October 2019 Member Spotlight: Carlos Miller from Photography is Not a Crime

What is your title but what do you really do on a daily basis?

I am the founder and publisher of an award-winning national news site called Photography is Not a Crime aka PINAC News where we report on police abuse and the right to record cops in public, which keeps me busy day and night writing stories, editing stories and videos and conducting interviews with people from around the country about their legal battles with cops. I manage a team of four writers and we try to publish between three to ten stories a day. Our goal is criminal justice reform which means we are viewed as “controversial” in the eyes of many people who are afraid to question authority. But everything we publish is true, most of it backed by video evidence, arrest reports or court documents. I also write a weekly article for the Miami New Times about the cannabis industry in Florida, another subject I am passionate about because it ties into criminal justice reform and social change. Those articles can be read here.

Tell us one brief story of how your organization’s work has made an impact?

I launched the site in 2007 after I was beaten and arrested by Miami police for photographing them in public, which then sparked a seven-year battle with local police agencies, prosecutors and judges where I was arrested an additional three more times for photographing them in public. I beat all my cases, including a conviction I had reversed upon appeal pro se so the impact I made was that people learned about their rights and the law when it comes to these issues. Nowadays, cops don’t harass citizens for recording as much as before because they know it can lead to problems. Over the years, I’ve had many cops tell me they leave citizens alone for recording because the last thing they want is to be featured on my site. But now that they are allowing us to record, we can see why they did not want us to record in the first place because it allows us to see them as the aggressive bullies many tend to be rather than the courageous heroes they try to portray themselves to be. So the impact is that I’ve opened many people’s eyes to the rampant police abuse taking place within law enforcement agencies throughout the country. People tell me this all the time. PINAC helped destroy the police narrative. And for that, police resent me very much.

What is a lesson you’ve learned in your career that you would pass on to others – about your job, your organization’s work, the sector, etc.?

The biggest lesson I learned over the years is that I must learn every aspect of my company before I can expect somebody else to do it, even if that person may be more skilled in that particular area. Especially when it comes to business, tech, and management because in my case, I was just a journalist trying to make a point so I was only focused on the accuracy and the quality of the articles when I brought in somebody to run the business side, who then ended up trying to steal the company from me. Now I run a much tighter-knit operation where I run both the business and editorial side but that required me to take online crash courses in business. I never expected the site to still be active 12 years after my first arrest for photographing cops so I did not start running it like a business until years later.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I enjoy the simple things in life like tacos from my favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants in Little Havana. I also enjoy music and photography. Especially photographing musicians. I am drawn to creative people because they inspire me. I am drawn to activism because the status quo bores me.

What restaurant in Miami are you dying to go to?

I am a Miami native who has lived here the bulk of my life but I have yet to try Joe’s Stone Crabs so that is on my list but I guess I’m waiting for a special occasion.

What is your favorite floor at the Center and why? What online resource or tool do you most use or rely on for your work?

Lately, I’ve been working from home because I’ve been doing a lot of interviews on speakerphone (because I am typing notes) so the solitude helps me focus without worrying about disturbing others. I also work weird hours, late at night, early in the morning, so I fell into a comfortable routine at home. When I do work at the Center, I prefer the 2nd floor because it is very socially active and allows me to connect with local activists. I am also a videographer and photographer so I have found many freelance gigs through the Center. When I really need to focus, I prefer the quietness of the 6th floor (but then I may disturb others with my interviews which is why I’m working from home for now). I use many online tools for my work, including court sites that provide public records but Google, Facebook and YouTube are the main online tools we use to research our stories and publish those stories. We have a very active Facebook page with more than 300,000 followers which is more than many mainstream news sites that have much larger staffs. We also have almost 50,000 followers on YouTube. But it’s a constant battle with these social media platforms because police are constantly complaining to them about us, which sometimes leads to them restricting access to our followers.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have  as a member of the C4SC community.


September 2019 Member Spotlight: Francisco Camacho from Electromagnetic Health LLC

What is your title but what do you really do on a daily basis?

My work is centered in helping others realize the unique and strong ability their mind and bodies have in healing. We work together in understanding what processes are taking place at the center of their heart and, from there, we seek to re-balance mental and physical processes to alleviate chronic pain and illness; fatigue; anxiety or simply sustain our bodies in an optimal state.

With a combination of different techniques including acupressure, acupuncture, sintergetica and leveraging our body’s water memory, we work to re-establish all physical functions.

On a daily basis, I practice acupuncture and add sintergetica. The use of sintergetica in the acupuncture meridians changes how each point is stimulated given the color, pressure and information obtained. This allows for a deeper treatment that not only looks to calm or heal pain but, find its roots to remediate it, seeking ongoing harmony. This is a fundamental differentiator because rather than 2 to 3 sessions per week (as required by acupuncture) you can reach a more lasting effect that may require only a monthly session. This depth and long-lasting effect is not easily achieved by other alternative disciplines.

Far from an official title, I am someone who brings the knowledge of traditional medicine, having obtained degrees in medicine and biology (from Colombia), and alternative medicine both as a world leader in sintergetica and a certified practitioner in acupuncture.

Finally, Electromagnetic Health provides several workshops throughout the year. One of our most recent ones was “Hands to Heal” where we learn how to use the energy in our hands to bring harmony to our emotional, physical and mental structures.

Tell us one brief story of how your organization’s work has made an impact?

We have many testimonials of people who, by connecting with their heart, in a disciplined approach, have healed chronic illness. A woman who was diagnosed with a fast-paced progressive localized scleroderma (an autoimmune condition) and who could barely walk on her feet three years ago today, is close to remission.

