ReServe Miami recently marked the completion of more than 7,200 service hours by AmeriCorps ReServists with a celebratory event. These AmeriCorps ReServists were assisting students at sixteen Dade County Educational Transformation Opportunity high schools in ReServe’s READY program, and had completed their service for the 2011-2012 school year.
Nearly 25 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of AmeriCorps ReServists at a ceremony held July 19th, 2012 at the Catalyst Miami headquarters near downtown Miami.
These AmeriCorps ReServists helped shape the futures of nearly 6,000 students, many of whom may be the first in their families to attend college, on the cusp of graduation from one of the largest, most diverse school systems in the nation.
Miami’s first group of AmeriCorps ReServists in the READY program began their service in October 2011 working with, or serving as, College Assistance Program (CAP) advisors all over the county. Their charge was to help high school students prepare and take action on college or other post-secondary school life plans. Throughout the school year, READY ReServists met with more than 2,400 students on a one to one basis. They also led group sessions on FAFSA and college applications, supporting more than 5,800 students striving for post secondary educational attainment.
Catalyst Miami founder and CEO Daniella Levine recognized and introduced various contributors to the program’s success – from a visionary recruiter who serves on the Advisory Council, to philanthropists like Kathleen Kennedy of the Kennedy Family Foundation, which provided significant match funding, to program staff, volunteers and interns.
Dr Nikolai P. Vitti, Assistant Superintendent, Education Transformation at the Office of the Superintendent, and Deborah A. Montilla, District Director of the Division of Student Services, of the Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) were honored for their role in partnering with and funding of the ReServe READY Program.
In 2009, READY was piloted by ReServe in New York City and has since expanded to more than 50 high schools in the five boroughs and Westchester before being launched in Miami last year through a grant from AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Attendees dined on a selection of colorful fruits, canapés, cheeses, breads and mini pastries while enjoying classical music and a thoughtful presentation of photographs and quotes from several ReServists and CAP Advisors. ReServe Program Director Dacia Steiner and Program Manager Samia Taoloust, described program successes and introduced brief talks by ReServists Kelsey Dorsett and Vivian Allen.
A recreation of a conversation between ReServists Dr Dorothy Benson and Virginia Aponte, of their contrasting experiences, sparked more engagement among participants. Staff presented individualized certificates, a plaque and bouquet before the occasion gracefully concluded on schedule, confirming yet another warm and memorable ReServist program experience.
ReServists are professionals and entrepreneurs – retired, semi-retired or in a career transition – age 55 and over, who desire to serve their community in meaningful ways. The individuals apply for service, and are interviewed, selected and trained, if necessary, for various part-time service work in the non-profit, educational or governmental sector. For their work, ReServists receive a modest stipend and organizations that otherwise could not have afforded this caliber of assistance receive the benefit of skilled and motivated individuals.
ReServe Miami was launched in October 2011 as ReServe’s first affiliate, and is operated by Catalyst Miami.
Staff from ReServe Miami contributed to this article. Photos by Samia Taoloust.