43 at-risk youths graduate from innovative Liberty City after-school program

Miami, FL — July 15, 1999 — A new program that offers young people vocational training and educational opportunities as an alternative to incarceration has graduated its first class of 43 students.

At a recent ceremony, Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer told graduates of the Youth Leadership Academy that they can make a difference for themselves and for their community.

"You are not just doing this for you, but for all the people around you," Mr. Brummer said. "You are successful for your friends, families and the little ones who will follow your example. Education is a lifelong process. This graduation is a foundation for you to build on."

Mr. Brummer, the keynote speaker for the ceremony at the Zeta Community Center in Liberty City, told the graduates that the academy began with a vision: Let’s give our youth a challenge, keep them away from trouble, and then the Public Defender’s Office won’t have to represent them in juvenile court.

Fifteen-year-old Nathaniel McQueen has made a real turnaround in the program. "It kept me out of a whole lot of trouble," he said. "I used to do a lot of devious things. The program kept me occupied and away from crime. I have adapted to a whole different society -- non-violent and drug-free."

The youth is so keen on the program that he is returning as a volunteer teaching word processing to new students two days a week.

A smiling Jarius Lacey, 14, could not wait to present his graduation certificate to his mother, who was very pleased with her son’s progress. "When Jarius started, his behavior was rocky," Ann Lacey recalled. "But the school was really good. When there was a problem, they would call. And they even called just to see how things are going. It’s a good program. He’s a little more responsible now and a whole lot more mature."

The Youth Leadership Academy is a joint venture by the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s office and the local Weed & Seed program. Through the partnership, delinquent youth receive vocational training and educational opportunities. The program is part of the Public Defender’s Anti-Violence Initiative, which Mr. Brummer has created to help clients lead law-abiding lives.

In the academy, at-risk youth participate in a comprehensive program that integrates life skills with workplace simulations and computer technology. The academy curriculum, designed by the National Urban Technology Center, guides students through web-page design and publishing, management of a simulated hotel and various computer programs. The student interns then design the agency’s web site and assist in linking it to Weed & Seed’s electronic community on the Internet.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office donated 200 computers to the academy so students could learn how to install hard drives. The graduates will be awarded their upgraded computers.

Grants from the Florida Legislature and Weed & Seed program are financing the program.

  

Copyright 2017
Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

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