As well, many people who attend our workshops share the impact the learnings have in their personal life and the way they connect with family and work colleagues; to help them be more conscious human beings and seek to live in strong connection with their hearts.

What is a lesson you’ve learned in your career that you would pass on to others – about your job, your organization’s work, the sector, etc.?

The most revealing learning throughout my life’s work is that there’s ALWAYS a solution to a problem no matter how difficult the situation or circumstances may seem.

By reconnecting with who we are, with our being and our heart, we enable ourselves to make the right decisions, even in the most adverse circumstances.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love to spend time with my family and especially with my grandchildren who joyfully enrich my life. Occasionally I play golf and love going to the beach.

What restaurant in Miami are you dying to go to?

I love a home-cooked meal. Foods that are whole and natural!

What is your favorite floor at the Center and why? What online resource or tool do you most use or rely on for your work?

My favorite is the second floor! It’s a fantastic rendezvous point and holds a wonderful energy!

To make an appointment with acupuncturist Francisco Camacho, call (305) 298-7825

The Center for Social Change is proud to have  as a member of the C4SC community.

 


August 2019 Member Spotlight: Christen Parker-Yarnal, Co-Founder of The Miami Sudbury School and The Learning Instinct, Inc.

My Journey from “Sage on the Stage” to “Guide on the Side” with The Miami Sudbury School.

Christen Parker-Yarnal here. Born in Miami. Traditional Catholic education K-12, Univ. of Florida English BA. Moved to St. Louis, MO and joined a radical live-in community housing homeless women and children. Taught Spanish, English, and Ecology to high school girls in a low to middle-income school in the heart of St. Louis. Along the way, lived in Southern Haiti, building relationships and a small nonprofit, worked on a Masters in Education, taught Spanish at St. Louis University where I finished my Masters in Spanish with a thesis focusing on the connections and disconnections between how language is taught and tested and how learners perceive themselves. Moved to Sacramento for my husband’s fellowship in Child Psychiatry. Adopted 3 dynamic kids from the CA foster system. Subbed in a charter Montessori school our oldest son attended. Moved back to Miami after the adoption finalization. I have an enormous family in Miami. Homeschooled our oldest. Put all three in a Reggio Emelia school. Hated Miami traffic. Pulled all three out to unschool them. Picked up a book from the library that inspired me to open a really, really, alternative, democratic, self-directed school – what?!?

So, I really thought I was a great high school teacher – differentiating instruction, contextualizing content, ditching the textbook, making the classroom participatory and dynamic. Yet, I noticed I kept saying, “I’m not a dentist. I don’t pull teeth.” “Please, have some feeling about this, anything – whether it’s love or hate or anything in between.” My students were largely passive, waiting, ready to either please or push back and clearly trained to play the grade game as winners or losers. I loved my students but I was tired of the grade game. What I saw in practice didn’t match what I learned in grad school. I wondered if, at the end of the day, we were all mostly spinning our wheels in the classroom.

I accidentally read Free to Learn by Peter Gray (yes, accidentally). I was captivated by the kind of learning described – self-directed, democratic – what is this “Sudbury Valley School” he studied? How did the graduates go onto college and succeed as they have? My child and adolescent psychiatrist husband liked the idea right away. He’d been bored in school. He sees young people depressed and anxious over homework and testing. Why hadn’t we heard of this Sudbury thing before? Could our three children get through childhood without the torture of the traditional classroom? I started talking about it with anyone who would listen, even total strangers. Eventually, a fellow mom and a children’s librarian not only took interest, but agreed we needed to open a Sudbury school in Miami. The closest one is in Ft. Lauderdale. I hate driving. Our children told us that we needed to open a Sudbury school. Well, then…

If any of us really have any idea how much work would be needed for any project of value (i.e. starting a business, becoming a parent, opening a school…), we likely would stop before we started. Luckily for the world, we don’t usually realize how blindly we stumble into such adventures. We began the process. Anyone reading this at The Center for Social Change knows well the rollercoaster-treadmill hybrid that starting a nonprofit business is. We worked passionately. We were told that Miami wasn’t ready for a Sudbury school: Miami is too conservative; parents won’t understand or trust something so alternative; it won’t appeal to the increasing obsession with the micromanagement and livestream monitoring of children, especially when it comes to their “education.”

Honestly, it was actually pretty relaxing to unschool (read: homeschooling without an agenda, letting kids learn through play and exploration). We woke up late and basically hung out at the library, the beach, the grocery store, and our house. But our house is not a democracy (it really can’t be). I love me some research and increasingly learned how much value there is in letting a child practice authentic self-direction and democratic community. I learned too much to do anything except empower them. There went sleeping in.

In fact, the Sudbury model makes so much sense that I now overhear painful tutoring sessions in the library or watch my nieces and nephews trudge through worksheets and I wonder how we let traditional schooling become and continue as it is. Young people are remarkably capable of learning when not pressured to constantly perform and conform. I won’t deny that it was a whole lot of fun as a traditional teacher to captivate a classroom with an air of mystery (it appeals to my thespian days). But who did that really serve? If they’re going to really learn anything, students need to initiate and own the investigation. It has to be meaningful to them. Adults can mentor and guide, but if we always cruise direct, we actually handicap the very people we hope to help. Constant grading and measuring is in fact counterproductive: stunting, pigeonholing and ignoring the truth of growth and change that must be part of any real learning. Sudbury schools don’t have grades. It’s not the currency that must be earned or bartered in our school. There are no points given for reading – points that I would argue make reading feel pointless. Our students write when it matters to them – like when they write someone up for breaking a rule, for example. They debate the intersection of personal rights and community responsibility, not to please me, but to help improve their community, something that matters to them.

