, as confidants and as a family support team.
The Children's Trust's motto is "all children are our children. Bevone Ritchie has worked at The Children's Trust for 17 years. "This is a really great investment that we have with our partnership with Overtown Youth Center, and their approach is just so admirable. Ritchie cited OYC's comprehensive approach that offers additional individualized support for children and families, such as the family-style dinners served to kids during extended hours offered to parents who work late. "It's about making sure the individual needs of each child are being addressed," she said. All of this and more is why Overtown Youth Center is being celebrated. "I feel really honored to be getting the program of the year award," said Brown. The Miami Times is the largest Black-owned newspaper in the south serving Miami's Black community since 1923.
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