We opened. Several families in Miami indeed enrolled their children (we maintained an average of 10 students throughout our first year). A big question was and is how to make this empowered mixed-age alternative to rigid schooling accessible to all families. We can’t be a charter school because we would have to force at least 85% of our students to take a standardized test that is, at its best, only relevant to politicians and, at its worst, a false snapshot of a human mind that is in constant development. We have to charge tuition to pay rent and staff (who, by the way, have the world’s coolest job being in authentic community with young people). How do we be accessible and sustainable? Bill Burdette understood the model right away – he’d already read Free to Learn (of course). He got it, and granted us $500/mo in scholarship money. With that we were able to say “Yes!” to a 13 year old girl desperate to get out of public middle school, “Yes!” to a 15 year old boy who openly shared how he “used to love reading” and now barely picks up a book, and “Yes!” to an 8 year old boy with developmental issues not acute enough to get him special services, yet acute enough to send him home crying every day from school. Our small community is incredible and we can’t wait to help it grow diversely and dynamically. We should be able to accept Step Up Scholarships soon in fact!

The rollercoaster-treadmill didn’t slow down much, rugs came out from under our feet, and we were properly blindsided several times, yet through it all we reached the end of May with a dynamic community of young people ages 6-16 who could effectively run daily judicial hearings, navigate interpersonal issues in mediation, and civilly debate and vote on policies and issues in weekly democratic school meetings using parliamentary procedure. There were no formal classes on these things. Everyone learned “on the job,” learning things like personal responsibility, initiative, and interdependence. At the end of the day, what skills do we most want our children to learn? Shouldn’t they practice those things with much greater frequency than, say, the times tables and civil war battles? And what’s so amazing is that I get to be in the middle of it all, holding the space for individual interests, interacting with young people in a way that values them as people, rather than products. I get to learn with them, side by side, as humans for centuries, have learned. I’m still tired, but not of the system I work in. I’m grateful for the confluence of education, social justice, and personalism that I find in a Sudbury school, amazingly right here in Miami.

To learn more about the Miami Sudbury School, take a look at their website.
Feel free to reach out to Christen at Christen@MiamiSudburySchool.org

The Center for Social Change is proud to have the Miami Sudbury School as a member of the C4SC community.

 


July 2019 Member Spotlight: Pascale D. Auguste, Executive Director of Health Education Preventions & Promotion, Inc. (HEPP)

What is your title but what do you really do on a daily basis?

Name is Pascale D. Auguste and I am the executive director of Health Education Prevention & Promotion, Inc. (HEPP)

My daily tasks are numerous (and I really do this): networking with community organization and churches, planning and coordinating educational presentations on health promotion and prevention of chronic diseases, following up with clients, registering women for free mammograms and promoting the organization.

How the organization’s work has made an impact?

Our work begins at the grassroots level, bringing valuable information regarding health to the community one small church at a time, one small group at a time. It begins with building trust and providing culturally and linguistically appropriate information to the South Florida minority community. Health education is a fundamental tool in the promotion of health and prevention of disease. HEPP has educated over 1000 community members on the importance of early detection, healthy eating and physical activity in the prevention of chronic diseases.  Focusing much of our attention in the Haitian community of Miami Dade we have been able to screen over 60 women for breast cancer by funding screening mammograms and teaching women breast self-awareness. Our biggest impact is when we are able to empower people to learn and develop personal and social skills required to make positive health behavior choice.

In addition, HEPP continues to be a voice for the Haitian community in the fight for equal health care and culturally competent health care among health care providers of Miami-Dade and Broward.

What is a lesson you’ve learned in your career that you would pass on to others?

My biggest lesson that I would pass on to others who are starting, or who are involved in the not for profit world is not to give up and always remember why you began your journey. When the going gets tough, remember the reason you started, remember the ones you wanted to help, remember your vision. I also learned to not do it alone, reach out to others – you will be surprised when you ask how many people “just want to help”.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I enjoy free time, no schedule, no limits-I love live music, short workouts,  bike rides, reading a book, and spending time with the grandkids-second to all that, I love to travel and see the world.

What restaurant in Miami are you dying to go to?

If someone can tell me where there is a really good authentic French restaurant or an awesome fresh seafood restaurant in Miami-that is where I want to go.

What is your favorite floor at the center?

I really like the 6th floor where you will find our HEPP dedicated desk. It is quiet but with enough activity that you feel that you are a part of something bigger. The quiet interactions between others moving in and out of the space makes you feel that you are a part of a collaborative group making changes in the world. I also value the many relevant programs offered here at the Center and I cannot say enough about the wonderful dedicated staff at the center who are always willing to help and a great support.

To learn more about HEPP take a look at their website.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have HEPP as a member of the C4SC community.


June 2019 Member Spotlight: Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Executive Director at The CLEO Institute.

What is your title but what do you really do on a daily basis?

My title is Executive Director of the CLEO Institute. While I wear many hats directing a non-profit, my day revolves around making connections and advocating to solve the climate crisis. Of course, what I REALLY DO, is answering MANY, MANY emails!

Tell us one brief story of how your organization’s work has made an impact?

Since its launch almost 10 years ago where the word resilience, nor climate change, was vastly used, CLEO has been able to move the needle in climate action in many ways. We now have some of our most underserved communities at the table and able to advocate in their own interests; Chambers of Commerce re-defining resilience and adaptation;  K-12 educators weaving climate across the curriculum; artists provoking audiences and conversation; governments mapping vulnerability and raising funds for adaptation efforts; cities, counties, schools and businesses measuring and lowering carbon footprints; young people mobilizing, finding and sharing their voices and their outrage at inaction; and most importantly, that dismissing or denying the science is no longer acceptable, as impacts like stronger hurricanes, algal blooms, sea-level rise, flooding downpours and heat waves become more evident and visible in our daily lives. As educators, we are proud to have awakened many giants that are now leading efforts in the region and we are looking forward to waking many more.

What is a lesson you’ve learned in your career that you would like to pass on to others – about your job, your organization’s work, the sector, etc.?

The biggest lesson I would pass to others is to COLLABORATE. For us, the challenge to solve the biggest existential crisis we are facing, the climate crisis, is so monumental, that collaboration is pivotal in advancing climate action. For us, it’s not a cliché to say “Collaboration is the key to success”! We really need all hands on deck because we are in the midst of a climate emergency,

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like to go for bike rides around Miami, go to the beach with my family, do Yoga, and work on my composting and in my yard.

What restaurant in Miami are you dying to go to?

Right now, I do not have any on my radar or ‘dying to go’ yet. But, if I go out to eat, I will vote for Peruvian food every time!

What is your favorite floor at the Center and why? What online resource or tool do you most use or rely on for your work?

My favorite floor is the second floor because it feels very “home-like”. I love the open kitchen set-up. It just feels we are all a big family.

The tool that we use the most is the access to meeting rooms because of all the climate trainings we host every month.

 

 

To learn more about The CLEO Institute take a look at their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have The CLEO Institute as a member of the C4SC community.

 


May 2019 Member Spotlight: Kathie Klarreich, Executive Director at Exchange for Change.

What is your organization’s mission?

Exchange for Change believes in the power of written partnerships to promote dialogue and effect social change.

What impact does your organization have or make?

We believe that we are changing people’s lives. We are impacting the way they think, the way they see themselves and the way they see others. It’s hard to quantify a change like this but we believe that we are having an impact because

1. We have grown from a program that offered one course to 17 incarcerated students to the 29 we are offering this semester in three institutions. We have reached more than 800 inside students since we began in 2014 and reached hundreds more students in local academic institutions who partnered with them. The incarcerated student sees him/herself differently after taking a course, finding their own sense of self-worth in an institution designed to take that away.

2. We have trained more than 50 instructors to go inside and teach our writing courses. Each one of those people goes back into the community and talks about the impact of their experience, helping to demystify who the incarcerated are.

3. We have brought hundreds of community members into the prisons for our graduation ceremonies, where they get to see and hear our students perform their work. We have countless number of people tell us that it has changed their lives and the way they think about the incarcerated and incarceration.

4. We have reached hundreds of people through our publications, public performances, and events, once again amplifying the voice of the incarcerated to help dis-spell myths and biases.

How does your organization make an impact?

1. Through our courses, which meet weekly for two-hours throughout a semester. We teach a variety of writing courses – from fiction to non-fiction, writing on trauma, writing in Spanish, song-writing, journalism, memoir and more.

2. We also run writing exchanges with partner institutions (UM, FAU, FIU, MDC, Ransom Everglades) where both sets of students correspond anonymously, allowing them to see each other as people rather than as labels or a Dept. of Corrections number.

3. We created the first ever Prison Poet Laureate to have the voice of the incarcerated poets represented.

4. We launched Don’t Shake the Spoon, a literary journal of prison writing, to get our students voices out in the world.

5. We have designed and distributed numerous zines in local fairs to again broadcast our student’s voices

6. We invite the public to our thrice-yearly showcase graduations to bring people inside and hear and see the voices of students’ work.

7. We participate in local readings and host exhibits as yet another venue for our students work to reach beyond the razor wire.

What would you like others to know about your organization?

We are always looking for volunteers to teach inside and/or become involved in any of our projects.

How has C4SC impacted you, personally?

C4SC encouraged me to create Exchange for Change. Without the support of Bill and the staff, I would never have taken on such a herculean task. And honestly, it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

How has C4SC impacted your organization?

C4SC provides more than a home for our office. The support I have received from every single staff person here, from Wilkens’ and Dale’s generous technical support to Bill’s encouragement to Michelle’s patience and good humor, are invaluable.

To learn more about Exchange for Change take a look at their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have Exchange for Change as a member of the C4SC community.

April 2019 Member Spotlight: Traci Rhone, Executive Producer/Founder at Kingston5 Productions.

What is your organization’s mission?

Kingston5 Productions is an Indie Film Production company in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. We are storytellers of truth and fate and want to inspire those around us; Our mission is to empower human beings to achieve their fullest potential.

What impact does your organization have or make?

We are committed to liberation and encourage counter culture systems that transform apathy into positive social change thru the production of the 7th Art.

How does your organization make an impact?

Kingston5 Productions produces independent feature films, short films and documentaries that focus on real people, real stories, and social situations that are often neglected by traditional media outlets. We truly want to make the world a better place.

What would you like others to know about your organization?

Kingston5 Productions is highly knowledgeable about the film industry. We seek serious investors to finance independent motion pictures and other media projects.

How has C4SC impacted you, personally?

C4SC has allowed me to make my reality, realities.

How has C4SC impacted your organization?

C4SC has been instrumental in nurturing and accelerating our growth by providing us with a variety of business support resources. It has given our organization a space to create, collaborate and meet as a group.

To learn more, take a look at their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

The Center for Social Change is proud to have Kingston5 Productions as a member of the C4SC community.


March 2019 Member Spotlight: Nicholas Duran, Executive Director for the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinic

I joined the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics as the Executive Director in late 2015. I have spent a large part of my career in the non-profit sector, particularly with health care focused organizations. The work, in particular, is important to not only me but my staff. Each one of us has experienced health care events or diagnoses that could have been catastrophic if it weren’t for access to affordable health care. At the association, I have the privilege to see that peace of mind extended to hundreds of thousands of Floridians yearly. Our 105 members are located from the Panhandle to the Keys and provide free and low cost medical, dental, vision, mental health and wellness care to some of our state’s most vulnerable populations. Just last year, our clinics provided care to nearly 230,000 Floridians, through 456,000 visits. Year after year I am amazed at the work our clinics do and I consider myself lucky to see the tangible impact our members have on communities statewide.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics as a member of the C4SC community.


February 2019 Member Spotlight: Ingrid Gonzalez, Grants & Community Partnerships Coordinator for Casa Valentina

Tell me about the problem your organization solves: Casa Valentina uplifts a population that is often forgotten: youth who turn 18 years old and “age out” of the foster care system, as well as former foster youth.

Can you tell me about a specific person who has been impacted by your organization? X was a young man who had been separated from his siblings in foster care. They were adopted but X was not, and at age 18 he “hit rock bottom.” He had his own apartment, a job, but he didn’t have the tools to really make it on his own. There was a point where he was sleeping at his school; nobody really knew his situation because he’d been afraid to ask for help. He ended up living with friends but they missed the rent, and he ended up homeless again. That’s when he made the phone call to his caseworker. Since coming to CV, he is working on his physical therapy degree. As he puts it, “I want to make a rags to riches stories. Here was a kid who wasn’t doing anything and now he’s going to be somebody. I want to be a role model for other kids in my situation. Just because you came from this doesn’t mean you can’t do that. My future goals are big, I want to be somebody.”

With so many great organizations to support, why should people choose to support your organization? Oftentimes when I ask people what they think happens to youth in foster care on their 18th birthday, I get blank stares and the slow realization that they have never really thought about this question. When people think of “foster care” they often think of children under the age of 18, but very little thought is given to the youth who are never reunified or adopted, and are expected to face life on their own at 18. Most of us remember what it was like being 18, and how ill prepared we would have been to really face life on our own with no support system in place. Casa Valentina steps in to fill this gap. We provide not only the safe, affordable housing but the life skills needed. Our formalized curriculum focuses on the areas we have identified as being most critical to successful self-sufficiency: 1) education; 2) employment; 3) money management; 4) household maintenance; and 5) self-care. We are a system of support that shepherds them into thriving independence. If people are passionate about creating avenues for youth to really grow and thrive, Casa Valentina is a place that could use that time, talent, and treasure.

What has been the most surprising thing you learned about your cause? Having had limited exposure to children and youth in foster care, I always assumed there was something in their family history where the parents made a mistake and lost their children as a result. What I’ve come to learn, and find surprising, is the various stories of our youth. For example, we have had youth whose family is loving and caring, and still intact, but they reside in their home countries. The youth were sent to the States in search of a better life as a minor and were placed in foster care. We’ve seen youth who chose to bounce around between friends’ homes because it was safer than being in their own home. There’s also a misguided notion that youth in foster care are somehow the same population as youth involved in the juvenile justice system, or that they must come from horrible trauma. I think the nuance of their stories need to be brought to the forefront of a broader narrative surrounding youth in foster care.

Is there an achievement related to your cause that you are most proud of? What is it and why is it important to you? I’m most proud when we are awarded a grant because it shows me that there are partners in the community who value our work, and understand that youth 18-23 are just your average 18-23 year olds looking for their place in the world. Their potentials are worth investing in.

When did you first hear about this cause or realize it was a problem that needed solving? I’ve been a Guardian ad Litem for years, so I have had some connection to the world of foster care, but most of my cases dealt with children and not young adults. It wasn’t until I came to Casa Valentina that I myself realized I didn’t know the answer to what happens to foster youth on their 18th birthday.

What attracted you to this cause? Any youth development work is intriguing to me because I am in pursuit of anything where we can build a community we all want to be a part of.

What inspires you? I’m inspired by my belief that we are put on this earth to serve our fellow man. At its core, humanity just wants to be loved, and we can most effectively show that through service.

How did you know you had to get involved? I had a moment of realization that each one of us is given gifts & talents, and that those come with the burden to edify others. My position as Grants & Community Partnerships Coordinator allows me to engage partners, schmooze with key stakeholders, build upon my background in data, and use my writing skills.

What was the biggest challenge you have faced on this journey? Any work within human services is difficult because the human experience is not a linear trajectory; one minute, someone you have helped is on an upswing, and the next, they’re facing a valley. It’s critical to not take those moments personally because we are all humans figuring this thing out called “life.”

Is there something from your past (an interest, experience, or lesson) that just makes what you do now make a whole lot of sense? I moved down from NY to do the year-long service learning program called City Year. My plan was to stay in Miami for the school year and then move on to my original destination (San Jose, California), but even early on I felt there was a reason I was sent here. That was seven years ago, and the joke is that I just keep getting hired. Having worked in a middle school in Liberty City with 7th grade boys, and then seeing them graduate high school a few years ago, I feel the full story of my service to Miami’s communities come full circle. The various jobs I’ve held all fall under this umbrella of service to community, and this is the community I’ve chosen to invest in, certainly for the time being.

What would you say to someone considering working on a similar problem? There has to be a fine balance of caring deeply and being involved with clients on a personal level, but understanding how that fits within the bigger framework of a larger problem. Change is slow, but every day one shows up and puts in good work, critical mass builds.

What do you think other people should know about your organization? What I would want people to take away from the work that we do is that our young people need our support, and the old adage of, “It takes a village” really does apply. These youth may not be our blood family, but there’s a universal interconnectedness. We are all beholden to one another, and that brings with it a responsibility that I hope others realize. If one of these young people succeeds, we all succeed.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating money or time? I always love sharing with people that donations go directly toward program costs – my salary is paid through grants.

What do you think will change about your organization, your field, and/or the social sector

over the next five years? There’s a growing need for these types of services for youth (outside of foster care) who face homelessness whether it be because of poverty, or because they identify as LGBTQ and they were forced out.

How has this work changed you? I’m a lot more mindful of my interactions with other nonprofits whose mission I identify with, and I make an effort to really inquire how I can help meaningfully and not just whether I can come in and do what I want.

If you would like to support Casa Valentina in their mission, or if you have any questions, reach out to Ingrid Gonzalez at igonzalez@casavalentina.org or (305) 444-0740.

Follow Casa Valentina on Facebook @CasaValentinaMiami

The Center for Social Change is proud to have Casa Valentina as a member of the C4SC community.


January 2019 Member Spotlight: Adrian Madriz, S.M.A.S.H

Last year, SMASH began the process of constructing our first affordable housing project, and what a journey it has been! We found land for the project in August, and then by December, we had all of the finances in place. A process that normally takes years was completed in a matter of two months. In addition, this will be the first crowdfunded CLT housing project, and the greatest amount ever crowdfunded on the Start Some Good platform ($325,140). Big thanks to the Center for Social Change, and members like Jed Royer, Tarshea Sanderson, Valerie Hill, Lupe Joy, Robert Carvajal, Michelle Frometa, Lorinda Gonzalez, Lauren Fernandez, Silvio Frank, Bill Burdette, Lucinda K. and the countless others for their tremendous support!

  1. When and why did you become committed to your cause?

I became committed to the cause of organizing residents around slum and LGBTQ youth homelessness issues because I met the people who were affected by these issues and was shocked by how dramatic their living conditions were. Pestilence, dampness, disease, and danger were way too present for residents of the richest city in the United States. Something had to change, and that change was only going to come if people like myself stopped ignoring the issue and started taking responsibility for it.

  1. What attracted you to this cause?

I have always been someone who wanted to have a real impact in the world, and since housing is the biggest issue facing Miamians, I knew I would have to be focused on that.

  1. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?

Losing friends in the pursuit of an unforgiving goal. Friends have come and gone. Some left because of a difference in vision, others actually died. It never gets easier when that happens. You just have to be strong and stay focused to get through it.

  1. What activities do you use to distress?

I play lots of video games. Specifically, Smash! (Never would have guessed, eh?)

  1. . How has this work changed you?

It’s made me into a much more patient and aware professional. I couldn’t have achieved half of what I have done at SMASH if I were still the person I was a mere 3 years ago. Success comes to those who are prepared to receive it, and I have only recently become somewhat prepared. There’s still so much room for growth and I’m eager to continue growing.

  1. Do you see your org making an impact in the lives of those you serve?

Absolutely. The housing we build will shelter Miami, and build power among the poor and working class to achieve great things in the future.

To get in touch with SMASH or for any questions, email Adrian at adrian@smash.miami and follow SMASH on Facebook @SMASHMiami

The Center for Social Change is proud to have SMASH Miami as a member of the C4SC community.


December 2018
Member Spotlight: Devin Browne, Sports Konnect

Devin Browne became interested in starting an organization to assist youth due to his involvement as a Public Allies intern with the Overtown Cookbook Project. He started a mentorship program at Booker T. Washington High School in the heart of Overtown. The funding for the mentorship program ended and he decided to begin a mentorship program involving sports, because sports is one of those things that transcends and connects to all aspects of life. Thus, the nonprofit Sports Konnect was born. Sports Konnect has several programs connected to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, Financial Literacy, and Character Building.

Devin is motivated by the impact he has seen with students on both sports and the newly connected Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics side of the program. The dreams he has for the non-profit world is for organizations to come out of their silos and partner with each other to provide higher quality, diverse programs. He has been accompanied on his journey by other outstanding partner organizations such as the Federation of Families, Miami Dade County Public Schools, Children’s Trust, and Youth Move. He has been personally mentored by Daniela Levine through the Non-profit Academy, Dave Vernon from SCORE, Dr. Brown of the FIU Medical School, Dr. Rosenberg of Barry University, and his working Board of Directors. His favorite restaurant is Versailles because it makes you feel like you are on an island – in this case in Havana, Cuba.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have Sports Konnect as a member of the C4SC community.


November 2018
Member Spotlight: Margaret McCaffery, Soroptimist International

Our name ‘Soroptimist’, loosely translated from the Latin: ‘Soror+Optimist’, means ‘Best for Women’.  In 1921, when Soroptimist was founded in Oakland, CA, many high schools were taught Latin.  Women, at least the 75 who joined Soroptimist, recognized the name since women have been joining ‘Sororities’ since 1870. These women suffragettes were owners of their own businesses and were inspired by the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote in 1920. Until then, women had not been eligible for membership in many organizations.

The Soroptimist of Coral Gables/Miami club’s 2018 winner was Irene Herrera, who was born in Nicaragua but came to Miami with her parents and her younger brother. She works part-time, has finished her AA, and wants to finish a BA in Psychology at FIU. The $1,000 check given by our club will help her with her educational dream.

Currently, there are over 80,000 club members in 122 countries who work at the local, national and international levels. The Soroptimist mission is to transform the lives and status of women and girls through Education, Empowerment and Enabling opportunities — with a focus on Gender Equality. Our Coral Gables/Miami club works jointly with our Soroptimist Federation in Pennsylvania in the yearly  Live Your Dream educational award which has disbursed $30 million to almost 20,000 women since 1972. Please contact the C4SC to reach us if you, or if you know of a woman who would like to apply for a $1,000 educational grant to help her Live her Dream.

Each Soroptimist local club is community-based and chooses a project that carries out our mission goals of Educating, Empowering and Enabling women. In the case of SI Coral Gables/Miami, we chose to partner with a non-profit ‘Urban GreenWorks’, and together we formed a Horticultural therapy and “farm-to-table” program named Mustard Seed.

The aim of our Mustard Seed program is to train women – who have been incarcerated and are living in half-way houses, into productive individuals who can create edible/healing gardens, and who know how to run a shade-house/nursery. In the process, the women acquire self-confidence which aids them in the job market, and they acquire the know-how of the ‘agro-economic’ business. Many of our graduates have been employed by our partner Urban GreenWorks, which specializes in landscape designing.  During the last five years, we have trained 106 women whose rate of recidivism is astonishingly low, although some have experienced predictable relapses in their quest of trying to live free from the opioids scourge.

Our club is a perfect example of ‘Live Your Dream.’ Our community gardens in Liberty City, run by Anita – a Mustard Seed graduate, have been noticed as part of the ‘Social Infrastructure’ needed in our cities. We have been invited, among ten organizations, to present our ‘Mustard Seed’ program at the yearly American Horticultural Therapy Association conference, to be held in Denver, October  4-6, 2018.

Early in December, we will have a presentation of our Mustard Seed program at the C4SC, to which you are most warmly invited.  I became a member of Soroptimist Coral Gables/Miami in 2006, and gladly became a member of C4SC in 2017. Please reach out to us if anything you have read up to now has spiked your interest, and come to our monthly meetings held in Coral Gables. Our club has a dream of  ‘competing’ with our sister clubs in the Philippines who have chartered 21 new Soroptimist clubs within the past two years with mostly Millennials. If you were to come and join us as a member, we will together ‘Live our Dream’!

For more information about the Mustard Seed Program or how you can get involved, contact Margaret McCaffery at margaret@mustardseedprojects.org , or visit ____.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have Soroptimist International as a member of the C4SC community.


October 2018
Member Spotlight: Jean-Claude Noel, Emergence Corp

At the beginning of summer 2016, I led the team that won Startup Weekend Education(SWEdu2016), a hack-a-thon held at FIU bringing together practitioners of technology and business with educators. Then Center Director Lauren Harper offered a free year membership to whoever would win—it turned out to be us.

In early 2007, I was still working as a freelance financial consultant in Brickell when I was charged with participating in a fraud and money laundering conspiracy. As a non-citizen, I was denied bond. As a result, I found myself committed to Florida Prisons for the entire five years it took for my appeal to make its way to the Florida Supreme Court—where I prevailed, in part.

The winning concept presented at SWEdu2016 had been developed by a team of prisoner students attending an innovation and entrepreneurship class I taught as an inmate facilitator while incarcerated at Everglades Prison. After Congress withheld the Pell Grant from American prisoners contributing to colleges and universities abandoning paper-based correspondence courses—moving-on to online classes—the number of inmates leaving prison with college degrees plummeted. My prison classes’ value proposition is for the secure cyberinfrastructure necessary to restore access to post-secondary education by individuals who must live behind prison walls—ipso facto, without an internet connection.

DeJean Myrtil was serving a three-year sentence when he enrolled in my class and proposed the project that we would later come to brand as Liber-P. In late summer of 2016, we turned in our SWEdu prize and began our membership at the Center for Social Change. I often refer to our membership here as a fellowship because it has been a laboratory that has occasioned much personal learning. We could not have accelerated up the learning curve–of all things nonprofit–as quickly as we did without the opportunity for membership.

Two years later, we are working with a half dozen newly returned citizens on technological literacy and entrepreneurship. We have started a MeetUp called RiMerge Entrepreneurship (see our Facebook group of 165 members) that has brought our clients together with local professionals and resources. We also participated in the Prison Reform Collective–a 2017 Center initiative led by Dacia Steiner—that sparked the creation of Sacred House for returning women of the LEAP program.

It is also through the Center’s founder, Bill Burdette, that my wife has been able to expand her Chef Guetty on Brickell brand to establish her third Brickell coffee cart and first full-service restaurant. Besides serving the social justice and nonprofit communities with catering and meeting services, the help given to Chef Guetty is facilitating the training and employment of additional returning citizens.

The Center has connected me to the kind of network that has given me access to opportunities that might otherwise have escaped me. One such opportunity came when I introduced Silvio Pupo to Bill Burdette. That led to my becoming vice president of the Miami chapter of the Government Blockchain Association (GBA, a DC-based global organization) where Silvio is president. The GBA offers various blockchain certifications—we facilitated our first Florida training here at the Center only days prior to this writing.

Silvio is also building an impact investing platform and PE fund where I have the privilege to assist. This past summer, we brought a half-a-dozen students from the business schools at UM and FIU for a three-month internship that saw 100% of the participants in attendance all the way to the end. Silvio found the Center provided the ideal space to see and interact with member organizations who are making a significant social impact in the community and the idyllic environment for impact investment banking interns to learn about social entrepreneurship. It is likely that relationship will result in even greater collaboration and benefits that could contribute to both the Center and grassroots organizations that make up this community.

My two year residency at the Center for Social Change has been richly rewarding. It has been emblematic of our shared ethos: positively affecting a single life (or organization) will have a ripple effect, touching many more.


September 2018
Member Spotlight: Barbara Martinez-Guerrero, Dream in Green

C4SC member Barbara Martinez-Guerrero, Executive Director for Dream in Green shares about the impact Dream in Green has made, and about her role as Executive Director.

What is your title but what do you really do on a daily basis?
My official title is that of Executive Director for Dream in Green. What I mainly do on a daily basis is to make connections with local and national organizations that have a similar mission to ours in order to expand the program. I also research grant opportunities and build organizational frameworks so that the program stays relevant, organized and on track.

Tell us one brief story of how your organization’s work has made an impact?

Throughout the 12 years of the program, over 300 schools have taken on different initiatives to tackle environmental challenges. To date, our program has helped to save Miami-Dade County public schools $2.8 million in energy costs, 29.2 million-kilowatt hours of electricity, and helped to offset 44.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions. Through the initiatives our program supports, we calculate that the energy savings would equate to having 2,961 homes off the grid for a year.

What is a lesson you’ve learned in your career that you would pass on to others – about your job, your organization’s work, the sector, etc?
Although my job responsibilities have changed greatly since I started my career, my passion has not changed. The advice that I would pass on to anyone is to find the thing you are passionate about, be creative about ways in which you can develop that into a career, and to not be afraid to come up with ideas that may seem outside the box. As long as you are doing what you love and have a connection to, the job becomes more of a lifestyle than a job.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I am not working, I am with my two wonderful kids and husband. The time I spend outside of work is really for them. I enjoy going to the beach or the pool with them and all of us love to watch movies.

What restaurant in Miami are you dying to go to?
With two kids, I hardly have time to go check out any local dining establishment. However, I do love seafood so any restaurant that serves fresh seafood dishes is on my list to visit.

What is your favorite floor at the Center and why?
I really like the fifth floor with the view of the Miami skyline. I also like the purple wall and new furniture that is decorating the space. I am a very energetic person, but sometimes I need a calming place. For me being able to look at nature and feel like I am part of the city is very relaxing.

What online resource or tool do you most use or rely on for your work?
Our current programming would not be possible without the Google platform. We communicate with teachers through Outlook mail, but our programming and promotional materials are developed through Google Forms and Google Sites.

For more information about Dream in Green or how you can get involved, contact Barbara Martinez-Guerrero at barbara@dreamingreen.org or visit www.dreamingreen.org

The Center for Social Change is proud to have Dream in Green as a member of the C4SC community.


August 2018
Member Spotlight: Susan Gerrish, SECORE International

SECORE International Logo

C4SC member, Susan Gerrish has more than just a passing interest in the oceans and the sea life that inhabit them.  

Gerrish is the Development Director for SECORE International, one of the leading conservation organizations that protect and restore our coral reefs.  They are a global network of scientists, public aquarium professionals and local stakeholders who work together on research and conservation of the world’s coral reefs.

Elkhorn Coral Image - Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio
Elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio

“Coral reefs help break up waves that propel destructive storm surges and protect coastal property, they are home to an abundance of sea life and provide economic benefits in over 100 countries around the world,” Gerrish explained.

As development director, she inspires interest in the restoration work of SECORE by engaging individuals, corporations, other foundations and conservation organizations to become involved to help in the crisis of coral reef degradation.

“At SECORE, our experts perform research and develop technologies to restore endangered coral species and rehabilitate coral reefs around the world,” Gerrish continues. “Helping corals to reproduce quicker than they decline is a formidable task,” she added. “And so, we take a solution-based approach by encouraging sexual reproduction.” 

Corals are highly specialized marine animals. “Important reef-building corals such as elkhorn or staghorn corals only spawn once a year, shortly after a full moon, in warm weather. And, to reproduce, corals must find a mate (an egg or sperm) from a different parent,” explained Gerrish. SECORE scientists help facilitate that process.

SECORE (SExual COral REproduction) was launched in 2002 by Dr. Dirk Petersen at the Rotterdam Zoo (The Netherlands) whose research on coral reproduction led to innovative techniques for reef conservation. Mike Brittsan, M.Sc., of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium joined the team a couple years later to bring SECORE to the United States.

The organization and its partners are committed to outplanting 1 million corals by 2021 through their Global Coral Restoration Program (GCRP).

According to Gerrish, finding an answer to restoring coral reefs is a big challenge. “Corals are slow-growing animals. The human impact that is causing global warming and contributing to the degradation of coral reefs is happening at a pace that is faster than solutions. SECORE’s goal is to provide education and outreach through workshops and organize collaborative research and restoration impact that is scalable through the Global Coral Restoration Project.”

Collection of coral gametes from spawning elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio
Collection of coral gametes from spawning elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio

Gerrish implores involvement, because “although most people don’t see coral reefs, they are contributing to all of our lives in many ways.”

She adds that “our coral reefs are home to over 25% of all sea life including thousands of fish species that provide food for island nations and the rest of the world. The health of the ocean affects everyone whether they recognize it or not.”

In the next 5 years, Gerrish believes that “the positive impact of SECORE on coral reef health will benefit not only island nations but the health of our planet.”

SECORE International’s work in coral research and restoration is supported by individuals, foundations, corporations, public aquariums, oceanographic institutes, and universities throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

For more information about SECORE or how you can get involved in coral reef conservation, contact Susan Gerrish at s.gerrish@secore.org, or visit www.secore.org.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have SECORE International as a member of the C4SC community.